Am I columned or columnized, two years later?

THIS week marks the second year (102 weeks) since I have been writing for the Guyana Chronicle; this is a feat that may appear mundane to other columnists. Some have been writing columns for decades — kudos.
To me, however, it is an accomplishment that does not need self-congratulation. Rather, it is an occasion that reveals a situation of Johnny coming lately, namely, that I am the only one, as far as is known, from my rural village upbringing to have occupied a written space in any one of the dailies going back to days when I started reading in the early 1970s.

I remember reading the then Guyana Graphic– Guyana Chronicle– and later Catholic Standard, Stabroek News, Kaieteur News, and Guyana Times and recall seeing a few columnists from Berbice, but none were from the villages along the Corentyne.  The Mirror had many writers from Berbice, but that is a discussion for another day. I will return to the impact of this marginalization on my mind as I move along with this column.
I suppose if one looks for positive things in his or her upbringing there might be a possibility to find some good things. In my case, I would like to point readers to the earlier migration from my ancestral home of a rural peasant-oriented community in north India to Berbice, Guyana. I believe this is one of the “seamless” Guyanese migrations from rural India to rural Guyana in which Indians were able to develop a sort of tropical romance with religion and ecology, amid bouts of plantation brutality and bullyism.

The same cannot be said about Guyanese movement to the Caribbean, Europe, and North America, where they are exposed to marginalization and discrimination alongside, ironically, growth and development, the twin woes of the hierarchy of migration. I am essentially sending a message to the curious researcher to compare and contrast the various phases of Guyanese migration to understand the impact on the Guyanese mind. I digress.
The point I am trying to punctuate is that despite the limitations of the village, my people and myself have achieved a lot without much, which can be defined as creativity out of adversity. My question then is how come we have not “produced” columnists from my rural upbringing region? It certainly cannot be a lack of talent; actually, the place is beaming and booming with talent and creativity. However, this question I cannot answer which interestingly dovetails well for exploration.

I will share my experience to provide some thoughts on the above question. First, there is a lack of interest in recruiting newspaper columnists from rural areas, which is analogous to other areas of rural life. Second, there is a lack of interest from the rural areas mainly because there is a lack of role models. Third, what would it take to become a columnist?

I will refrain from listing the names of individuals who have influenced me to write newspaper columns, mainly because I am afraid that if I drop names I might exclude some, a lesson I learned from the cricket commentator Joseph “Reds” Perreira. I wrote a column in this space last year about Portuguese in West Indies cricket. I dropped many names and forgot to mention Gerry Gomez.  What I feel comfortable saying is that the very absence of newspaper columnists from my region pressed me to turn adaxial situations into advantages.

How did I do this? To illustrate, I will pull a paragraph I wrote in my chapter: “Berbice and Beyond: My Improbable Journey” in Brij Lal’s edited book, Girmitiyas.
“I was born to a specific station of life. This label is not an abstract metaphor. I was in a specific place in a specific condition in a specific social class. I was in a place where life was one-dimensional and where second chances were limited. I was in a place where there were many rum shops and temples, but no universities and no televisions. Perhaps this environment instilled in me at a very early age, that a better life could only be achieved by not running away from it, but by being open to new ideas, to different people, and to explore different places than my own.”

I am still doing the above and this has emanated from conviction, not convenience, and from desperation and deprivation that inspired me to achieve higher things, and what mattered most to me then and now, is the thought of progression, however small, rather than the thought of resignation.

As I conclude my thoughts about my second year of writing for the Guyana Chronicle, I feel obliged to end with the following. My hope and expectation are that sometime shortly someone from my birthplace will become a columnist. To foster and encourage that hope, let me say that it is never too late to explore dreams. I plan to do a Master Degree in journalism at Jackson State University while working as a full-time faculty. I was told to audit a couple of classes first.  Am I columned or columnized, two years later? (

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