By Michel Outridge
THESE days, Chatto (only name) does things around the home for himself, including cooking, but he still has the time for a friendly chat of many things from yesteryear.
The 80-year-old is a resident of Vriesland, West Bank Demerara and had just finished cooking some food – dhal and rice with fried fish.
“I don’t want nobody to cook for me, I does wake up early and prepare the pot and there is enough time to do things for myself,” he said.
The father of five stated that he spent 31 years at the Wales Sugar Estate as a cane-cutter and that job enabled him to look after his home and family.
Chatto told the Pepperpot Magazine that he doesn’t get a lot of visitors and when he does, he is always pleased to interact with people.
He related that he retired in 1987 and has never one day taken a rest, since he is active and would always be doing something to occupy his time.
“I had a hard life, survived two wives and six children, one of whom died and I lived under a bottom house for 15 years before I could afford to get my own place and that felt good, living under my own roof,” he said.
The senior citizen stated that life in Vriesland Village is quiet and he enjoys the peace since he has time to reflect on days gone by.
He stated that he came from humble beginnings, from a poor family of Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara and left home when he got married to his first wife.
Chatoo has been a resident of Vriesland for the past 51 years but sadly, his second wife passed away six years ago.
“Like many people, I wanted to grow old with my wife and watch the sunset, but she had diabetes and she did not receive proper medical attention because she had an abscess which turned gangrene. She died 22 days after being hospitalised and that was the saddest day of my life,” he said.
The elderly gentleman reported that he used to first work at the Leonora Sugar Estate in 1956 and then relocated to Wales Sugar Estate in 1969.
It is believed that he is the oldest resident of the community.
Some time ago, he was allocated a plot of land at Free and Easy, two villages away, to plant, but he has stopped due to old age but would go fishing sometimes.
Chatoo said the good thing is he was able to overcome his habit of being a chain smoker, who used to smoke 25 to 30 cigarettes per day.
That change took place 12 years ago. His wife wanted him to quit smoking and he tried his best to make her wish come true.
He began taking his health seriously when he started to experience chest pains and was hospitalised for cardiac arrest a few years ago.
“The doctor’s advice to me was that ‘if you want to live a bit longer, you need to stop smoking.’ I considered that and quit but it wasn’t easy, because smoking is very addictive,” he said.
Chatoo never drank even socially, but was hooked on cigarettes and it was a hard task to let go, but today he is very happy that he overcame that hurdle and can give testimony of it.
This elder has a kitchen garden, a few turkeys and some chickens in that yard that he tends to and has a lot to do around the yard and house to keep him occupied.
Chatoo’s advice to young people is to go after their dreams by working hard and making sacrifices, since nothing comes easily; to be steadfast in their beliefs and aspire to become successful in whatever they do.