A few years ago I introduced my wife to Trinidadian cuisine. Indo-Trinidadian food in particular is an art that neither of us have mastered and so the height of desperation is when one has to recreate Trini food with little or no knowledge . My wife and I had so much fun recreating this dish. Here is our attempt.
Instagram Pictured- (doubles , channa, tamarind pepper sauce , cucumber chutney, pholourie).
I have never seen war. Never have I lived through periods of atrocities or been arrested by police officers for crimes committed. Therefore naturally it can often feel like a personal leap to truly understand the experiences of those acquainted with such circumstances.
In my line of work, I have often listened to peoples’ stories and I can truly admit that there have been occasions where the professional part of me is forced to retreat within and with eyes peering through fingers I am dismayed by the absolute cruelty that exists in the world.
This week London came face to face with an in-human act that left communities shocked, enraged and afraid. How in the world does one react to such violence? An observation of Twitter and Facebook feeds over the last few days seem to poignantly suggest that even within faith communities we have encountered problems in contextualising an appropriate response. Many people attempting to gain meaning in the face of tragedy often succumb to default mode involving pious flogging, quoting of sacred texts, imprinting a sense of incoming doom and robotically dispensing hope. I am not convinced that is the right way.
As a child, I lived in rural Trinidad. Machetes were commonplace, sharpened regularly as it was often a lifeline for the farmer. It was an indispensable tool for clearing land for farming and agriculture. My parents for safety sake often hid ours in places where as children we could never find it (mostly propped up against the wall, behind the fridge). As an adolescent, in idle boredom and exploration, you could find me on a Sunday afternoon spending time in our back yard using this tool to cut down banana trees. With one swipe the sharpness of the blade made little work as the trunk was dispatched with ease.
Because of this experience, I have often with gritted teeth and intestinal feelings of despair listened to the stories of men and women from countries like Rwanda, seen head scars associated with machete wounds and the psychological trauma associated with an attack as demonstrated this week. I have seen machetes efficiency dealing with non animate objects and so my thoughts strains to understand the mind-set of a person who uses such extreme violence against another human being.
We all try to make sense of disasters. Earlier I shared that never have I lived through war. Never have I experienced atrocities. Never have I been arrested by police officers for crimes committed, but I have lost someone in the most tragic way. As vehicular accidents go, she became a statistic for hit and run incidents, a statistic for people dying by head injuries. There was also a great sense of injustice as non of the individuals involved was bought to account for the wrong they had done.
There is therefore a part of me that understands the human condition rising from moments like this but casting a weary eye on those who treat tragedy as an opportunity to disseminate religious posturing. I think it is therefore impossible to always neatly wrap up an answer, explanation or theological viewpoint about tragedies. There are times when the act of theorizing and intellectualizing is futile. It means nothing. Sometimes we are able to understand life with great clarity and at other times we are limited to what we can understand in the present, only seeing part of the picture (like in a dimly lit mirror).
Every parent, every brother or sister affected by tragedy and heartbreak, their future can be greater influenced by a sense of hope that is transmuted through loving acts of kindness from our neighbours, listening to their stories, showing respect for their lived experience and allowing room for legitimate anger and confusion. For the faith believer, this is actually the greatest act one can ever demonstrate to someone in need of comfort at times of great sorrow.
For the past 20 years I’ve been trying to cry. Literally begging to. One curious suggestion had me sitting staring at the opening credits of The Notebook famed for sending the hardest hard scurrying for the napkins. But I manned up and thought forget this….. I’m gonna sit through the Matrix and watch Neo die (don’t die Neo)! I well up every time, but nothing ever really happens.
Its not funny the lengths a person has to go through just to shed some tears. 27 Dresses, Sleepless in Seattle, Marley and Me and the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy are just some of the causalities. When those don’t work many end up fighting battles with creeping isolation, anger, dark thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Life simply feels like one giant chewing gum, sticky and full of bits from earlier.
I came close to sweet relief five years ago for 5 seconds. I had a mini tear bash in front of 20 or more of friends who sat with porridge dribbling out their mouths as I slurped and hiccupped. What sweet release it was. And that…was that.
I tried to work out why one needs to go through such lengths for the sake of tears and realised that this isn’t solely about a physical response. Babies cry, they get fed, kittens meow and they get treats (as I have discovered recently.. Next story). However, tears have become suspect. Life has gotten strangely complicated where its harder than ever to feel sympathetic or trust someone needing sympathy… just in case they are faking it. In the event of the real deal we have simply lost the know how and so, on finding one such creature, the world folds into itself and time stops because no-one knows what to do anymore.
So maybe you’ve got a keen eye. Maybe you’ve spotted that person watching on repeat Friends Season 8 episode 23 (The One where Rachel has a baby), their face contorting, eyes twitching, straining to get that lip wobble started… Get in there. Be that grounded reality that everyone needs from time to time. Maybe, just maybe that might just do it…
I can always count on Sallee for a good laugh. We laughed lots while we messed around with a song she’d written called “Home”.