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: