BC Pires, renowned writer and journalist, recently deceased at age 65, was encouraging when I became a weekly columnist. Whatever the bite of his satire, BC could always be kind and affable.
On one occasion I met him by chance on the steps of the Hall of Justice and he gave me a valuable piece of advice. BC advised me that, if stuck about what to write, relate something personal. It will, he said, hold readers’ interest.
That advice was sound. I was amazed at the positive vibes that followed Shopping at Cherry’s, an early column (2003), which was an expression of my love of Mayaro and of my delight at lingering in the forecourt of a country shop—enjoying the easy rapport that is freely formed in village shops, parlours and markets.
In that environment hardly anyone makes style on another. Customers of diverse backgrounds mingle and share the same easy reception of each other.
BC received my column every week and sometimes sent a comment. In more recent and sadder times, I began occasional exchanges with him when I learned of his illness. It began with an expression of my admiration of his brave account of his illness and of his consistency in telling the truth about it.
BC was (using his famous word) “firetrucking” courageous and consistent. Even when tragedy struck in the form of an early return of his cancer, he exemplified the bravery and consistency he urged others to have.
In the course of those exchanges, in April of this year, he repeated his advice after re-reading an older column I had sent him. He messaged: “Nice one. Thanks for sending. I encourage you one day, some day, the right day, to complete an entirely different column that goes deep into the emotions raised.
“You, Kavita and your readers would all benefit from it. But I suspect you would be surprised by how transformative it would be for you. We write to understand our kind. Go brave on the right day.”
A hallmark of consistency is application to oneself of the advice given to others. In his moving columns about his illness—the last ones just weeks before he left us—BC continued to go brave about his condition, going deep into emotions, but still with his characteristic wit to the extent that one column about his dire weight loss was entitled Chances are Thin.
What is even more firetrucking consistent with going brave is that in May this year, in a voice message circulated to his supporters, he was exultantly hopeful—after all the pain and tribulation of his surgeries and treatments—that “the force was with him” and that he had “gone clear”.
How on earth could he find the courage to continue writing about his condition with no diminution in wit, despite bearing the huge weight of crushed hope? BC would not be amused if one answered that question saying it was divine intervention.
BC was one of a dedicated band, prepared to speak frankly outside of closed doors, cocktail party circuits and the bourgeois barricades of a social set about serious and damaging issues. He urged me not to deviate “from my line and length” whatever any social set might expect.
He relentlessly confronted reality. Characteristic of his incisive subtlety he wrote a forceful piece in 2018 about our detachment from reality in the context of a fantasy movie called “Inception” commenting that: “in the movie and the country, everyone, from chief suspect to Chief Justice is not who they are, but just vigorously pretending to be who they are visibly, demonstrably not.”
I cited this and added my own comment: “Lord put a han’ if suspect and justice become fully interchangeable.” Coming forward to the present, it looks to me like no restraining han’ has been put upon our rulers.
On 4th October, after I read of his crushing setbacks and expressed to him again my admiration for his bravery, he responded warmly and with reference to writing in the Trinidad Express newspaper.
Put simply BC has been an enduring inspiration. That is not a good that will disappear with the send off of his mortal remains.