a call of the wild. The security of belonging to a herd.
recently heard that of an East Indian girl born here of a Trini Indian
mother and an expat Indian father. She went to live in her father’s
country at the age of three, visited Trinidad in her twenties and stayed
saying this is where she belongs.
those childhood years in India amounted to a “foreign” experience
since now, she says fetchingly with a thick South Indian accent about
Trinidad, “Your motherland is always your motherland, No?” It’s a
think of that Trini frequency fine-tuned towards its “herd” spotting
one another in the din of foreign cities—New York, Boston, London.
packed train stations, bustling department stores, cinemas, markets,
theatres: “You a Trini?” they ask my husband who has a tattoo of
Trinidad & Tobago on his back. “Yeah,” he grins. They’re home.
think of the Afro-Trini businessman who went to Nigeria and came back with
a light in his eyes that wasn’t there before. As if he glimpsed what it
could have felt and been had he been born there and grew up there. He saw
how strong, how deep, centuries-old tribal feelings run. How language
connects people for a thousand years. He came back wistful, Africa
swirling in his head.
too much, closing off, dehumanising everyone else who isn’t like you,
creates terror of the sort linked to a Muslim Kashmiri militant group that
killed 200 Indian commuters in Bombay and injured 700 others on Wednesday,
wounding the city, frightening its citizens.
wrote to my cousin in Bombay after the attacks. I was anxious about him
and my family there. They were okay. They travel by train, but thankfully
not on the day when eight bombs exploded in Bombay in a co-ordinated
family in India asks me about Trinidad. They hear there are many East
Indians here. Are they Punjabis? Gujaratis? Sindhis? What community do
they belong to? What religion are they? How many Muslims? They want to use
their markers to place them. India has minute pin markers for every one of
its billion citizens and a bloody ugly history between the Hindus and
Muslims, starting with partition, and Pakistan when a million people
massacred one another continuing with the murderous tussle for territory
in which thousands more have died.
can find very few reference points. I reply, “I don’t know if they are
Sindhis, Gujaratis, Punjabis, Bengalis or from Uttar Pradesh.” There are
Muslims but they can also be Hindu. They are all of that or none of that.
Their name and community reveals nothing. If you come here there is the
possibility that you will meet a man who will introduce himself, say, as
Vishnu Mohammed with no apologies.
the most part he will be blithely unaware of the religious incongruity of
his name; of the sense of outrage and desecration that will bring about in
India (Vishnu, a Hindu God, linked Mohammed, after an Islamic prophet). He
is a Trini and will freely walk in and out of Temples, Mosques and
man claiming to be an al-Qaeda member in Pakistan congratulated the
murderers in Bombay and appealed to Indian Muslims “to take up jihad.”
350 people have been detained by Bombay’s police commissioner. The
retribution towards millions of Indian Muslims will be terrible and some
will say justified.
more will be massacred. Most of them, innocents.
at dusk, when dust particles turn gold reflecting a vivid pink and orange
sky of silk saris, or on a day when I can see the mist over the hills I
think nostalgically of South India of the Himalayas where I grew up. I
feel wistful. Then I see the ease of Trinis, the lurching, the laughter
and I am glad that belonging without bloodshed exists, and I see it every