To most orthodox Indians with a sense of ethnic pride if not bigotry, the belief that not everybody who looked like an Indian and wore an Indian name was Indian is not wrong. The “duck’s” litmus test – i.e. if it walked like a duck and looked like a duck then it must be a duck did not necessarily prevail – as it did not in Christine Kangaloo’s case and so many others who wore camouflaged Anglicised names and who also became Christians to put distance between themselves and their Indian roots. While their Christianization was excused on many grounds, it was defection on the political battlefield of Indo-Trinis to the PNM political party mainly since 1956, that sealed those Indians excommunication and rendered them non-Indians.
So when Christine was listed to speak at Panday’s funeral, it was widely expected that it was going to be another throne speech where she would echo the views of the government which, in this case would be, if not a scathing attack on Panday it would be at least a belittling of him making him out to be a recalcitrant Indian who was a cutlass-wielding terrorist from the sugarcane fields or something of that nature. It was, however, a throne speech but from her throne.
like a kangaroo, indeed, Christine leapt over the political kala pani (black sea) which, when as an Indian, you crossed over you got excommunicated to the point that you no longer belonged within the Indian caste structure; you were no longer an Indian; but instead she opted to soar across the world of transcendence courtesy being pumped up by her generous use of the high octane life of Basdeo Panday.
This was not the speech of Mark Anthony who went to bury Caesar not praise him but instead this was the oratory of Christine who went to praise Panday not cremate him. And in her many anecdotes and references to him, Basdeo Panday was intravenously infused with life at that moment as he laid in his coffin.
This was the speech of a writer who understood the use of analogy, metaphors, anecdotes and comedy and fused them all as of a scriptwriter for a sitcom. Obviously, the intention was to breathe life into this icon by every so often reminding us that in his epic fight with the lion he was the triumphant one and that his ability to maul that which he fought he did so not in a messy way but via his acerbic tongue and Jedi persona, the result was of poetry witnessed.
We all knew this of Panday, but having Christine remind us in a most objective way would have made even an irascible Panday smile in his irresistible sly-mongoose manner.
For this exaltation of Basdeo Panday and for candidly doing so as of a disciple of his, I offer you the return of your heritage in a gift-wrapped package that is labeled an Indo-Trini original.
L. Siddhartha Orie.