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Love the Dark Days

In this memoir Ira Mathur writes of a childhood in India, migration to Trinidad with her family, the difficult balance between a career in media and journalism and family life and her meetings with the poet, Derek Walcott, when he takes an interest in her writing.

Ira Mathur
Trinidad and Tobago, India
Date published
7 Jul 2022

In this multi-layered memoir, Ira Mathur brings into mutual contact several engrossing stories. It begins as a portrait of the vexed dynamics an elite Indian Muslim military family, survivors in spirit and culture of the last days of the British Raj, a family in which the parents’ drives for personal satisfaction leave little space for the needs of their children. All this is seen from the perspective of the child: her feelings of love and resentment to her playboy father, partygoing mother and the fearsome Burrimummy, her tyrannous but also fiercely protective grandmother. The second layer concerns the passage of the family to Trinidad, where they moved for work, and their difficulties of adjustment. In Trinidad they find Indians of a very different kind from themselves, people who have remade themselves over many generations away from the Indian motherland, who have little respect for the assumed privileges of caste. Even more, the family struggles to come to terms with the sometimes abrasive relationships between groups in multi-ethnic Trinidad. Burrimummy, used to treating her household servants as lesser beings, is in for a rude shock when she tries this on her Afro-Trinidadian housekeeper. A third level in the memoir is the deeply personal narrative of Ira Mathur’s young adult life as she begins to make a name for herself as a journalist and media personality in Trinidad, whilst having babies and struggling to make her marriage work across many decades of Indian diasporic difference. Interwoven with Mathur’s much later attempt to make sense of these disparate experiences by writing about them is the account of her encounters with the Nobel prize-winning poet, Derek Walcott who, seeing merit in the vivid quality of that writing, invites her to his St Lucian home to offer her literary advice. There is, here, both a tender portrait of an old man in his last years, a sharp awareness of how much good advice he has to offer, and a reminder that the memoir, whilst “factual”, is as constructed a piece of writing as any work of fiction.

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Ira Mathur

Ira Mathur is an Indian-born journalist and broadcaster long resident in Trinidad. She has written over eight hundred columns on politics, economics, social, health and developmental issues, locally, regionally and internationally.

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