to rum culture
truth is a bitter pill to swallow. Is this why there was a
furore recently about an advertisement showing a river lime
and in which one of the limers was struck down with chest
pains? The complaint was that only one ethnic group was featured
in the advert and thus, presumably, they were being shown
in a negative light.
Well if it fell into that particular garden then so be it.
A more appropriate response would have been to initiate a
campaign to reduce and possibly stop this obscene and excessive
drinking for it is unhealthy and contributes to the many social
ills that afflict the particular community and the country.
Come on! Who sang rum till ah die and who is singing
bring it in ah bottle, bring it in ah glass
and where are these songs being sung and who constitute the
At a shaving ceremony in Caura River, not to long
ago, it was virtually impossible to hear the mantras being
said by the mahapaatra. Why? Because firstly, the limers,
yes them again, were not content with playing music for themselves.
No, they came with a huge speaker box on the tray of a pickup
truck and of course being full of spirits they
were blasting away.
Not to be outdone, another group, near to where the religious
ceremonies were being held, were drinking, splashing and speaking
in a loud raucous fashion.
Oh, did I forget to mention that on the banks on the Caura
River there are designated public facilities for the Hindu
community to perform the after-death ceremonies. Apparently
the rum culture drowns out all sense of shame and propriety.
By the way, the folks mentioned above, in case it is not yet
crystal clear, were almost to a man, woman and child descendants
of those who arrived. Talk about lajjaaheen,
The successful 20/20 cricket competition final, which was
played in the South, was an eye-opener, both for the standard
of the cricket and the amount of alcohol being consumed.
Television audiences were able to see live how
some spectators were not only on an emotional high from the
exciting cricket but also from the liquid refreshment
they were drinking directly from 40-ounce bottles and especially
so when the cameras focused on them.
As the batsmen were hitting the ball with vigour, so too the
descendants of those who arrived were hitting
the bottle, but with even more fervour. It was obvious that
the latter were hitting harder.
The rum culture that has come to be associated as a part of
Indo-Trinidadian culture did not come with our ancestors.
It is a destructive, anti-social and self-inflicted social
disease that emerged here and it is not a cultural inheritance.
In the past it could have been excused, not condoned, on the
grounds that life on the sugar plantations was indeed difficult
and that there was a lack of recreational facilities.
But nowadays, with a wide variety of recreational and sporting
opportunities and formal social support and counselling services,
one would think that the rum culture would die a natural death,
or at least diminish in adherents and significance.
Interestingly, the reverse has occurred. So what is driving
and giving renewed life to it? Chutneynot that of the
tamarind or mango variety. That of the vulgar, intellectually
To enjoy the nonsense that masquerades as lyrics, one has
to be not in a sober frame of mind. So chutney shows and alcohol
intake are like hand and glove. You do not believe me? Then
tell me which chutney show you have gone to or heard off in
which there was no alcohol being consumedand in huge
quantities too? See you cant!
The dancing and shameful behaviour that occur at these shows
are the very antithesis of the cultural values and mores that
our ancestors brought with them to this land. This rum culture
is no part of and has no place in Indo-Trinidadian culture
and, as such, concerted efforts must be mounted to jettison
it. It is going to be difficult but the option of not dealing
with it is not one we can afford.
The Indo-Trinidadian community is not well known for identifying,
debating and implementing solutions to the many problems facing
it. Do not confuse the whining on the various radio talk shows
as a debate. In fact, conferences and workshops organised
by Indo-Trinidadians to discuss and debate are as scarce as
indeed are the audiences that actually attend the few that
Being partial to the siege mentality, it would make sense
for us to self-analyse and self-police our cultural activities
and to push it in the direction in which we would like to
see it move.
In this regard, we need as a community to send a clear message
to the radio stations, singers and lyricists that we would
not be listening to songs with nonsensical lyrics. To the
chutney promoters, we expect entertainment but that we are
not prepared to descend into cultural barbarism.
As we enter into the 164th year of the arrival of our ancestors
to this land, we can lift ourselves, by our bootstraps, from
the cultural and social morass we find ourselves in or we
can sink into cultural hell.
*Prof Prakash Persad is the director of Swaha Inc