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Woman in Lent

By Ralph Maraj

It's been a week since you returned to your room, took off your Carnival costume, dumped the slight things in a corner and went to bed. You were so weary you slept soundly. But you woke next morning as usual at four, no longer tired because you are fit from your workouts and you took not a single drink last Tuesday in the band. As a professional, you had to be back at work Ash Wednesday.

You don't mind your job. Middle management is not difficult for you. You are naturally organised and also proficient with the technology. You meet your deadlines early. So you always have time to reflect, to sip tea and enjoy this splendid view of the sea from your office high up over the city streets.

Here you are then, this mid-morning, looking out, the Gulf of Paria stretching in eternal splendour like the blueness above. The scene always pulls at your heart, as do the mountains on the way home, or the mangroves that sit silently in your memory from drives through the countryside as a child with your father, now gone, bless him large man, who felt himself part of all life and the entire universe. You wish he were here to bring meaning. He would explain the message of mountain, sea and sky, all tugging at you as though reminding you of a responsibility.

Dad wanted you to write poetry, felt you should have studied literature at university. But he died and you followed the money into management, thinking you could always do the kind of reading of which you were so enamoured in sixth form. But Keats, Shelley, Blake and Byron; Eliot, Woolf and Lawrence seem now like another world, another life. You often become so frightened at the enormous stretch of aridity between then and now, alarmed at the vacant spaces in your heart that only your hero writers could help to fill. How many times have you said "I must get back; make up. I must not go too far further without them. I need them now more than ever. I am getting old, already over 30, no home, still home; no family, old family; no child, only career, the gym, parties, friends. And travel, following the crowd, thinking you must go here, there, everywhere, but nothing happens and the staleness always returns. Truly, as Rilke found, there is only one journey. Inwards."

How boring have been the men you have known. No poetry or philosophy whatsoever. No sense of history either. All they knew even of our Naipaul was a smattering of Miguel Street they studied in form three. Incarnations of shallowness! Whether it was the lawyer, accountant, doctor or store owner, it was all about getting ahead, making money, social climbing, all trying to resemble some starboy from Bollywood or Hollywood, all in the Carnival, jumping, prancing, wining; reduced and ridiculous. " Pleeeease!" you plead, " men shouldn't be so unmanly. Dance the dragon for heaven's sake or something else rebellious or terrifying." Compared with your father, they are all so deficient and leave you so terribly lonely.

The Carnival is certainly over now. For you, last Tuesday was definitely the last. Still, you used to be so excited at first, enjoying the exhilaration of freedom and your own beauty in the bikini and beads. You were never vulgar or self-indulgent. You simply delighted in your self, your spirit, energy, attractiveness. Indeed sometimes, for long stretches you never heard the loud music. You were in another world, another reality. But now there is a numbness about the Carnival and everything else. Oh for something deeply stirring.

Oh to be like Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar which you happened to see again nights ago, part of the Lenten fare on cable. Fifteen years ago you couldn't understand Mary but this time you remained transfixed and still hear her haunting, piercing lament, "I don't know how to love you". And you wonder, after Jesus, what became of her after that short but ultimate experience for any woman on earth? Did she just wither away, living on memory? In spite of her pain, how you wish to be like Mary who knew and loved this God, this man, so closely. Now whenever you look at the sea or the mountains, you are stirred for that irreplaceable ecstasy of loving Jesus, god-man, superman, superstar. And you wail in the deepest silence of yourself. Even as you walk, high heels clacking; or talk, chatting and laughing, you are screaming within, "where are you, my god-man on earth? Can you ever appear in this little place? Jerusalem was not so big. Galilee was just a fishing village. But you are not here, anywhere in sight. No sign of you, not even a Simon Peter who denied you thrice or a Judas Iscariot in his own tormented relationship with you.

Who then to unearth me here? Sean? Brian? Ravi? Fazal? Those inadequacies? Savitri told me of Meera who so loved Lord Krishna everyone thought she was mad. Meera composed over one thousand songs to Krishna and danced to him in the streets. She married herself to his murti; and at the temple in Gujurat, the doors mysteriously shut behind her. When they opened again, all that was seen was her sari at the foot of Krishna's statute. Meera had completely merged with her beloved. Mary and Meera, finding completeness. But me? I have neither Christ nor Krishna, only nature tugging within, reminding me of my responsibility to find him….or give birth to him."

And with a sigh heard by the universe, you turn to check the e-mail. Best wishes woman, this Lent.

• Ralph Maraj is a former

government minister

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