Saturday night found me, despite my considerable lack of grace and coordination, I found myself sweaty and dancing at the Hindu Prachar Kendra post Ramdilla festivites. There is a way that dancing with children makes you feel alive and I was thankful for that moment of freedom.
On the way out, I confessed to Ravi Ji in the way that you can only confess to people to whom your mother may have complained in the not so distant past about your waywardness that I feel like I’m just not doing enough. The children of this generation for whom so much was sacrificed, so much danger dodged, so many battles fought, we’re just not doing enough.
So in wise uncle mode, Ravi ji tells this story as told to him by his aja. There was a man from a village who was very well known. One day the man is riding through the village on his donkey and then for some reason the donkey takes off at a pace down the road. The village pundit sees the well known, well loved, well respected man pelting down the road holding on for dear life and shouts after him something like ‘Jagdeo Maharaj whey yuh goin!’ and mr jagdeo responds ‘doh aks me, aks de donkey!’
I started writing this before I knew that Rhea Mungal had done the inconceivable and decided that she was ready to leave us.
But the moral of Ravi Ji’s aja’s story is, sometimes all we can do is hold on, even when life gets a little crazy and unpredictable.
Every story has a point. Every tragedy has a lesson. Every community has a Rhea Mungal. But each of these you have to find and nurture and understand and pass on.
Mrs. Ashby used to say back in the days on the frontline in Chatham, a stupid man is bad enough, but a stupid woman mus dead. Well right now I real vex because Rhea Mungal was by no means a stupid woman. Yet we have to contend with a lot of stupid blasted men in this country everyday. That is why Rhea fought. That is why Rhea did what she did.
I am thankful for Rhea holding on to this jackass called activism. She held on and fought hard not just in her own community but for all kinds of movements, here and beyond. I am thankful because she found ways to laugh and keep fighting and keep hoping and holding on despite and in spite of. I am thankful because she was one of those relentlessly amazing Trinidad women who hold on despite the sexism, despite the belittling, despite her commitments to family, despite her own personal struggles. I am thankful for all the women like Rhea who will never get to sit on a state board. Who will never get a national award. Who will never have a street in their name. Who do the work the men will never do and then some. Who are afraid of nothing but their own dissatisfaction.
I was writing this originally for Rhonda. And then I checked my email and saw a message that Rhea Mungal had just died.
Now I am writing this for me. And for everyone else who is worried about holding on for the wild jackass ride.
Hold on a little longer. Please. If not for yourself, for Rhea. For the women who hold on to nothing but ideas.
Hold on for all the Rheas who hold this country together. Without them we would have nothing but jackasses running about.