June 24, 2005

Basdeo Gandhi and Patrick Mandela - A Trini Story by By Ken Chee Hing

This was so good to read, I just had to put it up on my blog. I think the author has it right on!

DOTISHNESS, like crime, is running rampant in this country these days.

Mere days after the so-called Father of the Nation, Patrick, stood before the Tunapuna masses, and without so much as blinking an eyelid declared that "crime was temporary", along comes Roodal Moonilal — who bold as brass compares the Silver Fox's incarceration at Panday's Pleasure, akin to the sufferings and sacrifices made by Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

What the hell have we the people done to deserve this foolishness?* What could have caused Roodal, a man I once held in high esteem as being intelligent and above party politricks to utter such piffle? I mean to say milking as much political mileage from a silly situation is one thing, but does Roodal not know his history and that it was Panday who decided to stay in jail? In the game of Trini polittricks men and women will say just about anything to score points, after all, we are a great nation of robber talkers. But one would have thought that Patrick's "temporary crime" faux pas would have caused politrickcians to be a bit more careful with what they said especially in the public domain. But I guess we were all wrong. Mooni, if the TV6 news is to be believed — and that is questionable — said Panday's eight-day incarceration at Golden Grove was a struggle against oppression and tyranny and it was similar to the struggles of Mandela and Gandhi. Give me a break!

Now, in my humble opinion, to place politicians and opposition members (even those of the silver fox persuasion) from a third world, back-a-yard country whose leaders and great minds are at best myopic and at worst plain
dotish, in the same hallowed class as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, is not only sacrilegious and obscene, it is looking for jail yuhself.. The world will never see the likes of a Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi again. Panday is ahead of me when it comes to learning Hindi as he was taking lessons at Golden Grove during his self-imposed incarceration. If my supremely inadequate Hindi knowledge is correct, the name Mahatma really means "Great One" or "Great Soul", which was bestowed on a humble fella named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, by a grateful Indian nation after Gandhi's almost single-handed brought down the mighty British Empire's rule over India. Now that is greatness! Nelson, too, had a cause. He spent 27 years of his life locked up and away in Robben Island, breaking stones with a small hammer, all because he stood firm in his belief that all men were equal under God and that Botha and white South Africa had no right to treat black South Africans like animals, denying them rights to land and even simple housing.His humble attitude and acceptance of what was a terrible fate — to be locked away from the world, from loved ones, from family and friends — caused the entire world to stand up and take notice of the atrocities of apartheid. Now that is greatness! Patrick preaching to the masses that he could raise the dead because crime was only temporary — now that is plain dotishness and not greatness. Moonilal and the other UNC players telling people their leader Panday's stay in prison was in the same class of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela — has to be plain dotishness and not greatness on Panday's part. That is dotishness in the extreme and certainly not greatness.
Could you imagine the Silver Fox living in India at the time of the British Raj? Picture Bas turning his back on the luxury of power, doing away with his power suits and Mercedes Benz and instead opting for a humble, simple "Kapre" and walking staff as he leads the masses in a march to the sea to make salt from seawater as a mark of protest against unfair taxes and what not.Picture Oma in simple sackcloth, forsaking the high gloss nail polish and Loreal Deluxe Hair Colouring System and dark Gucci shades, opting instead for a simple Sari and sitting before a spinning wheel with which to spin thread to make Bas' clothes.Oma making sada roti and baigan choka for Mahatma Panday as he reads the Holy Gita, Holy Qur'an and visualises a land free from hate and tyranny. Do you think this could ever happen? Never! I say, the very thought of Bas in sackcloth is just preposterous. And in the words of a certain politician: "That's Insulting!"

The sweet tidings of power is, I am afraid, too great. So what nonsense isthis that people are talking about Bas walking in the same crowd as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela? Undoubtedly, Basdeo Panday will forever stand out in the annals of Trinidad and Tobago politics, but in whose company? Certainly neither Mandela or Gandhi.
And what about dear Patrick? Could you picture Patrick living in South Africa in the days of Botha and the Apartheid? Do you think Patrick Mandela could have the heart (pacemaker included) to sacrifice 27 years of his life in lonely isoloation on Robben Island, solely in the belief that men are created equal? Picture Patrick in simple prison garb — the PNM tie thrown away — and breaking rocks in the hot sun. A vision of Patrick painting stones and pebbles is more possible especially in this CEPEP day and age. But breaking rocks like Nelson Mandela did? Nah! And while poor Patrick is incarcerated on Robben Island, his dutiful wife Winnie Hazel tends to the children and goats wondering if she will ever have the opportunity to make breakfasses for her husband again. Do you think Patrick would have done that? Sacrificed 27 years of life, not to mention the opportunity to run a country's treasury any which way he chooses? Hell no!

I mean, get real people. And Mandela and Gandhi had no choice. They were locked up. Panday on the other hand choose to go to jail. Grand charge! So you see what I mean. Politrickcians too quickly and easily like to equate
themselves with greatness and truly great people who made their mark on World History. And their supporters will go along, ranting and raving without for a moment taking to time actually listen, to hear the rubbish coming out of their leader's mouth. And as for those meddlers — the IRO — who do they think they are? In 1973, when Dr Eric Williams announced his retirement they went on bended knee to beg him to stay. This week they were back at it again rushing up to Golden Grove to beg Panday to go home. If you ask me it was the front page picture of Panday in Wednesday's Newsday looking old and beat up that scared the hell out of them and sent them rushing to his side, not even recognising that the whole episode in prison was phony. I, on the other hand, make no attempt at proclaiming myself great. I am a simple writer with a soft spot for sada roti and weird haircuts. And besides, Ken Mandela or Ken Gandhi sounds damn weird to me.