Feeling Talmas terror


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Category: Trinidad Society 11 May 08


While I write this, a kidnapped mother of two teenaged sons, former school teacher and owner of a small business, Philippa Talma is still with her captors (The seventh victim this year).

Every minute she is held, thousands of women feel her terror. Our food doesn’t go down...Is she eating?

In these mercilessly hot days, when the sun bakes and cracks the parched earth, when five minutes outdoors and we are covered in an uncomfortable film of sweat, when mosquitoes pester, our mouths go dry thinking of her.

In the bathroom...We think. Does she have clean water, basics? When we change our clothes, we think of her vulnerability.

Her ordeal is ours. Why? Because Philippa Talma represents every woman in this country—strong, independent, the family glue, gleaming with a sense of endless possibilities.

Every woman with a busy life, racing from home to work, to schools and to activities and staying up till the children get home; holding it together. Her background is solidly middle class.

Scholarly parents, good citizens, a work ethic that doesn’t expect anything for nothing, that understands the big picture, of living on an island, of living in the world, but mostly about giving back passionately.

A no-bling family.

When Philippa taught my children, among hundreds of others in primary school, looking and dressing like a gangling teenaged fashionista, she covered the globe in her gestures, in her off-the-wall, out-of-the-box classes.

The sparkle in her big eyes were matched by 40 pairs of children’s eyes filled with wonder. She singled out the dull, the lonely, the sad, the insecure children and “bigged” them up. It’s what mothers instinctively do.

I know there are people who will steups because this is a middle class kidnapping. There is an awful phrase we all use—spiteful, insular and dripping with the bitterness of living lazy, unfulfilled lives—“she look for dat!”

Compassion for women like Philippa will be stifled under antipathy, for her education and the colour of her skin, which is viewed as a ticket to privilege.

Terrorised species

It is politically incorrect to care too much about women like her. And if you ask why, some pugnacious person will tell you “What about the shootings in Laventille, in Central every day?”

Empathy for the victims of horrible crimes for one segment of society cannot preclude empathy for other terrorised groups.

But women like Philippa are bizarrely made to feel less worthy of citizenship, of protection, of compassion, precisely because they create humanity in a state that undermines it daily, that puts buildings and votes before education and safety.

Women throughout this country are a terrorised species, perpetually on guard. They speak of rapes and attempted rapes and tell stories of robberies.

An attack on someone like Philippa, like thousands of ordinary law-abiding women, is similar to women and children getting caught in gang warfare crossfire in depressed areas.

Both groups are weak, disenfranchised. It’s not taking away any political points from half-a-dozen people who rule this country.

It’s not touching the pockets of the 100 or so people, local and foreign top dogs, who run our oil wealth between them and who think citizens should suck it up.

But the State should know that indifference is spawning a rot that could eat away at the entire underbelly of society and create an unstoppable rage that could turn beast.

Journalist Raoul Pantin, a hostage in 1990, said the attempted coup was an identifiable group insurgency.

Now, insurgents are everywhere. The entire country is being held hostage.

The backlash will come.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur