August 23, 2019
It isn’t always sunny in Jamaica. The downpour from minutes ago is now a drizzle, but we are snug in Hera’s car. Next to him is his wife Rita. She is boasting of the sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, and diamonds that Guyana, their birthplace, produces in abundance, when Hera makes a warm observation. He is thrilled that I call him by that name and not John, his anglicized name. “It makes me feel like I belong,” he told me.
Hera’s official name is Heralall Rambhajan and Rita’s is Tackrani Rambhajan. They got their English names when baptized at church, at a time when Guyana was yet to gain its independence from Britain.
On our way to their residence, which also houses the Hindu temple that they are custodians of, we trade notes about our respective birthplaces. Rita and Hera are especially eager to know more about mine, India, a place their grandparents once called home.
Once the car pulls up, I am aware that their house looks like the many other securely gated compounds in Cockburn Gardens — a neighborhood on the island of Jamaica. Once cautioned against for its gang-related violence, the area is also widely known for birthing Jamaican dancehall legend, Super Cat. This is my third visit after the couple invited me to stay a night and attend the following day’s service. The temple is a small banquet hall that stands adjacent to their apartment. Except for the outdoor aluminum placard that spells the temple’s name, nothing else discloses the existence of a religious establishment.