Somewhere in South Trinidad
We got through prayers for Pa without a hitch, except that hardly anyone showed. Over 150 people shopwed for his funeral, in spite of the fact that it was held on a work day, but fewer than 30 showed for his prayers. Although The Boss and her sister from Long Island traveled over 2,000 miles to come, only two of his four daughters living in Trinidad were present for prayers.
A third daughter appeared about two hours after prayers were over, but left her newborn at home, ate only a handful of the prayer feast, and didn't permit her older son to eat a drop, or to speak.
Saturday night, after prayers, was a holiday called Narang, which the owner of a Roti shop down the road used as a pretext to start blasting Indian Chutney music from 6 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning.
The night before that, the next door neighbors celebrated a young child's birthday. Out of concern for the child, apparently, they started the party early in the night … and blasted music through their stadium-quality loudspeakers until 3 a.m.
They've been known to start parties at 3 a.m., and go on until 6 a.m., which is why I refer to them as “the terrorists.”
Pa would just suffer through it, rather than call the police, but when we were here in July, with Pa gone, I called the police one night at 2:30 a.m., and a few minutes later, the music suddenly stopped.
And there's been more rain—which means more mosquitoes—this year than any in memory.
Last night, by 8:45 it was still outside, and I was ready to sleep. The lack of cacophonous noise apparently upset one of the terrorists' dogs, who began barking continuously, trying to get the countless neighborhood dogs to join him in a long-distance argument. He had only modest success, and gave up, after a half hour. I then hit the sack, but couldn't sleep.
At that point, I was pretty slimy, having not been able to shower since Saturday morning. I've been coming since 1999, and the federal water authority, WASA, has “locked off” the water for hours (i.e., all day, until most people are in bed asleep) and days at a time, since long before that. That's why everyone on the countryside has to have huge tanks holding up to 500 gallons of water. Most such tanks today are made of heavy-duty plastic, but Pa has two made of steel and concrete, weighing at least 300 pounds empty, in back of the house, and in front, facing the road. When the water locks off, you fill big, plastic paint barrels full of water, and schlep them in the house for bathing and washing dishes. We fill dozens of empty, two-liter Coke bottles with water for washing hands and drinking water. We used to, anyway.
Days before we were to arrive, one of my sisters-in-law ledft a message that it was “Urgent, urgent,” that we call back.
We'd been screening our calls, since my wife's sisters were constantly calling, trying to hit us up to buy them stuff, especially the one who missed prayers, and wouldn't let her son eat any food (who, by the way, has more money than we do). Her husband stood out on the gallery (porch), and would not come in. (He has a history of hiding cursed Obeah bottles around the house.)
The urgent news was that someone had ripped the front tank from its moorings, and toppled it over. That would take a gang of men, and Indians do not engage in such vandalism here. Heck, not even blacks in Pa's village do that sort of thing. That was probably the common-law husband of the sister who had made the “urgent” call. He'd tried to strong-arm the Boss into letting him the steal the property, but failed. He didn't show up for the prayers at all.
His “wife” showed up for the prayers, but warned people not to use any of the water from the remaining tank in back, to wash the food being prepared for the feast, and instead to use only the botttled water that she and others had brought. She'd washed all of the raw foodstuffs she brought at home.
The next day, we found out why dear sister-in-law was so concerned. When my sister-in-law from Long Island used some of the tank water to brush her teeth, she immediately felt her mouth burn, as it once had in her youth, when a hose tainted with Grammazone weed killer had been used to fill the tank.
Since I had poured a gallon of bleach into the back tank, flushed it out all day long, and then filled it again in July, there was no innocent explanation for the contamination.
Why had I cleaned the tank? The water had begun to taste suspicious a few months before Pa's death, and so he had stopped using it.
Why all the skullduggery? The fewer heirs, the bigger the share!
February 12, 2010
Tales from Trinidad
(For background on Trinidad, see here, here, here, here, here,hereand here.)
I’m writing from a cybercafé in Trinidad, where The Boss, the Young Whipper-Snapper, and yours truly have now been for two weeks for my Indo-Trinidadian father-in-law’s funeral, and in the apparently futile attempt to get his affairs in order.
At 84, Pa left behind six daughters whose love for each other, it has become apparent, does not have quite the intensity they had long professed—especially once a couple of them started calculating, a few years ago, how much his estate was worth.
Of late, some of my sisters-in-law have loudly declared that they have nothing to do with Obeah (the British West Indian equivalent of Voodoo, while running around, secretly spending small fortunes on Obeah priests in a sort of black magic arms race, and wearing "guards" on their persons. Last night, I declared, "I went to my Obeah man, and he made a circle around [my wife], [my sister-in-law from New York], [my son], and me."
My sister-in-law and her daughter-in-law both laughed, taking the joke as an attempt at breaking the tension. But, while they couldn’t admit it, they also felt the cut I intended, and without which the joke wouldn’t be funny.
On the plane coming over, I somehow landed in First Class, separated from my wife, sister-in-law, and son. The man next to me was a Trinidadian Indian who was rushing back to bury his father, who had died at 92 a couple of days earlier from a massive coronary. The Indian said that his father, like my father-in-law, had to the end been in complete possession of his faculties.
Due to the Christmas crush, the Indian had had to pay over $1,300, and fly first-class, or not at all; his kid brother was riding in economy with my guys. I’d had to pay almost $900 for my seat, and deal with the additional inconvenience of our flying out of Newark.
My neighbor proudly informed me that he was the father of a “king’s flush,” of two sons, followed by two daughters.
With two exceptions, our conversation was quite pleasant. And yet, when we landed at Port of Spain’s Piarco Airport, he got up and left, in sullen silence, which led me to re-evaluate the conversation. (I will beat my black supremacist and white leftist readers to the punch here: Obviously, it was my fault for ticking him off, through some sort of racism.)
Having overbooked the plane, Continental offered five passengers $500 each, a hotel room overnight, and a place on the flight leaving in 24 hours, if they would give up their seat, on the condition that they then fly first class (so it wasn’t clear if the first-class seat would eat up the $500 bonus). I remarked to my neighbor that I couldn’t imagine how it could pay for Continental to give a passenger $500 and a hotel room to give up his seat.
“They’re in cahoots with each other!” he said of the airline and hotel. “Oh,” I said, slapping my head, “so the hotel is kicking back money to the airline!”
This was obvious to my neighbor, who added, “That’s your culture!”
I retorted, “As opposed to Trinis bringing over their culture of bribery!”
Trinidadian culture, like virtually all Caribbean, Central American, and Mexican culture, is corrupt to the core.
When my wife and I closed on our home in 2004, she thought that it would only be natural to pass the union lawyer who handled it a bribe of $200 or $300.
Two years ago, the kid brother of an Indian family friend came to Trinidad from Toronto with his teenaged daughter on vacation. After letting his older brother wine and dine him for days, Kid Brother came back and smashed in a pane of door glass, forced his way in, and told Big Brother that the property was his, and that Big Brother would have to leave. The police then showed up, and arrested Big Brother on a phony charge of having raped his niece.
Kid Brother had bribed a policeman he knew, to get Big Brother arrested, and meanwhile had either bribed or conned the state power agency into turning off his brother’s electricity. Fortunately, while Big Brother was briefly in jail, neighbors helped out his loved ones by temporarily storing his freezer full of wild meats in their freezers. Big Brother only got out of jail and escaped prosecution, because he—a somewhat well-to-do businessman—has his own (no doubt, expensive) friends in the Police Service.
I feasted with Big Brother at the house last Thursday. As Kid Brother found himself unable to steal the house in Round One, in the spring they will square off in court.
When I asked my neighbor on the plane how long he had been in America, he responded, “Too long!”
He’d been here for 25 years, working as a plumber. He had initially lived in Brooklyn, but has for the past 14 years lived in New Jersey, and commuted to Manhattan to work for a big plumber. Weekends, he does private jobs. In classic West Indian style he remarked, “You gotta have two jobs, to make it.”
If the man had been living here for 25 years, he had to be an American citizen, but clearly he feels no loyalty to America.
I mentioned that my father-in-law always spoke reverently of Trinidad’s first (black) Prime Minister, Dr. Williams.
The man interrupted to “correct” me, “Dr. Eric Williams.”
(In 1956, Williams founded the black party that has ruled the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago for most of its 48 years of independent existence, the People’s National Movement-PNM, even though Indians enjoy a slight plurality over blacks. The Indian party, the United National Congress-UNC, was only founded in 1989.)
Ignoring his boorish interruption I continued, “My father-in-law, may he rest in peace, said that when Dr. Williams became president, he tore up the railroad tracks, declaring, ‘Master gone!’”
(This is a widespread belief among Indo-Trinidadians. The official reason for the closings was economic.)
"That’s a lot of crap!" my neighbor railed.
He insisted that Williams (who was actually of mixed race, but who hated whites, and wasn’t terribly fond of Indians, either) had torn up the railroad tracks that the British had built—it could be argued that railroads were colonial Englishmen’s greatest gift to the uncivilized world—because people were riding without paying.
My wife laughed when I told her the man’s story. She observed, “When an Indian criticizes a white, that’s a PNM man.”
Trinidad Indians are generally not hostile towards whites. Indeed, Indians have a similar role in Trinidad to whites in America, and are well aware of it: To produce all of the wealth, to have to support not only themselves but the blacks whose numbers almost match their own, and to function as prey for black criminals.
Whatever the reason, Trinidad’s railroads were never rebuilt. The tiny, pothole-filled roads are terribly clogged, what with 1.3 million people today virtually entirely dependent on their own cars, "MaxiTaxis" (vans holding up to 13 passengers), and private automobile drivers who are licensed as taxi drivers.
A couple of years ago, PM Patrick Manning’s PNM government reintroduced buses after years without them, but they are scheduled hours apart, and on top of that, are unreliable. About a week ago in San Fernando, TT’s second-largest city, we had to stand for over an hour on the 4:30 p.m. bus to my wife’s hometown in the South, because the 2 p.m. bus had never shown up, and some aggressive young blacks cut the line.
My neighbor also told me proudly that he would be retiring in two years, and had his retirement property and retirement home already built—in St. Vincent’s.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, St. Vincent’s is 66 percent black, 19 percent mixed, four percent white (“European”), two percent Carib Amerindian, three percent “other,” and only six percent East Indian.
Why would an Indian want to live on a black-dominated island with almost no Indians? The Boss and I concluded that the man must be married to a black woman. And yet, that still doesn’t explain his hatred of whites, and apparent hatred of his own race as well.
Perhaps some human traits are not subject to rational scrutiny. At least it shows that self-hatred isn’t restricted to whites.
But then, why organize a nation (also here)—i.e., America—so as to invite such insanity?