Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Public Holy-Day

For all of you who aren't fortunate enough to live in Trinidad and Tobago and might not know, today is a public holiday. What again you say! Yes, again, in the middle of the week. That's what you get from living in a multi-ethic, multi religious society. Admittedly to some, it looks pretty ridiculous; we have thirteen official public holidays and two unofficial ones that are really official because everybody, including the Government, take the days off. Of the thirteen, six are religious, three are ethnic, one is for the labour movement, and two are nationalistic. The unofficial official days off are for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, important stuff dontcha know!

These are just the holidays we know about in advance, then there are all the miscellaneous days off for flooding caused by rain, let's shut the country down to go stand in Woodford Square or whatever the PM feels like dispensing to mark whatever occasion. Life is good here in the third world. Being neither religious or even particularly ethnic conscious, all these days off to me, are welcome in that they are a break from the unrelenting grind of my daily life. Even though I often have to work for some of them, there are enough that it's never for all. With all these public holidays is it any wonder that we are fun loving people, who take life so casually. Ah happiness.

Given that I am of mixed heritage, today actually constitutes a religious holiday for my mother's family, so I get to go "home" and make nice with the relatives. Easier said than done. Do you know what it is to have ten people talk to you at the same time, all in loud voice, the entire time? I'm a pretty solitary soul when I'm not at work. Many days when I get home, the most that comes out of my mouth is, " Zeus, shut up" to the hound, the occasional quick hello to the downstairs neighbours who might be outside, or a " it's in the fridge where it's always kept" to the X-man. I talk for a living, I don't want to talk when I'm off for the day. It's selfish, I know. Meanwhile, my granny is probably slaving away over a hot stove while I write; this prior to heading off to the mosque where she'll meet up with her fellow survivors, she's 84, her friends are dying off, before heading back home for another round of quick kitchen activity. I can barely prise my eyelids open enough to write this.

Since my mother is dead and she has no more daughters, a few ex-daughters in law who no longer darken her door, I'm it. Her company while she cooks, reluctant sous chef, because I cannot do it the way she wants, my cooking style is very different. I'm not resentful, just too tired. My female cousins are notably absent, and this is hard for her to take, she who is used to large families and lots of people, whose family gatherings have now shrunk to the unmarried sons, shrinking eldest granddaughter, whichever grandsons happen to be in the country and miscellaneous drop-ins.

Today, she will miss my mother intensely, and will talk about her with longing. I'm a poor substitute because I am not her, only me. She will miss my grandad, his energy; he would be the one chivving everyone else to get ready to go and then realise that he needed to bath and shave so they'd all have to sit back down and wait. We, those of us left, will briefly congregate in the kitchen, to eat together before jumping up to go where ever else. I feel sad for her, this is not what she envisaged. Where are the eight children that she raised, where are the grandchildren and where are her great grandchildren? No childish voices raised, nobody running underfoot, no hive of activity, instead we have scattered all over, been visited by death and divorce. Today she will have a heading to middle aged, unmarried childless granddaughter, itching to get back home to catch a few z's before work tomorrow; phone calls from my uncle,brothers and cousin living abroad, her friends who didn't make it out and her surviving sisters. And she will be happy, even for this.

So for her, may I wish all of you, Eid Murabak, take the time out to enjoy your life, enjoy your family, be happy.

1 comment:

Gabriela García Calderón said...

Hello Coffeewallah:
I've just translated part of this post for Global Voices Online in Spanish. Your words about your granny really moved me.
I was raised by an aunt, who was the sister of my great grandmother. We all loved her. I guess she was very much alike with your granny. My mom had to work when my dad died, so our beloved tia Angelita was always home for us. And now I miss her a lot.
Please, say hi to your granny from me. Even though I don't know her, I guess I can say I'm very fond of her... and for you, for caring so much about her.
All the best from Peru and Eid Murabak!