“Remember this,” I told my children in a nursing home
where over 40 people, young and old, crowded a waiting room, some spilling
out into the corridor. “You won’t see it when you grow up.”
We had come to visit my children’s
“grand-aunt” who is almost folklore. “Tantie” to dozens on Maingot Road.
Tantie, born and raised in Tunapuna,
is one of 13 children and has never married (not from want of suitors but
because she wanted her independence more than male companionship or
protection). She has brought up at least a dozen babies, stayed for months
with bereaved relatives, consoled battered and betrayed wives, been kind to
messed-up young men, has helped to organise numerous prayers and
celebrations and has been there for her community.
They were streaming in all day and
all evening to see the older, slight, pretty woman on the bed. They held up
babies to her, held her hand, prayed over her, reassured her when she looked
frightened, made her laugh, and left her each night for those five nights
she spent in the hospital.
It is the last whisper of a Trinidad
story—of a time when people had a dozen children per family, who played on
the road and the village minded them. Guns, bandits were not part of the
equation of everyday life. People felt free to move around and loved their
Fast forward to this century, the
age of Facebook, Myspace, text messaging, cellphones, empty streets and
Fast forward to streets where houses
are barred with burglar proof; families have one child instead of 12; and
there are single-parent mothers and latch key children. Nobody stops to give
anybody a drop anymore.
Man is a social animal. Our state is
under siege by criminals but you can’t lock children up at home after dark.
They need to communicate. Enter the cellphone. In the burglar-proofed home
the phone is glued to them. They are juggling cellphone, i-pod and Facebook
with dinner, homework and conversation. They fall asleep to music jammed
into their ears.
This is not a tirade against
technological progress. I bless the cellphone every day for its
conveniences. I am addicted to Facebook and adore knowing what friends and
family worldwide are doing every day. I don’t know how I could live a day
without the Internet.
With globalisation our world was
shattered into tiny pieces and glued together on the computer and television
screen. This is where our children live.
When they grow up most of them will
follow the “work,” which could be anywhere in this global village.
When we grow old and ill will the
whole village arrive? What village? In some ways our lives would have been
far bigger than any of our ancestors.
We have access to knowledge in a way
like never before in the history of mankind.
In others we would have infinitely
shrunk. We are connected to Hong Kong but not to our next-door neighbour. We
will not know the fall out for another generation or so.
I too am finding (this is troubling)
it easier to text rather than phone or visit. The communication where you
graze the surface. Where you are not made to engage emotionally.
In my meanderings in and out of
nursing homes recently I saw an elderly woman attending to her ill
middle-aged, widowed daughter. There was no-one else. They were all
That’s the future. I urged my
children, once again to remember this last whisper of Trinidad village life,
a humanity you could touch, re-enacted in a nursing home.