Memories, Memorials and Monuments – By Ron Persaud

Memories, Memorials and Monuments – By Ron Persaud

 Years and years ago, I was drawn to some of the framed photographs that adorned the walls of the homes of family. There was one of my maternal grandfather – debonair in his “Wilson” hat, complete with feather in the hat band; and the white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket.

How very different from the stern, lined, weather beaten face of the man whom I called “Pa”. In passing, I have to confess that I tried very hard, but never succeeded in replicating the geometric precision of those three triangles of white. I settled for a narrow white strip across the top of the breast pocket of my coat.    

Then came the ‘photo album’, with its photograph corners for mounting; and the framed photographs gave way to works of (often religious) art. To this day, I have got photo albums of a cruise or holiday. And of course, there have been the ‘arguments for possession’ over a photo of someone long dead.

What is it with us and memories?

Is it that ‘memory’ is a power of the soul; an endowment which differentiates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom?

I am still seeking the answer to that one!

As if this were not complex enough, there are the memorials – things like my father’s signature, the mandolin that he played, and my mother’s few pieces of jewelry. I was mildly surprised when my sister-in-law, viewing a pair of jingles, remarked, “She must have been very slim!” I, her No. 1 son, had never given it a thought.

Memories and memorials are essentially personal; shared at the discretion of the possessor.

Monuments are public – up in your face – as it were. Take it; or leave it!

My own plea is, “Just do not destroy it!” If you cannot stand the sight of it, pretend that it is a buried time capsule, for future generations to view.

I vaguely remember a group of the population who thought that the monument to Cuffy did not portray “strength”. Across town there is the ‘Non Aligned Monument’. Am I justified in destroying it, just because I despise one or all of the founders? Goodness knows that there is enough evidence against any and all of them.

But the more important thing is that the real significant reason for the monument would be lost – the commemoration of a meeting in Guyana in 1972. I felt a great pride that Guyana was one of the earliest advocates of the movement.

I am told that cemeteries were the original display sites for works of sculpture. I can believe that from looking at pictures of old cemeteries. I cannot escape the feeling that I am living a railway journey, with stations like Mahaica where I could enjoy ‘fry fish and bread’; and Parika with that special sweet-fig banana.

If nothing else, let us take these words of H. W. Longfellow seriously.

“Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.”

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