From a Trinbagonian reader

March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments (3)



Oy good sir,

As a lover of Naipaul and a London-born Trinbagonian, I think your article on Naipaul is note-perfect. I had to write immediately to tell you so. It bears mentioning that despite my name, I am neither Muslim nor Indo-Trini. In fact, being half Nigerian, am definitely Black, and find on paper Naipaul is racist, sometimes acutely so. He is condescending toward his root culture and particularly unforgiving of his African characters and I love him still. His fiction is truth. And truth hurts.

Let me share my childhood Naipaul nugget: I moved (back) to England for a few months the year I turned ten, already a Naipaul enthusiast. The scene: 1989. East Indians had overtaken the better London restaurants (thank the Lord) and the English though grateful, were nationally bemoaning the influx of straight haired darkies (don’t wince).

I was in school in Kent, one of two foreign students that term. I remember being struck by how ignorant my classmates were of my part of the world. These people who were the reason we spoke English. I felt insulted every time someone called me ‘Jamaican’. I knew their moors, their enchanted woods and terraced houses, I knew of Bath and Cornwall, of Shakespeare, of Dickens and Jane Austen, of Churchill and Enid Blyton and the bastards had never heard of us. I was outraged. I wanted to hand out copies of Miguel Street.

The other foreign student was a mute (by choice and culture shock) East Indian boy. I thought I had more in common with him than the English, because coming from Trinidad, I am a lover of roti and channa is channa not chickpeas. I knew Divali, Phagwa, and Eid as well I knew Christmas, but the boy refused to talk to me. I knew then that these things (these things which were in no way connected) were signs: I must write and give voice to our people as Naipaul did, so that my peers would be properly illumined.

Having lived outside of Trinidad and Tobago for more than half my life, Naipaul’s voice in his early work is quintessentially Trinidadian. As a New Yorker, for years now, when I want to go home I go to Miguel Street,  I visit the Mystic Masseur and remember Hanuman House and grander days. After the Nobel, after gaining popularity for piling on the derision on our parts so successfully, so lovingly, he should have said, this is for you Trinidad.

Thank you,



3 Responses to “From a Trinbagonian reader”

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  1. Comment by vijeeMarch 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm   Reply

    I was recently in Port-of-Spain where our cabbie+ self-appointed guide was a nice old gentleman of Indian origin.

    While he was very happy to show us the sights, wanted to take us to the best dhalpuri roti place, doubles and so on etc., he didn’t seem too happy when we asked him to take us to Hanuman House or the place where V.S.Naipaul grew up.

    I figured that the people there, perhaps, care as little about V.S.N as he does about them.

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