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Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond. Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place. She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.
Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category. Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes.
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.
Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.
Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.
Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?
A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.
February 19, 2017
February 27, 2017
Ken Puddicombe sparks curiosity, melancholy, anger, and laughter as he shares the lives of the various characters in “Down Independence Boulevard”. These stories lend a glimpse into Guyana’s history and culture, while unraveling unique storylines. The reader is torn between being able to relate to the characters in one story, then feeling outraged by their actions in the next story! The stories build slowly, and you find yourself pondering and questioning, and then the answers are slowly revealed. As a first generation Canadian, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Guyana through the lives of Puddicombe’s diverse characters, his choice of settings, and the lifestyles of the characters. “Down Independence Boulevard” left me missing the characters and wondering what is to come for them…perhaps a sequel!
Having read the previous books by Ken Puddicombe,I must say that Down Independence Boulevard was masterfully presented by him and once again showed his skilful depiction to detail, which appeal to the five senses and imagination. Ken’s way of delving into our imagination with his many sensuous details help the reader realize that persons,places and things are within the phenomenon he describes.
The start of every page not only brought humour but the longing to get to the next page to experience the characters with the imagination you could be that person.
Reading the assorted stories was a pleasant change from having to read through a book with the same characters from beginning to end.
Well done; highly recommended and look forward to the next writings of Ken Puddicombe.
“Down Independence Boulevard” is an amazing first collection of short stories and Ken Puddicombe’s remarkable story telling. “Black Friday” left me with sadness; “The Family Photograph” brought a smile to my face, but “The Last Straw” has to be my favourite, as I am left imagining about the outcome of the moustache (!) and hoping that Zorina was able to have a successful and happier life, but then I am continuing in my mind what was only a story, but such a good one!
Down Independence Boulevard and other stories
A great book of well written and descriptive short stories.
I do have quite a few favourites, some of which relates to my years growing up in Guyana.
My favourite of all would be “The Last Straw” a story a woman being exploited by her in-laws and her very vain husband. Her revenge was quite amusing, and I smiled to
myself a long time after, whenever I thought of the ending. Was even smiling while writing this and recalling the story. Would love a follow up on this. -Jean Tiwari
[Cineaste: noun. Cinema enthusiast or devotee.]
The cinema played an important part in my youth, for so many reasons.
For someone growing up in the Fifties in Georgetown, in what was then British Guiana, it was the main form, perhaps the only form of entertainment. It’s importance and impact on our culture and development cannot be overstated.
Here are some recollections of what it was like.
[Comments and similar recollections invited from readers for moderation. Subject to editing].
My memory goes back far enough that I recall the price of a ticket back in the Fifties. We were still on the Sterling currency in those days and a ticket to see a movie cost Half-a-bit, which would be four cents. A Bit was eight cents. A Bit-and-a-half was twelve cents. A shilling was the next denomination. These were all silver coins, minted obviously in the mother country—England. —Ken Puddicombe.
‘Junta…’ is more than a novel merely about a bloodless coup, executed by the military in a seemingly flawless plan headed by General Septimus Ignatius Marks, wrenching power from the legitimately elected government, as it goes beyond the coup into the machinations of the junta to hold onto to power, at whatever cost, pitting its machinery of manufactured fear and military decisiveness backed by a gang of mercenaries/thugs, headed by The Reverend – a merciless criminal, carrying out the dictates – doing the dirty work – of the army acting under direct instruction of Captain Stevenson, against tiny groups of people seeking the return to civilian rule and the restoration of democracy, a group consisting of students of a university led by Melanie Sanderson, the pugnacious editor of a newspaper, Clarence Baptiste, and a reformist priest, Father Bert, as it goes beyond the junta birthed in the wake of the coup as General Marks is supplanted by his protégé, now General Glen Stevenson. All of the above is set against the backdrop of Hurricane David which adds little to the suspense of the plot, but was a major player in further pauperising the less fortunate while sparing the rich and fortunate few.
CAN AN INDIVIDUAL MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN POWERFUL FORCES ARE ALIGNED AGAINST DEMOCRACY? CAN SOMEONE AVOID THE STIGMA OF HIS HERITAGE?
These questions are essential to the theme of Ken Puddicombe’s new novel JUNTA.
Expatriate Marcus Jacobson wants to make a difference on newly independent Saint Anglia where he is taking up a professorship but there are forces that will test his expectation. The military, under General Marks stages a coup, and Hurricane David is heading for the island.
Marcus also has skeletons in his closet. He’s descended from the Planter Class that once owned slaves on the island. He’s torn—does he have the right to get involved in the politics of the island or should he be a bystander?
The people Marcus encounters will determine his attitude to the Junta. These people include: Melanie, a student who thinks force should be used to restore democracy; Father Bert, a priest who believes in Liberation Theology; Clarence Baptiste, editor of the local newspaper who will use the media to oppose; The Reverend who runs a dirty tricks campaign for the Junta; Kentish, an islander who is a pacifist by nature and believes that events should run their course. Marcus finds himself being inexorably drawn towards Melanie and when she takes matters into her own hands, the decision is made. But, the Junta is determined to hold on to power at all cost.
A taxi driver notices the changes in Independence Boulevard since freedom was gained from Britain. A free-wheeling spirit spends his time gambling and engaging in riots. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his lover. Two women escape racial conflict and seek a better life at home and abroad. A housewife has faced the last straw with her husband. A mailman is caught in the middle of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack. These are some of the characters encountered in this engaging collection of short stories from the pen of Ken Puddicombe.
Amazon link: Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
REVIEW OF RACING WITH THE RAIN by Frank Birbalsingh
Professor Emeritus, English Literature, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Racing With The Rain is the first novel of Guyanese born Ken Puddicombe who, since 1971, has lived in Canada where he works as an accountant. Racing offers a fictional version of political events during a turbulent period, from the 1960s to the 1980s, in the history of Guyana, formerly British Guiana. The novel is a roman a clef, one in which people and events may be identified through fictional names assigned to particular organizations, individuals or places, for example, “Liberty House” for actual Freedom House, “Arawak Hotel” for Carib Hotel, “Kingsley” for Sydney King, and “Jack Hill” for Kelshall.
“Characters caught between deeply conflicting loyalties are driven by the politics of the dank, tropical atmosphere of a British Caribbean colony, half a century ago, only to find themselves trapped in a drama whose tragic effects still haunt them and their fellow Guyanese.” –Frank Birbalsingh author of Novels and The Nation: Essays in Canadian Literature.
“Kenneth Puddicombe’s RACING WITH THE RAIN is a gritty look at the politics of a nation and within a family that drive a young man from his home and from his country. Gripping and hard-hitting, this is a novel you won’t want to miss.” —Karen Fenech author of Gone
“From the first page…the characters come alive in…creating enough tension to want the reader to thirst for more. As a fellow author, I am impressed with this author’s writing style which left me chomping at the bit to read beyond the first chapter.” –ENRICO DOWNER, author of There Once Was a Little England, a story about man’s obsession with colour and class in colonial Barbados.
By Kat Lager
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Racing With The Rain (Kindle Edition)
I love the author’s use of descriptive language. The setting and characters jump off the pages of the book.
Racing With the Rain has many layers to it. It examines family conflict, political upheaval and personal turmoil. The reader follows the main character, Carl Dias, through a journey where he discovers what really matters in life.
Format:Paperback from Amazon
I completed this novel in 3 days for the turning of every page drove me deeper into the story, politics and human side of the characters. The author’s vision and story were well told and a remarkable representation of colonialism. Highly recommended.
FROM JOSIE ANGOD
This book was quite a journey for me! Being married to a Guyanese for almost 40 years now, I could relate to many of Carl’s childhood adventures. They rang really true to Guyanese life from my husband’s experiences, and especially from stories my mother-in-law related to me over the years. Your book helped to connect the dots. In particular, I learned much about Guyanese history after Independence that I was not aware of.
This is a very informative book that all children of Guyanese heritage should read. It would help them better understand why their parents think the way they do; the challenges they faced in their childhood and the hardships in finding their way out of Guyana.
I enjoyed your book. You are a descriptive writer who paints well with pen in hand. Your story had a bit of everything….suspense, humor, history, and romance. Most of your main characters have some redeeming qualities about them. I like that.
FROM ELEANOR GILLON
I finished Racing with the Rain this morning and WOW, what a great book. It kept me wondering what was going to happen next, full of suspense, reality of life and I got a bit of a history lesson. Thanks Ken and I hope you are working on another one!
A masterpiece!! Mar 9 2013
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
Racing with the Rain immerses the reader in a captivating plot, that leaves them scrambling to finish the current page and eagerly turn towards the next one. A must read for everyone!
Memorable April 25 2013
By Shopaholic – Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Racing With the Rain in a memorable novel about family, human relations and life in Guyana pre and post independence. Well written, the author draws you to the relatable character of Carl Dias, a man who has to come to grips with his past, present and future while visiting a country he once fleed. Fast moving, poignant, touching, this story is well told and many generations of Guyanese immigrants now living abroad will come to appreaciate the insight this fiction provides into the realities of what their parents and grandparents endured during the struggle for independence in Guyana.
Racing With The Rain: A fast moving rain cloud in an otherwise clear sky triggers a sudden downpour and people run for cover. Is it possible to outrun the rain? Can one ever really escape the past?
In his debut novel, “Racing With The Rain”, Ken Puddicombe fictionalizes his personal experiences growing up in British Guiana within a context of racial conflict, turbulent colonial politics, boyhood exploits, and divisive family tensions. The principal character, Carl Diaz, reluctantly returns to his native land to attend his father’s funeral and through a perceptual lens tinted by 16 years of cultural exposure in Toronto, he reflects on his life in the British colony. Puddicombe holds the reader’s interest in his novel through gruesome national politics, humour, colourful characters, family intrigues, some final suspense, and simply by humanizing his several sub-plots in ways most of us can relate to. “Racing With the Rain” is a good read, the kind of stuff you’d enjoy curled up in your sofa on a rainy day!
—Ram Angod, World Traveller. Existentialist.