JASODA Masidas’ young days were spent working hard in the back-dam, planting and cutting rice. Her husband, too, did this kind of work but was the holder of his salary each week until he got home. Apparently, it was normal in those days for the son to hand over his entire pay to his mother even as his wife lived in the home.
Mrs. Masidas, now 70, got married to her husband James (now deceased) when she was just 16 years old. She was born and raised at Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, before moving to live for a while at Canal Number Two, on the West Bank Demerara.
Before long, her mother fixed her marriage with James who was born and raised at Blenheim Village, Leguan Island. She moved to the island and has been living there to date.
When the young Jasoda arrived at Leguan, she met her husband’s family planting and cutting rice for a living. She had no choice but to take up this kind of work. “I plant and cut rice in my young days. This is the work I take up because I come Leguan and meet my husband and he family doing it.”
Becoming pregnant was by no means easy in those days. Even though she may not have had to work in the back-dam, she had to stay at home and ensure that the place was clean and meals were cooked. Failure to do this was to her detriment, she recalled.
So, her husband would work in the back-dam but couldn’t keep a cent for himself or his wife. The mother-in-law took all of the money but would give the two of them meals and a shilling (a former British coin) every Saturday, which they took and bought cake or Jalebi.
“When I was young, I had to bear up. I had to go in the back-dam soon soon in the morning to cut rice. We had to say with my in-laws and couldn’t complain about anything. If she hear back we said something, the first thing is that she would not give us food. We had nowhere to go. Them time you didn’t know about money. You had to hand over all.”
Life was hard and the couple had no privacy. “Meh used to punish bad,” Mrs. Masidas told the Chronicle in an interview at her home.
Added to her distress was the death of six of her children! Being so poor and unable to afford the necessary health care for herself and the babies, four of them got sick and died when they were very little. One other child committed suicide and another died in an accident.
“Them time didn’t have hospital on the island. So your husband had to go call the nurse for them to come home and deliver the baby and stay with you till morning.”
Today, Mrs. Masidas has three daughters alive, Sisto, Sandra and Dhano, along with many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
One of her grandsons, Satesh known as Vijai is the only company Mrs. Masidas has at present. He lives with her in a small concrete house that his grandmother has managed to acquire. “My husband died about eight years now. He was very good to me,” she recalled.
The wonderful Mrs. Masidas lovingly cared for her mother-in-law and her husband’s differently able daughter until their death.
“My mother-in-law die and things change. Life nice now but time too short. But I have a happy living.”
By Telesha Vidya Ramnarine