Season for gratitude, second chances

 

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Category: Trinidad Society 24 Apr 11
 

Anyone seeing me drive would have thought I was drunk, particularly around the Savannah about 11.30 one morning as my car swerved dangerously from side to side. It’s really good that there aren’t any visible traffic policemen, breathalysers, laws that are enforced, fines and so on, so we can all drive the way we like. (It’s only terrible when you pass corpses on the road, which is frequent) You’ll understand why although I hadn’t been drinking and driving, I wasn’t all there. Firstly, in this fiery dry season, my car felt like the fried ice cream that the award winning chef, Bernard Long from New Zealand introduced me to. If you touch a hot steering wheel and turn the air-conditioned valves simultaneously, cold air would be blowing on your cheeks and you will get fried ice air.

This whole country is a movie set I thought, a veritable assault on the senses, looking from side to side, unable to decide which I liked better…the Magnificent Seven or the Savannah on this boulevard of blossoms. There isn’t a park like this in the world; perfectly circular, so accessible, I thought for the thousandth time with something akin to adoration of the Queen’s Park Savannah. My head swivelled along with my steering wheel and my car, towards two girls literally jumping up and down under a particularly lush poui tree, throwing leaves at one another. A man was escorting his hugely pregnant wife to a bench to drink cold coconut water and a crazy morning jogger running past with sweat pouring like a broken WASA pipe.

This is an animated impressionist painting I conclude as a sheet of seeds, dried leaves and flowers rose from the Savannah pavement gathering momentum, cross the road in a festive whirlwind with some landing like manna on my windshield. There is more. The long shot is the Immortelle orange and flushed and flaming yellow poui in the hills, competing with the egg yolk sun over the mountains. The grass in the park is covered carpets of dried leaves amidst green pines, contrasting with Bougainvillaea against whitewashed walls. A schizophrenic autumnal look on a tropical island.

No wonder this, our dry season, spring in colder countries, acknowledging the cycle of life, our fragile mortality and the immortality of time is universally celebrated. Carnival is the loosening of the husk gathered year round, a letting go, followed by Holi or Phagwa; the Spring festival of the Hindus, and Baptist day (an immersion of pristine starched white in water and colour, delving into the mostly untapped aspect of ourselves), followed by the Bahá'i festival of Ridvan, heralding the arrival of a great messenger. And now…Easter Sunday.

Easter, the hot days when steam rolls out of the pavement, of the blazing sunsets, of crisp leaves underfoot, of the roses that carefully tended bloom in the tropics. I ran in for my camera one evening to capture the extraordinary sight of the crimson jasmine growing with the white but the camera was dead.

The next day it was too late. The trees around my balcony were bare, the ground cleared of its crisp leaves, and there was news of death, not of someone close, thankfully but the gentle husband of a friend. The death and decay is necessary for the rejuvenation. And again and again, I remember what my aikido master told me years ago, of the concept of bending and yielding to the roughness in all our lives. Frustration is such a useless emotion. This season is about retrospection, for acknowledging wounds, for displaying gratitude, for resolutions and for second chances.

The wounds

The wounds. Amidst our love for the spectacle, for the drama and tit-for-tat of politics, we continually lose sight of the fact that a truly civilised society is reflected in the way it handles its most vulnerable.  We forget that we voted not for theatre or personality clashes, but for housing, health, literacy, infrastructure, and development.

The wounds. Sadly, despite our oil money, our functionally illiterate are a whopping 500,000 strong. This leads to almost every problem we have: from a dying tourist sector, our rising murder rate ( among the highest in the world in a non warring country); our 400,000 living below the poverty line.  Our appalling environmental record making us among the most polluted small island states in the world (even Barbados which has nothing but sun and sand recycles over 70 per cent of its waste while we plump with oil money recycle next to nothing), our ridiculously high rates of lifestyle diseases—diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes, HIV/Aids and cancer because our state media does not do its job, and people are not educated on how to eat healthily.

Resolutions

Resolutions: I would like to see our leaders follow the arc of developing nations, as close as Barbados as far as India and start a massive national educational drive which will fix everything else.  Education, adult, remedial primary and secondary that yields the desired result of producing literate citizens.

Education that will reduce unemployment, decrease our dependence on ‘make work’ programmes, reduce crime, reduce lawlessness on the roads, allow quality people to enter our protective services and increase productivity at every level, make us kinder civic citizens.I would like our leaders to resolve to lead by example. To invest in the other pillar of development.  Health. Start by using political celebrity so that prominent members of Government, from the Prime Minister down are photographed doing regular health checkups, of exercising, eating right.  Use state owned media to teach us about lifestyle diseases, to take preventative action so that less stress is placed on our already burdened health services.

Gratitude: I am grateful for living in a democracy, a microcosm of the globe where the transplanted races of the world live without thinking too much of tribal or religious differences, where a single face can reflect three continents. I am grateful for the rare beauty of these islands, with a mountain range and ocean in a single landscape. As Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it’s a reminder to us all that life gives us as many chances for renewal, as there are years in our lives. There is also gratitude for the whimsical, absurd and the exquisite, for the fried ice-cream, coloured water and chocolate rabbits in our lives.  Happy Easter.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur