The grand central station of all hackney carriages, Stabroek market is an integral rendezvous for its cosmopolitan populace. A smorgasbord of colourful and exotic fruit and food items bear no distinction between the eclecticism of the fruits of the Guyanese people, and the fruits of its soil; for like the miscegenation of its inhabitants, Guyana’s largest market boasts the equivalent in its collection of food and wares.
Cartloads of fruit decorate the market and its peripheries; mountains of bread, representative of a diverse culture, vie for attention among the rows of fish and meat stalls; and a myriad of grocery items tout an ensign of countries both local and foreign. Nested within the entrails of this monolithic wood and iron edifice, the procurers enjoy a more stable and secure setting. Their ornate and luxurious wares of jewellery, clothing, dishes and other accoutrement assured a safe night’s rest within this armoured vestibule.
On the eastern side of the market, drivers of buses and taxis yell to attract their fares while marine conductors, life-jackets in hand, avidly pursues the fares on the western facade. Standing here, at the northern side of the market, with both land and water in view, and the bustle of the market behind me, I could still hear the blaring horns of these automobiles, and the choking, guttural splutter of the outboard engines anchored to the stelling, behind the market. Weathered piers which support the stelling were steadily bathed and beaten by the silt-laden water of the Demerara; its rhythmic slap drowned by the incessant and indiscriminate drone of the effervescence of life within this beehive.
The burning sensation along the side of my nose signalled to me that my olfactory nerves were being painfully accosted by a poignant mixture of dust, diesel, and gasoline, which consorted with the unrelenting scents of fish, rotted fruit, and a plethora of human aroma. They all seem to convene, most readily beneath my nostrils. I closed my eyes and became oblivious to the swelling crowd that pushed past me, and the unsympathetic rays of the sun that scorched my arms. I was a child again, and I was at home; and even amidst the din and clatter and pungent stench of this hot, humid community, I was in my sanctuary.
Stabroek Market was my home, home to my senses, home to the senses of the thousands of people who inhabit this South American “El Dorado” and embroider its ineffable tapestry with the uniqueness of their character. This is the heartbeat of Guyana, this is where my heart lives, and where as a child, I had found life, brimming to its fullest; this is where I find solitude, deep in the bosom of chaos; where I developed my dreams as a child, as I watched the fishing boats and every piece of driftwood, riding on the massive waves of the Demerara, out to the Atlantic ocean; where I found hope, in the weary eyes of the street vendors; and security, in the knowledge that in Guyana, this is eternal. It has been sixteen years since I had left, and I’ve returned only four times, but my heart has been a frequent visitor; and along the avenues of these long absences, time has been a friend, as the memory remains vivid.
Tonight, the eve of my journey back to the Unites States where I now reside, I return to linger once more in the bosom of this immutable dichromatic structure with its psychedelic surroundings. Darkness attends. The beehive is at rest. The bellow of traffic has subsided; but the vendueses are no less garrulous, nor have their fervour dimmed. I listen in silence to the familiar cacophony, and as I savour the realities and imageries of this euphoria, I allow my senses to surrender to the effects of this tasteful anodyne.
I do not hear the deafening blare of the boom-boxes assaulting my senses from all sides as I approach the facade, nor do I notice the pot holes I stumble into as I walk mechanically through the dark street surrounding the market.
Stabroek Market is home to my senses, and home to the senses of the thousands of people who inhabit this South American city of gold and embroider its ineffable tapestry with the uniqueness of their character. As succinctly described by a visitor in 1851, it is “a sight that a European might walk some distance to see (Lloyd Kandasammy, Stabroek News, 2005).’’ It is the nexus of Guyana, where our heart lives, and where as a child, I had found life brimming to its fullest, and solitude deep within the cradle of chaos.
It was here, sitting on the bank of the river gazing out to a beckoning horizon, where I developed my dreams as a child. I would watch the fishing boats come and go, and would gaze, transfixed at pieces of driftwood mimicking the bobbing of the boats as they surf the massive waves of the Demerara River and made their way out to the vast world through the Atlantic Ocean; and in watching the evanescence of those events, I gave wings to my dreams of travel. Today, on the eve of my journey back to the Unites States where I now reside, I pause to linger once more, enwrapped in the warmth of this dichromatic colonial structure.
Excerpt taken from ‘The Edge of Twilight’ Read more…