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De true true story

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Posted: June 07, 2004

"Talk 'bout blackmail and ingratitude, you can't beat dem Indian and dem for dat. Is like dey smell blood and coming in fo' de kill. De way I see it, dey acting worse dan dem corbeaux in de labasse, fus' de nasty…."

Ah would ah ignore him dere and den but dere was an urgency in his voice, a sharpness to it, that made me rein in my displeasure. Ah wasn't in de best of moods but then again ah wasn't feeling like a beas' so ah show a little bid of crotchetiness but not enough to make him feel so bad dat he would want to leave right away.

"What vex you so dis morning?"

Ah could feel de tension. He was in no mood to joke. Something was bothering him so he come to Papa Bobolee to beat up on me again.

He waited, trying to get some control over he emotions. De man was looking really vex. Who de hell vex he so, ah didn't know.

"How de arse dese people could come out and talk dis shit about Indians being 'preferred targets of the bandits and dem' and dat if de police don't act, dey go take de country to de United Nations. Yo' ever hear any shit so?"

Roy was going too fast for me. Ah couldn't really follow what he was saying and den he using so much obscenities. Ah know he could really use de obscene but it was not of him to show his mastery of the language so early in de morning. The occasion had to be right and it couldn't be pas' seven o'clock.

"No so quick, friend." Ah had to sweeten him up a bit. "Why yo' trying to carry up yo' blood pressure for people who ah even care fo' yo'?"

Ah was trying some reverse psychology on he; trying to use de same sentiments he that he accuse me of often. Tar him wid de same brush he does blacken me wid. But dis morning he was serious. He wasn't even repeating ma questions. Ah know things was bad with him.

"De trouble with dem people is dat dey eh have no gratitude. Dey deceitful and dey selfish." "How could you say things like dat?"

"Even dough you is a doctor, yo' doah read, you doah look at de news and yo' always want to ask all kind ah chupidness."

It was time for me to get vex. After all, ah didn't call he inside ma yard, didn't ask he opinion about anything, but now he wanted to insult me.

"Well, yo' damn fas' and outtaplace," I retorted. "Is you who wake me up; is you who say yo' mad with dem Indian people and dem; is you who say dey deceitful; is you…." He cut me off abruptly.

"Dey damn deceitful, oui! Yo' ever hear any ni… in this place talking about carrying dis country to de UN?"

It was a kinda dare. He didn't finish saying what he was saying.

"You know what de UN is?"

Like he forget who he was talking to. I live and work and study in New York, de home of the UN, and now he ask me ah stupid-arse question like dat. I was really getting mad now.

"Dey damn ungrateful to a country dat save dey arse from starvation when dey was in India with noting to eat, nothing to do, and no place to go when dey come down here as strike breakers to stop de black man from getting he rights."

The man must have been really mad. First de UN, den dey ungrateful, now strike breakers! Roy always had a way of surprising me. In one fell swoop he gone back into history, drawing out ideas like he taking ting out a bureau drawer in he bedroom, and talking ting I ent even sure about.

Now is my time to get mad and indignant.

"But Roy, what shit you talking about?" I, too, get into using profanities.

"What de hell de Indians and dem have to be grateful for? To hear Sat and dem talk is we who should be grateful. Dey say that if it wasn't for dem, all ah we would ah be dead by now."

"And you buying dat shit," just as calm and casual as that.

Perhaps I got too hasty. De way to handle ignorance was to be cool, present yo' point of view, and see if he have any answer fo' you.

"I ain't say I agree. All ah telling you is what dey say."

Again, cool as cucumber, he responded:

"And you buying dat shit?"

He had me a bit rattled. He sounded kind ah sure of heself and me, de big intellectual, stalling for time. I was taken aback by the directness and assuredness of his attack.

"Like you ah hear what ah say. Ah say is what dem does say not what I does say or even tink!"

"But de way you saying it is like you believe it. It ent even sound like a question; like you eh sure. Is like when somebody say, 'Is frighten yo' frighten?' Yo' doesn't know if she asking if yo' frighten or whether she telling yo' yo' should be frighten yo' frighten. The way you say it is as dough you believe what Sat and dem say."

But what wrong with Roy dis morning. He even attacking me, a defender of de Black people, and making fancy linguistic moves on me.

"Roy, let me tell you something. I know all about de history of dese people; de history of how dey come here; and de reason of why dey come here."

"Dat is yo' real problem. You know dem-story but you doah know de true true story. All you know is de-story dey tell you. But de story dey tell, is de story dey want you to believe. Why yo' tink dey call it his-story?"

Dis man was really getting deep on me this morning, almost philosophical, differentiating between his-story and de real story and how a question could sound like a statement. He wasn't finish with me yet.

"Dem people never tell de real story yet. Dey always lying, slandering and trying to get an advantage over you so dey willing to use every trick in de book and tell any story dat will get dem over."

Now look where he gone: from dem-story, to de true true story, to advantage taking. Ah had to protest.

"But Roy, take it easy. Ah want to get back to who story to believe because Nancy story and true true story is two different things."

"Dat is what ah trying to show you. You does take Nancy story for true true story and in yo' ignorance you can't tell de difference. You have to be a grassroots man like me to understand de difference."

Erect in his truth, he felt he had de authority to insult me. Somehow he had gained some knowledge about how dem people come here and wha' happen during slavery and indentureship. But dat did not give him the right to insult me. In de first place de Indians and dem came down here because things was bad in India. Dey had all kind of famine and so dey needed a place to go to. Dey didn't come here to put sand in nobody rice.

He detected a weakness. He was going to drive home his advantage.

"When de British bring de Indians and dem down here, dey didn't tink a ting about co… and ni… All dey wanted was money."

"How you know dat?"

"Ah read it in de people book."

He was getting excited again.

"Do you know dat when de slaves and dem get dey freedom dey went 'round to de different plantations and begin to bargain for more money fo' dey wuk?"

It was not so much a question as it was a statement. Somehow Ray was sure of his analysis. I did not know what gave him such confidence.

"…and because de ex-slaves was working a few days and making good money de English people had to bring in more laborers so dey could bring down de wages and dat is how come dey bring down de Indians and dem to Trinidad."

Roy's economic argument was strong. But how de hell did he know that or, what he called, de true true story?

I was exasperated. I blurted out:

"But what does dat have to do with de Indians being deceitful?"

"Dey damn deceitful. After we save dem from starvation, dey want to go and complain about we to de United Nations. Dey damn ungrateful!"

He was mad! He was insistent!

"But who say de UN go interfere?"

"Dat is not de problem. It is a question of principle and gratitude."

Ah was thinking of the African proverb dat my mother always used to say to me: "Ingratitude wos' dan obeah!" But ah didn't say dat. Ah simply said:

"Dem Indian and dem does call one another nemacaram when dey ungrateful so dey know it is a bad thing to be ungrateful."

"Dat is between dey own race and dey own caste. In fact, dey only use dat to keep de caste system going and to keep any of dey own people from going over to de capar side."

"How de caste system come into dis?" I asked somewhat impatiently. "You say dey should be grateful to we for what we do fo' dem. We eh do one damn ting for dem."

"You ought to be in South Africa when Botha reigned and apartheid was king of de day and den you could tell me dat we eh do one damn thing for dem. Dat is what we want here. Pass laws so dey could know dey damn place."

"Ah never hear anything so ignorant in all ma born days," I exploded, damn vex with he nonsense.

It was like ah wasn't even dere; like ah didn't even talk self.

"Dey is a selfish people. Anytime dey want to get an advantage, dey does always go abroad and bad talk de whole country. You wasn't here when dey went up to Canada and bad talk we. In de eighties and de nineties when things begin to get bad down here dey run to Canada for political asylum. Dey had de nerve to say dat we black men was raping Indian women. Ah mean, de amount of dougla you see in this country, you would ah tink we was raping dem Indian woman from de first time dey put dey foot in dis country."

"No one, I am sure will ever make such an erroneous claim?"

Ah was off key again. Stupid, meaningless language but I suppose it sounded good. It was like ah wasn't even dere in de same place wid he. My words was like so many eerie sounds signifying nothing, almost craving after a Bestian cadence-you know de big words Best does use--to convince de choir about my intelligence….

"Ah tell yo' dey like to take advantage and dey does lie. Imagine dem people saying that if dey people continue 'to be battered and brutalized by de criminal element in the country' dey go take we to de UN. Like dem people never hear about Boysie Singh, and Badase Sagan Maraj, and Dole Chadee…Talking about criminal element…Is demself who make crime and criminal in dis country???"

He was seething. Dere was no way ah could carry on a rational conversation with dis man. Boysie Singh?

"Ah wonder if dey ever hear about John Boysie Singh, robber, arsonist, pirate, mass-murderer, Vice and Gambling King of Trinidad, born on April 5, 1908 and hang by he neck at the Royal Goal on August 20, 1957. Ah wonder if dem fellars from the Congress of Recalcitrant Indians know what Boysie Singh's last words was when he take he last steps to embrace de hang man rope." "What he said?" ah asked. Ah was in awe of this man's knowledge.

He said: "I want to go first-I'm not afraid, I'll take it like a hero."

He sounded almost Christlike. It was like when Jesus said boldface so to God: "Father forgive them, they know not what dey do."

"Boysie Sing was a real criminal. He didn't use soft, silly words as 'criminal element' to hide he cowardice. He used to tief and kill and gamble and run 'oman. Dat was de kind of man he was. In his last days, he accepted Jesus and became a preacher man. But he was courageous. He never tell no stinking lie about going to the UN because dey eh like we, or dey can't protect we, or dey hanging ma because dey eh like ma. He was a man."

"Perhaps it made a difference dat Boysie Singh was born in St. James. Bhagrang Singh, his father, came from de Punjab. He was a member of the Hindu tribe dey call de Chutri; a tribe dat was known for its bravery in war. While he was in India, Bhagrang Singh kill a man of high rank and run to Trinidad to save he neck. He didn't come here and call heself Maharaj for people to tink he was Brahmin. He was a warrior. When he came to Trinidad he brought wid him a cavalry saber made of fine steel. Artistically, the handle of the saber was shape into a falcon's head with red stones for eyes. Dat was de warrior in he."

Roy was stupendously brilliant. He was not discussing any more. Like a spirit did come over he. He was offering a monologue, convinced he was talking wid he God.

"In does days Boysie was like a falcon. His eyes were reddish with murder. Boysie did not quarrel when David Leach, a French Creole boy, try to break he hand for sleeping with Popo, an Indian prostitute, and not paying she. After Leach beat he up and leave him fo' dead, Boysie Singh got he two African boys-George Harper and Edgar, de fisherman--from Rosalino Street in Woodbrook and took care of business. He dress up heself in a dhoti and a courta and when he and dem two Africans finish with Leach and his boys Leach had a broken back and de others didn't know what part of dey body to lie down on."

"Yo' lie," ah say in astonishment. He ignored me again. Ah wasn't really in de man's presence. In he mind, he dismiss me as a half-stupidy idiot.

"Boysie Singh didn't go to no UN to make no appeal. He beat de shit out of dem French Creole boys who feel dey could mess with he and get away wid it. Stay and fight; doah run and moan, like a sissy!"

De man was on steam now.

"Ah tell yo' Boysie Singh was a criminal but he was a true true Trini. When he walked to dat hangman's scaffold he know he was fulfilling he karma. He know he had to die a noble death, at home, a hero in his own eyes rather than a nemacarman, running all over de globe talking some shit about what some Worldwide Recalcitrant Indian Organization go do and not do."

As his words trailed off, he stood starry-eye in de yard even dough de full blast of de morning sunlight did not begin to come up yet. Ah was not too sure, but ah almost positive ah hear he say in a last effortless breath, "Damn dem Babylonians, dem corbeaux chasers and dem," as he fidgeted in his pants pocket for a watch he always carried wid him.

It might have been time to report to school.

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