Headlines      Issue Released June 18 2003

Telling our lives: Carib book expo comes to town

He was strumming my fate with his fingers
Telling my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song.

In this well-known pop ballad, what Roberta Flack is singing about is the shock of recog-nition at the fact that the unknown singer is telling the tale of her life. This feeling of shock signals an immediate empathetic connection between the singer, writer, artist, the giver of expression, and the receiver - the reader, listener or viewer on the other side of the refracting mirror. For people from the Caribbean, a region still young in the production of literary arts, this act of recognition mostly comes only after a quick translation of the works of art made by others into that of our own reality.

Language, image, the social realities, even the settings of the books and movies and other arts that we enjoy, rarely reflect our own experiences of the world. And why should they? They are not written by us, nor are we habituated into seeing our own struggles, our everyday dilemmas and our peculiar brand of cussed, contradictory, self-defeating behaviour - the stuff of the novels and films we consume - come to life on the pages of books, in the music of poetry, on stage or in celluloid, so we press on with our daily lives, hardly noticing the gap.

Until perhaps the day comes when we read a book, see or hear something that speaks to us directly and the thrill of the moment is underlined by the rarity of its occurrence. What would it be like, I ask you, to live in a world where the dominant images and indeed, the social realities being narrated were ours absolutely, without having to make that instant adjustment for skin colour, language, ways of seeing and apprehending the landscape around us? Or even better and more futuristic, what if it were a world where such differences existed but did not matter one jot in terms of value, when everyone’s being and world view would count equally and be as identifiable and even desirable as art? Utopia, nothing less.

But dystopia is not the only alternative. We are fortunate to have a solid body of literature that exists of and from the Caribbean region, created by its artists at home and scattered in many territories abroad, much of it first rate and deserving of no less than three Nobel Prizes for Literature - V.S. Naipaul (2002), Derek Walcott (1994) and Saint-John Perse (1960) - apart from many other prestigious literary prizes. For example, Austin Clarke, of Toronto and Barbados, is last year’s winner of the Giller Prize for fiction as well as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. And Dionne Brand, of Toronto and Barbados, is the 1997 winner of the Governor General’s Award for poetry and was short-listed this year for the prestigious Griffin Prize.

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Shootings now commonplace

Growing murders leave T&T uneasy

By Sandra Chouthi
Special to Indo Caribbean World

Port-of-Spain — Gang warfare especially in the hills of Laventille, east of Port-of-Spain, and the easy availability of guns are being blamed for the high murder rate in Trinidad, which on Sunday stood at 108. Total murders for 2002 was 172.

The most high profile of the shooting deaths was that of Jillia Bowen, 32, of Nelson Street, Port of Spain. She was in the company of her common-law husband Addell Ghany and Salim Rasheed, who was expelled from the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in May, which staged an attempted coup against the government in July 1990. The three were shot at in a drive-by shooting while sitting on a bench outside Movie Towne in upscale Westmoorings on June 4. Bowen died at the scene.

Ghany and Rasheed, who has publicly criticised Muslimeen leader Abu Bakr for misleading the young men of Laventille, survived and are still hospitalised.
Following Rasheed’s statements, Bakr had told him he couldn’t guarantee his safety. Speaking on a radio programme on June 5, Bakr said he was not connected with the shooting.

“I swear by my God five times, ten times, I had nothing to do with that shooting. Bring any individual in Trinidad & Tobago who sincerly can say that I have ever told them to kill anybody, rob anybody, who has spotted me with a gun outside of 1990, or who knows me to be involved with any drugs — bring them," he said.

Bakr, speaking at Friday prayers at the Mucurapo-based mosque of the Muslimeen on June 6, told his listeners that the biggest problem among Muslims was in-fighting.

"There are always problems in the ranks created by people who say they are Muslims — people who want to make confusion. There are stern penalties in the Qu’ran. It calls for expulsion or execution," Bakr said.

There are fears that further attempts will be made on the lives of Ghany and Rasheed, who are under police guard in hospital, where nurses have been reported to be uneasy over the presence of men in Muslim garb.

Shootings have become commonplace. On June 3, gunmen opened fire on the family of Onika Stoute, killing her brother Akin, 18. Her two-month-old Timika might have died had Stoute not shielded her daughter with her body. The shooting occurred at Upper Pashley Street, Laventille.

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Towering Murti of Hanuman in T&T

Port-of-Spain — An eight storey tall murti (image) of Lord Hanuman has captured the attention of Trinidad and attracted visitors from around the world to its consecration.

The 85-foot-tall Sri Karya Siddhi Hanuman — the only one of its size outside India — was consecrated earlier this month by Swami Ganapati Sachchidananda in the presence of thousands of local and foreign devotees, Oppositon leader Basdeo Panday and Senate President Linda Baboolal. A helicopter had to be used to pour Ganga water on the head of the murti, which is situated at the Dattatreya Yoga Centre and Mandir at Orange Field Road, Carapichaima.

The pink and red tinted Hanuman murti stands tall with right hand in blessings posture, and left hand holding onto his mukdar (mace). During an interview recently, an official of the Yoga Centre said the mega-Hanuman represented the Siddhi Hanuman who had grown in size in order to cross the bridge to Lanka, as related in the Hindu religious text — Ramayan.

“The height signifies that just as Hanuman grew in size because of his great yogic powers, we as devotees should also grow in height spirituality.”

Lord Hanuman holds a special place of reverence for Hindus of Trinidad & Tobago, according to Parsuram Maharaj, an Executive Member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.

“The Ramayana figures predominately in the religious life of Hindus here and as such Lord Hanuman towers spiritually in Trinidad. Of the pujas the early indentured performed one was the Hanuman puja with the other being the Satnarayan puja.

“The Indians surrounded by a hostile, and harsh environment sought refuge in religion. Thus from an early period in the Indian presence in Trinidad Hanuman Baba was dear to the Hindu heart,” said Parsuram.

Lord Hanuman is the deity seen as the provider of courage, hope, knowledge, intellect and devotion. He is pictured as a robust monkey holding a mace (gada) which is a sign of bravery and having a picture of Lord Rama tatooed on his chest which is a sign of his devotion to Lord Rama.

Hanumanji is said to be Chiranjivi (immortal) and is present in the world even today. He is the link between the devotees and God, for, as instructed by the Lord, he serves, protects and inspires the servants of God. Lord Hanuman, through a boon given to him by Sri Rama, will remain on Earth and be the presiding Deity of Kaliyug — the present dark-age.


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