One of my father's jokes was about this old man who passed through the little village of Carapichaima selling vegetables, mainly of the bean variety, from a basket while precariously perched on an old "gent's" Raleigh bike. I shudder to think what his fate would have been had he fallen off the saddle onto the steel bar that ran horizontally from below the handlebars to the frame above the fender, the feature that differentiated the "men's" bike from the "lady's". Had that happened he might have been differentiated too but he never suffered any mishap except one time when he was verbally abused by a prospective customer. We knew he was approaching when we heard the cry, "Same, bodi, same, bodi, pumpkin, baigan, black eye." For those who don't know their ras- from their bil-berries, "same" is the name of a flat, shortish string bean (a fatter, browner version of snow peas) which we stripped open and fried with onion, garlic and slight pepper (or sometimes curried) and ate with saada roti for breakfast. Bodi (called "bora" by the Guyanese) is a longer, thinner string bean. Every week the old man would pass and sing out the same refrain, "Same, bodi, same, bodi etc". One day, one of our neighbours, Mr Jack, who previously lived in Port of Spain, asked the price of the bodi and found out that it was slightly higher than the week before. He ran outside shouting in anger, "You have no shame man. Every week you pass here selling the same bodi and you shameless enough to charge more for it. I don't mind paying more if is fresh bodi but is the same bodi you selling every week and you raise the price." The old man was lucky Mr Jack didn't give him a black eye but the week after, perhaps because someone explained to Mr Jack what "same" was, Mr Jack and the old man were on the best of terms. I think they decided to let baigans be baigans.
Unfortunately, given the rapidly increasing price of vegetables, I cannot be as magnanimous as Mr Jack. Last week's edition of this newspaper listed the price per pound of vegetables – tomatoes $6, sweet peppers $10, melongene (baigan) $6, broccoli $20, cabbage $6, carrots $6, sweet potatoes $6 and bodi $5. No doubt the same bodi costs more this week, maybe as much as $8, and all the other prices have risen proportionately. The Business Express quoted a vendor as confirming, "Prices on market produce is up by at least 50 per cent this week. Everything gone up."
When Solomon Hochoy was made Governor General, John Agitation joked about a vendor who increased the price of pak-choi and when asked why she had done so replied, "If Hochoy could go up, pak choi could go up too." As if the news is not bad enough, another article in the same paper pointed out, "Local poultry and livestock feed prices are expected to rise sharply as a North American drought has led to skyrocketing costs in corn and soybeans – the main ingredient in animal feed – which will be passed on to the consumer."
Given that wages are not going up, what is the Government saying? Omardath Maharaj, the advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, is trotting out the same tired cassava story as a flour substitute and follows this with bureaucratese that is even more laboured, "The Ministry will be focusing on creating policies that will encourage locals to step up production through incentives and making more land available for agricultural production." He promises results in probably three to five years.
Not the same bodi but the same old same old.