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Book: Ordinary people in a Normal Society by Dr Jerome Teeluckingh


An author's portrayal of an empty, tragic society

Dr Jerome Teelucksinghs's latest offering is a macédoine of interfacing dialogue and disjointed scenes clothed in a bipolar literary style, if ever it existed. The many themes of Ordinary People in a Normal Society see-saws at a bewildering and confounding pace. And it traverses multiple scenes - from contemporary New York to the Caribbean. Throughout the author shows a keen insight of life in the Diaspora. But not doubt, the mission (hopefully) of the author is bent on skewing the title to create raw irony, almost at a tragic and painful level.

This is  Dr Teelucksingh at his sardonic best. At times, "Ordinary" sways from over arching silliness to  intellectual vacuity. Its opening salvo is nothing short of incredulity with a biting jocularity that borders on slap stick humour. Here, the author presents obesity and obsessive compulsive disorders - still two mental dysfunctions lacking social empathy - to showcase a veritable problem deserving attention.

Deriding the obese or the compulsive is not the objective. Rather, the aim is to address paralytic disorders that bedevil advanced societies. Regrettably, these grave problems are so prevalent that they come ordinary and part of our social psychosis.

Nevertheless, the jibes and levity are side splitting. Overly frugal and obsessed with saving coupons, Sumintra forces her condescending husband to eat dog and cat food, that, overtime he relishes; and when she complains "that the water rate is too high," and “we need to cut down on flushing the toilet and washing wares, and the children will have to pee outside and also will have to bury their s**t in the yard," her daughter responds, "No mummy I don't want to poop outside like an animal."......

Readers will beg for more and Teelucksingh delivers  pure hyperbole with the overly obese and immobile Ali whose insatiable appetite for food will rattle readers. After consuming enough Chinese food to feed a platoon, Ali, spiking close to one thousand pounds and who capriciously wants to vie for the US presidency, shouts to his wife Indeera two hours later, "I am hungry, order some damn pizza." And five minutes later, he demands, "Don't forget to order the damn side orders and dessert." And what about Melba, the therapist who is hired to psychoanalyze the root cause of Ali's problems? Funny as it gets!

But Dr Teelucksingh halts the barrage of comedic lunacy, launching into Caribbean politics, gay rights, gender concerns and the role of the media through the prism of a series of characters - each one obdurate and opinionated. And the effetely consumed undertaking of Francine, garnering signatures to end poverty and racism also assumes prevalence.

The media comes in for withering tongue lashing as it is deemed calculating, nefarious and culpable for social ills. Presentations at a convention do not offer solutions, just finger pointing tirades and calumnies. That the Caribbean and Latin America should increase trade and establish a more viable political and economic bloc could be the most refreshing idea from a spate of rehashed ideas on American jingoism.

Views on organized religion, though pedestrian, are still provocative and worth quoting: "It is unfortunate that in the name of religion many are oppressed, deceived, exploited and condemned. Does God want or expect these antisocial actions?  Dr Teelucksingh gives his characters too much stage time - an error that comes perilously close to tainting his work. For sure, he stumbles devoting over half of an overtly satirical masterpiece into a tapestry of intellectual dribble.

Did the renowned historian lose himself in his own social concerns? Debatable, that is. But for the sake of readers who are disinterested in paradoxical exposé  and double entendre, Dr Teelucksingh for a worthy encore fortuitously resurrects Ali, Indeerah and Melba. Yet, it is but a spurt that leaves readers salivating for more of their vintage antics.  What is evident, though, is the encroaching ennui that seeps into "Ordinary" like morphine served - drip, drip - from an IV.

For Teelucksingh's apologists, his characters' social and political exchanges - nothing more than familiar canards are intentional - an admission of his resignation and admission that for all our political theories and purported analyses, today's society is doomed to repeat history with the domination of the haves and the perpetual blight of the have nots.

Yes, this is our society - as ordinary and normal as it gets.

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Ordinary People in a Normal Society by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh

Publisher: Xlibris, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4797-96173

Recommendation: Good