It was a love that rose above challenges and prejudices and blossomed and grew stronger over decades.
Now, 60 years later, love letters from young lovers have turned out as a source of reading material in a book relating “the good ole days”, the challenges, struggles, and bliss.
For the Love of Ogie by Errol Wildman, 77, shares the story of this union in a love that binds. At a simple launch of the book at J-ZZ’S International Steak House Limited in Couva recently, Wildman revealed the book of love letters from his deceased wife.
Wildman shares moments of their romance in the book, from loving stares exchanged with his high school crush, Bissoondaye Soondarlal, fondly called “Ogie” after school at the doorway at a drug store at La Plique Road in San Fernando, to the giggling, blushing and the coming together in a union that endured.
The struggles he faced as a 16-year-old Presentation College boy falling in love with a Naparima Girls’ High School lass is documented in the book.
He said, “We would meet at Warton Drug Store at the bottom of La Pique and on evenings she would occupy one side of the door and I on the other. We just stand up and you exchange looks and smiles. No touching hands and we would just giggle. One day she was in her usual spot and on the other side a young boy stand up in my spot. I get so vex I walked down to the Wharf to catch a bus to go home, vex ... !
“The next day, the same thing. I asked her, ‘You know him?’ She smiled and nodded. I gone by him and say “Excuse me, I see you yesterday and today again, what you here for, you checking out somebody? You like that gyul dey? I say you see that gyul dey, that is my woman, so make tracks! He dust it.”
Wildman shared the harrowing struggles of prejudice that cemented the couple in love, marriage, and parenting two sons and three grandchildren. The letters she sent him were testimony to the love they fought for. Unfortunately, Wildman’s responses were not saved, due to unwarranted family intervention and the pressure placed on her back when they courted.
When Ogie died of a heart attack 18 months ago, Wildman was about to place all the letters he kept from her, dating back to 1962, into the furness with her as she was about to be cremated.
But his niece-in-law Deanne Mohammed intervened and stopped him.
He said Mohammed held his hands and refused to allow him to part with the letters. Wildman is today grateful for her intervention as it has led to the publication of the book.
As images ran from an overhead projector of the couple’s humble beginnings and youthful rendezvous, the Bee Gees 1978 Too Much Heaven softly played in the background.
Wildman said, “I’ll read snippets of a few letters. You can rationalise and think about how it was. My sons supported me and asked me if the letters were personal, I said, ‘Not too personal that I don’t want the whole world to know.’
“I never had puppy love in my life. I only love one woman, I had a lot of girlfriends, but only one who I love, and it’s Ogie.
“I always wondered why I kept all those letters she wrote to me dating back to 1962. Things passed and my wife was working at Couva Hospital and I worked shift at Point Lisas. She say, “I meet a fella today, the man you tell to make tracks.’
“Well, he is a policeman and he came to Couva and he saw her name and recognised her and he was nice and asked her if she married the man who told him to make tracks.
“I feel much better doing this book. I was about to put the letters to burn with her and Deanne say ‘No, it have more to come.’”
Wildman read snippets from Ogie’s letters dating back to 1962, including two unpublished ones in 1970 of the simple, compassionate, and caring sentiments expressed of her unwavering love for him.
“At Home, 19th Sept, 1962, Hello Sweetheart, I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday. Well I think that’s it not too late to still wish you a happy birthday. I hope you don’t mind my late wishes ... Yesterday afternoon I wished to stay and speak to you but you see I didn’t want anyone to suspect anything so I didn’t tell you much ... Because you know darling that I love you just as you love me and I hope that some good day we will be able to tell it to each other dearly ...With lots of love and kisses from your own true love.”
“24 Jan, 1963 Dear Errol, I am sorry for what I have caused you, but I think there was no cause for worrying. You seem to think that there are no other girls in the place for you besides me. But I don’t feel that this is true ... Well even if you had another girl I would not be vexed because of our age we are supposed to have two or three friends. You also feel that there is another boy in my life but I can assure you that there isn’t any ... All’s well, with love and best wishes, As usual Ogie”
London-born author, editor, and specialist in Caribbean Culture and History Simon Lee, who wrote the universal appeal in the 206-page book, referred to it as a “pure Romeo and Juliet story transplanted in southern Trinidad”.
Lee said in many forms the book exemplified the manifestation of the extraordinary love story separated by prejudice and within there is an interesting story.
Lee told Wildman’s family to treasure the moment because of the sacrifices Wildman and Ogie made that included them in the history-making event.
He said, “Love and memory exist in the human heart. It really doesn’t matter where you are. The series of letters in the book is based on and written when two lovers were separated. From a family perspective, you are reading the stories of your family and recording what appears as mundane memories. When you look at the stories contained in letters it becomes a rich text …
“Ogie was from a strict Hindu family. When romance reared its head, then it became unacceptable. For Errol, this was love at first sight. He was not a pure Hindu, he was mixed race. One of his parents was East Indian, this was not acceptable. This tells us so much about an area of southern and central Trinidad.
“Her father and brothers act as police forces. Errol took a brave step for these stolen moments that they shared together. When she was getting these pressures at home, she really couldn’t deal with it, so she took the opportunity offered by the mother country to go and study nursing. A new angle is seen in the letters that many Trinidad and Caribbean people go through.”
Lee said the book has an appeal tailored to historians and anthropologists with a vested interest in the documentation of societies and the post-colonial period, and the stories that proceed. He said it was important that “normal” people have their stories documented, like Wildman and Ogie’s story that measures “bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination between religious denominations”.
Mohammed noted, “I told Uncle to keep the letter. She destroyed his letter because of her brother; he treated her so badly! He was digging up in her business, throwing things in her face. Uncle Errol wasn’t good enough, but two sons and three grandchildren later, Uncle Errol, you are more than good enough. This book has given him a new lease on life.”
She said in a follow-up to the book, Wildman would write a response because all his letters were destroyed. The book can be found on the Canopi, Ebook digital platform for purchase.