Are we doing enough to recognize our icons? We may not, but Junior Regrello is busy recognizing the contribution of artistes -Torrance Mohammed, Black Stalin- by renaming streets in San Fernando after them.
When Suruj Rambachan was Mayor of Chaguanas, he not only built the administrative complex with offices, a waiting gallery, parking, and a theater for the hosting of concerts but also launched two volumes of “The Contributors” that profiled more than two hundred burgesses for their contribution to the development of Chaguanas. So, when I peruse the books, I see names such as Chander Bali, a well-known musician, the Patasar Family (Mungal, wife, and children), Dhaniram Sankar, a well-known sculptor whose art can be viewed in the murtis on the altars of mandirs, Eniath Mohammed, upholsterer and businessman with his business acumen now visible in Eniath’s Printery run by his children.
Had Mayor Rambachan not had the vision to share the profiles of these burgesses to the wider society their outstanding contributions would have been lost to the present and future generations. By documenting these profiles, Mayor Rambachan has immortalized them for their children, grandchildren, and others to find inspiration.
Central Trinidad has a ghoulish reputation for naming cremation sites after icons. The Waterloo Cremation Site was named after Issac Yakarran, the renowned local classical singer of Brickfield, Waterloo; the Felicity Cremation Site was named after Lakhan Karia, a well-known chutney composer and singer of Felicity. I hope and pray that the Caroni Cremation Site is not named after the late Sat Maharaj. Luckily, the Cremation Site at Otaheite was named Shore of Peace, again thanks to Suruj Rambachan who was then the Chairman of the St Patrick County Council.
Junior Regrello goes about his business with little resistance from the people of San Fernando, who appear to be very accommodating and understanding of the value of icons to a people. Similarly, the business houses in Queen Street in Port of Spain did not protest that a change of name to Queen Janelle Commissiong Street would mean having to change the addresses of documents. All over the world name changes are made. In India, several major cities had name changes- Bombay to Mumbai; Calcutta to Kokata; Madras to Chenai, etc. Myanmar was formerly Burma and Sri Lanka was Ceylon.
The reality is while we live in our castles, the logie- barrack mentality still dominates our thinking. Is it that a name change would bring recognition, name, and fame to others and not us? In Barrackpore, people are happy with the name Monkey Town. I now wonder if they would support a name change- Sundar Nagar (Beautiful City) after their iconic son Sundar Popo!
It is becoming crystal clear to me that people are becoming more amorphous- unstable, insecure, and scattered. Many are quick to protest against schools in the neighborhood or businesses that serve their needs. Is it that some of us are putting too much importance to this temporary earthly journey? I hope they do not view their homes as solely a place of rest… tombs, and not a center of creative energies!
But I love amorphous characters. They are the characters we enjoy in the literary and cinematic world. When V.S. Naipaul launched his literary career, it was with characters like Man Man, Eddoes, Uncle Bhakcu, Titus Hoyte, Bogart, Hat, etc. Who knows? With this logie-barrack mentality, now residing in gated communities and riding SUVs, there will be much to write about…another Naipaul in the making.
Is Suruj Rambachan an icon? He is too much of an achiever to be embraced as an icon. This society of ours can digest a Bogart, a Hat, a Titus Hoyt, an Uncle Bhakcu, and a Man Man, not a Rambachan. No wonder much that is known about Naipaul’s writing in this country is confined to those characters-not his travel writings on India, Africa, and the Islamic World.
So, when Borough Day is celebrated it is always cookouts and tassa that draw the crowd to return the politicians to office. And the event that draws the crowd is the cookouts- curry (lagoon) duck, gilla baat, and white rum.