My first encounter with Ishmael Samad was while working in the newspaper's editorial department. We received a letter to the editor laboriously written in long-hand on two-three sheets of lined foolscap paper. It was daunting because we had a 250 word limit on letters; or an extract. In 1995, Samad's letter, a well-written argument against the death penalty - just as Trinidad and Tobago was beginning to re-assert its right to hang convicted criminals as a preventive measure against rising crime - was an editor's nightmare, to read, to typeset, to edit. It would have been easy to dismiss him as a nut, but there he was in front the Royal Gaol on Frederick Street, with placard, protesting to all who would listen.
Fast forward to 2002 when the second General Election in two years was called. Samad turns up at the office of Citizens Alliance, a small and struggling third party determined to force a wedge in the status quo. Samad offered himself as a candidate, and was screened to represent the party in a Port of Spain seat. He spent a week driving around the tower of the then Attorney General - the man who had himself split his own party open by quarreling with its leader - playing the theme song from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Just as abruptly, Samad quit the Alliance saying he smelt a rat, and headed into the sunset after the ruling party's bandwagon.
Eight years later, Samad must be an old man by now! But there he is, on prime time news flinging a sledgehammer against the ornamental bars of a gate identified as leading to the house of the person reputed to have mis-used plenty more funds than in the building of the new airport. He is there, he proclaims, to make a citizen's arrest. He swings a hammer that looks like Thor's. He has damaged his finger, blood oozing on an index finger, like voting ink. As he delivers his speech to the gate, the Police arrive, and he is transported - we are led to believe - on the tray of an open pick up. (How timely that tv cameras were there when he struck the gate, when he went without resistance with the Police.) He re-iterates his position with proclamations published as paid advertisements on May 22, Call me Sledge.
What's the point you ask? What's the point of channeling righteous indignation? Is there a point in protest? In tilting at windmills? Or even this, writing of blogs. Is there a point in throwing so many gestures, so many words, to the universe. Is it all just pissing in the wind?