A Time best forgotten - EntornoInteligente

Entornointeligente.com / News day / Yes, there are moments of levity. And nostalgia at times runs amok. Oh, the good ‘ole days in rustic Trinidad. The cocoa fields and rum shops; the camaraderie; the extended family; and an East Indian identity that is uncompromising. This is Bowlah’s world. It is complex and paradoxical. But here, the hands of time should not be rewound, for there is a cruelty about those bygone years. It is marked by a brutality that effaces everything in its path. It destroys innocence and darkens the soul. Life can be hell and for the most part, it is.

In life, we hope against the odds. This is well exemplified in the book’s first salvo, ‘A Daughter’s Cry,’ Meera must stave off her husband who has become a wretched of the earth, devoured by the spirits of alcohol. Oh, the scourge of rum. The beatings are raw; the cultural bias against women is generational; machismo is unadulterated and vicious; and tragedy is all too foreseeable. No one is spared the terror. “Look what you do now,” Meera screams at her uncontrollable husband, trying to keep the flames of violence from spreading to her children.

Interestingly, the couple had such a promising start. But there is no guarantee in life. ‘Free At Last’ continues in that vein. But its edginess is palpable. Sentences are crisp, succinct and emotive. There is a sense of dark exigency. Bowlah is impatient. Her emotions are flowing. And at the curtain’s call, there is blood every where. Domestic violence has taken on a revolting twist that scars the psyche, forever. This particular work is definitive. It joins the living and the dead in a macabre web. This is Bowlah’s single foray into spiritualist lore where the suddenness of death is said to mystify murdered victims. She deftly relates this confusion in this seminal tale: “I step closer and see the lifeless body laying battered and bruised in a pool of blood. Flesh is protruding from the gaping wound at the side of the head….The men in white shift the body onto its back and into a white bag. I recognize my cotton t-shirt and drop to my knees when I see my vacant eyes staring back at me. One of the men moves his palm over my face and closes my eyes.”

‘The Journey,’ in comparison is tepid, pedestrian and void of gore. However, for all its placidity, Harry’s yearning for his former wife Shanti is unpredictable and one cannot help but imagine that this is a doomed relationship, a useless effort at rapprochement. What is supposed to be an uneventful journey to ignite a simmering passion is interrupted by theft, an accident and a nerve-racking delay at the precinct.

And in ‘Coming Home,’ relief is eclipsed by the lingering pangs of worry and fear.

The road is bumpy; dark clouds forever hover and perturbations attach themselves to the community like fleas to a dog.

Undoubtedly, Bowlah proves more than an able writer and griot, holding her audience captive at every turn. Throughout, she holds the reins, never abdicating.

Under the Peepal Tree does not exist in the shadows of time. It lives, a breathing organism. It is who we are: defeated, delusional…really lost souls who yearn for happiness, a happiness that, if it ever decides to show up, is ephemeral.

Bowlah speaks volumes, her siren call delivering a stark message. For sure, cursed is the ground for our sake. This we must believe and never question. Only then can our imminent pain and suffering be understood and embraced as our inevitable Fate.

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Under the Peepal Tree by Vashti Bowlah

ISBN: 978-976-8249-16-6

Ratings: Essential

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