The din of fireworks has finally died down and paper cups and green bottles line the streets of the city; the big day has passed. But have you stopped to think about who we are? After having narrowly survived an attempt this week by a Beetham resident to run me off the road by hurling a rock at my vehicle, I was brought to deeply contemplate the idea of a 50th-anniversary celebration of our independence. This is what was preying on my mind as I drove to the Barataria Police station for what I knew would be an absolute waste of time. I made my report and the information was sent out over the wire to have patrols conducted through the Beetham gauntlet. One young officer leaned over the charge-room countertop and murmured: “Wha’ yuh go do eh?” I don’t blame him, young officer that he is. It was an exercise in futility trying to convey to the police my distress suffered at the hands of yet another exercise in fertility.
In marking our golden jubilee, I’ve ruminated on the meaning of it all. What does this mean for us? It is a difficult question and I am not particularly keen to answer it. I get so caught up, though, scribbling about all of the negatives which weigh us down, that I lose sight of the passion prodding me to write about our flaws in the first place. It is typically Trinidadian that we’re arguing over whether the tassa should have the same billing as the steelpan in the Independence day charade. Hey, why not bring the bottle and spoon too! What about a muddy whistle left over from J’Ouvert in July? Then there was the brouhaha over the flag emblazoned with the faces of Aunty Kamla and Uncle Jack. This was actually the initiative of a private citizen and not commissioned by the UNC. Not to be out-barbed in the art of trading political barbs, aspiring media magnate Jack Warner gaily produced a newspaper ad with the face of Dr Keith Rowley on a flag. Take dat in your pweffen! From the PNM camp the response is swift but limp: “Well, his face nut really on the flag, you can see the flag is behind him really...” On a one-dimensional image, even with a PNM crowd, that’s a hard sell. I have to plumb the depths of my corroded heart to find the residual affections which once flushed my veins; this love for Trinidad is no ordinary love. I often indulge in a recurring memory of a visit to Barrackpore and having been invited into the very modest home of a family eager to seed me with the best of impressions. Linoleum covered an uneven dirt floor but the house was tidier than mine. A place was set at the table for me to share a meal of curried soya chunks and fried rice.
This resonated very deeply because it was an offering of everything this family had. We met as strangers and they allowed me into their world of pride in enduring struggle. That memory triggers another of an occasion when as a youth I had gone to a waterfall with some friends at a remote location along the Arima Blanchisseuse Road. The driver of the car, believe it or not, tied his car key to the drawstring of his swimming trunks. Naturally it was lost in the rinse cycle of the powerful cascade. While my foolish friend GILES had to find a way back to Maraval somehow, the rest of us were left in the care of an elderly man who, seeing that we were cold, wet and stupid, shared with us his plate of curried crayfish. I’d never even heard of crayfish and have not since tasted anything quite like it. We left that kind soul on a termite-whittled porch waving us off, but he’s never left my mind. We also have a special way about us, a familiarity which equalises everyone. Trinis don’t stand on ceremony much, not a lot of handshaking and introductions and all this; the time will come for that later. You are standing over a coffin-sized cooler surrounded by professional limers on a windswept beach crowded with the most beautiful women in the world, Trini women; either yuh mix yuhself ah drink or keep yuh arse kwart! “Iz food yuh want? It have plate in de bag dere, duck in dat pot and fingers on yuh han’….. lemme hear yuh!” We beat ourselves up because we continue to stumble. Our failures seem so patently predictable yet we tire ourselves out spinning our wheels. What I have described here is a mere excerpt of our story. When I was leaving the Barataria station a genuinely concerned officer, keen to assuage my hurt at the stone-pelting incident, said to me, “I know it is bad, but things will get better.” Even though I told him they won’t, in my heart I truly believe they will.