Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 2nd 2015 Contents B1
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AURORA HERRERALast Saturday a new novelist joined the
ranks of Trinidadian authorship. Sel-
wyn Bhajan launched his new book
Rum Talk: Diary of an Honorary
Drunkard at the The Big Black Box in Woobrook,
to a full house.
Bhajan s novel is situated in the heart of a wrecked
community that suffered the closing of Caroni 1975 Ltd.
"I was the Human Resources manager so I knew the com-
munity very well," Bhajan said. "When they shut down
Caroni, they put 10,000 workers on the breadline. The
change was traumatic. I knew the same fellas outside the
rum shop. I knew their stories because they would come
to me because of my own nature; they would come home
and talk. I also went to the rum shop with them and
chronicled what they were saying."
Bhajan explained that at that time, Caroni 1975
Ltd was also was taking care of the drains, ravines,
roads and playgrounds and that when the factory shut
down, those services were rescinded and put onto the
regional corporation which did not have the capacity to shoulder
"While there are 10,000 employees on the HR manual,
these families had about ten to 15 people in them so the
change affected 150,000 people in one shot," he said. Then
all of the parlours and rum shops and the groceries and the
transportation and everything had just gone into a
kind of trauma. But nobody saw that. Generally,
that group of people is a resilient, quiet group of
people. They take their licks and they plant their dasheen
and baigan so they never starve but they can t find
work because they worked in the sugar industry all their
lives. Now they suddenly have to reengineer and rescript
their lives. They are bright and they know more about
the engines in the factories than the engineers who came
out of UWI but they have no papers so what kind of jobs
will they get?
"You have to remember that this is where we came out of;
plantation," he said. "This island was not born out
of oil; we came out of sugar and the plantation.
There is so much within the community of sugar work-
ers who came from places like Baster Hall, Dow Village
Rum Talk, published by Lissel Publications, was
written in the span of six months in the latter half of
The subtitle of the book, Diary of an Honorary Drunkard
infers the style and merits of the writer. The novel is
written in diary entries, complete with a hand-
"The rum shop is like a silently breathing, living
being. It listens, hears, remembers, reminds and actually
provides a comforting embrace to tired, burdened and
"The reason I chose a rum shop is a simple one," said
Bhajan, who still resides on the Caroni compound.
"If I wrote a book that was political I would get into
trouble in this country. If I wrote the novel as a sociological
work, then it s academic and you can t tell the truth. The
academic language will cover the truth about the feelings.
There is a line on page seventy that says, "But you will
have to learn to listen with your heart."
That is the story of that book, listening to the people
with a heart, not judging them but listening to them."
"The main thing is that it is chronicled," he said. "It didn t
disappear. Many workers and their families simply faded and
disappeared home because where would they go? In Trinidad,
usually something lasts nine days (in the headlines) and it s
gone. Now, this is chronicled."
Bhajan noted that the suffering of those people is a scar that
will stay with them.
"I was very affected that the rest of the country
did not raise their voice," he said. "The tragedy
with his now is that because the company did
not take the time to work with the community
for their own transformation, their children
saw what happened to their parents and
they keep in mind that mind that a group
of people hurt their ancestry and a hostility
perpetuates a very real division in society.
At the launch, veteran actors David
Sammy and Wendell Manwarren of
3Canal did readings. Sammy and Bha-
jan were actually schoolmates in
Naparima College. Their vice prin-
cipal at the time, Dr James Lee
Wah, was in attendance and
received a token of appreciation
"I knew Sammy for a long
time as a little boy growing
up in Naparima College
and Mr Lee Wah was our
drama and literature
teacher," Bhajan said.
"Mr Lee Wah was inspi-
rational to this work."
"Mr Lee Wah was Vice
Principal of the school at
the time so he has influenced
all of us," Sammy commented.
"I am an actor and that came out of
our experiences at Naparima College. We
used to have a lot of interclass drama, just
for anybody who wanted to strut on stage
and then Naparima Bowl was next to
us, so we would have interclass
drama and we would have it in
Continues on Page B3
'The rum shop is like a silently breathing,
living being. It listens, hears, remembers,
reminds and actually provides a
comforting embrace to tired,
burdened and lonely humans.'
Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of
former Beatles guitarist John Lennon,
died yesterday at her home in Spain.
She was 75.
Her death was announced on the
Web site and Twitter account of her
son, Julian Lennon, and was confirmed
by his representative.
Julian Lennon posted a moving video
tribute to his late mother with a song
he had written in her honour.
"You gave your life for me, you gave
your life for love," it begins, showing
footage of him as a young boy with his
parents. It also shows footage of
Cynthia with John during the early
days of Beatlemania.
"The love you left behind will carry
on," Julian sings in a style influenced
by his late father.
It concludes with the words: "I know
you're safe above."
A statement from Julian's
representative said Cynthia died at her
home in Mallorca "following a short
but brave battle with cancer." It said
Julian was at his mother's bedside
Cynthia Lennon, first wife of John Lennon, dies of cancer
Selwyn Bhajan with a copy of his book Rum Talk:
Diary of an Honorary Drunkard. PHOTO: CLYDE LEWIS
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