acute observer: VS Naipaul

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‘It doh mean nothing, but it good to put’

There’s a scene in The Mystic Masseur where the lead character is asked what “RSVP” means on an invitation and he replies, “It doh mean nothing, but it good to put.”
Many Trinis point to scenarios like these as examples of VS Naipaul being anti-Trini, condescending and trying to belittle his native land.
The problem, though, is that so much of what he portrays is exactly what we live up to in our everyday lives with almost no evolution since his words were written so many years ago.
Take some of these examples that we all encounter and recall the simpleton advice above, “It doh mean nothing, but it good to put” as you go through them.
Appointments are diligently made for the Immigration Office in Port of Spain to renew passports. On arriving at the department, however, it becomes immediately obvious that the time of the appointment has absolutely no bearing with the time that one is actually attended to. A ticket system then takes over leading many to wonder about the purpose of the original date and time and whether they understand what is an “appointment”.
There is a “no right turn sign” at the corner of Ariapita Avenue and Colville Street that is routinely ignored much like the “No Entry” sign between the Charles Street Extension portion of Charles Street leading up to Scott Bushe Street. All and sundry including (or perhaps especially) police vehicles and other “blue flashing light” vehicles with no siren and other State vehicles regularly drive through the restricted areas as if no signs exist.
Fire hydrants are rarely tested and usually only discovered to be dry during an actual fire, half-way through the complete destruction of a building.
Sick leave certificates and medical reports are seen as mere paperwork to achieve the end result. The contents are immaterial and examining the patient is optional.
The same street name—e.g. Railway Road—is repeatedly used throughout the country giving the impression that the country is too large to have unique names. Instead of changing the duplicated (and often inappropriate) names, zip codes are being assigned.
A business, fete, carnival band or fireworks can be launched in the heart of a residential area as there is no regulation and enforcement of zoning of any kind.
Voicemail and automated answering machines are really just for show and advertising, with callers regularly greeted by an abrupt “goodbye” or “this mailbox is full.” Try sending an email or online feedback at the impressive website, but don’t expect a reply.
Media outlets conduct polls and “take calls” constantly, but these exercises are really only intended to appear modern and in touch. No intelligent, objective questions are asked and any feedback quickly disappears into a black hole with no consequence or seriousness.
The hypocritical part of it all is that lawyers, professionals and leaders all conspire to ignore the mamaguy and pretend that this is a serious place where quoting sections of legislation and making a point have meanings.

Rishi-Nirvan Balroop
via e-mail
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