Thursday, April 05, 2007

WORLD CUP DIARY: Across at Unity Village

It was the sort of thing I like travelling for. There was a match on, which meant most fellow journalists were being ethical and watching Ireland vs South Africa at the lovely new Providence Stadium (or the National Cricket Stadium of Providence). It was raining off an on in Providence, and as we drove out of town and on to the highway to Unity Village, it started pouring. Why Unity Village? Well, on work. That's where Shivnarine Chanderpaul grew up. And that's where his parents stay with Shiv's first wife and Shiv's son from that marriage. Within a one-kilometre radius from around Shiv's childhood home, you can actually find Colin Croft's childhood home, Rohan Kanhai's childhood home and Stephen Comacho's childhood home - that makes it quite a cricketing village, doesn't it?

Anyway, it was raining hard, and we first passed Guyana's most dangerous district - Buxton. This is where all the people of African origin live and Haroon Rashid Khan - our driver - was very specific about mentioning that fact as he explained what Buxton is all about. Can't say Buxton looked particularly dangerous as we passed it, but it certainly looked very, very poor. Loads of homeless people and loads of young boys and girls were idling about on the streets when they really should have been in school or college.

The drive was a long one, and at the end of it, we discovered that Mr Khemraj Chanderpaul had not honoured the appointment and had gone out with his grandson, who we were originally making the trip for. Couldn't do much except relocate to Mr H Rajkumar Licence Liquor Restaurant, a sprawling wooden restaurant-cum-bar with lots of benches-and-tables and the dear Mrs Rajkumar, who got so excited at seeing us that she put on a Non-stop Bollywood Hits CD on the sound system. A couple of beers were had along with some buns and cheese, and then Mrs Rajkumar was kind enough to let us sleep on the benches as we waited for Chanderpaul Sr.

This was to be a two-hour wait-cum-nap, but Mrs Rajkumar didn't mind at all. In fact, she dug out some 'Jhatka Remix'-type CDs and kept the noise flowing as we tried to sleep. Obviously couldn't complain. And when we left, Mrs Rajkumar had packed some semi-vadas for us with a nice tamarind-chilli chutney...

Anyway, we left when Chanderpaul Sr came back with Taijnarine (alias Brandon), Shiv's 10-year-old son, who is already playing in the Under-19s and is supposed to have loads of courage and patience. Interestingly, his batting stance is identical to Shiv's, and he has the same kind of shuffle-and-jerk before playing the ball. The interview was done. I bowled a few to Taijnarine, and truth be told, he wasn't as exciting as I assumed a 10-year-old-who-plays-against-19-year-olds would be. But then, maybe I was just prejudiced against Taij!

The drive back wasn't as much fun because the rain had let up and the sun was shining, which made Guyana typically sticky.

PS: Passed the quaint Bourda Oval on our way to Unity. Will make sure I drop in there before leaving Guyana.

PPS: This was yesterday. Today was spent entirely in the hotel because of non-stop rain. Chose to do a long interview with Daryll Cullinan in the hotel itself, seeing that not much could have been done outdoors. But tomorrow promises to be fantastic fun. We are flying across to the Kaieteur Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the world. Will let you know how that goes...