talk at the dinner/lime meandered from here to there and settled at our
end of the table on the Bollywood awards.
you going?” asked the lawyer. “Hell, no,” I replied. A heated
discussion ensued. I said I disapproved because I can’t believe people
pay money to watch “stars” show off, that I’d rather see their films
(if they are good) than gape at them.
retorted that the event was significant because it countered the feeling
among the East Indian population that they were marginalised because,
after all, here they were openly and demonstrably celebrating their
at that late hour, with some alcohol in my head, I came across more as a
killjoy rather than a charming hostess. (Why does my brain always let me
down? Why can’t I just dress up, serve food and shut up? Oh well. One of
these days I will achieve that Stepford wife/Martha Stewart status that
makes women likeable in this regressive, girly, bling bling age).
night, under dying candlelight, when I should have been light and
frivolous, I forcefully said we base too much of our identity on stars of
sport, entertainment and beauty pageants.
thought (but thankfully refrained from saying aloud) of the electric jolt
of envy I feel when I go abroad and see busloads of schoolchildren being
taken to book and science fairs, art galleries, photographic exhibitions,
readings by famous authors, poets; of the pang I get when teenagers are
well informed and passionate about politics and poverty, about G8 issues
can’t more of our children aspire beyond a beauty show, sporting or
singing personality? Why can’t they, too, get a chance to absorb the
world, and engage in it, change it as is their right?
remembered an observation by an eminent local doctor that in other
countries, people put up monuments to their great leaders, philosophers,
thinkers, prime ministers, revolutionaries, people who shape history and
civilisations, like Adam Smith, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert
Burns, Karl Marx, Lafayette. We put up two statues. Of calypsonians.
Worthy, great men, but is calypso the only reflection of our identity?
can’t compare ourselves to ancient civilisations, or even new, rich ones
like America. Our little new world goes back only a couple hundred years
(not counting the native Indians who were wiped out by our colonisers).
Still, how are we to grow up if we don’t acknowledge the grit,
intellect, work ethic, toil and ideals of people who shape our destiny,
who pulled us out of our slave and indentured states and opened the door
to the world for us?
them or not, men like Dr Eric Williams, Dr Rudranath Capildeo, CLR James,
Sir Vidia Naipaul and Derek Walcott deserve monuments. There are so many
others I don’t have space to mention here. I don’t know how much of
this I thought, how much I said aloud.
thought of the raw talent of our people, and where we could be if we began
hero-worshipping people in academia, in science, in technology, in
agriculture, in industry.
how we reacted to our football game. Now think of our collective power if
our heroes were also critical thinkers who had a huge vision of the world,
who said, “We’ve achieved a peaceful democracy, but how do we make it
a more literate, healthy, equitable one.”
week Time magazine convened a three-day global health summit in New York
to devise practical solutions to the health crisis in the developing
invited 400 people, policymakers, journalists, public health officials
and, yes, entertainers to talk about big questions like why poor people
die. They invited Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Bill Gates and Madeleine
magazine ran a piece starting, “In the time it took you to read this
article, 13 people died of tuberculosis, 20 people died of Aids and more
than 5,500 babies died from preventable infections.”
think I communicated some of this to my humane, brilliant lawyer. That is
why I get angry with our perpetual obsession with “entertainment.”
wrong with it, except it isn’t balanced with the big questions.
agreed on that.