Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We built this City

The sun rises slowly above the hills of the Northern Range and one by one, the headlights dim as the cars march incessantly into Port of Spain. God, I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be watching the sun rise in the rear view mirror as I head into the smoggy capital city. From two, then three and now about six ‘skyscrapers’ litter the skyline of Trinidad’s finest city, edifices that confirm the monetary wealth of a nation that could be great.

Like zombies, the masses head out before the break of day in a valiant but more often unsuccessful attempt to head off the permanent traffic. Children awake at dream-weaving hours to commute to school. No one feels anything save and except frustration at the time spent in traffic or anger at the guy in front who just gave you a bad drive. But still they soldier on, heading into the big city, hoping to make a day’s wages so that they can enjoy the niceties that T&T has come to offer, whether it’s their after work lime at Ruby’s or their teenager’s lime at Zen or their 12 year old movie at Movie Towne.

They all have their escapes. But from what? And why? And what of the old lady with seven grandkids to mind on a monthly pension that could barely even support her alone? Where is her escape? Or the man who doesn’t want to leave the hospital because his alternative is a lonely house with no one to talk to? We classify them and sometimes blatantly discriminate against them. They’re just ‘social cases’. Not our problem. It’s the government’s problem or the relatives' problem or someone else’s. As long as it’s not ours.

But the same sun still rises above each of our heads every morning. And like a neat cross section, the city provides an insight into the inner workings of the country. The flashy neon lights of the night and the newest BM-double Vays serve only to betray the poverty that the nation embraces daily. More than 300,000 souls who will go hungry today, who went hungry yesterday and who will go hungry tomorrow, even as the fat cats feast on the largesse provided by their well connected friends and family.

One day, one night, one moment,
my dreams could be, tomorrow.

Or it could never come. But I know this: If I don’t try it’s a lock that it’ll never come. So I’ll keep on trying. Even when it pains most. Especially when it pains most. Because if I’m to believe in the probabilistic, then things just might work out.

One step, one fall, one falter,
east or west, over earth or by ocean.
One way to be my journey,
this way could be my Book of Days

If you want it enough, the universe will conspire for you. I’ve learnt that. But it won’t happen by just wishing. You’ve got to get up and become involved. So instead of sitting by and letting things happen, we have to go out there and make the difference, first in our lives, so that we gain respect for ourselves. It is only when we gain a respect and love for ourselves that we could even hope to help others. And while each person’s journey will inevitably different, we all want to reach the same destination: Happiness.

And while I don’t profess to be the Happiness Guru, one sure way of being happy is by making others happy, as the old chorus goes.

No day, no night, no moment,
can hold me back from trying.

I can’t remember when it did become my journey, but it did. And because of it, I’m more patient and more understanding. I appreciate more of what I have and I appreciate the problems that people have. I appreciate people more and am thankful for those who’ve stuck by me all this time, even if they number in the low single digits.

And I wonder what it will take for more and more people to appreciate others. Yes, they have their jobs and their kids, their wives and lovers, mistresses and husbands, but can’t we all just take a collective breath and look up from that piece of paper or computer screen to just take in the scene around us? Let’s pretend for a moment that a world exists beyond our noses and get involved in making our environment a product of who we are not vice versa.

It’s grandiose a thought because it hinges on the belief that the majority of people can be selfless and spare a though for others or the things around them. But if enough do or at least try to, then maybe we can get back on track and drag the others with us.

The sun sets in my rear view mirror. Sixty skyscrapers litter the Port of Spain skyline, each indistinguishable from the other. The masses flick their headlights on, looking to home to escape from their day. An old lady begs with her husband at the side of the road, their shriveled frames belie their strength. Countless others await the fate this night will bring. We have gone nowhere fast. May heaven have mercy on our souls, for we did not. We are safe, none of us.

This way became my journey,
this day ends together, Far and Away.

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