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Category: Reflections 26 Nov 06

 

When I confessed, recently, my fear of flying, the tremors, the vertigo, the heartbeat clanging between mouth and navel, to a friend, she was shocked. ďYou canít live on a small island like this and be like that.Ē

 

ďBe like thatĒ meant being safe, avoiding risk, eschewing experience, choosing to be an ant, instead of an eagle, and maybe becoming a statistic in a country with the third highest rate of murder in the non-warring world.

 

It was fear that pushed me out of the ants nest. Before I left, fear was pelting down, in the newspapers in body bags, in freed murderers, in fleeing witnesses, of bandits snatching handbags at weddings and breaking in and stealing while families slept.

 

So when I was given an opportunity to fly out of Trinidad, instead of baulking, I braced myself.

 

I flew in five days from here to New York, to London to New York to Trinidad. It sounds like a jet setterís dream.

 

It was bloody torture for an ant like me who would rather take a 1,000-hour train ride than a 20-minute flight.

 

But I knew I had to get out of the trenches to see the birdís-eye view of this anthill smothered with mud, closing off my view of the world.

 

I got my birdís-eye view. Itís an advantage to be a floating nationality, West Indian, East Indian, passing as Middle Eastern, Hindi-speaking, English-speaking, Trini twang.

 

In multi-cultural cities like New York and London itís always carnival for us foreigners. We can put on any mask we like, mingle and observe.

 

What I observed for the foreigners like us was not a First-World haven, not escape, but exile even in those who had achieved middle-class lives.

 

Mimic country

 

I saw so many of Sam Selvonís lonely Trini Londoners, and New Yorkers who can only keep going in the shop, to the factory, to the office, because they dream of coming home to a space where there is greenery, sun, an expanse of glittering ocean, but more importantly, time and family.

 

I met Afghans who miss their bombed-out markets, buildings, homes. I met Hindus who live for the two weeks they can make it back to India for a pilgrimage.

 

I met Moroccans who belly-dance their way out of homesickness. I met, as always, Trinis longing for home.

 

They go to work in the dark, come home in the dark. No time to live. To be themselves.

 

On my return journey, woozy with tranquilisers, I had enough of the birdís-eye view. I, too, wanted home. Not escape to India, or Morocco, or Germany, or anywhere, but to my Trinidad.

 

The sight of paddy fields, hills, sunshine, an ocean of depths of blue, speckled with pools of emerald, a childís cartoon compared to the gleaming grandeur of the streets of London and New York.

 

A mimic country maybe, but this is a place where a person could raise their face to the morning sun, knowing there is a half-hour somewhere to call a sister, read a book, munch roast corn with a beloved child.

 

I wrote that bit late last night.

 

This morning I was awakened by a child. Our home had been burglarised.

 

While we slept, a man or men stole my cellphone a foot away from my bed. They took what they stole in a childís bag. I didnít want to think of what they could have done to us.

 

I want to tell the exiled: We are all trapped. You long for home. We long for safety.

 

The package doesnít come together. But as long as you are alive, you can dream of home. We have sunshine, but can play Russian roulette with our lives every day.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur