Orange rind in ashes


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 20 Feb 00

Sunday, February 13

Change is as inevitable and is as hard to accept as fat and wrinkles unless you win the lottery and that only happens to other people. So here I am, crouching in this corner of the paper. On the broad sheet drawing room filled with politics and serious business of state, my Valentine’s piece made me feel like Monica Lewinsky on a bad day while black suited politicians held talks on velvet chairs.


Monday, February 14

No Valentine’s Day cards except for a few electronic ones from friends who hadn’t read my cynical column. I tried to hold on to the courage of my convictions, that it’s all commercial crap etc, but collapsed green with envy after I got an e-mail from a male friend in Canada who did this for his lady love:

“I had Tiffany, my assistant, don a red dress and wings and slide into my girlfriend’s PR agency to recite a Shakespeare sonnet (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment...”) desk-side. A Puccini aria accompanied Tiffany’s rendition. All that was missing was a forest of crackling candles, drums, trumpets and airborne angels but from the way she greeted me that evening I felt I had created all that and more for her.”

Show off.


Tuesday, February 15

I am disgusted at the sight of a still life on my writing desk - not a painting but a bowl in which a cigarette (mine) is stubbed on a curled bit of orange rind; its gray poisonous nicotine has run into the fruit’s juice, seeds and skin.


I am seriously thinking of submitting it to the Tate gallery in London titled “metaphor for life in Trinidad & Tobago.” (After they showed the carcass of a cow decapitated in five parts at an exhibition some years ago, I think I stand a chance for a showing).


Wednesday, February 16

The bowl is a metaphor of the schizophrenia of living in this country. Lord Kitchener’s funeral yesterday is an example. The sacred jostled with the profane. Sparrow shed tears not just for his beloved colleague, but for a time when musicians and songwriters saw their art as a discipline and an integral aspect of social responsibility to their people - reflecting our glory and warts so we can see ourselves with clarity. He shed tears for all of us - for a lost time when the artist wanted to reflect, uplift and educate his people.


Then came the jostling curious crowd who didn’t allow Kitchener’s children to see him for a last time before he was lowered into the grave. The best tribute the government can give Kitchener is to scrap the NCC which promotes mediocrity and start up an academy of art, and a memorial fund giving scholarships to mas makers, songwriters and artists, based solely on talent, and merit. And let the private sector run the shows and fetes, the profanity of fornication and imitation masturbation that epitomises Carnival. That’s the people’s choice, but why should the government fund it? Pungent orange rind stabbed by the ashes of nicotine - that’s us.


Thursday, February 17

Still obsessing over nicotine in vitamin C. How like Trinidad it is. You love it; you hate it. It’s paradise, it’s a land of savages. It’s got people making $20 million homes down the islands, but children with malnutrition growing up into prostitutes out of the bowels of the Beetham dump. It produces Nobel Laureates, writers and poets, but can’t sustain them, because we are not a reading people.


It drives them away with the thud...thud ...thud of mindless rhythms which drown out everything else. It produces athletes who have to go away to train because we don’t have long vision for them. It is a land of cliches where the only heroes are dead ones, a land of dust because we can’t see what we have until it’s too late.


Friday, February 18

My art doesn’t look good. The orange rind is dried up and curling at the edges and the stale cigarette stinks. The title of my work of art is also problematic: “Metaphor for life in T&T.” As a writer making reference to this country is difficult, not the least because there are only so many times you can say “this country.”


We are the only country in the world with a conjunction, (and) in addition to being a Republic. “The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago” is impossible because by the time you’ve reached Tobago people are bored so you run the risk of losing the reader who will probably flip the page, as well as, because you have less words with which to actually do the piece. Trinidad by itself sounds isolationist, supremacist and patronising, an insult to Tobago because it makes it sound like Tobago is unimportant or a colony of Trinidad. “Trinbago” is tacky. Nobody but us understands T&T. Then there is the problem of transporting it. What if the Tate thinks it’s garbage mail? Regretfully, I bin it and wash the bowl. It served its purpose as a metaphor.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur