Mark Sookdeo broke into tears yesterday as he pleaded with his wife Ria Sookdeo’s abductors to return her safely for the sake of their two children.
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My story of coming and going
I have now left T&T, those islands of the blue Caribbean sea which I fell in love with at first sight.
I never found the sea blue like Jamaica. Trinidad seas are green. On the eastern coast, the Atlantic rolls in so dark it appears almost black. Here in jolly old England, this other Eden, we are surrounded by murky grey-brown water.
I have come and gone. This was a year that surpassed my highest expectations. It was not the year of hedonism, rum and lost weekends some home may have predicted.
Yes, there has been rum. It would have been rude not to. But there has been, for me, growth and maturation.
“T&T has been good to you,” friends say. Wrong: it has been brilliant to me. I have made friends and met all manner of interesting people.
Above all, I found true love. They say foreigners come to Trinidad for work or love. I came for one and found the other. It is a gift to be ever thankful for.
“The big thing in the Caribbean is, ‘Are you staying or are you going?’” Derek Walcott said.
“People are always coming and going,” the architect Jenifer Smith told me. And here in late August I am aware of an exodus, to New York, to old York, Kingston, California, Thailand and London.
The red white and black bunting went up weeks ago, reminding me my time was nigh and that I would not be there for Independence Day. But my heart will be there, exploding like the fireworks over Port-of-Spain.
“Will you cry?” my true love asked, referring to my departure. And I did, as we passed the Magnificent Seven in darkness.
“I’m going to miss this place,” I blurted out.
I’ll be back. And, until I do, I will be thinking of T&T with longing and affection, reading the papers daily, watching the news clips and talking with friends.
We shouldn’t fret that the nation’s youth leave and, in some cases, never return. Most do return. And they bring back tales, discussions and debates.
Even those who only return once a year for Carnival stay in close touch. The connection between the diaspora and the islands is closer than ever. Cheap phone calls, Skype and Facebook make us feel as close as a friend in the next village. Globalisation is more a blessing than a curse.
There will be many abiding memories, too many to list here.
We toured Trinidad before departure. Seeing places I’d never seen and which some Trinis never see.
We discovered that the edge-of-the-world feeling is stronger in Guayaguayare than in Cedros.
Driving down a road lined with coconut trees, we hurtled through Manzanilla as the skies turned the colour of lead, astonished by the never-ending beach and the ceaseless rolling breakers.
We headed on to Mayaro and relaxed for a few moments on the beach before the rain thundered down. We watched through the car window as it beat soothingly against the glass and the lifeguards, wearing bright yellow and red, looked worriedly along the shore.
I won’t forget the first time I drove through the back of D’Abadie and the sense of utter tranquility on the Trestrail estate, a former horse farm.
Less peaceful experiences included the Major Lazer wet fete and Carnival Tuesday. Both were raucous and unforgettable.
This is the end of the endless summer. I will miss sweet, sweet T&T. The only consolation in departing is knowing that I will be back.
“You must be relieved to be going,” people have asked. But it’s different for me. Most Trinis want to get away at some point. They know the place too well and begin to feel its smallness suffocating them. I’m from the big city, and I love London, but there are still years and years of soaking up T&T’s charms to come for me.
Above all I will miss the people. I can’t think of another place in the world where just to sit and listen to the people talk brings a smile to my face and makes me feel warm inside.
When I arrived I could only understand half of what people said and, nobody could understand me. Now they can. Perhaps it’s because, as my girlfriend’s sister told her, “He starting to sound Trini.”
I now understand the place, too. “Who is David Rudder?” I had asked my boss, naively, on my first day in the office and received the famous “death stare.”
“Don’t ever let any Trini hear you say that.”
I never thought I would grow to love your national anthem (or being forced to stand to observe it) but I do, more than God Save The Queen.
So, I am back in London. It called, I answered and I shall continue to report back from the big, bad, incredibly cold city on the pages of this esteemed newspaper (the best in Trinidad, in my opinion.)
Until we meet again, stay tuned.