Sisters and other women

 

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Category: Women Date: 18 Feb 96


It’s the poui raining down its petals on the shady culvert; it’s sequins strewn in a brightly lit mas camp, and the distant thudding of Kaiso at 2 am, but I get this feeling at this time of year - the land is being made ready for magic.

 

And today, I reflect on some conversations with people of the land. There we were: Lauren (older with a grown married daughter), and Suzy, pretty, a teacher, 24, with a quick laugh and sad eyes, and I in the locker room in the gym. Lauren was telling us about her deputy - how his Valentine gift was breakfast in bed.

“Your deputy?”

“How does your husband feel about him, Lauren?”

Contemptuously: “I leave him behind so long. I don’t look back, only forward.”

“But then whose deputy is he?”

“My boyfriend’s - he’s older and has commitments,” she adds coyly.

“A married man?”

“... two men, for different things,” says Lauren stating the obvious. She likes the older one for security and the younger one because he’s fun.

“And you Suzy?”

“My husband? I don’t love him any more. The passion is done. I tried to revive it but you know some men, once they are married, they are not interested anymore. They only want their socks washed. I care about him - and how he might feel if I left him. But passion...” She looks like she really wants to leave him.

 “Anyway”, says the inimitable Lauren who must be twice our age, but sounds younger than both of us.

“My deputy ask me last night if I don’t want to think about making us a long term thing. I look at him, I ask him, you want to run me or what? I don’t want to get tie down. Any way I told him about how my boyfriend and I buy furniture together already. You know what he tell me? You could sell furniture. Nah, I like my freedom, and my deputy and my married boyfriend.”

“And what does your boyfriend’s wife feel about it?”

“She must feel it’s a phase.”

She looks at us, feels she ought to demonstrate that she understands boundaries too: “You think I’m naughty, eh?”

I didn’t know whether to applaud or disapprove. But you have to admire her. Whatever her story, she’s taken her life in her hands, no one will tell her what to do again.

“No,” says Suzy who at 24, has renounced passion for life.

“You’re brave. You go ahead and live life enough for all of us, you hear?”

 

That night, a man told me women have only three options for passion in marriage: a one night stand, an affair or divorce. And a man’s option? Oh, he says, horning is a way of life. And happily married people? That’s for story books, he says, looking lovingly at his wife of 30 years. Weird.

 

Then there is Joy. A rare species. A vibrant public servant who makes the system work. One minute, Joy was explaining some weighty administrative matter in her sober clothes, and in another she switches on you, catches you by surprise.

 “I am really a bohemian you know. I wanted to get out and travel and see the world. Have you been liming at all for Carnival?”

 “I went to semi finals - with some women friends. Most of the women who looked really good in tights and tank tops - the women who were laughing, drinking, enjoying the kaiso - you could tell they had all been abroad, they got that liberation abroad.

 “On Carnival Sunday I picnic with my three boys - around the TV - bring out the food and the pillows and the blankets and watch Dimanche Gras show together.”

She glows with a mixture of pride and exasperation. A good mother.

“Once I came home at 8 pm instead of 4 and the youngest one got really mad shouting ‘you should have been home ages ago’.” She laughs. Then, “I realised too late that I had given up my entire life for the children - never made any time for myself. I saw it when a friend of mine had to go into therapy after her children went away to live. She was dying with depression. I decided that wouldn’t happen to me.”

Joy, in her late forties, early fifties maybe, with her three grown boys is finally realising that she owed it to herself to go to a show with the girls dressed in tights and looking good. Joy to the Bohemian.

 

Finally, a moment with my sister - sitting in a cove down the islands warm waves lapping around us, idly picking up shells, watching the sun shot with gold, orange, dip into the sea; while our babies are tumbling in the sand. That conversation was silence. Happiness flooded in with the moon, peace was absolute. We’d talk and talk later. She’s gone back to England now. She was here only for a short month, but I have this quote which I copied out from some book a long time ago. I take it out again:

“...with sisters there is the possibility of the most intimate and enduring of relationships. A sister survives parents; she is there long before lovers and husbands and children. She shares the same gender and generation, the same house, often the same room, sometimes even the same bed. Each travels through life alongside the other and shares as a contemporary, the experiences of school, of independence, of love affairs, work, marriage and motherhood. More often than not, she is there in old age when lovers or husbands may have deserted or died, when children have left to make their own way.”

 

So sister, this is what you are missing: walking in the Savannah in a dusty warm sunset while the pan crescendos and then subsides so low that your heart has to stop to hear it properly, orange blossoms flaring in the drying hills, the boom boom of the bass to which your feet move automatically. And tomorrow our people become material in the hands of artists - all those rivers of people - seeming to say with each gesture, wine, swig, twirl, each glint of the staff in the sun, life life life. A man walks past whistling “Jahaji bhai.” The poui tree sways. I tell you - magic in the land.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur