Last whisper of village life


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Category: Trinidad Society 13 Apr 08


“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 neighbours.

Fast forward to this century, the age of Facebook, Myspace, text messaging, cellphones, empty streets and suspicious faces.

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.

All scattered

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 scattered.

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.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur