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Category: Reflections 28 Feb 10

If Carnival were the electric guitar, a frenzied movement of glistening limbs, our poui spring is the mellow saxophone’s response. The quiet is sudden, spreading ashes on human foreheads. Allowing Carnival its moment in the sun, its rivers of people on the streets, a flashing sun pirouetting on sparkle, the landscape patiently waits for the hush. Then brings out its own colours this time of year: brown green hills daubed with soft pink, flaring yellow with blooms.

Extreme profanity

There is brutality, too, as there is in the Carnival, (the macabre element of the J’Ouvert, the extreme profanity a mocking of grace even in the pretty mas) with burnt orange as bushfires blaze, leaving behind a parched earth. I should have been concentrating on driving, but couldn’t, watching the unfolding of many familiar tableaux around our Queen’s Park Savannah: the men taking down the carnival structures, blowing clouds of dust in the air with their machines, the tall girl with the swift legs racing past the bulky bodybuilder; the father sitting on a bench with his toddler: the boys gathered to play football; three middleaged women, in jaunty t-shirts, absorbed in conversation, power-walking.

There was an artist, with his easel pointing towards a poui tree. I wondered if his palette could capture the nuanced colouring of its blooms—the rosy hue, flushed with shadows, bleached pink in sunlight. At the traffic light, the artist and I looked up at the same time as science and nature conspired to allow a flurry of leaves to float from tree top to a corresponding tree on the opposite side, and float across the road to safety. When I’d driven past, they were beginning to fall slowly, but I didn’t wait to see that. Who would have thought that dead leaves could take flight?

Nothing is surprising

But in this cycle, where colour and ashes all point to regeneration, nothing is surprising. I met a man who felt this on the eve of Kamla Persad-Bissessar, MP for Siparia, being sworn in as Opposition Leader. He said he was waiting for me to write about her. In this season of drought, of ashes in the hills, she represents renewal.

I’ve always thought her a brilliant attorney, articulate, quick. I’ve wondered all these years about her fierce loyalty towards Basdeo Panday, who I’ve seen destroy Hulsie Bhaggan for taking a stand. I was among the first to write an ecstatic column when she was made attorney general, a woman at that time. It represented a victory for all women, for everyone that has been sidelined for being anything but a member of the old boys club.

But we all spoke too soon. But that was a nine-day wonder. She only held the post until it suited the big boys, and it was snatched away from her and given to the quintessence of male power, in the form of a powerful attorney (and admittedly charismatic) Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. Perhaps, the shoving away of Persad-Bissessar, all those years ago and into the post of Minister of Education (where she did an excellent job), was the beginning of the unravelling of the UNC, the peeling of husk after husk of the old UNC. The hardline UNC supporters remained loyal, even after their leader went into opposition and forgot all about them.

The men, women and children who had turned into statistics which say that the rural East Indians are the poorest, least literate, most vulnerable to alcoholism and incest in our country, were patient for as long as they could be. The opposition supporters saw the UNC had become, effectively, an ineffectual opposition, perhaps with the single exception of Wade Mark, who has to be given points (and forgiven for his strange grammatical sentences which almost always end with “and so on, and so on, and so forth, and so on”) for attempting to provide the ruling party with some sort of checks and balances. I was not surprised when I heard that a lot of the PNM stalwarts were supporting Basdeo Panday in the UNC.

The status quo of a non-functional opposition suited them fine, and the people saw this and finally rebelled against being used. Another husk was shed. Persad-Bissessar’s victory (which she called the victory of the people, and it is) has thrown the PNM into disarray, and for now, roused them out of their complacency. Now, I am not surprised at the Machiavellian turn of politics (nor should a seasoned politician like Basdeo Panday feel “betrayed” after playing the game so well and so hard all this time?), as opposition after opposition MP rushed towards the winner, even if she is a woman they opposed, even if they each privately hankered after the prize she has won with merit, diplomacy, patience, and grace.

The next day, driving around the Savannah, I saw the artist turn his easel towards the opulent Moorish-style mansion, the fifth of our magnificent seven buildings known as White Hall, that it was for a time Prime Minister’s Office. I remembered how, on the heels of the “successful” and monumentally-expensive CHOGM, how Prime Minister Patrick Manning addressed workers of an organisation, urging them to tighten their belts, warning them that if we spent too much, we could have to turn to international agencies for help. I remembered the disconnect between politics and the people, looking at that fine architecture, feeling that hot air, wondering what the kid living in a slum dwelling in the East/West Corridor was doing about water?

Then I watched a man in a suit walking on the pavement look down as two poui blossoms landed on his shoulder. I watched him look up. Delighted. The light changed and I drove on. There is always hope this time of the year. The old husk has been shed, making way for the new.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur