have always been fascinated by perspective. The way four people can be
present at one event, or one country and experience it in an entirely
different way depending where they are coming from. Lawrence Durrell does
it beautifully in the Alexandria Quartetís weaving the voices of four
friends in the sultry musky sunshine of that ancient city.
quartet of sorts unfolded around me, with the glittering serendipity you
occasionally stumble on in the rich jumble of this country, (not unlike
Alexandria of the mid 20th century) with its extreme passions and bright
colours, and sudden deaths, shocked weeping and laughter, with non-stop
crashing of waves around us.
the lovely casual way we have of striking quick intimacies with people,
going from hello to the state of oneís soul in five seconds, encounters
with a house painter a businessman, a real estate agent and a marketing
professional, gave me varying perspectives. I was able through their
honesty to inhabit separate lives for those few minutes.
28-year-old house painter from Laventille is a sweet-natured hard-working
handsome young man with a girlfriend he adores and plans to marry:
am one of five children. My mother is a single parent. I grew up without a
father. He went to the US and I never saw him. I was once part of a gang.
I left when I fell out with them and escaped a bullet to my head. Every
morning I leave a street full of young men who will sit in one spot for
the whole day, like itís a job. They live from day to day. Most of them
donít have money to travel out of Laventille but they own a gun. How you
think that happened? They are controlled by the real big boys in society.
Most of the boys in my original gang are dead. Crime is the mentality that
comes from years of neglect and ten-day jobs. Training centres have opened
in Laventille but we need proper jobs, roads, homes. If youíre poor all
you think of is money.
gives men a certain lifestyle and rank. They get cable TV, cars, jewelry,
phones, brands. They will not give that up for a low-paying job. They
would do a contract killing or shoot a man in the back for his car without
a care because they themselves feel they donít have anything to live
for. People are afraid to hire you if youíre from Laventille so you have
to lie about your address but good people live here too.
boys in my block watch me as I leave for work but I feel proud of my
skills, of filling my pocket honestly. I have a lot to live for, a lot to
offer society. That bullet flying past me taught me that.Ē
51-year-old Syrian-Trini who migrated to Europe after the surge in
kidnapping and violent crime: ďI just got off the phone from a friend
who said his son escaped being kidnapped. The relief I feel when I am
abroad, at my children being able to walk on the streets and know they are
safe, to go to a corner shop by themselves, to sit with the front door
open in a garden, to use public transport, to go about my business feeling
safe is worth living in exile.
left my entire family, friends and business associates of a lifetime, my
country that I love, for that peace of mind. Itís expensive, itís
lonely, and itís cold and dark for months, but if thatís what I have
to do to make sure my children are safe Iíll do it. When they are
settled in university in a few years, and if the country is safer maybe
weíll come back. This is our home, always will be, our navel strings are
buried here but our choice was either to live like prisoners or leave. We
left, with heavy hearts."
to be continued