then a scholar said, “Speak of Talking.”
he answered, saying:
talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart, you live in
your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
in much of your talking, thinking is half-murdered.”
Khalil Gibran in The Prophet
is not always a good thing because it might lead to care passionately for
or against someone or thing or issue. It might lead to a cause that makes
you become a suicide bomber, or find a cure for AIDS. It depends on how
you use thought.
use my time on the road to think, not intensely like a scientist,
terrorist or technocrat, but mildly, to music. Occasionally, I work myself
into a rage over some issue or another and you see it reflected on this
are moments of happiness, too, that come with a flash of insight into an
old problem; or peace, when the road is clear and you can see the sea
rolling about in the rain, or in the play of shadow and light on the
like having the radio on as background and jack up the volume if a song I
like is played or if the talk is good for a few minutes.
week, instead of being a foil to my thoughts, the radio attacked me, and
held me rapt. Almost against my will, I found myself being sucked in,
unable to turn it off. The
fluid in my brain became packed tight with the cacophony of talk,
whispering men shouting, shouting men whispering, the thudding of drums,
roaring of crowds, ear drum-destroying screech of the microphone being
adjusted, the jingle jangle of parang, kaiso, Christmas carols, the azaan
call to prayer, quaseedas, bhajans, Christmas ads, election clamour with
the laughter of mocking women and pathos of little girls crying.
a result, I am compelled to report that as thought receded, and noise
resounded, my brain became “half-murdered,” as Gibran put it.
surprising thing is this deluge of noise wasn’t a bad feeling. It gave
you a natural high, freed you from the responsibility of thinking. Another
memory (not an original thought) that crashed into my addled brain like a
bolt of lightning through all the thunder on the radio was a young
executive saying recently: “We in Trinidad and Tobago could never be
divided by ethnic fighting or fundamentalism because we are too busy
partying. We go from Divali, to Ramadan, to election, into Eid, to
Christmas, to Carnival, to Easter.”
came to me like an epiphany. I’m not as fit as Forest Gump, who ran and
ran and ran because he didn’t understand the chaos around him, so I
drove and drove and drove to understand.
drove all the way to Point Fortin and back. I drove along the highway, and
along the coastline. I observed along the way the beauty of the land, the
way the trees stood up fat and round, like broccoli pieces, lighting up
into an emerald green with the flash of a cars headlights, or lamplight,
fading into an inky green shadows of bush.
felt the sharp salt of the sea on my face, breezes that had travelled from
another continent. I looked up with wonder at a plane flying in the night,
inching its way, like a firefly across the body of water where people felt
safe from terror, and sat dreaming their dreams.
saw, to my astonishment, a lit- up fixture of a giant crescent moon and
star that must have been put up to celebrate Ramadan. I passed hundreds of
homes, shacks and mansions, fringed with lights, several Christmas trees
in windows, and one reindeer on the roof of a blindingly decorated home.
saw the flags put up for the prayers said at Divali. I watched the smoke
rise as if out of giant cigars in rows from our oil belt. I saw the
twinkling lights of Port-of-Spain, and our twin towers, and the
semi-circle of ghostly and magnificent buildings around the Savannah.
I drove, I heard a call to vote for three or four political parties. I
heard Hindi film music, DJs, a call to prayer, parang, kaiso, and
old-fashioned Christmas carols.
don’t know how this country of 1.3 million people does it. I don’t
know how people of so many faiths and races manage to contain such a huge
capacity for celebration, democracy and tolerance, even amid an election
we all know is being battled along ethnic lines, rather than on issues or
will be the beginning of something new. I am thankful this election is
jammed between Christmas and Carnival, and no matter which party forms the
Government, we will celebrate, if not victory, a peaceful democracy.
may never find the cure to cancer, or be able to prevent our politicians
from distancing themselves from us once they are in power. We may be a
country of nine-days’ wonders, but we always will dance in one
another’s festivals and, in a month or so, black, brown, white and every
shade in between will make up the rivers of people on our streets.
knock our ability to make plenty noise. It may be our greatest gift.