By Raffique Shah
January 04, 2016
The dawning of a new year set me thinking about the past and the future, although I know I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. In such circumstance, retrospection becomes the preferred option.
When I was a young, meaning a teenager-into-the-twenties, enjoying life to the fullest during an era of universal revolution—in global politics, sex, fashion, music, education—I did not see myself getting past forty.
Full of energy and fuelled by a daring to change what I could not accept as fate in post-colonial Trinidad and Tobago, I thought then that I would “live fast and die young” in accordance with the street-lingo that was popularised in movies that influenced my generation and others.
But by quirk of the very fate I had challenged and sought to change, I survived the many adventures and some misadventures of my youthful days, coming closer to death more often than most people would in several lifetimes.
Indeed, I can say of my life thus far that I enjoyed many incarnations-professional soldier, militant mutineer, utopian revolutionary, defiant prisoner, uncompromising fighter against inequity and injustice, dabbler in conventional politics, crusader using the power of the written word, and more.
I have lived well past my life expectancy given my chequered experiences, but if I had to do it all over again, there are few things I would change, and this late stage is hardly the time to rectify my shortcomings or undertake new ventures.
Oh, I’m very aware that many people lead very active lives in their seventies, eighties and even nineties. But on the larger canvas of life, they are the fortunate few. Too many older people suffer with debilitating diseases that make their twilight years sheer torture, and to add to their woes, others they interact with, through insensitivity more than malice, make their lives hell.
These are not very pleasant thoughts for an old geezer to entertain on New Year’s morning.
But for me, they are sobering.
Last night, my nerves and tolerance were tested to their limits by a few inconsiderate people in my neighbourhood who believed that I, and others residing half-a-mile away, were dying to listen to their music. They almost killed me with jarring, mindless noise. In fact, with several DJs on the block competing for dominance, the cacophony was maddening.
Then the Baghdad-like battleground, on which the gunners had been test-firing their ammo from late afternoon, erupted with explosive fury from around half hour before midnight. I heard howitzers, bazookas, machine guns, tanks, naval fusillades, surface-to-air missiles and other artillery I could not identify rattle the place with the combined power of an earthquake and a volcano.
Trained as I was in all types of warfare and weaponry, I could listen to the bombardment, cuss quietly and then fall back to sleep even as they continued their barrages. But I thought of others my age, many of them infirm, being subjected to torture by noise.
It’s pointless calling the police: they don’t even bother to answer their phones, and if they do, they cuss you, the complainant. Why don’t you go to sleep, geezer, give the people a break?
Noise pollution has long passed epidemic proportions in this country, and no government or other agency will ever do anything about it. They will not explore systems used in the developed world where noise pollution is well controlled, and where the same persons who raise hell here would meekly conform when they migrate.
But this is Trinidad, the noisiest country in the world. Even as I write, magistrates are granting licenses to fete promoters to host ear-shattering Carnival fetes, many in residential districts, all exceeding decibel-levels that could drive people mad, and for durations that deny them sleep a-la-Guantanamo.
Magistrates, eh, abetted by the police (no objections, sah!).
See why I woke up this morning thinking with trepidation of aging?
If you think that ours is a society in which little children are made to suffer in silence, pray that you never grow old. The abuse old people are subjected to by government officials, public servants, criminals and even neighbours and families, many of them pray to die to escape this geriatric purgatory.
I see advertisements inviting young people to invest some of their earnings towards their retirement so that they can enjoy their “golden years”. Sure, it’s wise to save while you earn so that you can boost your inadequate pensions.
But “golden years”? Forget it!
Abandon all hope once you enter the living hell of old age in this cussed country.