Ageing in this cussed country: Raffique Shah on how T&T treats senior citizens

In a few months, I shall cross another threshold of ageing, scoring seventy years of life and officially transitioning into the status of “old geezer.”

Photo: Columnist Raffique Shah. (Copyright TT Guardian)
Photo: Columnist Raffique Shah.
(Copyright TT Guardian)

The dawning of a new year set me thinking about the past and the future, although I know I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. In such circumstance, retrospection becomes the preferred option.

When I was a young man, meaning a teenager-into-the-twenties, enjoying life to the fullest during an era of universal revolution—in global politics, sex, fashion, music, education—I did not see myself getting past 40.

Full of energy and fuelled by a daring to change what I could not accept as fate in post-colonial Trinidad and Tobago, I thought then that I would “live fast and die young” in accordance with the street-lingo that was popularised in movies that influenced my generation and others.

But by quirk of the very fate I had challenged and sought to change, I survived the many adventures and some misadventures of my youthful days, coming closer to death more often than most people would in several lifetimes.

Indeed, I can say of my life thus far that I enjoyed many incarnations: professional soldier, militant mutineer, utopian revolutionary, defiant prisoner, uncompromising fighter against inequity and injustice, dabbler in conventional politics, crusader using the power of the written word, and more.

Photo: A 25-year-old Raffique Shah during the 1971 mutiny trials.
Photo: A 25-year-old Raffique Shah during the 1971 mutiny trials.

I have lived well past my life expectancy given my chequered experiences. But, if I had to do it all over again, there are few things I would change, and this late stage is hardly the time to rectify my shortcomings or undertake new ventures.

Oh, I’m very aware that many people lead very active lives in their seventies, eighties and even nineties. But on the larger canvas of life, they are the fortunate few.

Too many older people suffer with debilitating diseases that make their twilight years sheer torture. And to add to their woes, others they interact with, through insensitivity more than malice, make their lives hell.

These are not very pleasant thoughts for an old geezer to entertain on New Year’s morning.

But for me, they are sobering.

Last night, my nerves and tolerance were tested to their limits by a few inconsiderate people in my neighbourhood who believed that I, and others residing half-a-mile away, were dying to listen to their music.

Photo: A youngster prepares to light fireworks. (Courtesy Flickr)
Photo: A youngster prepares to light fireworks.
(Courtesy Flickr)

They almost killed me with jarring, mindless noise. In fact, with several DJs on the block competing for dominance, the cacophony was maddening.

Then the Baghdad-like battleground, on which the gunners had been test-firing their ammo from late afternoon, erupted with explosive fury from around half hour before midnight.

I heard howitzers, bazookas, machine guns, tanks, naval fusillades, surface-to-air missiles and other artillery I could not identify rattle the place with the combined power of an earthquake and a volcano.

Trained as I was in all types of warfare and weaponry, I could listen to the bombardment, cuss quietly and then fall back to sleep even as they continued their barrages. But I thought of others my age, many of them infirm, being subjected to torture by noise.

It’s pointless calling the police: they don’t even bother to answer their phones, and if they do, they cuss you, the complainant. Why don’t you go to sleep, geezer, give the people a break?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soca entertainer Swappi tries to rouse the ground during halftime between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soca entertainer Swappi tries to rouse the ground during halftime between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Noise pollution has long passed epidemic proportions in this country, and no government or other agency will ever do anything about it. They will not explore systems used in the developed world where noise pollution is well controlled, and where the same persons who raise hell here would meekly conform when they migrate.

But this is Trinidad, the noisiest country in the world. Even as I write, magistrates are granting licenses to fete promoters to host ear-shattering Carnival fetes, many in residential districts, all exceeding decibel-levels that could drive people mad and, for long durations, would deny them sleep a-la-Guantanamo.

Magistrates, eh, abetted by the police (no objections, sah!).

See why I woke up this morning thinking with trepidation of ageing?

If you think that ours is a society in which little children are made to suffer in silence, pray that you never grow old. The abuse old people are subjected to by government officials, public servants, criminals and even neighbours and families, many of them pray to die to escape this geriatric purgatory.

I see advertisements inviting young people to invest some of their earnings towards their retirement so that they can enjoy their “golden years.” Sure, it’s wise to save while you earn so that you can boost your inadequate pensions.

Photo: Say hello to my little friend... I call him "EMA."
Photo: Say hello to my little friend… I call him “EMA.”

But “golden years?” Forget it!

Abandon all hope once you enter the living hell of old age in this cussed country.

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  1. I for one can comisserate with Mr Shah. I left P o S to flee from the indiscriminate loud .music from the Morons over the hill from us. The man nearly killed me Christmas day 2014, called the police 3 times. Of course they never showed up. So we moved to quiet, peaceful Tobago or so we thought. 2 days before Christmas another set of Morons decided to crank up their music in a guest house next door. How a guest house ended up in a residential area is still beyond me but that is another matter. Eventually on Christmas day I couldn’t take it anymore so I called the Scarborough police. They were here in a matter of minutes and shut them down. Lo and behold they cranked it up later in the evening facing their speakers directly at us. My brother cussed them out good and proper. They lowered it to a tolerable level but by then my day was ruined. I just couldn’t function and had to cancel my plans for the evening. Needles to say I had to call the police again Boxing Day. This time I think the police took away their speakers. Not a peep after that. But it was three men two looked over the age of 60 causing this madness and disturbing our peace. One would think people their ages would be more conscious. Not a chance in hell. And we were told to expect more of this over the carnival weekend. Do we have a functional EMA? I think not. God help us.

  2. I empathize with what Shah says, but the even sadder reality is that this is not solely relevant to older people in T & T. Hundreds of younger citizens were just as distressed by the noise. A friend’s young daughter was reduced to tears because she was so frightened by fireworks that came too near their house. We terrorise and abuse each other, regardless of age or gender. In Trinidad, only the rich and powerful live well, and only because they have the resources to make others suffer. If Raffique was a rich old man, he would probably get law enforcement officials who would rush to ensure that he was not unduly disturbed. If he was old, but related to someone prepared to rough people up on his behalf, same thing.

  3. These so called artiste get paid 2 million plus for singing utter nonsense . This money could be used in health and the education system for making a better T&T for the future.

  4. Love the pick of queenie btw. And the content of the music Raffique, the words! I was in Massey, shopping behind a mother & 2 children. We heard, loudly, all about ‘wining on a bum bum’ & then, right after, two more songs with the same lyrics, more or less the same tune. I looked @ these little girls..being told, from early, what is expected of them. Sigh.

  5. Mr. Shah – I ponder on this issue everyday. We have become a nation that do not want to be responsible for our off springs, and we treat our Seniors with scant or more so no courtesy. A definite indication that things are going to get worse before it gets better.

    Children are expected to grow themselves, therefore by the time they become adolescents for the most part they are intolerable. Citizens who have worked long and hard and paved a way for us are not even prepared for retirement by the employers for whom they’ve dedicated there life ……..after which they are simply left to wither, hallucinate, become street walkers, abused, etc.

    Where is our patriotism, pride, love, continuity? Are we our brother’s keeper? Are we loving our neighbour as we love ourselves? Are we responsible and accountable for our charges?

  6. why do people think that i want to listen to their music? If I want to listen to music, I’ll turn on the radio.
    They place large speakers on their vehicles and blast irritant on the beaches….the doh care police and magistrates allow for this with bar licenses and licenses for fetes.

    This is a broken down society.

  7. Nobody cares until it affects them personally

  8. 70 seems young to be officially in “old geezer” territory. Cause Denzel’s 61 and if given the opportunity to call him anything in nine years, it really really really wouldn’t be “old geezer.” ??

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