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  • Writer's pictureKirk Bhajan

What Year Is It?

Once when I was a child my father and I were waiting for a taxi by St Margaret’s junction. We weren’t the only ones waiting for transport. There were in fact more than a dozen people lined up; man, woman, baby, tall, short, obzocky, ugly, missing teeth ugly - you name it. Now as most of you may know, travelling in Trinidad requires a degree of ruthlessness. As soon as a maxi or taxi pulls up to the side, you have to fight your way in to get a seat. Now, even as a child, I had no problem with that. The faster we got transport, the less I’d have to stand in the blazing sun. But that particular morning, something strange happened.

You see as we were waiting, a blind man found himself among the growing crowd of commuters. Eventually a purple Datsun 280 C that looked like a tetanus hazard made manifest, stopped right where we were standing. It filled quickly but my dad and I were able to squeeze our way in. The blind man though – he remained outside. I remember him asking if the car had any room. The driver curtly replied, ‘Nah, we full up’ before driving off in a puff of black smoke.

At the time I felt bad for the blind man. For the remainder of the day, I thought about how long he would have to wait before the crowd cleared so that he could get a taxi. I was innocent and soft back then. It’s only now when I think about it I suppose it may not have been that big of a deal to him. He’d simply learn to adapt in order to carry about his day. He’d figure out what he needed to do in order to survive...

COVID-19 rocked the entire planet in 2020. Well, not really. Only humans were affected significantly. Strangely enough though, everyone seemed to weather the storm quite well. At least in Trinidad. I thought by now we’d reach the apocalyptic third act of Steven Soderberg’s Contagion. Instead, we've demonstrated that we are a resilient species. Despite how messed up things are, we're taking it day by day and we’re still here. Somehow, through an entire shift in how we carried about ourselves, we learned to adapt. I’d say if there is one word that sums up 2020 perfectly, it is ‘change’.

It was a sort of joke in the middle of 2020 people starting saying ‘Merry Christmas’. The lockdown meant that most people lost track of time. Ultimately though, did it really matter? So what if the days started to blur into one another. Constant change became a collective certainty. Tumult became tradition. Uncertainty brought a strange sense of comfort.

I moved about quite a lot when I was a child. I moved from Sando to Chaguanas to St Margaret’s and back to Sando again. And don’t talk bout schools. I changed primary schools like I changed jockey shorts. At no point in my life has there ever been a sense of permanency. People and places come and go in and out of my life. That’s the one thing I am always sure of. Strangely enough, I recently reconnected with someone I knew when I was a teenager. This was almost two decades ago mind you. And something crossed my mind. I thought about how much of that me still exists.

It’s the old ship of Theseus dilemma. As the years pass, how much of us remain intact? I suppose one thing I am certain of is the core insecurities of a person will never, ever change. Living a nomadic life leaves one in a state of perpetual flight. It’s like Bob Marley said, ‘You running and you running and you running and you running but you cyar run away from yourself’. I think trauma is a thing that just cannot go away easily. No matter what the next ten years bring, people will always talk about the insanity that was 2020. And of course, in 2021 it will be how COVID cancelled Carnival. The bad parts always stick out in our memories so much more. The past, in all its agony, does dictate the future. Our collective pain as a nation, will always find a way to manifest itself.

In my final year while completing my degree in Mass Communications, I embarked on an investigative journalism course. My report was on the real-life disappearance of an 18-year-old girl (who to this day remains missing). I put a lot of effort into the story and I eventually came to the inference that she most likely was murdered by her boyfriend. If there’s one thing that has unfortunately remained the same is the level of violence against the women in this country has been consistent throughout the decades.

The tragic murder of Ashanti Riley is still fresh in the minds of many. Then there was the Penal mother two who was beheaded by her male companion in the middle of the road. Then there was the 23 year old Fyzabad woman whose body was found dumped near a WASA well.

Tell me this country doesn’t have some unresolved issues.

When I was in ASJA I remember I read in the newspaper about the Police discovering the body of a woman in only her underwear and multiple stab wounds about her stomach. The image never left me. How can it?

No matter how much we progress technologically, no matter how much we think we’ve changed, it remains a brutal, dog eat dog world, where everybody is just jostling against each other. We will claw and climb and kick each other to have our way. Incest, sexual abuse and murder continue to happen ‘til this day and there is never any closure because in life there is no such thing as closure. We simply learn to cope with trauma. But it never truly goes away. It never stops. It can never stop. The head of the serpent is its very tail.

Sometimes a part of me wishes that I would have had a kid. That I would settle down into a family for once in my life. A part of me wishes I could have taught my child all I knew so a part of me will at least be left when I fade away into death. But when I think about how black and violent and destructive and unkind society is; when I live in a reality where the entire world is at the mercy of a microbe; when I read about how brutal we are as a species; when I see the cycle of pain repeating itself each generation, I think it would be a sin to raise a child in such hell.

Allyuh fight up to ride the maxi. I will walk and find my way to where I want to go.

Written January 2021

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