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The president and the fashion police
Scrub, scrub, scrub. Whisk, whisk, polish, polish.
That’s the sound of me dusting off and shining up my southern credentials.
Fyzabad is now the most “bashment’’ place in T&T because it is the hometown of the new future President, Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona.
All of a sudden, people start waving their birth paper because they were born or grew up south of the Caroni. Aunty Kamla was the first to claim kinship, reminding us she is from Siparia.
Well, before you start shoving your way to the front of the line, let me stake my spot by presenting my own bonafides.
I grew up at Clifton Hill, Point Fortin among the bobbing derricks, which I called oil horses, and the big, silvery tanks.
I went to Clifton Hill School, where for $36 a term, my parents were led to believe I was trying hard. My best teacher was Sister Catherine Therese McComie, who made me believe I could write and draw and paint. (The disappointment must be killing her.)
I also lived on Archibald Street, Vistabella and attended San Fernando Girls’ Government for one traumatic year, where I discovered teachers were actually allowed to strike little children in the name of “eddycation’’ and getting them into A Good School—the equivalent of crossing a lake of fire and brimstone by means of tiptoeing along a cotton thread.
I took part in choral speaking at the Naparima Bowl, I know the Pitch Lake, I can spell La Brea and I have the correct pronunciation of Siparia.
There, that should be enough identification with the southland to qualify me to visit President’s House without a visa.
The frock has been steam-pressed and my etiquette refresher course begins on Ash Wednesday as I await the invitation in the crisp white embossed envelope.
I have always wanted to know someone famous. And now I do. Well, kind of. I have shaken his hand (good grip, elegant fingers) and I have heard him speak on the beauty and goodness that still quivers at the heart of T&T; the power of forgiveness and redemption; and of finding the courage to do the right thing. I’ll spare you the gory details of what I was doing in his court to learn all this (suffice it to say I have no pending charges and no convictions) but I have witnessed him reaching out to young men facing serious criminal prosecution. Instead of just sending them to the bowels of the prison, he gave them an opportunity to drop the false bravado and swagger.
Go to school, get a job, keep off the streets at night—those were his rules. Break them and bail would be revoked.
And they had better not come shuffling into his court with their crotches dragging by their knees and Tommy Hilfiger underwear bunching up over lowered waistbands.
Some of the defendants grabbed the chance to straighten up and fly right. One young man started classes at a secretarial and business school and got an almost perfect score on his exams. Another started his own business as a contractor; a third earned a certificate in general construction through the Multi-Sector Skills Programme and signed up for the specialised skills course.
Anthony Carmona is a head of state whom people will feel they know even if they have never been in the same room with him. President Noor Hassanali was revered for his humility and good works, but saints tend to be remote. President Max Richards was a convivial intellectual. Justice Carmona is an Everyman.
The iconic photograph of the beloved President Hassanali is that of His Excellency bending to tie the laces on the shoe of a boy scout.
Put new batteries in your camera. Because I predict you will know President Carmona is in the neighbourhood when the big black presidential sedan suddenly pulls to a stop; a tall, earnest-looking gent steps out; lopes up to the young men loitering roadside—and tells them to pull up their blasted pants.
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