I worked as a wardrobe stylist and consultant for eight years, organizing and re-designing people's closets. I've also been an anal retentive stickler for order since I was a child, and organization is in my fiber. My mother was a neat-freak when my sister and I were kids. Now she has six pets and doesn't fuss too much about the mess, but when my sister and I were children she beat those cleaning up habits into us well. I always loved (and still admire) how we could ask our mother for anything, and she would know exactly where to find it. Even now, I pride myself on the same superpower I got from her. I know where everything is. When I have to find something, I go directly to its place. If it's not there, I assume it ran away and no lo longer exists. I never look in two places.
I have lived through bouts of depression and pretty serious anxiety for about two decades. I have had months where I considered ending my life myself because the pain and burden of my mind can be overwhelming. I never have done it, obviously. Partially because my Christian upbringing taught me to fear the consequence of that. And partly because I don't think my family could handle the paperwork. But this most recent spiral had me deeply questioning everyone and everything I knew. Why am I trying to stay alive?
Saturday mornings in the Caribbean are not washed in the music of ocean waves. No. They are made of earthquakes. Vibrating windows and cacophony. The lawn have to cut. And the neighbor dog have to bark at the whacker-man cutting the lawn. We don't sleep in here.
I ate meat for all my years until I was twenty eight. I had fasted for the religious Hindu festival, Divali for the first time, and just decided to keep it going even after the deeyas were packed away. I didn't miss the meat. I was deep into my yoga practice, and the value of non-violence was important to me. That meant no killed animals. There were plenty of nutritious plants that could feed me, and I still believe this.
Recent generations of Caribbean women have been raised with a blazing spirit to match the heat of the tropics. We're hot and we know it, and our music reflects that. Feminist Anthems from sexually charged and in-control powerhouses like Lady Saw, Patra and Calypso Rose paved the way for the unapologetic boss-ness and savagery that come from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Soca, Dancehall and Reggae mavens like Koffee, Shensea and Nailah Blackman are rarely caught singing sad, longing love songs. Instead they sing about being confident, blessed and strong. To be raised on these icons has been a golden opportunity. Young women see themselves as the stars of their own show, not background dancers shaking it for attention. They understand from early on that a woman is to be respected and honored.
Another woman has been found dead in Trinidad. We as a people are outraged. Sad. Hurt. Scared. Paranoid. Blood-thirsty. And we are calling the perpetrator a "monster". But he is not. And I think it is extremely important that we start humanizing the men who murder and rape in this country. Because when we start seeing them as our fellow men, then we can stop them in their tracks from souring into malignance.
Suchitra wore red to the cremation. She buttoned up a crimson blouse and outlined her lips in carmine, defiant with joy at her uncle’s passing. She went dressed like the fire that would finally claim what was left of him, reveling in his death. To no one’s surprise the funeral was small. Baal was not popular by any means. He had no hobbies beyond TV-watching, and barely drank any alcohol, so the friendships made at the local watering hole did not include him. A couple coworkers from the factory came. A handful of family was there too, dressed in traditional white kurtas and head scarfs, huddling a fair distance from the burning pyre, as thick black smoke pushed upward through the midday heat. The wood crackled loudly, pelting glowing pieces as it broke. People stared at the woman in red, no doubt whispering about her disrespectful funeral attire. But after all her years of silence over what her uncle had done, this was her only semblance of retribution, and she found satisfaction in their gossip.
The first ever short story I wrote was shortlisted for a prize. I didn't even know what "shortlisted" meant! I had been writing my fashion and lifestyle blog for years, which had attracted the attention of some online and print publications, so I knew I could write, but my career was built around critical pieces about copycat designers and the colorism of the Carnival industry in Caribbean. The closest I had ever gotten to a short story before this, was a notebook my best friend and I wrote in when we were in high school. We each alternated writing chapter by chapter, a story of this girl who falls in love with a boy-band popstar at summer camp. Our classmates lined up to rent the book for half hour intervals during the lunch break. It was an unrealistic racy story of these young teenagers sneaking off to get frisky every second-- puberty porn if you must. Some twenty years later, a client of mine sent me details for a short story competition, saying she thought I would be great for it. I had never even read a short story at that point, but there was small prize money, and it was for Caribbean-Americans (my niche) so I thought it might be good out-of-the-box writing practice. I never expected to get as far as a long list, far less a short list! And when I read my story at the award ceremony, people rolled with laughter at my quirky characters; two young kids trying to steal a pack of nuts from their mom's workplace. The next year I entered the competition again, and I won first place!