Harold Sonny Ladoo: Yesterdays
Ladoo’s story is set in a small village, populated by people of Indian origin on the fictitious Carib Island, which is obviously Trinidad. If Ladoo is correct, their life seems to be occupied primarily by gossip, sex (both homosexual and heterosexual) and defecation. Indeed, I cannot remember a book where defecation is discussed so much. The main character is Choonilal. He is married to Basdai and has a son Poonwa. Choonilal and Basdai work in the sugar cane fields and have a small house and fields. Poonwa works for a lawyer in town, though he still lives with his parents. Some time ago, a man came to the village and Choonilal offered him a room and even helped him set up as a tailor. Hence he is known as Tailor though his skill seems to be limited. Choonilal is now getting tired of him for two reasons. Firstly, he has never paid any rent (and refuses to do so) and secondly he has made a mess of the outhouse, not only with his constant use but because of misuse by his drunken friends/whores. Choonilal wants him to clean it out, which he also refuses to do.
Choonilal’s neighbours are Sook and Ragbai. Sook owns the local grocery store and is married to Rookmin. He is gay. Rookmin is not too bothered as he is a good businessman and does not mistreat her like other husbands. He had an affair with Choonilal early on. Basdai did not get pregnant so Sook told him that all women were bad and persuaded him to have an affair with him which Choonilal did. Eventually, Basdai did get pregnant (though there is some doubt as to the paternity of Poonwa). Now Sook and Tailor are having an affair though, during the course of the book, Sook will have sex with Poonwa and Ragbai. Ragbai is single though does quite well with the ladies (including Rookmin and Basdai) as he has a very large penis.
While much of the novel is the interaction between these characters, and Ladoo’s dialogue is witty and well-written, there is a plot. Poonwa was educated at a Catholic school, where he was frequently and mercilessly beaten by a large blonde Canadian teacher, often in a special room used for this purpose, which he calls the Torture Room. His aim now is to go on a Hindu mission to Canada, carrying the Bhagavad Gita, the way the Christian missionaries used to carry the Bible and, in the reverse of the Christian missionary approach, convert the Canadians to Hinduism, though, like the Christians, using force. He will have a strict school with several torture rooms, to make sure that they behave. However, he needs $5000 for this and he does not have it. He spends much of the book trying to persuade his father to mortgage the house to get this money. While his father, naturally, refuses, his mother is determined that her son will go on his mission. The money will come from the local priest Pundit Baba, who will provide a mortgage. Choonilal is a bit suspicious and with good cause. Pundit Baba had had a dream about building a great temple. He had organised a huge collection for this and collected large sums of money, including from Choonilal, who is very religious. His sons had then gone off to India to find a suitable architect but had spent the money on their education, while Pundit Baba had bought himself a new car and house. When questioned, he always blames his sons and he is never held to account. Choonilal cannot read so he cannot know if he is being cheated by Pundit Baba who has his own lawyer. But Basdai and Poonwa are pushing him to sign.
Ladoo tells a funny story of naïve Trinidadian Indians, whose mind is on sex and survival in a complex world where whites are remote, strange and often cruel creatures. The characters are well drawn and colourful but the plot is a bit weak and not too convincing.
First published by Anansi in 1974