Suraj was a Princes Town fashionista in the nineteen sixties when most of his teenage peers were preoccupied with school and getting an education. He was an A-student in High school oftentimes coming first in test. He was also a bibliophile to the point one could not lay their hands on his books as if to do so would contaminate something sacred to him.
Ironically, it was his passing on to me his books when he left home that might have provided me with the GPS that navigated my way into the world of literature. Just before he left home, he became a subscriber of Readers Digest and having gone, the books came to me which included their condensed version of bestselling masterpieces and which I devoured, you might say. Knowing this, he continued to pay the subscription for them even though books no longer preoccupied his mind. For that, I owe him what I have become.
I also learnt how to iron my clothes just watching him assiduously inflict the sharpest seam on his apparel ensuring that when he stepped out he was the epitome of sartorial splendor. A joke in our family about him was of him passing the heater so repeatedly on a pair of trousers to literally give it a cutting seam and so succeeded that when he put on the pants it just split open at the seams. It was pure comic book slapstick comedy on his part.
It was a time when most people owned just one Sunday best outfit and one extra in case one had to attend a wedding. Suraj was an exception who worked at all kinds of jobs just to indulge in the conspicuous consumption of buying high end clothes. Leonardo Strassi Ban Lon jerseys was the latest in Italian threads sold in Trinidad and it so happened that a Princes Town store known as Esau Hosein was apparently the store in this country that had exclusive distribution rights for it. This suited my brother just fine, so while people from all over the country flocked to this store to acquire an item of fashion that was chic and sophisticated, Suraj Orie lived just couple miles from the store and went on to acquire almost three dozen of the Strassi jerseys while most persons might have been happy to have just that one to flams at their friend’s wedding.
But Having so many Strassis, my brother did not wait for a weeding to don them but he just wore them casually on any day he felt was dressed up day. Of course, he provoked the gods by such extravagance and one day when he returned to his Port of Spain apartment after paying a visit to Esau Hosein to see what new they had in store for him, He could have had a cardiac arrest as all his Strassis were gone, emptied out by somebody who wanted it more than he did.
In a small way, my brother experienced death that moment and thereafter the fashionista no longer spent money in clothes for that part of him had really passed on. Today, we mourn the passing of his real other self.
L. Siddhartha Orie (Brother)