of slow rockers came from the verandah. “I’m not emotional,”
declared the visitor from Trinidad. His thin upper lip made a barely
perceptible movement denoting superiority - “not like my wife, she gets
worked up about places and people.” He was standing at the tip of Bon
Accord. Beyond him stretched a wide curve of lawn which rippled out into
fruit trees, and a blur of dense foliage. A round burnt orange sun was
making its descent into the sea - now a sensuous undulating mass of molten
lava. Even after its orange descent into the water, silver lights flash in
the darkening water. Sea breeze puffs out his shirt, billows the skirt of
his wife who was not listening.
young man represents reason and logic - much celebrated qualities in
sophisticated urban professional life. But how to articulate to the
cynical man the essence of Tobago and what makes it different from
Trinidad? I could tell him two stories, which I heard in the space of two
first from Trinidad. A man reasonably dressed, but down on his luck,
approahces a businesswoman with a reputation for a shrewd mind and a kind
heart, and asks for a loan of $60.00 - for a business venture. She makes a
deal with him. She would loan him the money. If he returned it, she would
continue to help him get his business off the ground. If he failed to
return the loan she would not help him ever again. She puts the loan slip
aside promising herself that if the man returned the money she would use
it to start a fund for struggling entrepreneurs. The good woman never sees
second, Tobago. A woman under financial strain tells her landlord that she
was unable to pay her rent. Six months pass and she lives rent free. Two
years after she has moved out the landlord finds all the unpaid rent
deposited in his account. The examples are undoubtedly flawed,
unscientific, random, financial rather than spiritual but they help to
illustrate the essence of Tobagonians.
you still have on your city eyes - the abrupt movements of a wary
protective instinct - an encounter with the Tobagonian is disarming. You
will find all your quick dry defenses unnecessary. He is not interested in
your insecurites, he is innocent of malice, he doesn’t care to know the
rules by which you live and so escape judgment. Whether his innocence is
real or put on is irrelevant. What the Tobagonian is protecting is his own
humanity. He will not corrupt it by playing your games.
is able to confer trust on you, by absolutely expecting it. Mark you,
there is no studied arrogance in their eyes, simply no subservience - it
is not so easy to shatter their reality with foreign cameras and accents.
Tobagonian welcomes you but on his terms, that you drop your airs - in any
case, a blind eye is turned towards them. But if the visitor does allow
himself to be drawn in, to sink into the island, he will discover
something beyond reason, a primeval, perhaps irrational sense of
liberation from the importance of urban life, removal from networking and
hustling and being seen at the right places and being clever or studiously
outrageous. In the clear light of Tobago they appear as they are -
superficial aspirations. It isn’t that the Tobagonian is ignorant of
these aspirations. Living on an island he may just find it easier to be
resigned than to strive for desires that cannot survive there, that
preclude his way of life.
a young female hotelier is calmly able to count out a large quantity of
money in an open office, cars are left unlocked and brand new houses built
without any burglarproof in the plans. On the beach, sturdy children
smoothly brown with the sun and matted salty hair, walk home, spitting
chennet seeds, unencumbered by adult fears of disaster. Unaware of how
rare and precious is their freedom.
the Scarborough church an afternoon wedding is in progress. Outside, a
gentle breeze whispers through the yellow heat and heavy swaying trees. A
tall priest twinkling with humour and flashing dimples marries a young
couple. His sermon is no provincial “holier than thou” tirade into old
time values but words that are vivid, as lush, as quiet as the landscape,
a secular inspiration even for the ungodly.
chooses the parable of the wine that ran out at the reception as his
reference, and draws the congregation out to laugh and reflect. The wine,
which evokes fecundity, the dance of feet in crimson juicy fruit, potent
liquid, heady abandon, is not difficult to imagine. Who could shut out the
wine when the priest then uses it as a metaphor for the stuff of good
marriages, trust, forgiveness, communication, empathy. Suddenly he turns
abrupt - the congregation is the first to hear of a domestic murder. He
warns the young couple that they must not allow this wine to run out.
then, must be Tobago language. An open celebration of the offerings of the
earth - the wine and the capacity people have for making others happy. The
island has been, miraculously, largely uncorrupted by materialism - even
the wealthy are committed to guarding the Tobago wine - maintaining simple
lifestyles, shod of petty prejudices. The smallness can also be stifling.
The priest understands it - else why that sudden mention of murder at a
wedding? You can see in some a restlessness, loneliness and unsatisfied
curiosity, the dullness settling in. Here, a suicide, there a chopping
incident. Everywhere the grass is allowed to overgrow, the weed flourish.
The discontent cast wistful looks at visitors, allowing them a glimpse
into the gap of longing that their lives have become. And hints of being
forgotten - like the Tobago Council for Handicapped Children whose
building in Signal Hill came to an abrupt halt. The money has run out.
triumphs like the 70th anniversary of Bishops High School which now has a
new science wing, belong to everybody. In the market place, the man
selling roasted corn boasts of an upcoming Divali cultural show organised
by Jimmy. One marvels at how this well-known Tobago Muslim hosts artists
at his holiday resort free, for a Hindu festival. Sat Maraj should meet
down the road gape huge brown dry heaps of dug up landscape, and half
complete structures of artificial colours and elaborate shapes which will
be filled in with highly priced city comforts. Looking at these half-made
structures, one can’t help thinking of a land that is being slowly bled,
mutilated, dried up and moulded into something entirely out of character.
They are images succumbing to fantasies of sea and sand so banal and
damaging to this precious way of life, one can only pray...don’t let
this uncorrupted wine of ease, trust and ready laughter run out. These
gaping dry holes and mounds of concrete represent discontent and more
likely than not, threaten to suck into its greedy orifice, the wine of