Around 7 o’clock Sunday night, while ostensibly addressing the nation on the catastrophic floods in northwest Trinidad, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar caught a vaps and declared a public holiday for the next morning, in honour of Keshorn Walcott pelting javelin for gold at the Olympics instead of mango for training in Toco. People like me, who’d had our two working days in Trinidad halved by the “instant” holiday (just add water), didn’t catch a glad like the airport greeters and eat-ah-food feters but, we told ourselves, at least the shell-shocked flood victims didn’t have to add missing a day of work to their already-unbearable burden. Individual lives and whole families were ruined by that one night of rain a week ago. People won’t go to university, now, or get their SEA textbooks, or their hernia operations, because so much was lost by so many, so quickly. Nest eggs were cracked and spirits entirely broken. Many will never recover.
And, most fittingly, for the new T&T, where you can find the funds to commute by helicopter between Port-of-Spain and San Fernando by cutting all that wasteful spending on cleaning drains and watercourses, the heaviest price was paid by the people in Trinidad who always do the right thing. All those hardworking, self-denying citizens who, for 25 years, made every mortgage payment on their townhouse or annex-apartment in the valley were drowned in the torrents of mud brought down by the greed and indifference of the sufferers and the superrich, who alone together share some sort of extreme-end-of-spectrum licence to denude whole mountainsides of rainforest, to put down their wuk of pigeon peas or mausoleum-mansions. The real definers of the worthwhile Creole culture, the Belmont Africans and Woodbrook Syrians, the Preysal Hindus, the Chinese shopkeepers who took cheese and chess to all corners, all of those misguided idealists who put more faith in dictionaries than holy books, those same poor firetruckers took the licks for the cocktail party/molotov cocktail set last weekend. So, though it cost me a cold beer and a warm lime with my pardner Morris, who surely would not swim like George Bovell I, II or III, to leave the West, I opted to avoid seeing for myself what, I am told, was far, far worse than the images on Facebook and YouTube. Even with my nerves numbed by a week in Trinidad, it would have been too upsetting.
But that wisdom to know the difference still did not prevent a good mood made precarious by police constables filling out stolen DP forms from being ruined completely by wining toddlers. The photograph arrived in my e-mail on the holiday Monday itself, forwarded by somebody who thought my outlook on life was too perennially cheery. It looks to have been taken in Trinidad on the open road somewhere during some period of street celebration. It could be Keshorn Day in Toco, Carnival Tuesday in Tunapuna or any Friday at any road junction. The picture shows, in the background, a large crowd, scores, perhaps hundreds of people applauding the action in the foreground; which comprises a skettel, prone in the middle of the road, propped up on her elbows, bottom in the air, fishnet-stockinged legs spread like she was expecting a gynaecologist, a proctologist, or both together. In the shot, she has her face turned over her left shoulder in the pose Trinis so eloquently call “gouti look back;” behind her is a grown man, barefoot, pants hanging on his bottom (shoes, for some reason, off, and tossed to the side, like his judgment, his morals, his sense of dignity); and the grown man is grinning widely while patting, encouragingly, the head of a little boy, no more than five years old, as the child jams his tiny penis against the woman’s backside.
So who, in Trinidad, is man enough to besmirch the judgment of a prime minister who declares an additional public holiday in a month that already had two, when parents and whole communities can’t tell the difference between culture and child molestation?
So count yourself lucky if, on Kamla/Keshorn Day, you lost only a passport appointment you waited two years for and consider, say, the shipping company to which that unplanned 24-hour delay meant, not a day of rest, but millions of dollars of entirely unnecessary costs and penalties; or the heart patient who croaked Monday night because he or she didn’t have a workday bus to take to the clinic to have his fibrillation diagnosed; or the business venture that failed or the house sale that could not go through, because the documents from abroad could not be delivered in time, on Monday, because all public and most private offices were effectively shut down overnight by a trigger-happy, public-holiday-wielding PM. But your luck could have been even more dread. You could have been that little boy in the picture whose deformed progenitors, instead of protecting you, perverted you. And it would make no difference to you that they themselves were the end result of genealogical neglect and abuse long and persistent enough to give a new meaning to “lines of descent.” Because, were you that child, what you would have lost would have been your innocence. Even before you firetrucking got it.
BC Pires approves of torturing children if it’s done for charity. E-mail your “Daiz we colt-years to him at [email protected]