Friday, July 28, 2017

How I Spent My Coup Vacation

In primary school, at the beginning of each September term, I had to write an essay on how I spent my vacation. My teacher, Mr. Lalchan, felt it was a useful exercise that allowed students to share what they had done over the long July and August holiday. As well as give him some time to catch some sleep at his desk. On this, the 27th anniversary of the attempted coup of 1990, I thought I would share with readers the essay I wrote about my school vacation that year.  I think it might be a useful exercise in exploring the turbulent events of July 27, 1990, through a child’s eyes. Plus it would spare me having to write an article this week, and thus I can catch some sleep at my desk. Here it is: 

This year, I thought my family and I were going to Italy. But my father said I had misunderstood. By, “we going Italy”, he meant watching Trinidad and Tobago at the World Cup in Italy on television. But he said we couldn’t even do that because the Strike Squad is “a bunch of losers who let America; a country where nobody plays football, beat them.”  Though we still have the West Indies Cricket Team to be proud of and they will surely be the best cricket team forever.  

My favorite TV show is MacGyver. That’s why I was very sad that I could not get to see MacGyver on the Friday night Imam Yasin Abu Bakr and the Jamaat al Muslimeen took over the Red House. That episode was going to be the one where we found out if Murdock was really dead or not. At first when I saw Mr. Bakr on TV instead of MacGyver, I thought he was just reading the news. But then I realized that the man holding the machine gun behind him wasn’t going to read the weather report. As my family sat in the living room watching Mr. Bakr speak, I asked my father why Mr. Bakr had taken over the country and stopped us from watching MacGyver. He said, “probably because MacGyver voted for the NAR”. 

This really disrupted my vacation. I could not go out and ride my bike anymore and there was nothing to watch on TV except for reruns of ‘The Little Mermaid’. My mother told me that the Jamaat al Muslimeen had taken over TTT and was holding everyone there hostage. And that they really liked the Little Mermaid because it symbolized their political philosophy. Just like Princess Ariel, the Jamaat al Muslimeen too, felt frustrated by life and wanted to discover a world beyond it. Except whereas Ariel wanted to live in world where people had feet, the Jamaat al Muslimeen wanted to live in a world where people lost their hands. 

 My cousin Sheldon had it good though. He had a new VHS video player my uncle Ram found on the road. In fact uncle Ram had a really lucky month. He found a new car stereo on the road, a new vacuum cleaner and even a new washing machine and dryer. All, he said, fell off trucks on the road in front his house. This was even luckier considering he lives in a trace where trucks can’t pass.  He also said he was going into the shoe sales business and would give me a pair of Nikes for free.  All I had to do was climb into his roof where he kept them to get it. 

I also spent a lot of time by my grandmother’s house. I like my grandmother. She made me corn soup every day and told me things only a grandmother would. Like how she liked my Art and Craft. And that, “if them creole and them wasn’t bad enough now you have to worry about the Muslims too”. I told my grandmother that I was scared about the coup. But she told me not to worry. She said this was still Trinidad and Tobago and that Trinbagonians will stop caring about anything after six days, even a coup. 

Six days later when the coup ended, I spent my time helping my father peel potatoes for his ‘cool down coup, curry que’ lime which he held every Friday.  My neighbor Beharry told my father he was glad the coup was over but he would miss the curfew limes at Kokopelli. And that another coup was as unlikely as Basdeo Panday becoming Prime Minister. He also told me he liked my new sneakers.

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