Friday, August 13, 2010

Melda oh, yuh meking wedding plans?!

 2010 Caribana was a day of celebration for my Caribbean people in Toronto, Canada – actually, for everyone around the world wanting to see and participate in a celebration originated in the West Indies.  Steel pan and costumes decorate the streets. By-standers revel in the rhythms of sweet soca music and free -spirited movements of my people’s hips. Once upon a time, I would make it my duty to play mass, after all, I am a child of Mass Games. This year, I opted to spend time with my 90 years old grandmother.  She is a true Guyanese woman and will always be. With blurred vision and ears equipped to hear when gossips are whispered, she was happy to see me and listen to my soca music playlist. 
 Lately, she questions me about visiting Kenya, Africa. 
Granny would ask, “How are the people, what does the air in that part of Africa smells like, how is the food and is it like Guyana?” I would repeat the same answers to all the questions, making sure I confirm – “Granny, it is so beautiful, words cannot explain!” I wish I can take her on the plane and have her witness my wedding in Kenya, but she is too old to endure such a trip. Her blood pressure is too weak, but her soul remains youthful.  
This particular night, I brought my lap-top to my Mother’s house. Everyone was out to have a fun time and I volunteered to baby-sit my Grandmother. Granny and I sat at the dinner table and I played every song she requested. After each song, she would explain why she picked it and an old-time story followed. In each moment, I would memorize the lines on her face – they are not as deep and long as the Essequibo River, but they told a tale of a woman who have survived many decades of evolution. An immigrant to Canada who earned a visa, yet in her heart, she remained a Guyanese Queen. A piece of gold laid neatly creased between her front teeth and a laugh that would have neighbours thinking we were having a big party. 
Granny B.

Granny requested a song by the Trinidadian, The Mighty Sparrow called, “Obeah Wedding”. For those of you who claim to know and love soca, if you do not know this song – you need to re-introduce yourself to some of the Soca Masters.
“Melda oh yuh meking wedding plans
Carrying meh name to obeah man
All yuh do, yuh can’t get true

Granny said this song reminded her of a Melda, who use to live in the same yard back in her young days. Melda use to cook food for an obeah man, to sauce him up. In return, the obeah man would work some black magic in her favour. It is to this evil friend , Melda would reveal all her secrets and beg for the drums to beat her enemies down. One day, Melda set her sights on Rufus. Rufus was a well to do man who loved his evening liquor. As fast as Rufus made a profit in carpentry, the faster he blew it out in Harry Lal's rum shop. Regardless of his inhibition, Rufus managed to keep a strong wooden house over his drunken head and a rusty car running. Melda would cuss out and beat up any woman who dared to look too tough on Rufus. From her louvered windows, she would spy on Rufus as his car clanked down the road. Once in a while, Melda took food over to Rufus after he staggered into his house. Granny said she would pounce on him while he was drunk. It was only time before expected predictions came true – Melda’s obeah man offered her some potent ingredients to cook Rufus’s food - “wuk pon he fuh trap he”.
Two mornings after and the wedding bells at the church were ringing. The whole neighbourhood turned up to catch a view of Melda’s white lace dress. Some whispered, “she shoulda wear black, cause she ain’t no virgin”. Melda would slyly glance at them as if the spirits carried gossip of their words to her ear. She held her head high, pretending to be a Christian, as she cupped Rufus’s hand down the aisle. Rufus looked like the rum did not leave his system from the night before. The queh-queh Melda held the night before the wedding, kept him drunk and under the spell of the obeah man’s potions. The spectators kept a close eye on the couple as they said, “I do”.  A big party in the yard followed and Rufus had a rum bottle in his hand all night. While the party was going on, Melda made sure she packed her belongings and moved into Rufus’s house. Claiming her status, she demanded to be called “Mrs Melda”. A couple years after the union, Rufus’s drunken stupor over-powered the obeah man’s spell and caused the alcoholic to regain his senses.

Rufus drank more as a married man and Mrs Melda cussed louder than a Sailor. It was a big pappy show every afternoon. Rufus would stagger into the house and Mrs Melda demanded money to spend in the market. A fight would break out, causing Rufus to get a good beating with the “matah stick” or a frying pan in his head. Granny said Rufus would cry like a lil boy as he called Mrs Melda an “ole sour battle-axe” amongst many other deserving names. For all the women she fought with and the obeah she worked on Rufus – it was not worth the marriage.  Rufus gained strength one night after gulping a 5 year old bottle of rum and administered a trashing on Mrs Melda's skin. The neighbours had to come to her rescue when Rufus picked up the cutlass to chop her up. It was a big "pash-way".
The police came and tried to lock up Rufus but he pleaded with them to let him go. He said he had proof that his wife had cast a spell on him. They offered him a chance to provide the proof. Rufus walked into the bedroom of his home and lifted the sponge mattress. He placed his hand between the bed-springs and resurrected a dingy white panty with herbs wrapped in it.  
The police asked Rufus, “Man, wuh is dat nastiness in yuh hand banna?”
Rufus said, “Officers, dis crossing woman wuk obeah pon meh. Every time I fall asleep, she used to rub she dutty drawz pon my face. De ting full up ah evil oil an jumbie bush. Tonight a catch she fair and square... an dis is how the fight start – she wan kill meh wit she stink self Officer... but ah deh jus defending mehself from dis demon meh tek fuh a wife”.
The police took one look at Mrs Melda and asked her if this was the truth. Mrs Melda held her head down in shame as the neighbours laughed and defended Rufus's claim.

Granny said, “she was a wicked wretch”.  I laughed and like many stories from this Essequibo woman who is my Granny, I told her I have to share this tale with my friends. Granny then looked at me and asked, “So when are you taking me to Kenya?” I smiled and in the midst of silence, I played one of her favorite songs by Lord Kitchener – “Sugar Bum Bum” click to listen. She got up slowly and started to dance... the same moves she had when I was a child. I held her hand as we danced and laughed together, all night.

Written by Y.T. Marshall


  1. Hi. You are blessed to be able to share such precious moments with your grandmother; cherish them.

  2. Thank you Alice... so true. She is a fun person to be around.

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  8. This was an awesome read Yolanda! Took me down memory lane!