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Upon the Realization That I Lived Their Lives and Cultures Even Though I Did Not Understand Either of Them


ime and life were preoccupying my thoughts and the desire for memories directed me in a musical direction. While looking through the records brought over from Trinidad, I tried to remember what I would have been listening to if over there. “Ravi Shankar,” I decided, and looked at the selection before me. We must have at least thirty or so records by him, and I knew I had probably heard them all. Still, I took the pile to my room. I imagine it has been a while since I’ve heard these records. I choose a record to listen to and sat there, looking at the record sleeve, listening to the music, and I noticed that on the top corner, the name “Krishna Mahto” was written in blue ink. I slipped into memories of life in Trinidad. “So we did bring daddy’s records over,” I continued, the past slowly being revived in my mind. A song ended, static filled the gap that followed, and I sat back, trying to remember more. Silence was broken as Ravi plucked a string on his sitar

Upon the Realization That I Lived Their Lives and Cultures Even Though I Did Not Understand Either of Them

and my mind flashed the image of my father and I. He is wearing what was his normal attire—a pair of shorts and a cigarette dangling out the side of his mouth. “Superman-Git!” he sings, grabbing my hands and spinning me through the air, then putting me down and dancing around with me. I am giddy with excitement and blushing. Then my father places me on the sofa and goes into his room to have an afternoon nap. We are all feasting at one of my uncle’s house tonight, and my father has been at work for most of the day now, so he heads to his bed, humming along with the music while heading down the corridor. “Anan!” I hear a voice call from the house next door. I stick my head out the


window. It’s my grandmother. “Anan, come here boy. I have something for you. Within half a minute I am there. Another of my uncles has just come home with a couple of stalks of sugar cane. All of my cousins are around, and we instantly start ripping the bark off with our teeth, then sinking our teeth into the juicy insides, letting whatever misses drip down on us, making our faces sticky. Everyone is here, and everyone has a defined role. The men are playing cards and burning holes in their shirts with cigarettes. Some of them are drinking beer and cheating their ways to winning the games. The women are all in the kitchen, gossiping while working over the massive aluminum pots. When the little boys and

Upon the Realization That I Lived Their Lives and Cultures Even Though I Did Not Understand Either of Them

girls have had their fill of sugar cane, they separate. The boys all head out to play either a game or cricket or a game of hide and go seek, while the girls play with their dolls. Time passes and dinner nears. My father re-enters the scene, now also wearing a tee-shirt. All the adults except for my grandmother gather around an extremely long table. My grandmother is kneeling with a big platter of food in her hands, feeding the children who are sitting in a semicircle around her. “Maa! Maa!” say some of the children waiting for her to scoop another handful of food into their empty mouths. I was awakened to reality again at that point. For some reason, food always seemed to taste good from her hands —even food I would

normally say I hated. Even two years ago when I saw her last, for the last time, she sat me down like a child and fed me, then held me in her arms, on her lap—as big as I was compared to her—and rocked me, humming an Indian song to me. I didn’t quite realize then what an amazing individual she was. She was simply my grandmother, giving me the same motherly embrace she probably gave to all of her sons and daughters. I did not see the history she carried with her. Years and years of lines marked her face as she continued living beyond her expected lifetime. With these thoughts on my mind, I realized that I had not considered what went on in the eleven years or so that I lived in Trinidad. Family was such a


Upon the Realization That I Lived Their Lives and Cultures Even Though I Did Not Understand Either of Them

controversial issue. I had no interest in taking part in all the scandal, and I don’t regret that. I think that one of the things that I loved most about my grandmother was the fact that she seemed so unprejudiced. She rarely took part in all of the silly family arguments that went on. She just sat there and looked on with her saddened, aged face, a cheap paper fan in her right hand, fanning herself, her left hand lying seemingly lifeless on her lap. Occasionally she would let out a dramatic sigh and decide that she would much rather cook and feed her grandchildren, and we would jump at the offer. She was proud of us all, and while feeding us, she would tell us Indian folk tales and sing to us. I don’t remember ever telling her how much I


appreciated the concern she showed for us. My father, however, oh yes! We had some fun. I remember going up to him while he was asleep and gently tugging at the hairs on his legs and stomach— doing all I could to disturb his sleep and watch him twist about. Then there were the times that he took me to work with him, and I thought it was so exciting to see him doing his job happily. Then we would pick up my mother from work, and we would go home and have dinner. When it was bedtime, one of the two would put themselves to sleep in my bed reading me bedtime stories. I looked at the two times I have been back to Trinidad. Both times, the main reason for returning was a death in the family. The first time I

Upon the Realization That I Lived Their Lives and Cultures Even Though I Did Not Understand Either of Them

went back for a prayer held six months after my father died. Two years later, I returned for the same prayer, except this time it was for my grandmother. It may seem from this that I may be religious—but that’s just it—I’m not. Both times, I thought about it, and saw that everyone there in my family was religious. My mother and my two brothers were the exceptions. I went back to Trinidad, and it was a lifestyle renewed to me. It wasn’t a way of living I would care to return to me, but it seems odd that I should live as a part of a culture in action, as I so often did, but not knowing anything behind the ideas it presented. I still don’t understand the significance of either of the prayers I attended, and I don’t know why certain

things are done at house prayers held either annually or semi-annually (depending both on how religious you are and how much you can afford). The fact is, though, I didn’t really care too much for them, nor do I care for them too much now. I loved those people for who they were and for the stories they had to tell, and not for their attempts to be perfect, which none of them were. They were my childhood, and as much as I may change, they are always a part of me.


The Moon Now Sits in the Spotlight, And the Dogs are out Barking


t is six thirty in the morning. The sun is rising and birds are singing. Clouds of last night are gradually scattering, initially revealing the brilliant colors of the morning skies then giving way to the expected blue sky. Enter now, a morning person, out for a stroll. The sight before him is a common one, and being common, it is rarely appreciated by him. It is seven now, and he stands outside an old house which is surrounded by massive oaks and adorned with the flowering plants of springtime. However, all that this person makes of the sight before him is, “I’m home…. Need to start weeding before my plants get destroyed. Same game every year.” It is always the same and our person fully accepts that fact. “But I am alive,” he continues, somewhat hesitantly, as he slowly ascends some stairs onto the porch. He goes over to one end of the porch and climbs into a hammock. “At least I am alive,” he reassures himself, closing his eyes.

The Moon Now Sits in the Spotlight, And the Dogs are out Barking

Eight now, or maybe half after, and he is feeling the warmth of the sun on his face. “Remember the days and weeks of yesteryear?” he whispers to himself. “Oh, how time has slipped by.” “She has, hasn’t she?” states a voice, foreign to our early riser. He opens his eyes to find a woman leaning on the railing of the porch, a cup of coffee in her hand. She turns and takes a seat opposite the man in the hammock. “Do you ask that often?” she questions, finishing her coffee. “Who are you?” Our morning riser sits up. He knows the sight before him, he knows what the person is here for. In no more than a minute, the days and weeks of yesteryears flash through his mind. Nothing.


“I am alive,” he whispers, and continues, “What will people think? Will I be remembered in the hearts of my friends?” Time, and Life go on. “Eleven thirty. It’s hard to say exactly how much time has gone by,” notes the lady on the porch. “I tried waking him up, but he said that the weeds had taken over his garden and that the sun no longer shone on his plants. He said that I was no longer a concern of his. Life found her job done. Time left her mark and merrily continued on.

A story of life and love, neither one really lost


t’s been five years now. Five years, and a new great life with so much left behind. So much left to become nothing but memories, waiting to be shared by people who are now “my people.” A life to be shared with people who would sit and listen in amazement to the tales of my childhood that I have to share. Five years now, and change comes over me. Recollections of the way things were, and thoughts on how things may have been if Trinidad wasn’t “left behind” come to mind. It’s an evening late in the month of March. Four friends and I are playing cricket on an abandoned grassy lot. We have been there for hours, seeing that there isn’t much more to do. Besides, we are all having a great time. Enter my brother, dressed in some of the fanciest clothes he has. “Gawd boy. Yuh brother is ah real saga-boy, eh Richard? Allyuh goin’ somewhere now?”

A story of life and love, neither one really lost

I don’t know what the hell is going on, so I don’t answer. “Anan. We have to go…. We is goin’ ovah to one ah mammy’s friends house tonight.” My friends and I give each other fake, manly pats on the back and say that we’ll see each other in the morning at school. Thus ends the cricket game, and I run to catch up with my older brother who has started off walking down the street already. No reason for me to look back… not as far as I know. Even though I am filthy from running around all day, Mammy strangely decides that I am decent enough for the occasion. The silence during the car ride is also curious, but no one does anything about it. A couple of hours later, we’re at the friend’s house, having


dinner. There, I find out, confirming my suspicion that something was odd, that we are leaving Trinidad in the morning and going to live in Santa Barbara. “Does Daddy know?” “No, Daddy doesn’t know. He was asleep when we left.” On the plane, and I don’t know what I’m thinking. Safe to say that there is a lot on my mind rather than nothing at all. I tell myself, “Well, I guess that I won’t see those guys at school tomorrow,” and I try to block other thoughts out. I’m blocking my father out. I hate that, but I know why I’m doing it. He’s the reason that we are leaving Trinidad. True, there is nothing to do over there but work your ass off to earn a somewhat decent living. And you weren’t exactly offered

A story of life and love, neither one really lost

many directions to take your life. We could live with that though. We had for years before. But everything, even the simple crude life there has its fucked up moments. Music blasting in my headphones, accompanied by the image of my brothers and I blasting the radio in the room downstairs. Anything is better than listening to my father and mother yelling at each other. About what? I never really knew what. I just remember stifling tears, listening, looking at the jars of curry powder and anchar go flying out the upstairs window. I just stood, stupid and scared, waiting for the moment when, hours later, everyone would sit at dinner and pretend that the previous events had never happened. We are all silent, probably all wondering,

“How long is this going to go on?” And what could I do? What did I know? I knew that Daddy often went out and got drunk before coming home from work. Then the list of faults gradually got formed in my mind, and even though he knew we were aware of what was going on, it was all denied, and the music kept blasting in the room below. “I love you, Daddy.” It’s amazing how easily thoughts of faults can be washed away by the love I have for him and the love that I had received from him. Was there anything that could be done to show him what we saw? Back to me on the plane, now in silence. I’m still not quite sure that I’m in a state of acceptance of the fact that


A story of life and love, neither one really lost

I didn’t even get to see my father before leaving. “Maybe he’ll be better when I go back to visit him,” I said, knowing that I’d never do anything other than visit ever again. And even then, I knew that the visits would be far from frequent. Begin my new life, the life that I love. Everything is great. I’m having great success in keeping myself occupied, and the opportunities before me are amazing. Still, there is one thing about Trinidad stuck in my mind. The letters are infrequent and are constantly showing me the differences between my father’s life and the life that I am living. Everything comes so slowly. I want to tell him how awkward it was leaving him, even though it was all discussed prior to taking


effect—all except for “when.” I want to tell him more than “I miss you. I love you.” But even those words seem to only dribble out in my writing. I want to see him. Vacationing in New Jersey. A summer night is approaching the hour of midnight. I am lying halfasleep and I hear the phone ringing on the floor below me. I make nothing of it then, but quietly listen to the hushed murmurings. The following morning, my mom is sitting on my bed, retelling what my fear had told me upon her entrance, about the phone-the night before. She tells me that she is going with my older brother to Trinidad to attend the funeral, and she wants to know if I want to go with them. I don’t even know if I am listening to her anymore. All I know is that my mind is

A story of life and love, neither one really lost

whispering, “I didn’t even get to hug him goodbye. I didn’t even get to see him before I left.” I shake my head “no” and I give her a hug. My feelings of guilt are gone. I hug her again, for the sake of letting her know that everything that she has done for me is appreciated immeasurably, and to let her know that I love her.


A dream concerning the fact that a‌


eautiful lad is leaving. His exit is expected, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier for me to accept the fact. Yes, his acceptance elsewhere is greeted with my being happy for him. But something isn’t quite right. One night and a day of his presence left. I think he knows I’ve been counting it down, even to the hour that I’d realize that he’s even more distant now than before, and even “before,” I wished us to be closer. I’d hate that hour. “Spend some time with me, please.” I wish I actually make the request to him and not simply whisper it to myself. Instead, he’s the one with the courage to say, “I’m going to be gone soon, and the little time I see you now is going to be further reduced. Care to spend some time with me?” What amazing drum-rolls my excited heart beats! “I’d love to.” (I can barely even whisper in my state of happiness.) “Tonight maybe?” It’s all set. Wonderful!

A dream concerning the fact that a…

Tonight arrives. It seems like we are up forever, talking. But with the morning, we both awake with the memories of the previous night bringing smiles to our faces. Here we are, silent, with these silly grins on our faces, and the clock begins to tick louder than ever, bringing me back to the reality that the lad in front of me is going to be gone in hours from now.


“Will you accept a kiss?” I ask, finding myself amazed that it was asked with confidence. His response pleases me, and the following action is even better feeling than I expected it to be. I don’t need to tell him I love him. He leaves, and we both feel this great satisfaction overriding our sadness.