Saturday, April 01, 2006

Phagwa - A 1970s B-movie

Phagwa (courtesy of Alex Khan)

A infograph which details the root causes of the Phagwa Disaster of 2006, Trinidad and Tobago. Could this tragedy have been averted? Or was it the inevitable outcome of a chain of events set into motion centuries ago? We may never know for certain....

Phagwa was a catastrophe out of a 1970s B-movie, or perhaps Bee-movie is more apt. So though I have not much to report, I've excerpted below my description of the day's events.

I was attending a Hindu festival of Phagwa (Trinidad is 50% East Indian), a celebration of the first day of Spring, marked by festive salvos colored dyes and powders on anyone within range. No sooner had the opening prayers were uttered than a cloud of Africanized (a.k.a. "killer") bees erupted from the Samaan tree under which everyone was taking cover from the Mid-day sun. It's moments like this that you remember you are in the Tropics, where everything is bigger, weirder, or just plain alien (there is a tree in the main park I call a "spatula tree" since that is exactly what appears to be hanging in the hundred from its droopy tenrdrils).

The prophetic 18th-century tapestry, which shows Lord Siva's epic battle against a swarm of bees. Note his uppermost hand, holding a pair of Snow-cones with which he taunts and enrages his adversaries.(courtesy of Alex Khan)

Anyway, people were wildly beating zig-zagged retreats away from the tree, rolling on the ground, or slapping themselves in paroxysms of terror. The bees were not randomly flying around, but were instead forming groups, targeting individuals, and dogging them methodically and relentlessly. Those afflicted by these clusters of bees sought help from the crowd, who fled from them as if from lepers, for fear of becoming the bees' next targets. The official announcers, searching impotently to say something instructive and allay the sudden panic, suddenly blurted out, with great authority, "Turn off the Snow-Cone machine! I repeat! Please turn off the Snow-Cone maker immediately!"

Like Ashcroft's duct tape invective, it was a successful demonstration of how one can combat fear with total absurdity. Within five (long) minutes, a pack of bees small enough to fit in a coffee-can had emptied the field of 200 people and brought the Vernal Equinox to a screeching halt.

1 comment:

Makeda said...


What a fantastically hilarious story. Thanks for sharing!



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