Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It is almost October, the year is mostly over bar the hectic rush that is Christmas. Hard to believe the millennium is already into its second decade. Soon we will observe the rituals that have survived virtually intact for centuries, in a way that is reassuring because the world changes these days at fever pitch.

Fall had always been my favourite season when staying in colder climates. The crisp bite in the air, sharp, smelling green. Birds flying south for winter, knowing that summer was over. And the leaves turning shades of red, bronze and gold, whole stretches of hedges looking as though someone had passed with cans of spray paint and coloured them in. If spring is the time of renewal and new things, fall is the time to say goodbye.

In the tropics, ten degrees north of the Equator the changes are less dramatic but no less noticeable. Here the evenings get cooler, the scorching heat of the day banished by colder air descending. In the early hours of the morning condensate drips off the eaves of roofs, a patch of wetness denoting the footprint of the house. It still rains, that heavy torrential downpour that leads to hot cocoa, evenings curled up under the blanket with a good book or these days, an e-Reader. The snowbirds are here, arriving in numbers daily. Inhabiting the neighbourhood fruit trees, their songs are different from the native birds. If you take the time to listen and the noise of the traffic quiet enough, their music accompanies morning coffee.

These cooler mornings are harder to get out of bed. The nights are longer, the days shorter, dawn takes its time to arrive and this is the time when sleeping with someone can be a languorous pleasure. The sticky, sweat filled August nights giving way to a time cool enough for cuddling in a tangle of pillows, sheets and bodies. Who could not like this?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Growing up without a father after 9/11

Growing up without a father after 9/11

This story sad, no denying that. The reporter well captures the poignancy of children waiting for a father that never comes home, the recurring nightmare of a parent who has to cope with the loss of a spouse and deal with kids and an event that is so large that it is a constant reminder of loss. For the world, 9/11 is still the news story of the century, it touched so many lives and changed the way we thought of so many things that were previously commonplace. Ask anyone over the age of twenty where they were on that day and they can tell you. For those moments that it took for the towers to come down, the world stood still, watched in horror and then watched again and again as the events were endlessly replayed by the world media. It was a truly sad day for mankind because it was caused by man, not some random act of nature.
And yet, this story has another resonance for those Trinidadians reading it. In reality, it is the story of many Trinidadians who leave here to go and live in "America". It is their version of the American dream. Many immigrants work at low paying jobs to ensure that they have a roof over their family's head while they continue in their quest for better. For some, it means a house, car and decent schools for the kids. Others study and get better jobs and create their own version of the dream. But for this family it turned out to be a messy, somewhat sordid end that left them perhaps questioning the memory of the person. The underlying story line is familiar to us, it happens here all the time. We recognise Vishnoo, from sneaking into a movie, to the way he interacts with his children. But he was also a still married man, living with another woman, having children leaving another family behind. It is a quintessentially Trinidadian tale in many ways, it's the stuff of so email forwards: only a Trini would decide to go up into a building to get a better view of a disaster, to the quotation from the wife of ""The way he go, it's like the earth opened and just take him away from them." Life is messy, you never know what will happen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Been through the desert on a horse with no name.

Oftentimes the greatest revelations come to you in the wee hours of the morning as you toss and turn hoping for blessed sleep. In the darkest hours of night problems seem more dire somehow, urgent, unsurmountable. Things, that by day, have smaller significance when pitted against the more urgent imperatives: getting a job done, going somewhere on time, and all the cares of modern living. It is therefore little surprise when seemingly startling answers to all those puzzles that you push to the back of your mind, reveal themselves in detail when there is little to otherwise occupy you. However, depending on your state of mind, they are perhaps, not the solutions you should be looking at.

It is hard to face the realisation that increasingly, values that were once held close, have over several generations been eroded, leaving behind a global culture that more and more, worships the vapid, self promoting cockiness that stems less from true ability and relies more on being “with it”. You Tube has provided a platform to promote your every moment, documented in often excruciating detail for mass consumption. More and more electronic media gives rise to the adage that everyone is a writer/photographer/designer/chef or whatever is today's trend. Even blogs, like this one, are really one person's musings put out for opinion. In fact, the constant magnifying glass has removed any need for standards, after all, anyone can do it, no matter how good or bad. Is this a good thing? You get to muse about that when you can't sleep, I don't have an answer.

When you consider that public figures these days are mostly famous for being famous, the result of a “sex tape” or having some scandal attached to their names is it wonder that we seem to be raising children with little morals and ethics. Things that ten or even five years ago would have been unacceptable have now passed into being commonplace.

It is okay to be a lout. Starting sentences with, “in my day”, is a surefire way to have eyes rolling and to be typed as a dinosaur, probably past your usefulness. And in truth, who's to say they're wrong. After all, they are the ones inheriting the earth, never mind that the majority seem to have passing acquaintance with grammar, manners or common sense. No, my generation is not perfect, far from it, we raised you lot so that should tell you something.

But it is interesting, we are told that age is a number. Advertisements for cosmetics, educational opportunities etc tout that we can be forever young even as our ageing bodies let us down by developing joint problems from all those spin classes and immobile botoxed grimaces that pass for a smile. We endlessly the pursue the fountain of youth, competing though we should know better. You see age is more than a number, it signals that we have had some life experience, or it should. That we have a wider perspective than someone just starting out because of those experiences and that we are unashamed of being who we are. Sadly, that is not the case. We struggle to keep pace, even as we conversely say that we are proud to be older. One of the best ads on TV is for the Toyota Venza. Hats off to the ad agency who came up with that one. You'll have to google it – see, we can learn new things that are relevant.

These musings in the wee hours of the morning are not about vilifying young people or the way of the world. It is the calm acceptance that perhaps my time has passed, my relevance eclipsed by younger, brighter stars, and that's as it should be. It is wondering, in my fourth decade, what is the next chapter. And no, forty is not the new thirty, it is what it is. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Too much time on my hands

Times flies when you're having fun, everyone knows this adage, we hear it often enough. In reality time goes by at the same rate, it only seems to drag if you are bored and wish for it to go quickly. So far it has been easy to not write about the state of affairs in Trinidad (and Tobago). It is the usual drama that accompanies most things here and it will all be over soon enough, forgotten except to say, remember (insert curfew story here), back to normal. The state of emergency and accompanying curfew declared by the Government of the day have not much changed the way most Trinidadians live. Most of us have self imposed curfews and our rights are usually being infringed by certain elements, now they have legitimacy. For the record, this blog is not about the SOE so you can stop reading here if you were looking for SOE commentary.

Now that I can't venture out past 9 p.m. there is lots of time to do “stuff”. After all, there is only so much Criminal Minds and educational TV one can watch. And so, got to thinking, always dangerous I know, about the difference between HAVING character and BEING a character, because yes, there is a difference. It all started with an email forward sent by a like minded friend. For a long time I've pondered in this space that I'm not like the average Trini and for the most part those things that other trinis consider to be the hallmarks of being a TRINI continue to elude me. Thanks to my friend, I've discovered that in fact, I am Bajan (or Barbadian to you non Caribbean people). Why you might wonder, would someone born, raised and living for most of their lives in one Caribbean island, have so many characteristics of another despite not having spent more than a few days at a time there.

Consider the evidence at hand:

I read, I buy books – like the average Bajan.

The Bajan does not throw KFC boxes out of moving cars but what is more, if they see someone exhibiting classless behaviour, they tend to open their mouths and articulate their discomfort.

The Bajan does not care to elect people who SHOUT on platforms. They don't care for politicians who have soup kitchens and rum and roti. Their politicians speak in a normal tone of voice and the female ones are not trying to be beauty queens. Their media does not care to follow “important people” around and generally focus on issues rather than diatribe.

The Bajan does not have to tell the world, every minute, how dey “love up dey country”. They demonstrate that by educating their families, coexisting peacefully in neighbourhoods, protecting their environment and raising the type of citizen that will not disappoint them at election time.

In the event that a police report is made, the police will actually manage to come. And the police have email addresses that a citizen can use to communicate with a relevant officer.

The above are all characteristics of my non-Trininess and more examples can be found at http://www.unep.org/ourplanet/imgversn/103/05_look.htm. If you have character, all those things above are not alien, you will in reality, find them to be normal every day living. Trinidadians on the one hand take pride in the fact that “we is characters” and yet complain about everything. Sadly, we often mix up reality TV, with real life and unless there is some drama and bacchanal associated we think that order is boring. We love our country so much that we condone illegal vendors on the streets, squatters in the hills, poor and illiterate driving, garbage everywhere, vagrants in our capital city etc. The list is endless. We have blithely accepted that we needed a state of emergency to get the police to do what they should have been doing in the normal course of their work. Because apparently, without the impetus of a false sense of urgency, the majority of our police force would not get the job done.

For some reason we, the general populace, have a sense that it is okay for us to be lawless, rude and inconsiderate because we are not criminals, those are the people with guns living in “hot spots”. We are just “characters”. And so fail to see the correlation, that crime is crime and you don't need a state of emergency to fix that. What you need is to have more character; i.e. backbone, forward innovative thinking, hard working, having a sense of humour without having to reduce everything to humour and less tolerance of those things that we perhaps attribute to “being characters” instead of seeing them for what they really are, a lack of responsibility and real character. Our problems as a nation are not going to be fixed in a day, or in three months even with the suspension of the constitution. First we will have to grow up and accept that 49 years into our independence we have as yet to live up to the late Dr. Eric Williams' Independence Speech :

“What use will you make of your independence? What will you transmit to your children five years from today? Other countries ceased to exist in that period. Some, in much less time, have become totally disorganised, a prey to anarchy and civil war.
The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others. Democracy means equality of opportunity for all in education, in the public service, and in private employment--I repeat, and in private employment. Democracy means the production of the weak against the strong.”
Or a definition of independence, “ The capacity to manage one's own affairs, make one's own judgement and provide for oneself”.