Home / View Point / Write Start (16-18): Alicia Dipchan wonders if bickering Trinbagonians will get Carnival off virtual life support

Write Start (16-18): Alicia Dipchan wonders if bickering Trinbagonians will get Carnival off virtual life support

“[…] In an effort to keep the Carnival spirit alive, people have been sharing their own versions of extempo songs on Instagram and posting their DIY carnival costumes on Facebook. 

“[…] There have been arguments that vaccinated persons should be allowed to participate in Carnival celebrations. However, these arguments are disputed by the claim that unvaccinated persons would unfairly be left out…”

Sixteen-year-old St Joseph’s Convent (San Fernando) student Alicia Dipchan is the sixth shortlisted writer for the 16-18 category of the Wired868 Write Start competition. Their topic is to ‘describe the ways in which you think the first post-Covid-19 Carnival will be different from its predecessors’:

Photo: A Tribe masquerader enjoys herself on Carnival Tuesday in February 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.’ 

Carnival is renowned for being the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’. It’s the most anticipated season in Trinidadian culture and tourists travel from across the globe to experience this incredible festival. Waking up at dawn and hearing music trucks playing exhilarating soca music is a rite of passage. 

So what happens when a global health crisis reeks havoc on the familiar tradition of Carnival?

Experiencing Panorama live is intoxicating. Feeling the vibrations from the pangs of the steel pan reverberate throughout one’s entire body is thrilling and unforgettable. The gorgeous feathered headpieces and colourful carnival costumes worn by masqueraders parading on the streets of San Fernando are an illustration of the hard work of various carnival bands in the months leading up to the long-awaited Carnival Monday and Tuesday. 

Even the feeling of adrenaline rushing through veins of steel as a blue devil approaches you on jouvert morning is memorable. However, these are experiences of the past. 

Photo: A Pan Elders Steel Orchestra pannist in full flight.
(Copyright steelbandauthority.com)

Now, one can only dream of live shows. Recorded performances are shown on local television stations for all to view. Bleary eyes glaze past bright television screens. 

There is no ecstasy, there is no anticipation, there is no glee. There is only a void of what Carnival once was. Displays of past carnival parades are shown and the nostalgia hits like a hammer. All we know in this post-pandemic era is impersonality.

Virtual fetes make a comeback. Groups of friends gather in front of small computer screens to witness their favourite soca artistes perform. Their hungry eyes are glued to the screen, searching for a sense of normalcy. However, there are neither strobe lights nor fog machines in their living room, so is it really a fete? 

An important lesson being learnt is how to have fun by yourself in the comfort of your home. 

In addition, there is surge in costume making and musical competitions on social media. One thing that hasn’t been taken away during the pandemic is the ability to share content on the internet. 

Photo: Carnival costume starter pack…

In an effort to keep the Carnival spirit alive, people have been sharing their own versions of extempo songs on Instagram and posting their DIY carnival costumes on Facebook. Social media platforms have made Carnival an inclusive experience by letting persons express themselves while remaining safe at home.

To everyone’s dismay however, the parades that usually take place on Carnival Monday and Tuesday have been terminated. The large crowds that tend to gather are far too great a risk to take. 

Sparkling, rhinestone-covered costumes and scandalous jouvert outfits will have to remain as a memory for now. 

Seeing photos from past Carnivals carves a void into citizens’ hearts. The two most anticipated days of the year have been reduced to video compilations of previous parades shown on television. 

Unfortunately, these compromises haven’t been well received by Carnival lovers across the country. There have been arguments that vaccinated persons should be allowed to participate in Carnival celebrations. However, these arguments are disputed by the claim that unvaccinated persons would unfairly be left out. 

Image: A satirical take on anti-vaxxers.

 

There is no way to verify the vaccination status of such a large group of persons. Even if everyone were allowed to participate, syrupy thick paranoia would be in the air. 

The solution is that if one group of people are not be allowed to participate, then no one should get to take part.

Not only is there a social divide stemming from these problems, there is also an economic downfall. Tourism from Carnival brings in a high revenue for the nation.

Unfortunately, unvaccinated non-nationals are still not allowed in the country. The Carnival season brings in money to airline chains and hotels alike. Local inns and villas don’t get the boost in income that they usually do in the months of February and March. 

In addition to this, restaurants and bars that are typically met with eager tourists prepared to try local dishes have lost out on profit. The pandemic is robbing local business in broad daylight.

Photo: The Idea Factory in Penal is closed for the Covid-19 lockdown of April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Luckily, citizens are realising that we are going to continue missing out on jubilant events like this if we don’t cooperate to get our country back on track. Although there is gratitude for the small celebrations we were lucky enough to have, we must work hard to adhere to covid protocols. Washing our hands, wearing our masks and watching our distance are vital steps to ensure we can experience Carnival in its full glory someday. 

When something dear and near to your heart is taken away, it makes you realise how much you want it back. Thus, with this added motivation, we can work towards returning to the world we had before our lives were uprooted by the pandemic. 

In conclusion, as a community, we must all do our parts to return to a sense of normalcy. Low spirits around Carnival time is atypical and frustrating. There will be no need for raised eyebrows and economic pleas if we work as a community to get our twin island state back on track. 

We are on a long windy path to recovery. At the end of the day we must ask ourselves, “Is this our new normal?”

Image: Celebrating the New Year in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Editor’s Note: Wired868 will announce the winners of the inaugural Write Start competition on 13 December 2021. The first place winner will get TT$6,000, a six-month mobile plan from bmobile, and two complimentary movie tickets to CinemaONE.

Click HERE for more information on the Wired868 Write Start prize structure and do share your favourite essays!

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