(Hopefully not) Tony Deyal’s last scene

Tony Deyal - Mark Lyndersay
Tony Deyal - Mark Lyndersay


My name is Tony Deyal and I have written a humorous column in Caribbean newspapers for nearly 30 years.

I lived in Carapichaima until I was ten and my family moved to Siparia, my “spiritual” home.

Now I live in Lange Park in Chaguanas.

But it could have been anywhere.

I lost my father first and then my mother. Sheer effing carelessness for an only child.

Through many of my own faults, my first marriage ended. So I’ve had two families, two wives, four children.

Ena, married at 23, Marsha and George.

Indranie, married 1999, had Jasmine when I was 52 and Zubin, 53.

I learnt to fight when I went to primary school in Piccadilly.

My father had given me a very short trim and the fellers tapped me the whole of my first day and the second day, until recess. Then I fought back.

By the time a month passed, I was one of the worst.

My aunt lived on Duke Street opposite Theodore Funeral Home, over the Dry River, next to Mansingh's Grocery.

Piccadilly prepared me for Siparia.

My father was an alcoholic who lost every job he ever had and, when the bank seized our house in Carapichaima, we ended up in the home of one of my mum's aunts in Siparia.

In Siparia, we call it SIP-aria. Anybody who says Sip-AREE-ah not from there.

At 19, I started teaching O- and A-Level English, history and geography at Iere High School in Siparia.

My students included (Opposition Leader) Kamla (Persad-Bissessar) and her husband Gregory. I was Kamla’s netball coach.

At age 77 now, I think I outlasted any of those who were there in my time, including Patrick Manning.

My great-grandparents were from India – dark-skinned people – but when my grandmother was born, her father wanted to drown her. She was white!

So Grandma was 50 per cent Irish, my father was 25 and I am just over 12 per cent, together with other stuff from the Irishman, including Spanish, Portuguese and a better Finnish than I got from Presentation.

Initially Hindu, my mother wanted to be a Catholic but lost her nerve and screwed up the catechism test.

My grandparents married her off to my father, who had taken up the worst job for a drunk – truck driver.

My mother eventually had me baptised, but when I went to Presentation, I kept the name Sookdeo, Hindi for Friday, the day I was born. The "Anthony" only came out when I went to school in Canada and I knew they would have problems.

In my working life, I lived in suitcases for years. I fit in quickly, wherever I am.

I find my space in my head through books. As an only child, I lived in my head. Especially when my father came home drunk. Or did not come home at all for weeks. Or my mother and he were quarrelling. Or she was sewing for other people so we could survive. Books did it and still do it for me. When my wife vex, I read.

When I have a problem to solve, I read until I get it sorted out and then go on my computer. I've never been without one since 1980.

Tony Deyal: "My writing style is 'cinematic' – but like the old Plaza theatre in Siparia or Gaiety in Sando. While I write for the people in house and a bit of highfaluting for balcony, I make sure I have something for those in pit." - Mark Lyndersay

My first column, in 1973, in Carleton University's student newspaper The Charlatan, was called Blackadaisical.

If God didn't exist, I might have had to invent Him or Her or even It. The bigger picture is to have someone you can pass on the tough things to.

I believe that, while I’m around, I have to try to be the best I can be. Whether God exists or not, I will not commit suicide – but if a car bounce me down, I won’t mind. I have lived a life of fun, games and laughter.

I must read fiction before I fall asleep at night. PG Wodehouse’s work never stales or fails to make me laugh.

Returning from Carleton University with a first-class honours degree in journalism, George John at the PM's office put me in charge of government television. Which sported names he had given the programmes, Face of the Nation – thiefing the US Face The Nation – and Issues and Ideas, which my young daughter knew as Excuse of Ideas.

I served out my time at government television and did not write prose, just dialect poetry.

When Chambers lost the election, I asked Therese Mills if I could write a column and she agreed.

I was one of the few people in TT who had the technology to send my columns and Caroni Ltd news releases via e-mail.

While my real work for the World Bank, etc, is a model of good prose, my writing for anything else is always fun for me and hopefully for the readers. I remember jokes, calypsoes and poetry, which I learnt by rote and pass on by wrote.

My writing style is "cinematic" – but like the old Plaza theatre in Siparia or Gaiety in Sando. While I write for the people in house and a bit of highfaluting for balcony, I make sure I have something for those in pit. In the early days, every fourth column used to be for pit, since I wanted them to stay with me.

For my collection of columns, Tony Deyal Was Last Seen…some friends helped me (choose) one column for each day of my life at that point (76).

The best part of writing a newspaper column is I have fun.

The worst was the day a lady stopped me on Frederick Street. "Wait, wait…I know your face." She looked at me closely, front, back and side and then said, with pride, "You used to be Tony Deyal!”

I don't blame ordinary people for the screwups we've had in power since the Eric Williams days. I worked for many of them.

I can't blame the workers of Caroni because the company lost $400 million every year. I can't blame the DEWD and other make-work, free-money workers for enjoying the freeness.

What bothers me most is that the Trinidad I was born and grew up in is now so deeply divided by race. We lived so harmoniously in Carapichaima, Siparia and even Piccadilly. We had an understanding that kept things in place and proportion.

A Trini is now a changing phenomenon. Generally the party in power or Carnival.

What does Trinidad and Tobago mean to me?

Tobago is part of a two-island state and an island I used to like but I no longer feel comfortable there.

I started an online, literary magazine called My Trinidad: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow because this is where I found an equal place.

But when Cro Cro started to tell me I had no right to be there or in my country, I stopped going to calypso tents.

When Kamla talked about an Oreo, I saw it as racist and said so.

I am a Caribbean national, a citizen of the British-created TT and a Trinidadian born, bred and battered.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com


"(Hopefully not) Tony Deyal’s last scene"

More in this section