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By Marlon Bute

This is not a fairy tale, but it’s mine. So, I would begin it how I choose to.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a pretty Indian lass by the name of Seetha. You should have seen this girl: she wasn’t just pretty, she was an astounding beauty, but, unfortunately her heart was ugly. She was quite selfish and mean spirited, and was never able to accept the counsel of the elders, or the fact, that her father, a farmer who had moved to Arima from San Fernando, was really trying his best to put food on the table for her, and the 11 other siblings.

By the time Seetha was 14, her parents could hardly talk to her, without her making some sort of rude remark. This was cause for much pain to her father, not least her mother Sundila, who was already quite skinny from the burden of fending for so many children, and managing the household’s meagre resources.

Now, she had a daughter who it would appear was slipping out of the house at odd hours of the night, for what she was almost certain was an amorous meeting with one of the village boys. Little did Sundila know, was that her daughter, who she was hoping to marry off in a couple of years wasn’t meeting a boy, but a good for nothing man, who she had encountered on her way home from washing in the river.

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Ramnarine was a tireless young man. He had taken over the 10 acres of land that his father and grandfather and great grandfather had worked for decades.

As he wiped his brows and paused to take a drink of water, he couldn’t help but feel proud of the imminent fruits of his labour.

The sugarcane blew in the cool September winds — and very soon, harvest time would come, when he’d be able to fetch enough money to have a nice and elaborate Hindu wedding that befitted a treasure like Seetha.

Just last evening, he and his parents, and his bride to be and her parents, had sat down over lime juice and some real spicy roti, that he had been informed that Seetha had made, while they went over plans for the ceremony.

Throughout the night, Ramnarine couldn’t help but notice that his young love had seemed distracted, like she was in a faraway land, but, he had concluded that she was probably dreaming, about that night, when they would become one — when their bodies and souls and hearts would meet.

And, he could still feel her soft lips lingering on his cheek and ear; that was when they were left alone — she had wanted to know whether he had ever travelled before — and to where.

Many of his school friends had since moved on to Canada. Some had gone to America and a few to England, but he had stayed on in the land of the Hummingbird, Trinidad and Tobago, where the soil was rich and where the woods were abundant with wild meats, that could satisfy even the most discriminate palates.

Many of them, he had heard, were not doing so well overseas, and would actually love to be in his place. It’s true that it had once crossed his mind to take a trip out, but he had a farm to look after. And, while the canes would survive for two weeks, without his care, his pigs and chickens won’t. Besides, he couldn’t bring himself to trust another man with his livelihood.

The thing, though, was that Ramnarine was a simpleton who had gifted hands and strong shoulders, but who was probably a tad too backward. Of course, that suited Seetha just fine. She wasn’t about to be married off in the 21st century to a farmer who could barely read his name. Not that she was much better, but, at least, she was a woman, and, she knew that the way to a man’s heart wasn’t through his stomach. She had decided that she would marry him, on one condition, and one condition only. That was if he had his landed status for Canada, as had been rumoured. She would find out, and then off to Canada they would go. And, if he was taking too long to become sophisticated, like she had read, Canadians were, she would dump him and find herself a real cosmopolitan man.

So, on that day, on that night, Seetha wasn’t dreaming about poor Ramnarine; she was hatching a plan that was crafty. You see, at 17, Seetha was as guileful, as she was pretty.

(Next episode on Wednesday)