Well, well, well. What do you know. Turns out Wild Maami ain't so bad after all. It's a diamond in the rough. If you ignore the pretentious "literary" babble in the opening paragraph, and more of the same occasional clumsy analogy, as well as the narrator's tendency to over-analyze what's going on, it is quite a captivating story of young love that dissolves in marriage.
Singh is at his best when he uses dialogue. In the exchanges between his characters, you get to hear and picture genuine country folk. I quite enjoyed the exchanges...felt like I was back in my grandmother's house eavesdropping as she and her next door neighbor tried to whisper about the lives of other neighbors. Here's one such exchange between a father ("Salt Fish") and his daughter's suitor (Anil) that was particularly well written. Cheers to you, Mr. Singh!
Salt Fish had already disappeared into his bedroom, pretending to be resting, when the 'boy' was announced. His wife [Rosie] soon requested his presence. He took his own good time before coming out of his hiding with pen and exercise book in hand, specifically to impress the young man, and to assert his superiority.
"Ah just been trying to straighten up de books foh de business...if you na keep good record, you end up in trouble."
Anil did not answer. He was not disrespectful. He simply did not know what to say.
"By de way, you come alone? Whey you father an mother?" Salt Fish was somewhat surprised to see him alone.
"Daddy deh home, Uncle Salt Fish. Meh mother dead since Ah been small, but Ah got a step-mother." He was blandness itself.
"You Daddy know dat you want married?"
"No, Uncle Salt Fish."
"What!" Salt Fish exclaimed in disbelief.
"You step-mother know?"
"No, Uncle Salt Fish."
"Jesus, wha kind a family you all gat..."
"Me Daddy won't object to any gyal me pick." He paused, then continued, "Once is nah one black gyal."
"Look, Me na know you parents, you background, nothing. How Me go leh me data married you? You wuking?"
"Yes, Uncle Salt Fish. I is a outdoor salesman with Wieting and Richter drug section."
"About six months now."
"Which High School you been to?"
"Shivraj High School in Helena, Mahaica."
"How much subject G.C.E. you get?"
"Me na write G.C.E...when Ah was in third form Me and another boy been fighting in school and Mr. Shivraj, the Principal, expelled both awe. Since den Me na go back a school..."
"Jesus...like you been a one bad horse or wha, boy? Look leh me tell you straight. When you come back wid you Daddy we gon see about dis match again. But foh now, Me na think Nadira want married yet." Salt Fish was as cool as a cucumber. Anil was obviously disappointed but managed to maintain his calm. Rosie and the children were not party to the discussion. They were allowed only to sit and listen like spectators at a show. After Anil left, Rosie took on Salt Fish:
"How you could treat the boy so?"
"How Ah treat 'e?"
"How you mean...is he want marry Nadira, not 'e family..."
Salt Fish wouldn't allow it. "Listen, don't argue wid me. suppose 'e Daddy get leprosy an deh in Mahaica Hospital? Or suppose 'e Daddy is a lunatic in de mental hospital in Berbice? Tell me, you go still want 'e married Nadira?"
Rosie did not answer. He continued, "Listen, Nadira a one nice, nice gyal. She come from a good family. Ah know she can get good, good offer..."
"Wha you want...doctor or lawyer...dah is wha you looking foh?" asked Rosie.
"An why not? At least Me na want no grass cutter."
[Wild Maami is available for purchase at Austin's Book Store (Georgetown, Guyana)]