I have spent a couple of weeks in Trinidad, where I paid tribute to the last memorial Hindu ceremonies and rituals for my mother who passed away in June 2021. Although I know she lived a full and beautiful life – I still miss her presence, her gentle personality, words of wisdom, spirituality, principles, motherly support, care and love for me and my family. It was difficult to say goodbye to her virtually last year due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, and this trip was to attend the final act for her before the first anniversary of her passing that I could attend in person. I would like to thank all the family, friends and neighbours who helped us in the last year with her prayers and memorial commitments.
At the ceremony, it was great hearing from Pundit Dr Bramanand Rambachan explain the meaning of life and our place in this universe. It is a great reminder that our life on Earth is only here for a specific time. The way of life we seek should be to find purpose, kindness and beauty in all creatures and our environment here. We were asked to pay our respects and recall our ancestors and elders in whose lives, work and memory we offered our thoughts and prayers – in the hope that their good work and deeds will be carried on in this generation and in the future. Going through this process in Trinidad with close family members – I couldn’t help thinking of life as my mind flicked though memories in time, as well as some deeper soul searching on what is the purpose of life on Earth for us as humans.
Death is not the end, your soul continues.
I am obviously coming to terms with the loss of my mother, and the loss of others who are no longer around in the family, network or village as time moves on. I presume that this is the feeling I will continue to have as I get used to myself getting older. It is good to be around younger people in this scenario to remember that life goes on, and that they also need our support and guidance to sustain them as we go through life.
It was good to see close relatives and friends after five years. It was my first trip aboard since the pandemic disrupted our lives two years ago – I had to be extra careful in avoiding Covid before my trip to Trinidad as there were tests to do before my travel. After the whole process of getting to Trinidad by aircraft, it proved to me that travellers needed to have a high level of digital literacy and some common sense to follow all the instructions for travelling, especially as we had to ensure that everything was uploaded, downloaded or printed for checking before and during our journey. The 10-hour flight was pleasant but we had to keep on our masks, except when eating or drinking. It was a relief when it was over as it was not a normal experience like in pre-covid times.
I was able to spend some time sightseeing in Trinidad and it was more for my son to see rather than myself. One of the main highlights is a Sunday afternoon trip to the La Brea Pitch Lake, which is the largest asphalt lake in the world. It was used by the Indigenous people of the Caribbean and it is literally close in distance to the South American mainland being located in the deep south of Trinidad.
Sir Walther Raleigh was one of the first Europeans to encounter the Pitch Lake in 1595 (after raiding the Spanish Governor), when he used the asphalt to repair his ship – interesting blog here from Raleigh400. The British set up an asphalt company in 1866 and the streets around the world are now literally paved with this ‘black gold’. Today Asphalt is mined and has commercial value – and it is still good to see and visit the natural pitch lake. It is amazing to feel and sink into the soft tar-like texture, and to walk on the water puddles with gaseous bubbles coming naturally from the ground. The chemical composition and geology are really fascinating, and the texture and versatility of the product makes it spectacular. I bet you will appreciate every road you every travel when you see natural asphalt like this – there are only three other natural lakes in the world. I was pleased to see international visitors from Suriname whilst we were visiting, and our official guide was very knowledgeable and fun! Do visit this natural wonder if you have the time, or think of the journey of tar the next time you see some. Instead of European getting El Dorado, they got ‘Black Gold’.
Being an island, life does not always mean that you are near a nice beach. Some are industrialised and therefore you have to travel a long way to find a good beach. However, we went to a nearby beach on the Gulf of Paria to spend an hour or so. This was in the deep south of the island and it was good to see rural communities and villages on a very pleasant Sunday afternoon.
Next, we went to the north of the island to Maracas, which is known as one of the best beaches in Trinidad on the Caribbean Sea. The drive through the Northern Range hills is breathtakingly beautiful. The beach sits on a curved bay with good waves and view of the deep blue Caribbean Sea. One must try the local delicacy which is freshly made shark and bake sandwich. It was a fun day at the beach in another beautiful place of interest – a must-see when you visit the island.
The final beach I went too was to Mayaro on the East coast of the Island on the Atlantic Ocean through various towns and villages. I fondly remember going frequently to the coast in the 1980s with my parents and sister. The miles of coconut plantations along the coast are truly sensational with a tropical treat to see the rows and rows of coconut trees and beaches, as well as the mangroves and rivers on the way to the beach areas. Even as a child – it used to be special to bathe and be in the ocean where the next main land mass was the African continent. I am so glad I have these happy memories of a beautiful part of the country to cherish and the area is still beautiful.
Not all is well on this island paradise though. The high level of violent crimes and safety issues are very sad and frightening to everyone I know in Trinidad. The days of small petty bust-ups with machetes and punches are now replaced with thieves, gangs and organised-criminals with guns. All the official reports and travel advice I now read stress that the crime levels and risk factors are very high in Trinidad and Tobago. It is sad, dangerous and also embarrassing. I am not sure what it needs to stop this trajectory but it has left citizens with despair, numb and helpless from village to city. I don’t recognise this island anymore, and it breaks my heart and hopes.
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.Norman Cousins
I did manage to find time to spend with family, friends and loved ones. It gave me a chance to catch up in person after being away for five years and I had time to see some memorable items from our family album, such as when my father received his 15 years award in 1964 – he ended up working there for 51 years. His story with starting to work as a child is truly inspirational, and he was a very dedicated worker. I also love seeing the photos of my parents at this glamourous and elegant time in the 1960s. This was a holiday break for me to reflect and keep memories close to my heart. We only get one life with limited time to appreciate and love those dear to us.
I am not sure when I will return to Trinidad again but I will certainly go back as it is the land of my birth, and my family and friends are there. I love the flora and fauna, food, humour, the culture, the lay of the land with the sea, plains and mountain. I only hope that the economy and crime situation improve in time. I have little faith but I am hoping that I am wrong. Until I return again, I wish good health, wellbeing and safety to all my family, friends and acquaintances. Keep well and safe!
Lord Krishna said: “Arjuna, everything comes and goes in life. Happiness and unhappiness are temporary experiences that rise from sense perception. Heat and cold, pleasure and pain will come and go. They never last forever. So, do not get attached to them.”(Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2:14)