SATURDAY’S CHILD: Porsche of a different colour
Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936) was an English poet, short-story writer and novelist celebrated for his tales for children (including the Jungle Book, featuring Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) and the “white man’s burden” of imperialism in India.
A postcard by graphic artist Andrew McGill (1875 – 1962) featured a nerdish young man and an embarrassed pretty woman sitting under a tree with the caption, “Do you like Kipling?” The young woman replied, “I don’t know, you naughty boy. I’ve never kippled.”
My occasional kippling made a lasting impression and left me with at least one jewel of wisdom – being a man in the truest sense of the word requires special qualities, the most important being the ability to walk with kings and not lose the common touch. I am someone prone to excess, so I suppose this explains why I am not just common, but very common.
Unlike what Polonius (in Hamlet) advocated as proper conduct for his son Laertes, I am both familiar and vulgar.
I thought of this on Monday morning, the first day of the Year Of The Dragon. I was in Trinidad sitting in the office with Gerry Hadeed, an old acquaintance, whose Beacon Insurance Company has agencies throughout the Caribbean.
We were talking about the need to improve customer service at the Piarco Airport, especially among the security staff, when I saw the silhouette of someone passing outside the window. Gerry jumped up, opened the window and called out to the person passing by, who turned out to be a man with a basket.
Gerry asked us, “What you want to eat?” and turned to the person and asked, “What you have?”
Black cake, marble cake, chocolate cake and pone.
So this very powerful and wealthy man ordered his cake and my pone, paid the vendor, who started to dig into his pockets for change and was told, “Don’t worry – when you pass next time.”
That brief encounter captured the essence of Gerry and what makes him a natural leader. He was close to Dr Eric Williams, has several photographs with A.N.R. Robinson, with whom he is still very close, and pictures of himself with Fidel Castro.
In between all of his business commitments he has tried to combine his strong sense of nationalism with his interest in politics as the means of unifying the many different cultures and races that make up Trinidad society.
His dream is to help TNT achieve the vision of one of his mentors, Dr Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of TNT. When the country became independent, Dr Williams had wished for the country to celebrate the birth of “Mother Trinidad and Tobago” and the end of Mother India, Mother Africa or, for that matter, Mother Syria. Gerry is committed to this as a lifelong project.
I contrasted Gerry’s attitude and behaviour with some of the politicians of the Caribbean, who seem to love the office but not the functions; who are obsessed with the trappings and the glamour of power, but try to stay away for as long as possible and as far as possible from the people who voted them into office.
They drive around in the air-conditioned comfort of huge vehicles, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and those they supposedly represent.
In Guyana a few years ago, there was a cartoon of a politician driving a “bull-cart” into a canefield and emerging from the other side of the field in a huge Prado SUV. This was appropriate since it is a Spanish word for “small meadow”.
People spoke derisively of, and condemned, the “Prado” government of Guyana because the ministers of government drove around in those huge SUVs and it was customary to see a line of them in front of a “watering-hole” in Georgetown which they and their “buddies” frequented.
In Trinidad two of the ministers have moved from Japanese to German, and instead of Prados they have Porsches. The Ministry of Agriculture has acquired one for its minister.
The purchase of the Porsche Cayenne had certainly heated up the place, even making the front page of the Express.
What made it worse was a statement the next day by the Foreign Affairs and Communications Minister, who described the public condemnation of the ministry’s purchase of the Porsche as a “storm in a teacup”. I have always advised my clients not to draw attention to bad news by attempting to rebut it.
What happened is that the minister moved the storm out of the teacup into the public opinion agenda. Worse, the minister said, in justification, that the Porsche was the same price as a Prado, not realizing that was exactly the point.
It is why the following riddle is so popular. What’s the difference between porcupines and Porsches? Porcupines have the pricks on the outside.