BATS AND BATAHAAS GALORE

BATS AND BATAHAAS GALORE                         02 08 2012

BY EWALT AINSWORTH

The biggest small industry now in GT is recycling cardboard.  Bats and Batahaas have moved away from pan handling and hustling around the markets to scrambling any piece of cardboard, water tank, metal or old tyres.  These products fetch high prices on the world market and in the absence of traditional jobs; Guyanese of every ethnic stripe, ethnicity, age, race, political affiliation sexual orientation or preferences are getting into the junkie business.

Ten years ago, displaced public servants, technicians and artisans would commute daily to Georgetown and migrate to the car parks as bats and batahaas.  Not now; things change.  Forgive me for not saying exactly what a bat is and how they can double or juxtapose between the two labels.

Real bats in the animal kingdom do not feed in packs or droves like sheep or fishes.  In their culture, when a bat goes out to feed, he or she is by himself and when he/she returns, another one darts out.  In
Guyana if you want to catch a minibus to Lethem for example any time of day or night, bats sit in the bus waiting, giving you the impression and illusion that the vehicle is full and ready.  For each passenger that comes along and the bat emerges, he/she is paid a hundred dollars.  In any given day, a bat can earn two towels depending on the season.  Mashramani is busy time.

A batahaa on the other hand, is more localized in the towns and villages.  He or she may even have a job but if they spot you anywhere, he or she would stop doing what they are doing and be an aid…a fixture, a minder taking care of all your business for a small piece.

At my last MASH in 2005, a girlfriend spotted me in a mini-bus by Bourda and ran behind the bus non-stop, kicking off her high heel shoes and just kept running until the bus made its first stop by Matts Record bar near Avenue of the Republic.  She did not lose sight of me until I left the following week.

Once she told another mutual friend who questioned the wisdom of aborting her public service job and she declared…”the kinda money I gonna mek now would take me another three pay period to generate.”

One evening this same person, who lives in a gated community in Diamond, told me she was short with her rent.  It averaged about US12.00 per month.  I gave her US 100.00 to take care of her rent at least for the rest of the year.  The next day when I asked about the receipts and rent she replied “spent?”  I had to go again and pay all at one time.  (Just between us you know the next month she borrows the money back from the landlord and calling non-stop for me to replenish; I love my people).

Dalchan is another character.  I saw him without dentures and took him to a dental outfit in Eccles.  I could not sit with him but paid the people about US70.00 to get him refitted with a plate.  No sooner I left; Dalchan negotiated to retrieve the money and converted it to his own use in 2008.

You cannot put money in people’s hands in GT don’t matter who they are and whose they are.  Regular and family are all archaic concepts like comrade and tantie.  Guyanese are now driven by their ills of greed, avarice and corruption and this has given rise to bats and batahaas.

Coming home to GT for Mashramani, or summer or anytime for that matter, can generate anxious moments, real and perceived.  The mere thought of fresh fruits and vegetables punctuating the landscape, does make your mouth water.  Masquerade bands with pulsating rhythms, rasta-men with tamarind and shack-shack reveling in song “some of the things we have been thru” and the teenage pheasants, walking and shaking their bam-bam.  Traffic lights with metered numbers and karaoke bars in wild and vivid abundance and black clothes policemen, smoking filtered-tip marijuana, keeping peace and looking for a piece .  The police like the bats and batahaas does pick you up from a distance.  They have radar.

GT is the ‘taste-and-buy’ republic but don’t get too complacent.  You always have to cock your ears and keep your eyes out for the batahaas…the people who can get you the best deal, at a lower price, at another place, in less than 22-minutes, at no additional costs, guaranteed.  But do not let that dissuade you.  There are scores of other incentives to incentivize your stay like chilled coconut water in a natural flask,  fresh banga or shark with shards of wiri-wiri pepper, cane juice served in a red plastic bag and bats and batahaas willing to assign you to a mini-bus without ever knowing where you are going or coming from.

Once you get on board, the person sitting next to you will tell you their entire life story and know a buddy-friend of yours who lives in your neck of the woods “but them ent straight.”  Guyanese also have a working knowledge of all the people alive and who died recently and “who was to dead but the family chip-in and send them to Trinidad fuh x-ray and treatment.”  Guyanese also know ‘who fought gone wake them up’ if they do not turn the page and become productive, willing and wise.  They keep a check list bigger than the phone book of all the men who have become batahaas and depend on care packages from overseas for their sustenance.  Some people have been blessed to get relatives to leave them in their majestic homes as caretakers while they travel abroad.  The LAPARKAN effect has made gardening and farming obsolete.  Fishing is a rarity and rearing of chickens, cows, sheep and goat have become archaic.

Picking and plucking the cherries, gooseberries, genip, tamarind, guavas, mangoes, golden-apples and star-apples straight from the tree is such a good feeling.  Dayclean, you can hear money falling from the coconut trees…bup, bup and nobody running to retrieve them but later, once you arrive from foreign, the Batahaas show up with both hands swinging, looking for something, anything, singing the old  refrain…”things bad.”

Guyanese do not know how good they have it but apparently, are programmed to look outside for their sustenance and survival when everything they need can be cultivated in their own backyards, dam-head or farmsteads.   When you arrive, they demand your outfit, your hat, your sun shades, your shorts and if you have pads, they want that too.  All of this in addition to a small piece and them not leaving until all these requirements are met.  You give them money to do business, they keep the change.  You give them money to change at the Cambio, they keep a percentage.  You give them a parcel to deliver, they broach it in any way they can.  They also bring along their god children and fiancés and expect you to underwrite all their current ills, bills, pills and chills.

The riot of colors, the infectious sounds, race to get to you before you get to them …. They boggle the mind.  Every place of business, every street, has a minder with a cell phone.  They recognize you and know your name and your entire generation even though when you left, they were babes in arms but they come demanding a small piece.  They will abort all their days’ activities and cotton on to the visitor, performing a multiplicity of duties, giving you the impression that all will be well, but beware and be aware.

The freedom of speech and the freedom after speech has made GT the envy of the rest of the Caribbean.  Each citizen, knows the business of every other citizen and they tell you straight up and straight away, who deh with who, who is a crack-head, who dealing, who stealing, who thiefing, who get deport, who got AIDS and who wife horning them.  They tell you all of this for a fee of course.  The batahaas are slick and are always lurking irrespective of their station in life, relationship, status, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and ethnicity.  Batahass come in every description…Black, Indian, Chinee, Putagee and Buck… and their mixtures.

Sometimes it is so good to have a main squeeze in GT who can translate, organize, stabilize, recognize, authorize and galvanise some of the long lost friends, family and countrymen who show up with missing teeth and touting stories of gloom and doom.  The villages and towns have changed in more ways than one.  Guyanese have stopped being citizens and have become rabid consumers.  Again, it is oh so good to have a person on point, who can weave through the maze of corruption and confusion…in that order  and be a guide and confidant without the trickery and tri-connery.  There should also be a minimum and a maximum fee for services rendered by the batahaas so visitors can plan and budget properly.

Things are not any better in North America but there is a method to the madness.  There are signs and sign posts of distinction and excellence.  There is GPS.  There is magic-jack, e-z Pass and ATM cards.  There are also cameras in all public spaces to record every move you make, real and perceived.  These things are all globally accepted to facilitate business, mental health and security.  In the villages, the energy that is spent to protect and preserve your sanity is not worth it.

Villagers live in fear and cultivate hate and resentment as a direct by-product of the misgivings of the government.  Batahaas thrive and multiply in this hostile environment.  The Batahaa , the man or woman who does not see light at the end of the tunnel, will continue to ply his/her trade, irrespective of the season.

Bats, are also a reflection of the agony and pain the average person is feeling.  The bats operate at every port of entry and established commuter stop.  They give the impression that the commuter bus is full when in actuality, the opposite is true.

Batahaas and bats, are from the same cut of cloth.  Sociopaths and psychopaths are having a field day in the villages.  They are pillaging, stealing, cheating, lying and making believe that they have your back.

There are batahaas in every  village.  He or she will not leave until the visitor leaves.  The batahaa will not give you back your change or will always know a cheaper source to get gold, diamonds, cookretes and  hassars.  Batahaas  are a permanent part of the  village lore.  They are cultural cartoons. Somelikum.

Ewalt “Waltie Ainsworth” –  jenewalt@aol.com

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One response to this post.

  1. I don’t believe that Guyana has a monopoly on “bats” and “batahaas.” I’ve met them in Brazil and in the USA. Their tactics might be different but their goals are the same.

    Reply

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