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A Real Indian Trinbagonian

Published: 
Monday, October 19, 2015
TRINI TO D BONE
Rashmi Mathur. Photo: Anoushka Mathur-Fairfield

My name is Rashmi Mathur and I am a Trini from Bangalore, India.

I was born in India but moved to Tobago when I was nine. Fort King George was like our backyard. We would study or read there after school while eating guavas. On moonlight nights, we would imagine ghosts wandered (there). Secrets, dreams and heartaches were shared there.  

My Indian roots are deep—I speak Hindi—and I feel both Indian and Trinidadian. But, at university in Canada, when students were asked to introduce themselves, my 17-year-old self stood up and said, “My name is Rashmi Mathur and I’m from Tobago”

I went to Scarborough RC (and) it seemed like the entire primary school moved to Bishops.  I lasted just two semesters doing engineering in Canada very badly, (struggling) with words like load-bearing, fulcrum, hoist, combustion, component etc. My long-suffering father took another chance on me and sent me to Yorkshire to study optometry. 

I live in POS but work in Pt Lisas. So mostly I’m in the car.  

My husband, Neil, is British. My son Arun is 20, my daughter Anoushka is 16. 

I’m the sister of the more famous (media personality) Ira. People think we look exactly the same although we don’t think so. One person who came to me to have an eye test had seen her doing the TV news the previous night. “Wait,” he asked. “Is two jobs you have?”

Children are born into poverty, famine and disease while the world’s richest get richer.  
Where’s God’s work in either part of that equation?  

I drive past the Beetham every day. Small children running across the highway, people going through piles of garbage on the roadside.  
Do the oligarchy with police escorts even see them through the heavily tinted glass of their SUVs?  
You can’t live your life with the sole purpose of (entering) heaven or avoiding the alternative. 
Better to make this life count. What we know for sure is we are here now. 

If it’s a small group causing all the crime, start with them and offer them more than T-shirts and promises. In Miquel Galofre’s documentary Art Connect, in just two years, children who couldn’t answer the question “What makes you happy?” were laughing, creating, talking, and dreaming, just because adults around them showed interest and gave them hope.  

My favourite colour is black. 
But is it really a colour if it’s within the electromagnetic spectrum but not within the visible range?

I have a 26.2 sticker on my car windshield, the marathon runner’s badge of honour. But, in Central, someone asked “Which Indian radio station 26.2 is?” 

I’ve been running for the last 25 years.  But I’m more tortoise than hare. 
I would like to be fast but the truth is Granny Luces ran past me once.  

I got my first library card in Tobago at age ten. I read everything- cereal boxes, biographies, fiction, journals.  
I always have three books on the go: one in my bag, one at home, one in the car. Right now I’m reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s account of the fatwa years, and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. 

My favourite movie is Roman Holiday. I love B&W oldies. But, since Art Connect, my favourite director is definitely Miquel Galofre.

I started my optometry practice 15 years ago in Central, where people are warm, loyal and kind. 
We get plum chow, doughnuts, fruit and vegetables as thank-you gestures. People call to tell us their children’s results at SEA, CXC, CAPE. 

My staff of five have all been with me for more than ten years, so we have become family. 
They work hard and cheerfully. And don’t get fazed when people ask to see the visionary, obstetrician or the seer-woman. 

The best part of my job is that I love what I do, so work is not work. 
The worst part is the drive. POS to Couva is almost marathon distance, a 4.5-hour run. Sometimes I take two hours to drive it. 

Politicians and elections make it seem as if a great divide exists but a Trini is the definition of tolerance. 

India is where I was born and will always be my first home. But Trinidad and Tobago has allowed me to have a second.   

Read a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com

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