Another reality co-exists

 

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Category: Trinidad Society 22 Nov 09



Ultimately, Chogm is about two billion people. Today, I offer extracts of columns, as a paean to our people.

November, ‘95, Trinidad

Tobago, 1975: An elderly lady sees a woman, conspicuous in a sari and an umbrella, walking up that angular hill in Scarborough, out of breath and looking disoriented. In a charm that belongs to the old world and new, the Christian Tobagonian invites the Muslim woman from India in for a soft drink. Granny (later known as the mother of our Prime Minister and President ANR Robinson), adopted my mother as her daughter and us as her grandchildren.

This week, 20 years later, on Tragarete Road, an Indian girl stands shy and coy, deeply absorbed in a uniformed guard— African—who seems not to see anyone else. Elections, a sudden feeling of Carnival—a balisier band passes the rising sun—they smile and wave. Mr Manning on a podium: “Don’t vote for me because of my race.” The political analysts can quarrel over their pitfalls, and misalliances, but in 30 years of independence, a solid foundation of democracy and unity in diversity has been laid out, embodied finally in the voice of Mr Manning, who told his supporters on the night of November 6th, 1995: “Go home in peace.”

Raoul Pantin said he “could have wept” over his country which walked in peace, regardless of whether they were jubilant, fearful, or in mourning. Flaws in governance aside, we have had peaceful, free, fair elections for 30 years. As citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, we are among the most civilised in the world. And deep within us we recognise that there is no Mother India or Mother Africa. Our lives are inextricably bound as Jit Samaroo’s to pan.” Yet, there is another reality which co-exists.

February 08, Trinidad

This is a first person account of life in Laventille, based on an interview with “Andy,” 46, who lives in Picton, Laventille. “I was born and bred in Picton. I’ve never been more scared in my life. It’s shottee they moving with. Fifteen shots a go. Gangsters are on a rampage. “On Saturday morning I heard explosions ‘ratatatat’ shots, then an explosion. On Sunday, police found a body down in the hole (the valley).

“On J’Ouvert morning a next shower of shots. Two young women and a boy picked up bullets. On Ash Wednesday, another boy got shot. "Beverly Hills, Canada, Blocade, it’s all one road, controlled by different gangs. There are so many tracks in the area, people don’t know where the bullets will come from—up, down, from tracks that we call short cuts. “It is a ghost town. In my small area alone, there are ten gangs, each with 25 to 30 members between the ages of 13 and 30. ”

London, England, March, 09

“The railings of churches are filled with notices of concerts to come—Vivaldi, Bach, the Gregorian chants. The tube stops in a tunnel for no reason, and everybody tries to look at nobody. Thousands of shoes chorus up stairs in rush hour. A beautiful girl in tall shoes and short skirt and red, red lipstick steps out an elevator and kisses her waiting boyfriend. This is London. The same as it always was. Yet, it’s not. Nothing will be the way it was.

“Somewhere, in the last decade, between the terror attacks in London, Mumbai and New York; between the crash on Wall Street and the rise of the reality show celebrity; and the worldwide phenomenon of Facebook and blogs, the world shed yet another skin and changed for all of us irretrievably. “We are looking at one another’s lives through machines, use fewer words to write, need to read less, surf more to get by.

“Still, it’s England, and here in a sleepy station in Hassocks, where friends meet us with warm hugs. “The air smells of freshly-cut grass, streets are cobbled, lanes are narrow, homes are 16th Century, and we feast on pub lunches of fish and chips. “In this spirit of commonalities, we prepare to meet the world this week and the next. 

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur