ventricles of the same heart” was the way one citizen pithily summed up
our politics over the din of the bugles, music, the babbling crowd, the
blaring voices over the microphone.
witnessed the symmetry of the two ventricles myself on two occasions: the
PNM’s nomination of candidates, and the UNC’s launch of their
Woodford Square, and at the Excellent Centre, party flags fluttered, hands
raised placards over the crowd. Individual personalities were absorbed
into the collective mass. The response to the fist shaking figures at the
podium was similar to that of a hypnotized congregation at a mass. On cue,
over a promise - cheaper medication perhaps, or a nest egg for newborns,
the mass would cheer. At the suggestion that the other side was the enemy,
was robbing them, or exposing them to terror, the masses would heave with
another version of the two ventricles observed by Nobel Laureate Derek
Walcott in his essay “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory ”.
around slowly, as a camera would, taking in the low blue hills over Port
of Spain, the village road and houses, the warrior-archers, the god-actors
and their handlers, and music already on the sound track, I wanted to make
a film…I was filtering the afternoon with evocations of a lost India,
but why “evocations”? Why not “celebrations of a real presence”?
Why should India be “lost” when none of these villagers ever really
knew it, and why not “continuing”, why not the perpetuation of joy in
Felicity and in all the other nouns of the Central Plain: Couva, Chaguanas,
was seeing the Ramleela at Felicity as theatre when it was faith.”
children in Sunday frocks come down the ordinary concrete steps into the
church, banana leaves hang and glisten, a truck is parked in a yard, and
old women totter towards the entrance. Here is where a real fresco should
be painted, one without importance, but one with real faith, mapless,
are here again, they recur, the faces, corruptible angels, smooth black
skins and white eyes huge with an alarming joy, like those of the Asian
children of Felicity at Ramleela; two different religions, two different
continents, both filling the heart with the pain that is joy. But what is
joy without fear?”
is fear now, but that fear is a bogeyman that is whipped up at campaign
nights unleashing a different kind of monster. Thankfully it evaporates in
the light of day.
the day, I observed the two ventricles once again.
there is a ratio of one East Indian to two Africans working in shops owned
is camaraderie between them – the easy everyday banter of people
comfortable with one another.
do a quick poll. In four shops I ask the same question.
for elections?” In the first, they said they “tired vote”. In the
second, two young men without taking their eyes off the TV above them and
said “We studying football in England, not that” and became absorbed
in the game. In the third shop they said yes, they will vote but it
wasn’t a big deal. In the fourth they made fun of politicians who use
their profile to market cosmetics, and say breakfasses. Apart from minor
scattered incidents, the ventricles are cool.
is Walcott again:
a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the
love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. It is such a
love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments, the cracked
heirlooms whose restoration shows its white scars. Antillean art is this
restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, or
archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original
histories were simultaneously “shattered”. The vases that East Indians
and Africans are now reassembling will invariably have shards and
splinters of the other. In a tiny country strung together by pumpkin
vines, separation is impossible. In churches, families, offices, sports
fields, UNC and PNM supporters, pieces of separate ventricles interact.
The bogeyman of fear is vanquished as they see before them not ‘a UNC’
or ‘a PNM’ but friends, siblings, colleagues, teams.
in the context of political patronage A UNC supporter will get help for
his PNM father. A PNM supporter will put in a word for his UNC girlfriend.
And so the heart beats.
the eve of an election, when the ordinary citizen has been presented with
grandiose manifestoes, perhaps a little dreaming of our own will be
does it for us.
are the proportions of the ideal Caribbean city? A surrounding accessible
countryside with leafy suburbs, and if the city is lucky, behind it,
spacious plains. Behind it, fire mountains; before it, an indigo sea.
Spires would pin its center and around them would be leafy, shadowy
parks…pigeons would cross its sky. At the heart of the city there would
be horses…emerging from paddocks at the Queens Park Savannah at
sunrise….and above all, it would be so racially various that the
cultures of the world – the Asiatic, the Mediterranean, the European,
the African would be represented in it, its humane variety more exciting
than Joyce’s Dublin.”
a poets chilly foreboding, Walcott answers the question of what could
happen should our people be hypnotized into fear, a people who fail to
recognize that if we destroy the other, we destroy bits of ourselves - two
ventricles of the same heart: ”A morning could come in which governments
might ask what happened not merely to the forests and bays but to a whole