We are nothing apart in exile


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Category: Trinidad Society 28 Jan 07


I write this while the country wavers in this dry heat, emitting waves of panic, between shutting down, and staying open, split between North and Central Trinidad, between action that is a non-violent inaction, and inaction, which is the everyday action of carrying on as if nothing’s wrong.


Vindra Naipaul’s snatching is indistinguishable from the brutality with which heavily-armed, plain-clothed police bundled citizen Inshan Ishmael into a car and sped out of sight.


The lines are blurred. We turned to one another after hearing about the “arrest” and asked:


Were they kidnappers or policemen? Weren’t four policemen recently charged with kidnapping?


Many recent personal accounts from kidnap victims imply police collusion. We don’t know the difference anymore.


We wipe our underwater goggles to make sure we are seeing right. The State blurs with the police, who blur with the criminals, who blur with the State.


Mysteriously, resources were available on Wednesday night. It took four carloads of fully-armed, plain-clothed policemen to nab one citizen who wanted to stand up against 1,600 murders in four years.


Ironically, they invoked the Terrorism Act. Didn’t they know that he was protesting the terror under which we all live?


Frighteningly, does the State want to maintain the status quo of terror?


It’s the kind of dilemma that happens only here in our many-layered, many-coloured, multi-babbling country, which has an unbelievable magnetic pull, because it is the amalgam of so much life from every continent stuffed on a small island.


We should go, but we want to stay.


In the blood


Because even if at one level we have gone under—some people say gone through—the pulse of our country has a life of its own. We see it every day when we come up gasping for air, bloodstains spread through another road, another floor, another bed of a river.


I can see why citizens like Stephen Cadiz, Pastor Dottin, Inshan Ishmael want us to rally as citizens, not to attack the State, but to be able to stay for this:


Twilight in the pre-poui season. Gallus Street, warm pavements, cool breezes, and a costume flashing blue.


We walk into Trini Revellers’ Mas Camp, where you feel this earth’s swollen hearts quicken, minds flare with the ritual of spring, hands moving with scissors, cloth, beads, sequins; where people of Indian, African, European mixed decent create a shrine to our collective identity.


The mannequins recall the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s excesses, the masquerade ball, the ribaldry of peasants, the dash of La Noblesse, La Bastille, the ideas of liberte, egalite et fraternite.


Stretching back, adapting to the present.


Mr Enrico Rajah, PRO of the band, also dean of the Sixth Form at St Mary’s College, a quintessential mas man, who brings continents alive through the mas, shows the depth of his research in the costumes’ detail, the ingenuity in making them modern and light.


Rajah’s essence was created when as a child, “Sunday night in Ariapita Avenue was like Christmas Eve night,” and he “wanted to hear the first steelband pass” when his aunts who played with George Bailey made pies to take to the Savannah, and when finally lost for words to explain his country, says “it’s in the blood.”


He has an East Indian surname and a Spanish first name. He is a Trinidadian.


We are everything together in this microcosm of the universe, and nothing apart and in exile. That’s why an East Indian, a French Creole and an African all wanted the country to shut down. So we can stay.


It’s in our blood.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur