Monthly Archives: November 2012

Madman or Martyr

I tried and failed to stop myself from commenting on the Kublalsingh issue. I know some people will deride and dismiss my opinion, and I will most likely be labelled a PNM sympathiser. For the record I am a supporter of NO political party, despite voting for the Congress of the People (COP) in the last general election. I am however a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, and I am horrified by the unfolding tragedy which has gripped our nation’s attention over the past fifteen days.

Like many people, I initially dismissed Dr Wayne Kublalsingh’s hunger strike as that of an attention-seeking madman. I couldn’t see the point of dying for a highway. His protest was pointless and would do nothing to change the Government’s position. To me it seemed like a stupid way to die when so many persons the world over are desperately clinging to life.

But as the days wear on and the rhetoric becomes increasingly heated around this issue my sense of discomfort is increasing. I am simply not comfortable watching a man die. Every morning I tune in to the local TV stations wondering if Today is the Day. I find myself breathing a sigh of relief that his increasingly emaciated and visibly weakened frame is still moving.

A friend of mine today described Wayne Kublalsingh as “a pest, a fraudster, and an idiot who deserves to die”. This sentiment is apparently shared by many, including our Minister of National Security who recently called upon Kublalsingh “to hurry up and die”. When did our society become so callous? When did we lose our compassion for those with whose opinions we do not agree? Have we become so jaded by loss of life that we no longer care for anyone apart from our own loved ones? Is our prevailing attitude “The highway doesn’t affect me so why should I care about Kublalsingh?”

I disagree with Dr Kublalsingh’s chosen protest method but I fully support his right to protest. I cannot help but admire his strength in the face of overwhelming opposition. As this hunger strike continues I realise This Man Means Business. Kublalsingh is not backing down. Do I believe he is secretly scoffing sandwiches and guzzling Gatorade? I am not putting my head on a block for any man. I have no doubt he is fully aware of the effect images of his ravaged body is having on the public psyche and he is actively courting media attention. But his courage and belief in his convictions are astonishing. Are you prepared to die for a cause? I know I am not.

As misguided as you may believe Dr Kublalsingh to be; irrespective of whether you agree with him or not, he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. He does not deserve to be publicly ridiculed and maligned by Government Officials. He does not deserve to have his family described as a cult for standing by him. His supporters do not deserve being hounded by counter-protesters who looked suspiciously like professional protesters (paid for by whom?). He does not deserve to have his opinions dismissed as irrelevant and unimportant for the sake of expediency.

Serve the people, serve the people, serve the people – who said that? Certainly not the Prime Minister who sat and applauded at the United National Congress (UNC) public meeting in Debe while her ministers disrespected the citizenry and deliberately misled the audience. Could this be the same woman who wrote to Vilma Kublalsingh (Wayne’s mother) of her “personal grief” over the “self inflicted suffering of Wayne Kublalsingh”?

Despite what the government would have us believe, the Re-Route Movement is NOT against the construction of the highway. Their protest centres on the unpublished technical review of the project, and the proposed route for the Mon Desir to Debe section which would destroy local wetlands. It is difficult to ascertain if the Re-Route Movement’s objections have any merit because so far we have not a decisive answer from the Government on the issues raised.

This Government’s response to criticism or objection of any kind is to attack. Forget about a counter response which addresses the issue in a systematic manner and outlines government policy. That would be too dignified. Instead, denigrate and disgrace the critic. Shoot the messenger and destroy the message.

One thing is clear about the Kublalsingh issue. It has illuminated the true characters of politicians on every side of the political divide. Members of the Government are either publicly abusive or woefully silent as their colleagues heap insults on Dr Kublalsingh and his supporters. The Leader of the COP, Prakash Ramadhar, issued a statement distancing the COP from the statements made by cabinet colleagues at the UNC public meeting in Debe. Frankly Mr Ramadhar, this was not enough. Meanwhile members of the Opposition PNM rub their hands in glee as the People’s Partnership digs an increasingly big hole to fall in.

And then there are Dr Kublalsingh’s supporters – a motley crew of True Believers, civil society activists, trade unionists, failed politicians, persons with a political axe to grind, and self serving-individuals who see this issue as a chance for them to regain the spotlight.

I do not believe Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar should meet with Dr Kublalsingh. It would set a bad precedent. On the other hand, in the interest of transparency and good governance, the Government should consider meeting with civil society groups to hear their suggestions for ending this unfortunate impasse. At the very least this would help the government to recover some modicum of dignity after engaging in a very public and vitriolic dogfight. For a government which swept into power on a tide of goodwill the People’s Partnership has done an extremely efficient job of turning public opinion against them.

As I write this I hope to God Wayne Kublalsingh is still alive. I cannot contemplate the ethical dilemma the Government – and society as a whole – will face if he dies. Whatever the outcome of this situation, the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway will be a permanent scar on our nation.



Blood Ties – The Teenage Menace

Two things happened recently which gave me pause for thought. The Vampire Diaries returned for a fourth season and I heard Christmas music on the radio. Christmas means the holidays are approaching and my home will once again be under siege from pernicious, home grown bloodsuckers – aka teenagers.

Teenagers are basically vampires. During their vacations they sleep all day and emerge at night to prey on my wallet and food supply. They terrorise homeowners (parents) with incessant demands for money, possessions, and vehicular access. Their grip on our emotions – and finances – is vice-like; those of us unlucky enough to fall prey to these creatures are unable to shake them. I am currently harbouring three within my walls and they show no intention of leaving.

Like vampires, teenagers have to be invited in. Foolishly, we innocently welcome these creatures into our homes in their infancy; unaware of the impending danger – and poverty – we are unwittingly bringing upon ourselves.

Vampires are clever. They woo us with their childish antics and playful innocence, all the while biding their time until the transformation take place. What transformation you ask? This is the night when your  loving affectionate child goes to bed aged 12 and wakes up aged 13 sullen, moody and blaming you for ruining his/her life. You would think with all the advances in Genetic Modification somebody somewhere would have figured out how to create a teenager without raging hormones.

Once a vampire has claimed your home as his/her lair you, the homeowner, have few options. Forget about garlic, crosses, and holy water. You cannot abandon or forsake your bloodsucker. Apparently that is illegal in most countries for reasons I do not fully understand. You are bound by blood to the creature and if you are not careful you will succumb to a serious case of anaemia. I heard of a place called boarding school you can send the vampire to at 13 and have it returned to you at 18, semi-matured and ready for university/ workplace. Tried that. Mine got expelled.

During non-vacation periods vampires hide among us masquerading as school kids. Some of them have adapted well to daylight and can often be found clustered together at shopping malls and popular liming spots. Most vampires however, shun the light, preferring to spend endless hours in their bedrooms attached to laptops, iPads and smart phones.

The male vampire is particularly dangerous. This creature has hollow legs and the capacity to decimate the contents of a refrigerator or larder cupboard within a matter of hours. My advice? Buy a lockable fridge. Male bloodsuckers have another unique talent – they are experts in attracting mayhem, chaos and exorbitant bills which inevitably accompany their…ahem…”adventures”. (See my views on the MOB – Blog post March 14, 2012.)

Selfish and narcissistic in nature, the vampire is the centre of his/her universe. Our only value as victim/parent is to provide a constant source of food, finance and transport. Unlike the creatures of legend, these vampires are unable to fly and need their parents to take them everywhere. Inevitably, this means your life is on hold until the creature is old enough to travel unaccompanied and/or compel a Transport Official to give them a driving licence (paid for by you of course, lessons as well)  – and trick you into handing over keys to a vehicle.

But the situation is not completely hopeless. Some parents gain relief when the vampire leaves home to attend university. But here’s the kicker – you have to pay to send and keep them away – and they return at regular intervals to resume their bloodsucking habit.

Some teenagers chose to jump right into the workplace and forgo the university route. Their parents rejoice but the elation is usually short-lived because even though gainfully employed, the vampire often chooses to live at home and continue parental debilitation.

Given the pernicious, selfish and ungrateful nature of these creatures why oh why do we continue to harbour them? Because we stubbornly believe that one day our little vampire will be saved and miraculously transformed into a mature self-sufficient adult capable of making a meaningful contribution to society. Why are we kidding ourselves? All we are doing is perpetuating the cycle so that our monsters can make monsters of their own. I understand now why grandkids are called the grandparents’ revenge.

In the meantime I continue to nurture my home grown bloodsuckers in the hope that one day I shall find salvation. Pray for me.


Burnin’ Down Da House

Drama follows me around. You guys know this or you would not be reading my blog. A normal visit to the hairdresser yesterday turns into a Cirque de Westcott adventure…

So there I am sitting under the dryer reading an exceptionally boring novel on my ipad and questioning why I am still paying this book any attention. I’m OCD like that. No matter how awful a book is I have to finish it.

My hairdresser – let’s call her Flo – rents a treatment room in her salon to a nail technician. The nail tech’s room is located next to the wash and dry room (ladies you know what I’m talking about). I’m sitting there minding my own when my idle musings were interrupted by an explosion and loud screams; next thing I see two women running out of the nail tech’s room.

My first thought? We were being robbed. I expected the women to be followed by three Glock-toting guntas wetting down the place. Cell phone at the ready, I was poised to call the popo. Then I smelt smoke and got up to see what was going on. A trolley filled with nail care products was doing a very good impression of a burning bush while smaller fires glowed merrily around the room. Quick thinking Flo switched off the electricity mains and filled a bucket with water. There was no one else at the salon apart from the nail tech and her client who were running around screaming like headless chooks. Note to self – fire and hysterical women do not mix.

I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the first container I could find – a plastic box of curlers. Tossed the curlers on the counter, filled the container with water and ran back to the Red Room of Nails to douse the burning bush. Seeing Flo and I in action seemed to snap Headless Chook and Ms Thang (hereafter known as HC and MT) out of their hysteria. They were soon flinging water in the room but to no avail. The small fires were quickly outed but burning bush got bigger and bigger and the room rapidly filled with smoke.

HC opened the windows -”Yes! Let’s give the fire more oxygen!” By this time thick black smoke was burning our eyes and lungs and it dawned on me that the Situation Was Serious. I spied a rack of towels and long forgotten fire safety training came flooding back. (Thank you, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme!) I grabbed a few towels – “Not the white ones!” screamed HC; flung them at the others and shouted “Wet it!”

I threw the towels on the burning bush and FINALLY the fire was under control. Flo and I dragged the bush outside and put it out for good. While HC and MT collapsed in a hysterical heap, Flo and I turned our attention to clean up. The salon was flooded.

I noticed HC was limping and realised she had been burnt. Luckily not badly, and some antiseptic cream from my bag soon took care of that. Trust me folks – in the event of a nuclear disaster or act of God, you want to be standing next to me. My handbag is a moving survival kit. Food, water, medication, makeup – the works.

It turns out HC was trying to pour acetone from a bottle, it splashed on a tea light and boom! I think she may consider investing in a fire extinguisher…

Flo turned to me and said “Is your hair dry? Let’s get on with styling it”. By this time my freshly washed hair was reeking of smoke and my clothes were covered in soot – including my white T-shirt captioned “Keep Calm and Carry on”. Ironic, eh? We left HC and MT on clean-up duty and retreated to the relatively smoke free styling area. There was a lot of smoke and water damage but the room appeared structurally sound. Priorities – I had to finish my hair.

I left the salon thinking this brings a whole new meaning to a hot hairstyle. Such excitement I could do without. But it reinforced how quickly a minor incident can turn disastrous. The moral of the story? Throw away my unused mani pedi gift certificate. Life’s too short.

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