By Raffique Shah
November 14, 2023
If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would endure, maybe even enjoy, 50 years of marital bliss, I might have forgiven his ignorance, or likelier ignored his backward thinking, and moved on with whatever I was doing.
In those days I considered myself a revolutionary in the image, if not likeness, of Che Guevara, and a flag-waver for the Age of Aquarius generation, both of which had sworn to destroy the “backward” institutions that had “expired” stamped all over them as the modern world trotted along, shedding the old, embracing the new. The 20th century was going to be a game changer, big time.
I saw marriage as being almost ancient, tying two people in a kind of bondage that might just cause them to be even more bitter towards each other than to love everlastingly as they vowed to at their wedding.
I had emerged from 27 months in prison in July 1972 a free man based on a Court of Appeal decision that the Privy Council upheld without appearing to consider it seriously or with seriousness. My ex-soldier colleagues and I enjoyed celebrity status for several months, during which time we were supposed to set standards for the new revolutionary state. During this time, I returned to Rosina’s arms, sharing her “shamba” space with her mother and her, I declined my parents’ offer of a bedroom for two at their Beaucarro home.
Talk of marriage would come up every so often, and I would remind her that I was married to “the masses”. That elicited some sharp responses. I soon realised that marriage was not up for discussion.
As soldiers will say of that other wife in our lives—the military—comply, then complain.
But on the big day I had a last word of thoughts: it certainly was no victory of any battle. Rosina won on all counts and by the end of the day, I was tied-up, knotted, and delivered to her at Claxton Bay. My little bit of fun started early that morning when, on my way to the registrar’s building in Couva, I began my search for witnesses. Yes, one had to have witnesses (see why I dubbed this thing ancient?).
With the era of cellphones being futuristic, I ended up driving up and down Freeport, searching for two such friends. Since most had gone off to work or were otherwise occupied, after nearly an hour of searching, I found Ric (Kazim Alibaksh) and Piggy (Daniel Jones). Perched on the St Mary’s junction liming wall. As I drove the car slowly towards them, they smiled, not knowing what was about to hit them.
“Ric! Piggy! I need you all to do something for me in Couva. It will take about an hour. Can you make it?” they both looked confused then at each other, then me, then Rosina. They certainly weren’t dressed to attend a ball, maybe not even to do business at a government office. But, say what?!? I’ll deal with that when the time comes.
“Can you spare an hour?”
Being boyhood friends of mine, they readily jumped into the car. Within minutes, I’d have to pull the car on the shoulder. One of them had stepped on a dog-turd that stank Beetham-Dump style, assaulting our noses. Ric, looking guilty, when he had no need to… it was I who asked him, stepped out wiping the turd on the grass and returning to the car.
As we resumed the short drive to Couva, I made my request of them.
“Fellas, Rosina and I are on our way to be married at the Registrar’s Office. I know you will have no objections,” looking at their shocked faces in the rear-view mirror, “so I didn’t give you any warning, I know you’ll be okay with that.”
Both of them confirmed that they were ready, but the fact that I was moving unorthodox set them thinking, I could see it.
It’s the media I want to avoid, I continued. So Ric, you bat for me, between where I park the car and when I go into the office, they might just think you are Raffique Shah. Rose will stay close to Piggy and I’ll escape their camera completely. Everybody burst out laughing.
To cut a short but memorable escapade shorter, the media’s interest that morning was on something at the nearby courthouse. Rosina and I walked almost casually into the Registrar’s Office.
He had recognised the name, so he looked at me and his watch, saying—you almost missed your own wedding, Mr Shah. I looked at her to see if she was shocked. She was not.
She was smiling, her beautiful face looking up at me, just happy to be marrying the love of her life. I returned the sentiments in kind.
To be continued…