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Category: Trinidad Society 12 Aug 07


This is one of those rare times in our country when our naivete as a young country is a blessing.

It took slavery, indentureship and colonial greed to launch our East Indian, African, Chinese, European selves into this spanking new world.

The ensuing knitting together of continents was miraculous.

Travelled too far to carry the burdens of our various histories. If, back home, they want to fight and kill one another over religion, race, tribe and region, let them. Let our gift be that of forgetting. Forget the language, forget the fierce religious bigotry. Itís no longer our business. Letís instead leave our children scattered rituals, whimsical associations of their beginnings. This is the way you tie a sari. This is the way you beat a drum.

Here are rhymes, rhythms and songs. This is how you bury your dead.

We did as our ancestors bade and forgot. We forgot how to spell our names correctly. We mixed up words from everywhere, forgot where they came from and made them our own. We forgot our languages. We disinherited thousands of dialects from India and Africa knowing that language is the only gateway to a countryís people. In this way we irrevocably shut the door to our mother countries.

After independence on these tropical islands we frolicked like children. We could have gutted the colonial framework and created our own structures for self-governance but after 1970 we felt weíd done our work. Our leaders simply stepped into the massaís old shoes.

We could have educated ourselves, made ourselves independent rather than slaves of oil, palms outstretched for another handout.

Survive passage

We could have spent our bounty on building our cities and towns properly rather than living with the stench of flowing sewage, disintegrating infrastructure and Band-Aid roads, allowing our real estate, stock exchange, exchange rate to slide on a treacherous, sliding oily economy.

But our gift of forgetting has made it all so much bearable.

This is one time I am REJOICING that there are over 400,000 people in this country who are functionally illiterateóthat is, able only to read headlines. If you can barely read, and your religious history died with your immigrant ancestors, it is almost physically impossible for you to be a bigot, the kind who destroys murtis in the Hindu temple by the sea.

Itís much more likely that you are a vandal, a drug addict rather than a religious fanatic. If we acknowledge desecration as an act of hate, we will give it momentum.

We try on identities like hats. Our former East Indian prime minister wearing kurtas in mother India was just dress up. He would stifle in that rigid society. Our current prime minister wearing an African tunic here is a nod to our multiculturalism.

But take a country like Pakistan, ripped out of an ancient country like India both seething with atavistic religious fanaticism, illiteracy becomes a problem. The million Hindus and Muslims who loathed one another enough to slaughter one another like animals during partition must have loathed one another, because their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers loathed one another. Thatís the way itís been for a thousand years and thatís the way it is. There are 30 wars on in the world nowóover race, religion and territory.

Itís not our way. We rejected it in 1990 and now after the desecration of a temple. Our ancestors buried bigotry six feet deep, shattered it to infinitesimal atoms of ashes. But, what if we fail to recognise that under some hats, particles of loathing survived the passage waiting to balloon and blow up on us? Watch for bigots lurking under costumed clothing.

Unmask them.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur