This random boom boom

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 02 Mar 03

 

I write this at 2.30 am with burning eyes.

 

No matter how hard I tried, the boom boom of the big fete, the splintering noise pitched harsh and high intruded past a field, past locked doors, past a stuttering air-condition unit on full blast, past the pillow over my ears into my head, making my teeth clench and stomach churn.

 

Why? I think now, why does the noise have to drown out everything? I’ll come to that.

Last week I met: An incredibly bright young man suffering from heart problems; a young woman who discovered she had breast cancer; a couple who can never have babies; an old woman whose daughter died from an brain aneurysm; a friend whose father had a stroke; a woman whose husband daily humiliates her by openly having an affair with someone a quarter his age.

 

These are real troubles.

 

Then there are the troubles in our heads, the yardsticks by which we measure ourselves and come up short, the terror of time passing too quickly and the inevitable atrophy of life.

 

I speak to my friend from Montenegro. She’s 36 and stunning, but she was crying that she’d failed.

 

She wanted to have already written a first novel at that age. Instead she is stuck in public relations, and has partied her days away. She feels she doesn’t have anything to show for her life and sees the dreaded 40 ahead.

 

There is the…

newly retired man who finds it bewildering to operate outside the boardroom, outside his power base, so he shouts at his wife all day to drown out the knowledge that it’s too late to reach out to his children, and his wife has built her own world that doesn’t include him. He doesn’t know who he is, without a suit. He feels invisible. Time goes by in painful drops.

 

There’s…

the man who has been working incredibly hard for years finding out finally, bitterly, it’s who you know that counts, not how many hours you put in.

 

Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have escaped real dread so far, most of us have stood at the brink of life looking down at the frightening pit below filled with death, the unknown and emotional pain. We all have our own demons that dance about us, burlesque, mocking, appearing when we least need them – in the dark, in moments of frustration or exhaustion.


Who hasn’t?

 

Yet what astonishes me is not the extent of damage I see around me – the random cruelty of life but is the shrugging courage with which so many people in this Carnival country react to private calamities.

 

Much has been said to knock the Carnival culture – the gyrating; the excess; lewdness; fornication in shadows; baring of flesh; menacing grin of a sexuality careless of the spreading HIV virus; inanity of the jump and wave and wine that some say infiltrates into our daily lives; noise that subsumes all thought.

 

But put it into context of who I met just this week and the people we all meet over the course of a lifetime and you realise the boom boom of Carnival, even when it wakes your eyes at 3.30 am, is not another act of random madness; it is an act of faith.

 

Old worlds and cultures have their own way of dealing with demons that strike us all. Some are stoic, resigned to their fates, deeply steeped as they are in ancient religions. They take comfort in a faith that precludes other faiths, be it a firm belief in karma, pre-destination and rising from the dead, or a heaven flowing with honey and milk.

 

In more northern, “civilised” countries, people who are too sophisticated to take comfort from ritual simply fade into grey or descend into a tight-lipped depression – bottles of alcohol adorn their front steps every morning. It would be okay if they stopped there, but in wealthy cultures one comes across bigotry as harsh as a shot in the head.

 

Expand that and you get the US President George W. Bush and his disciple Tony Blair screaming for war for oil. You get blood all over Kashmir and Gujarat. You get the mess that Zimbabwe is. You get obesity and misguided nationalism in America.

 

What do we do? We shout and jump and wave and scream and gyrate for a few days. Nature herself colludes with us. Watch the immortelle compete with a flaring sunset once again.

 

See the pink poui blossoms fall in slow motion on a hot, windy day and spread across the steaming concrete. Dust and blossom will soon mingle on the streets with bits of feathers, tinsel crowns, a carelessly discarded gleaming armband or headband.

 

See the dust that turns gold when the light changes, racing as if impatient to join with the mud and tinsel, the spectacle, the drumming, the thrumming of steel, the roar and movement of the crowd and the noise that drowns out the demons.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur