Grenada Beauty - A surprise at each corner


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Category: Travel 09 Mar 14


I couldn’t name it. What I saw: the Grande Anse Beach, from the balcony of my hotel in this tiny Caribbean Antillean island country (the tip of the Grenadines).  What is it? That blue? I tapped in “cerulean” (from a dimly-remembered Derek Walcott poem) on my phone. Got this: cerulean: The word is probably derived from the Latin word caeruleus, “dark blue, blue or blue-green,” which in turn probably derives from caelulum, diminutive of caelum, “heaven, sky.”

Grenada is an exquisite woman, to whom things happened, who was conquered, invaded, bloodied, repeatedly: the French, who discovered her in 1649, destroyed native people, tussled over her and lost to the English, who let her go when they couldn’t hold on any longer.

She is volcanic, curves and edges, with mountainous interiors, carved by rivers, waterfalls that flow into the sea. She wears her history in her languages: English, Grenadian Creole, French patois, Hindi, Urdu.  Her freedom from the colonies brought tremors—general strikes, red-sky days, military presence, bloodshed, a coup, the execution of Maurice Bishop, the moderate socialist prime minister followed by an American invasion.

That Grenada—not even a dot on the world map, just a bit bigger than Tobago—managed to terrify a US president by building an airstrip that gave Cuba more access to her makes me love her more.  Grenada is a spunky woman.  No way the island could be a man. She’s tiny—just 133 square miles: we drove round Grenada in four hours.  In the little towns there was an absence of burglarproof; the old buildings are restored, unbelievably pretty; even the KFC fitted in with the old. Grenada doesn’t make joke even with her man-made beauty.

The only way of seeing Grenada is to get lost in her, to see the surprise at each corner.  And get lost we did, in search of a waterfall. It may be unfair to reduce Grenada to vignettes— yet that’s what I witnessed, Gauguin canvases everywhere: an elegant hand belonging to a lovely young girl’s face reaching out to a part a breezy curtain, returning our curious gaze with large dove eyes; a man spreading cocoa in the sun in a rectangle; a boy bouncing a football on a winding road; old men playing cards in a shed.  We were lost but we didn’t care. We stopped to breathe in her sea. We stopped because we had to get a proper look of the many-layered caelum dark blue, blue, blue-green ocean encircled by mountains.

A Grenadian stopped his car to help. In Trinidad, we fear a stopping car could mean a threat to our car, or lives. Here, there are barely four murders in a year. Here, with a friendly toot he went off, making us feel less lost.  In a big family van our father filled us in with the history as he always does. Grenada is a country of six islands discovered, shaped, populated and landscaped by ships: some brutal, bringing in African slaves, indentured labourers from India; some, like the merchant ship on its way to England that called for a few hours with magical serendipity, and left a few nutmeg trees which flourished with so much abundance that it now supplies 40 per cent of the world crop.

But paradise, cool pungent salt air, on warm days, endless beauty can stifle the restless.  Two-thirds of Grenada’s people leave; migrate to the UK, US, Canada, as far as Australia.  Those who remain have open faces. There is an absence of the silent rage with which we often communicate in Trinidad. They may not know the statistics, that their beaches are rated the top ten in the world, but they feel it, with the sand beneath their feet, with simple glad smiles for visitors with the pride of parents with a beautiful child.

We visited my nephew studying medicine at St George’s University. Founded in 1976, it looked like a resort—beautifully laid out, architecturally warm, landscaped, with a view of the ocean. Unlike oil, which bruises, and gives us a slippery wealth, and dirties our skies and lungs, makes us lazy.

The four-hour search for the waterfall ended. It was ten minutes away from our hotel. There was no other way but to wade into the stony pool, plunge in, feel stones rip into your feet, clamber up the rocks, and edge your way to the centre. With this rushing water, this pool of benediction, all the sorrow, fear, loss, doubt, and regret every human being must feel is washed away. Yes, this is Grenada of the caelum: “heaven, sky.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur