Friday, February 26, 2016

Death of Knowledge and Social Conscience In The Time Of The Immortelles: For Irma, RIP My Friend

So you out out, jus so jus so, eh Irmes?
Just when the immortelles in their blaze of glory mock the raging bushfires which like the social un-conscience casts in its wake this monstrous - 'not at all like proper children' of Robert Louis Stevenson's Shadow over the land in this wild unconscionable rampage of slash-and-burn of forests, flora, fauna, wildlife, tree limbs, any limbs, any life of man, woman, children or whatever may be also good and natural, eh?
Irma's view of her Diego Martin Valley from the North Post
from her Facebook photos.

Just when the yellow and pink and lilac poui blossoms like Asami Nagasaki's Japanese cherry blossoms are beginning to peep out through their-green leaves on the plains, valleys, hills and mountain tops, shyly then defiantly daring the monstrous -not-at-all-like-proper, decent well-formed - fires of slash-and-burn to charge into them too, because they going down singing and dancing and clapping and celebrating – you, Irmes, ups and jus out out jus so jus so, eh?
You gone, eh? Jus when dem deadly - like Headley, or some other folks not to be here named – Zika mosquitoes take up positions over the land in the form of this monstrous shadow, queuing up to kill in execution of their singular terror-intent, attack with full force; aim to maim, to exterminate, or at least reduce the already too-bloated brains, heads, and egos of unconscionable power monsters and their birth parents - the rest will, shruggingly, only be collateral damage, to cut down to proportional size in the national hierarchy of things and the universal food chain of human beings, eh?

Cross Country Cross TV Channals hocus pocus

Photo from Irma Rambaran's Facebook Page.

Gyul, you gone, fuh true? Just when big big raucous hocus pocus gripping local TV that is also cable and world wide www.internet TV too, with what now passes for the highest rated shows that are not the views and opinion of the TV stations or the Parliament Channel – because our Andre Tankered footloose and fancy free Cross Country jus so jus so lose its national footing, although it hold the number one rating on prime time for the entire time of our run; although it grip the people’s imagination in awe and wonder and promise to expand the social conscience with real images, sounds and sound information and thoughts and actions of real people and places that form the diverse mosaic of our national tapestry and show that we rainbow fuh real, eh? Would our society have been the better for it if you were given a prime time TV spot to share your mind and knowledge and perspective - never seems to have crossed anyone's mind, except mine, eh?
Irma's profile Facebook photo: her dog

Irmes, remember when the height of public outrage at our media was over a mere 90-seconds, yes 90 seconds, feature on dead dogs on streets and highways that Ed insisted on running, distasteful graphics and all – well how else you could show a dead dog, eh? Dog lover that you are, nothing I could do or say could erase your upset as we had tried to change his mind, and then the public erupted that it is aired on prime time TV, on the number one rated show, how dare we just as they are sitting down to dinner and we show with their families, and Ralph who was there only in the studio narrating Ed’s script and layered on to an unsuspecting public through chroma-key so he was never really there but was always very gracious to accept all the credits for the fine insights we wrote and presented of our people, warded off taking credit for that one and poor Dale Kolasingh had to apologise ad nauseum on our behalf for the insensitivity, and in the end Ed maybe had the last laugh because the sanitation people get to work to clear away any dead dogs they could find, though they couldn’t get to the stench; and maybe people start putting their dogs on leashes too, so they wouldn’t wander out and get knock down by unconscionable monstrous drivers and their equally monstrous children-drivers, who now just knocking down people and other vehicles instead, jus so jus so and jus as they knock away yuh leg when you trying to cross the road hurrying back to work from some extra hours at the university, and still you crawl back up, heal and continue to stand tall, though we all know you shorter than me. 

AVM Special Report – of the real monsters, parents of monsters and criminal-minded
Who apologising now, eh Irmes, since we no longer could ask through an investigation by the AVM Special Report that Kolasingh would have surely put us on the track of the monsters and their parents to find the real roots and the real criminal monster killers of social conscience and springboard of the now heights of insensitivity in the parade of dead bodies, dead babies, dead school boys and school girls, dead men and women turning up in any nook and cranny, across the street, on the street, in the next bush, at the Savannah, on the corner, in the canefield, behind this wall and that building; and the women and girls with throats slit, or kicked in their stomachs – literally and metaphorically too - or for who missing and not turning up at all at all at all? Who apologising for dat, eh? 
If you were here, you would share my outrage but draw some satirical analogy from some great work of literature, or some anecdotal experience, idea or humorous incident in a shrug-that-belie-how-deeply-you-too-are-outraged with a deflection that that is the way of the world which would allow us to refocus and pour our creative energies on the task at hand to shape, through our media, our art and our craft the social conscience rather than waste it in a lament, but you gone, jus so jus so, Irmes, and I here, trying to find a counteractive quip quote or humour that would restore my equilibrium and sense of faith in people and focus on creating a fire track that would deflect these current ominous monstrous onward-charge of slash and burn fires burning up the forests, flora, fauna, wildlife, tree limbs, any limbs, any life of man, woman, children or whatever may be also good and natural, eh?

Book Talk of inclusive kaleidoscopic shades and colours

You gone girl! Is it to a place that is A Whiter Shade of Pale or is it a paler shade of white, girl, now that you there, that some knew as Procol  Harum’s 1967 song which we didn’t know then but has recently been rated number 57 among the 500 greatest songs of all times, and which in our also narrated and chromakeyed through Ralph – BookTalk, also then highly-rated series, we presented as a poem because poem or song, a Chaucerian Miller’s Tale or a Naipaulian Mystic tale; a Walcottian Homeric epic, Lovelace-calypso-novel, Sammy (Selvon) migrant island-world or Michael (Anthony) history-story we wanted to tell we people that neither shape nor form nor colour nor texture of a thought or expression, nor its origins nor orientation detracts from appreciation and respect for the creative impulse and imagination?
Like that die too, girl? We reach anybody? You think? All those years all dem words and images and ideas? All dem people we hold up as public pillars...whey dem be?
As in the enthusiastic hours shared bouncing off ways of meeting challenges, especially the mandate of low cost yet high quality productions which was AVM’s hallmark, I am replaying the piles and piles of words and images and sounds I have presented since then, and considering now the piles and piles you too churned out from that quick wit and unbridled imagination and wry humour that made such amazing and always refreshing connection between thoughts of one instance, one age with another, embracing, appreciating, savouring knowledge for itself and itself alone, and hoping in the process of sharing it that it would also put food in your dog’s plate, and on your table – in that order, because your dogs always came first, even in your social media profile but how often both your dog's and your plate was left empty in this place that intent on making strays, homeless and vagrants of as many as it could.

Survival – where the mind is without fear
Irmes,  I am replaying how we travelled with heads held high to Tagore’s Gitanjali where knowledge is free and we searched out and assigned, mixed and matched images to ideas – from stills or artistic representations and allusions where moving images were not available, often times stretching our imaginations so we might pull at the imaginations of others and transport their minds through connections they did not think possible; mixing and matching images and ideas to lyrics and sounds that made and remade a thought and a politician, or two, and maybe made some of them cringe too; that profiled a corporation or two and helped their profit line too; that focused on a sector or two and maybe helped it grow; that championed survivalism through our agriculture series, Survival; that championed the culture, the heritage, the sportsmen and women, the people. Remember the hours I remained glued to the screen in the kiosk, playing over and over Pat Bishop’s words in preparation for the first CARIFESTA we hosted for my special report on culture – so full of optimism she was at the potential of our arts and culture that she inspired me since then to the day she just drop dead, jus so, in front of me in a meeting room where I joined her struggle for space for we culture? And the time spent with Prof Julien Kenny trying to save the same environment now and still fighting for survival from predators rapists and plunderers and of course the monstrous slash and burn man machine.
Remember the raving mad woman, Bachac, who, on meh way with crew to Manzanilla I just held a mike to she hanging out she lil board house window – no questions asked - and she tell all ah dem and dey modder what to fix in the country, and everybody chuckle and keep asking for reruns after reruns so they could chuckle some more, but you think they fix anything she tell them to fix, just like they look on we yes, providing show and song and music and dance and idea and thought and words for chuckle after chuckle but all they see is that we just as mad as she, Bachac.

Incomparable above and beyond Cazabon’s North Post view

Irma Rambaran's photo with our exchange on July 3, 2015
Irma: North Post, Last Night, Lucky Me
Me: Still among my most spectacular places , Irma Rambaran

Yes girl, like you, mind wandering above them there North Post hills and seas and d valley, captured by Cazabon in one of the just-repurchased masterpieces for our museum itself raped and plundered by some, trying to just hold its skirt seams together so that its crumbling walls wouldn’t expose its private parts and decayed bones as at the Red House and once seat of Parliament, my memory drifts through those years, to the image of you huddled over your typewriter as I am being escorted past the writer’s booth and editing kiosks and around to the office of media magnate Kolasingh for my interview. It was you who so openly welcomed me into the ‘writer’s pool’, gently mentoring as you did all who joined, openly embracing new fresh minds, not a thought of territorialism but seeing us all as an opportunity to warm and expand your own world, never once forcing or imposing an opinion, appreciating and understanding dialogue, debate and the embrace of ideas and opinions and the value of their open flow to take shape and form that freedom of thought allows.
It was you who later - over hurriedly gulped lunch, or late hours pounding out on our typewriters the words and lines that would be mouthed and voiced, after the office had emptied out, or sharing a taxi from the hills back to town - told me that ‘the Boss’ had already decided he would hire me even prior to the interview; that the advertisement placed in the newspaper for which I worked was perhaps placed there to deliberately draw my attention - and in the process, hopefully others’ too; that that interview had been only a formality; that the newly begun Cross Country programme which you would generously hand over to me, as with others, to conceive, to craft, to create, had already been feeding off my newspaper still fledgling, I thought, column Discover Trinidad and Tobago; that when I accepted the position the Boss had received a call from Len Chong Sing, the very unassuming, shy and reserved then Editor-in-Chief who had hired me without once looking me in the eye call admonishing Kolasingh in what we would here euphemistically call very ‘strong’ language for poaching on his newspaper’s most promising staff, which the Boss later confirmed to me with his infectious chuckle.
It was only you who knew that it was the Boss, unlike some others who had tried to smother opportunities, who encouraged me to use the prize-trip from the BWIA Media Awards I had won on my first year on the newspaper job for an article in that same newspaper ‘Discover’ series, and had arranged my first visit to the #UnitedNations in #NewYork where he had previously served, so it could feed the vision of the world that inspired his and, little did he know, given his premature and truncated life, like yours - inspired me on the life path and turns that has brought me to this day.
Well, pragmatist that he is, as he was not going to give me a salary increase nor an advance, it was perhaps the only choice, because not then and not now, neither you nor I could think of a using a prize trip to go shopping - not with the nil value knowledge has here, only recyclable if it is to wrap fish as I shared with you that real experience of discovery of the knowledge recycling system that were among the reasons that I took flight from the frightening prospects of seeing my freshly churned out Mondays' Discover Trinidad and Tobago and Tuesdays' Teenlife columns and other articles and features become fresh wrapping for Sundays' freshly caught fish at the Port of Spain, San Fernando, Tunapuna, Arima and Debe markets.
It was you who heard and empathised and shared and countered my railing with your wit and humour at the disjoint between the ought and is, and strengthened my resolve when the time came to move on, and since, cheering me on, reaching out in the most unassuming ways to help straighten out a kink, remove a spec of dust and steer me back on course when the course itself was so overgrown, like the paths we walked on the North Post trail; to stretch my arms out to perfection, painting in our minds’ eye what Cazabon did on canvas and Tagore did in his garlanded song-poem, Gitanjali, with ever-widening thought and action, a heaven of freedom.
Irmes, I am looking at all that, just as you must be looking down from that high perch above your’s and mine favourite spot at the North Post hill now, and wondering when did the social conscience die? Who kill it? Was it when the 1990 attempted coup also attempted to invade we archives at AVM? Because is true all hell break lose then, it seems, people still scrambling to find out who’s their leader to this day; and wondering too, when will be the awakening.

Academia versus where knowledge is free as fresh tea leaves
From the Section NORTTHWEST in LiTTscapes
 Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago 
Already then only just having moved out of that production studio to find my own space and to find some knowledge at the university – ah still looking - yuh know I hear some order went down to ban me books there - so I hear eh girl well dats what power wielders at universities in banana republics do when they not slash and burning books, people and the hills as you found out painfully when you decided to follow me for your degree, later, and I could only guide you through manoeuvring the machinations of pseudo academia trying to augment CVs by appropriating the intelligence of students, especially those with such pure original imagination like yours; as I could only guide those other students who in my transitional and temporary status there sought some advice and guidance too – wanting to stretch their imaginations to take flight, but meeting only solid obstructionist walls. Meh head still bleeding and pounding from dat. 
All I know, girl, is that social conscience dead dead, and as you well know, sacrificed at the altar of egos intent on protecting turf even if it mean starving to death people who dare to think they could live off knowledge by packaging and sharing it, by trying to create opportunities for others to share theirs as would perhaps be par for the course - or the appetizer, the main course and the dessert in mature countries, small islands or large island-continents, not in leafy force ripe banana republics like we sometimes find weself contemplating and writing about and aligning images to like swaying laden-with-force-ripe banana palms sometimes mistaken for sohari leaves. They watch d empty leaves and say starve, frustrate talent and energies when all one wants to do as a lifelong learner to share learnings to teach through media or any other forms or place even under the mango tree if they would only give us a chance. Frustrated talent. You not the only one.
I try, eh girl, to stop you reaching for that next drink, as that life-line from A Whiter Shade of Pale, to get you, instead, addicted to my freshly brewed teas made from imagination and the leaves I pluck from meh now dying-from-drought too back yard garden – lemon grass tea and tulsi leaf tea and mint and bay leaf and mango leaf and guava leaf tea – must have some guava leaf because it is guava season and like you I planting some tomatoes and bodi, melongene and ochro, mango and pommecythere too, to tide me through these thoughtful but incomeless times. I tried, but your addiction was already running too deep as the watering hole down in the Diego Martin Valley into which abyss you disappeared to re-emerge. How many know, eh, or care, what it takes to keep the wit and the humour and the optimism and the faith, buoying up others, drifting into our own darkness while warding off the debtors, eh? Who knows what it takes when the bullets target bullseye on our efforts to share knowledge, stop dead in its tracks your search for opportunities to package and disseminate it, so it instead builds up like bile inside you till it poison your liver and end your life while you smile with wit and humour and generous faith and optimism, eh?  
Yet even now, looking and searching for that last clue that I know you must have left for me, to hang on to the hope and the optimism and the dream and the wit and the humour, sure enough, you did, girl and I find it, and I’ll share and reshare it. You leave it there, right before my eyes,  right before all of us with eyes to see, right on your last public quip. There it is in full view of all: all of your wit and humour and wry commentary and connection between the past and the present, you have shared it and left it, without comment, for all of us to hold on to in that other element you also cultivated appreciation in me – for steelpan and the hours we spent at panorama prelims, semis and finals, backing our own favourites and trying not to create our own pan fan wars.  
You found your last vision of the state we are in, in Kitchener, whose Rain O’ Rama calypso tent itself has fallen fate to its own domestic turmoils, in his 1972 calypso of that name and the debates that inspired it, to cancel the Carnival in the wake of the then polio threat, cheekily detailing the public outrage, public defence and public display of perceived indecency, and as it was written then, it is written now, that the forces that stop the Carnival were those that are beyond our voiced, or unvoiced, protests or rage or outrage, indignation, anger, hurt or despair.
Your last post - amidst your photos of the ravished landscape, its bountiful offerings of fruits and vegetables shared just after the one in which I endorsed our favourite North Post spot as still among my rated most spectacular spaces - characteristically leaves us Kitchener’s quintessential piece reverberating through time with the unchanging truth and faith of que sera sera and the simple message to trust in nature, and true enough, amidst the suffocating heat, here it is pouring down now, at this midmorning in this dry-drought season, Rain.
Irmes, I may not be able to scatter your ashes to the north wind over the North Post as you requested and watch the whirl and twirl and then the encapsulation in an immortelle blossom of ethereal conscience, but from me, and all those who asked and authorised and delegated that I write this on their behalf in your memory, Rest In Peace, my friend, and, as the last words from Tagore's Gitanjali:

Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation to thee.
Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee.
Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.

Lyrics of A Whiter Shade of Pale

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray
And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale
She said, 'There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.'
But I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be
one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast
and although my eyes were open
they might have just as well've been closed
She said, 'I'm home on shore leave,'
though in truth we were at sea
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
saying, 'You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.'
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died

If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed

Played by British Rock Band: English rock band Procol Harum
Written by: co-authors Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher

Lines from Gitanjali(1912, Vs 96)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

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Reviews of this Blog:
Kris Rampersad writes of Irma's talent for ‘draw[ing] some satirical analogy from some great work of literature, or some anecdotal experience, idea or humorous incident. . . which would allow us to refocus and pour our creative energies on the task at hand to shape . . . rather than waste it in a lament.’ Two of pieces on the program do have the ring of narratives inspired by current events, but not so much ripped as lifted carefully from the headlines and re-imagined with those from the periphery in the center as protagonists.
Irma wasn’t uncomplicated (what good writer is?): Rhoma Spencer in the prologue to her reading of “Rum Shop” hinted at a drinking problem, as did Kris Rampersad in her essay. But shining through all of the stories read that evening was a deep humanity. “Even though the plots she inserts them in might be difficult or cruel,”