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A Sense of Space

With the recent backlash in the wake of the Trinidad and Tobago edition of “Parts Unknown” – I think we all should be reminded of the bigger picture. Yes, the most important always seems to tie in with our perspective, but that is what it is. Perspective. And that’s all it will ever be. Some of it may have some merit, some may not. The funny thing about truth (apart from the fact that it hurts) is that there can be many subtle “truths” – it’s all dependent upon one’s plane of existence.

I’m fortunate to be involved in nature – which brings me in contact with many different people from many different parts of the world – all critical in determining that sense of space. When one is exposed to different perspectives, his/her own sense grows. Sometimes slowly, sometimes exponentially. You can’t begin to get a grasp of life in another place just from reading the news, by the way. We all know the media has an agenda, whatever it may be. I’m certain that whomsoever decided to give the OK for Anthony Bourdain to visit T&T fully expected a Ministry of Tourism-approved documentary that would catapult this country onto the world stage of tourism, sort of like what the Prime Minister believes will happen once Sandals is built in Tobago.

That’s the problem with Trinidad – and that’s why you don’t see it in Tobago. In Trinidad we have that self-righteous, conceited, pretentious, know-it-all attitude. Why? Because naturally, we are the extent of our world. The majority of Trinidadians spend the majority of their lives interacting with people who are like them. And I’m not talking superficially. Sure enough, many Trinis tend to look the same, but that’s a whole other issue that’s a direct result of not having your own personality.

Within our minds, we are it. No-one can fault us Trinidadians. Whether you’re from the 1% or the 99%. We’re always right in our haughtiness, or our hooligan-ness. Our “music” and “culture” serves the exact purpose of what it was made for – to numb the mind to the ills that pervade our beautiful society.

It’s not really our fault at the end of the day, though. Yes, the onus is on each individual to use his/her brain for thought, but if some of us choose to let data move from our ears directly to our mouths (or from our eyes to our fingers on the keyboard), bypassing our brains, then well; I guess we deserve it to a certain extent.

This is why Trinidad needs tourism. This is why Trinidad needs other minds to jump in the mix. This is why I’m one of the few people who actually rejoice at the influx of immigrants to this country. I’m happy for the cheerful Venezuelan mechanic, I’m happy that it’s late evening on a public holiday and I can still find an open supermarket to grab some essentials, courtesy the Chinese, I’m thankful for the Italians who make me feel at home when they are the ones miles away from their own home.

In case you haven’t realized – we’re all immigrants to this land, but somewhere along the way, we got lost, we got deserted, and we got angry. We’ve turned on ourselves and that anger has become a disease to our society.

Back to Tobago – with the regular interaction with people from all over the world, Tobagonians do have that sense of space I speak about. And for you special Trinidadians who complain incessantly about the attitude of Tobagonians, perhaps you should look at yourself first. Maybe, just maybe, you might be projecting that disgusting attitude that has become so commonplace in Trinidad you don’t even realize it’s happening. For the Tobagonian who doesn’t have to deal with this on a daily basis, it’s glaring. Nobody wants to wake up in the morning to have someone drag sand into their freshly swept shop, forfeit a “good morning” and instead grumble something like “hm, diz all allyuh have?”

It’s funny how two tiny islands so close to one another can be so drastically different. Mr. Bourdain saw it, and so does everyone else.

Of course, it can be a task to find a foreigner to adjust one’s perspective, but that isn’t the only solution. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, go outside.

Any time spent immersed in nature is guaranteed to calm and settle one’s nerves. Guaranteed to force the observer to sit back and question things. Like why does the bird go for the moth that’s trying to hide and fit in, while a brightly coloured butterfly flits by, painting the green forest with a splash of vivid orange. Like why does the forest go into a hush immediately after a gust of wind.

Somehow, people are quick to post inspirational quotations on their Facebook wall, or even get some of these sayings tattooed, but if you look at it carefully – most of the timeless inspirational quotations by the most learned of human beings are based on nature itself.

Do a quick search for “relaxing sounds” and you will definitely find the dawn chorus, or the gentle sound of waves lapping on a shore, or wind through the forest.

Have a chat with any religious leader and they will help you envision heaven as endless rolling, green hills with blue skies and clear waters.

So it isn’t a great stretch of the imagination to figure out the link between behaviour and oneness with nature. The more disconnected we are from nature, the poorer examples of human beings we become.

This is what I strive to portray with my photography. There is much more to see than just a “picture of a bird” – such as where does the bird live? What does it do? What is it going to do next? Perhaps the most poignant question in the current time: What is it thinking? As science grows and plays catch-up, we’re beginning to realize exactly how sentient animals are. For those of you stuck in “tradition”, I ask of you to just give it a temporary rest and let your mind relax and open on its own.

This is a Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Just a few years ago this particular species was not commonly seen, now I daresay it’s expanded its range to include almost all lowland forest within Trinidad. For a split second, it seems to be carrying out a risk assessment of entering this termite mound.

streak headed woodcreeper on termite mound-3






I knew I started off this blog post with the intention of sharing images – but sometimes the tangent is real.

The common and familiar Blue-grey Tanager (or Blue Jean) is currently helter-skelter trying to grab meals for its young. Even with a mouthful of critters, it’s always on the lookout for another meal – many mouths to feed.

blue grey tanager







We spent considerable time with a family of Crimson-crested Woodpeckers hopping along branches, pummeling the hard wood with precision strikes to gain access to hidden grubs within. Just a couple minutes observing this family, not too dissimilar from our own definition of a nuclear family and we begin to wonder if we’re doing the correct thing. Why aren’t our kids with us? Why are we fostering a disconnect within the family at such a young and tender age? Why aren’t we doing things together?

crimson crested woodpecker







Artistically speaking, the sense of space plays a role that’s just as important as the subject itself, sometimes even eclipsing the main subject. If I were thinking of the subject alone, I may have deleted this image, as the deep velvety reds of the male Silver-beaked Tanager give the characteristic level of trouble. However, the branch it’s sitting on coupled with the out-of-focus leaves in the background make this image a keeper.

silver beaked tanager










Even a regular bird can look wild, when in a wild setting.

striated heron





Of course, any message can be gleaned from these images – I just shared some of my thoughts, what has resonated with me. Perhaps something different will resonate with you. Perhaps nothing at all. But it’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s all OK 🙂

16 thoughts on “A Sense of Space

  1. Faraaz, this is a tremendous piece.
    For years I have and continue to wonder about the utter disregard trinis have for the natural environment. I sometimes want to think it is because we never truly believe this place is our, but we were thrown here into a failed social experiment by the colonist. But then again, trinis are the first to wear ‘patriotism’ on their sleeves during carnival and when a sports team/ individual makes it far enough

    1. Thanks Asif. The reason for the disregard might be an entire other chapter. Pride is something we lack as a people. It’s a well known fact that for Trinis to be proud of something, it needs to be respected on a foreign level first. Fair-weather friends. Only respect the respected. Crab in barrel. All that jazz. When Keshorn Walcott won Olympic Gold, how many of us even knew he was part of the delegation?

    1. It was damn good, and completely spot on. People are just in a huff because the truth came out. Realize how his questions about skin colour and stratified society made everyone in the show uncomfortable? That’s Trinidadian for ya.

        1. Interesting. I think Trinidad and Guyana share a considerable amount of societal issues – while Tobago may be more in keeping with the other Caribbean islands. Just a thought.

  2. Aliya Hosein says:

    Great blog! Although I was a huge fan of No Reservations I did not look at Parts Unknown. I just could not understand the hype. Don’t we already know our cuisine?

    And yes all trinis look alike- especially the females. We all have the same eyebrows and cheekbones. Scary time to be alive.

    Again well written.

    1. I don’t look at either show. But we streamed this episode online to see what all the fuss was about. Funny enough, cuisine seemed to play the supporting role. I wanted to experience an outsider’s experience – just to see if it went along with my general unbiased, unsolicited opinion. And it did 🙂

      Right about that – scary time to be alive. Thanks much for stopping by Aliya.

  3. Jerome Foster says:

    Great write-up Faraaz and very relevant, not just for the recent Sagba-Aboud fauz pas, but the general trend in social interaction with not just nature but each other. As a foreigner myself living here the difference in courtesy etc is stark between here and other tourist islands including Tobago which naturally is a results of differing income sources and the necessities that those bring. Oil has adjusted the behaviour here in many ways and not all have been good.

    1. Thanks Jerome. You’re spot on with the oil adjusting the behaviour here. Aside from the short term benefits of oil, the long term drawbacks in terms of social ills, environmental hazards and rampant corruption on all levels leave a horrid taste in my mouth. I used to work in the oil and gas industry some years ago – and I found out that one of the CEO’s of the company I was working for used to make regular trophy hunting trips. I couldn’t believe it, this is what I was slaving away for? For someone else to be so rich as to scoot across to South Africa once or twice a year to put a bullet in the head of a Gemsbok or Lion so he could boast about it at company dinners? But that’s a whole other issue.

  4. Patricia Turpin says:

    SPOT ON. Thank you so much for your article. The truth hurts sometimes. The issues between Tobagonians and Trinidadians has always been in the attitude. Bourdain was correct. Half of my life spent in Trinidad and the in the outside world and Tobago taught me the truth and a connection to nature that is so important- keep writing.

    1. Thanks Patricia. More people need to ask themselves the right questions. Glad to know that I’m not delusional after all – sometimes this place can seem to drive one a little crazy 🙂

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