My name is Rishi Deosaran and growing up with a twin brother has been one of my life’s most important forces.
My brother and only sibling, Akash, and I were born early on Ash Wednesday morning, 8 March, 2000, which is ironic. Because we grew up in a pretty conservative household and never got to play mas. Akash is two minutes older.
Until we were eight, we lived in a small townhouse next to the University of the West Indies sports grounds. Underneath plenty trees, the earth was practically made of fruit, because it used to rain pomeracs. We used to raid them and make chow at home.
My brother, mom and I loved to walk up Mount St. Benedict on early, early mornings and pick up pine cones, seed pods and cashew fruits to decorate the townhouse. We always went to the top. Always. One day, walking past the monastery, a fluffy white shaggy dog ran out. It became our friend. Until this day, it is a family thing for us all to go, before or after special occasions, to the guest house at the mountaintop and have a lovely breakfast to the sound of the birds. I never really realised I treasured that place so much [until I said these words].
My dad’s dream was always to have his own house and he did it, in Santa Cruz, when I was nine. That lush green valley and its soothing natural soundscapes is where I really consider “home.” Santa Cruz, the place, nurtured me; in St. Augustine it was my family that did the nurturing.
I live now in Kingston upon Thames in England, a little gem in Greater London. Rel [sic] quiet, rel friendly, rel cold. But the biggest thing for me is that it’s right by the River [Thames] and the River just makes me calm. I spend my evenings there when it’s not too miserable out. Study, read, sometimes watch the sunset... at four or five pm! BC Pires says, when he lived in London, the River was important because it led to the sea, and the sea led to home. I couldn’t agree more. I suppose it really have something in the water for us Caribbean folk.
At Curepe Presbyterian Primary School, it had a big savannah where, during recess, we used to play everything from pitch to football to sky-high. That’s when we started getting rel competitive. He was always just slightly better than me, slightly faster, slightly smarter, slightly better at football and slightly taller. Akash studies astrophysics, eg, while I study environmental science.
Akash studies astrophysics, “what’s up there”, because his head's in the stars, always daydreaming. I study what’s down here because someone has to be grounded in reality in the family. I always hate when someone asks me what he studies after they ask about what I study. They say, “Wow, environmental science!” to me, too, but, when they say, “Wow! Astrophysics!” to him they really mean it. Sometimes I tell people he does accounting.
Later on, I realised we make up for each other’s weak spots but, in childhood, I was just jealous. We both passed for St. Mary’s College, but Akash came in the top 200 in the country. He went to some awards ceremony at Centre of Excellence. I tagged along because I wanted to feel special, too.
My time at CIC was plenty ups, plenty downs, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think CIC let my brother and I grow into our own separate people. That’s hard to do when you’re always being compared to one another. Joe Cazabon, who taught me environmental science, pretty much put me on my career path today.
From age 12 to 14, my brother, my mom and myself lived with her parents while my parents were sorting through a mutual and amicable divorce. After very long suffering with Alzheimers and Parkinson’s diseases, my mom’s father passed away when I was around 14. I witnessed first-hand his deterioration. To see someone who lived their whole life, lose their memories of it [instilled] one of my biggest fears: forgetting the people that make my life what it is, those I promised I’d be ever grateful.
I study environmental science because I want my children to play in the same forests and go to the same beaches, rivers or waterfalls [that I did]. Nature taught me compassion and empathy and its grandeur humbled me. Above all, I looked to it for comfort. If he or she could not experience all those gifts, would I want to bring another life into an economically, socially and climactically harsher world? I think the answer is, yes. To live and learn, and then help another learn to live is a beautiful privilege.
We are fraternal twins. We always get looks like, "No way!” We always respond, “Well, why would we lie about being the shi**y kinda twins?” Twins who can't even frame each other for crimes? It's hard to describe but we are just as different as we are the same.
If one of us was getting licks, we would try our best to make sure the other one got licks, too. Unfortunately, unlike real life, the lighter-skinned child (me) didn't get away. But I'd argue that collective suffering is less painful.
Akash and I never really competed for girls. We weren't big sagaboys.
We were raised Catholic and went to church somewhat regularly when we were little. It was awful. My mother’s family are Hindus and Akash and I [grew up wearing] both dress shirts and kurtas. It’s been a while since I went to a “prayers” but I do like going to temples. They have wonderful energy. I would say I am still a believer. In my times of need, I've turned to someone, something and found solace.
I'd like to believe that there's an afterlife. I can't fathom nothingness.
Are you familiar with the golden orange hue of some sunrises? When, early in the morning, that hue collides with the deep verdant greens of trees and leaves, well, that is my favourite colour. It is a byproduct of the most important process in the world, photosynthesis, one of the foundations of biological life on our planet. It feels maternal, life-giving and warm.
I used to love reading when I was younger — Eragon was my favorite series — but its been quite some time since I derived any relaxation from it. As I got older, I started reading a lot of philosophical, political and historical literature. Reading became more of a job then, to finish those books took me forever, to understand them took me even longer.
My favorite book is probably Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I finished it in a week and read it again the next week.
I have many favourite poets/songwriters. Bob Dylan, David Berman, Mark Kozelek, Dan Bejar, Bill Callahan, Will Toledo, Nick Drake and David Byrne to name but a few. I'm just not good at picking favourites.
My favourite film is the original Bladerunner. Everything about that movie, from the soundtrack (by one of my favourite musicians, Vangelis), to the final line, delivered by Rutger Hauer, on a rooftop in the rain, half-naked: “All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain.” It always gives me goosebumps because the idea of all the beautiful moments in my life being lost is one of my biggest fears. Memories fade, and people do, too.
How lucky I am, to live and love, and to learn from the precious individuals around me, all of whom make me, me.
I have always liked soca but actively enjoying it [came only] after moving to England, when my appreciation of music and art from home deepened. I relied on it heavily to give myself some form of identity. Those songs have become soundtracks to some of my most fond memories and friends.
Akash and I are twins from what BC Pires tells me we ungrammatically call “a twin-island republic”. If I had to say, whether I was Trinidad or Tobago, I think I'd be Trinidad, because Trinidad is like the arrogant brother, which I definitely am. If I asked Akash, “Which island are you”, he'd probably say he doesn’t care. The [real] parallel between Trinidad & Tobago and Rishi & Akash is definitely that I don’t know what I'd do without him and I don’t know what Trinidad would do without Tobago. Maybe the relationship is one-sided in both cases, maybe I'm the one who needs him, and Trinidad is the one that needs Tobago. I suppose we'd have to ask Tobago and Akash.
“Trinidadian” is a concept I've only recently had to grapple with. In Trinidad I was just “Rishi”. I didn't need to think about what a Trini was, because it was all around me and I was it. It was only when I had NO Trinis around me and NO Trinidad to live in I realised that something was missing.
I was overthinking it, actively TRYING to be “a Trini” in a foreign place. It was incredibly inauthentic and sad. One Friday, sitting by the River, listening to music with a friend with beers in hand, I suddenly I felt like I was home again. I felt like Rishi. Not Rishi, the Trinidadian, in England. Just Rishi. I didn't feel I had to act a certain way or be a certain how, I was just authentically myself. And that, to me, is what makes you a Trini: to be authentic to yourself.
My friends mean so much to me because I believe they made me who I am today. I would be nothing without them. This sentiment is ten times truer for Trinidad & Tobago. From the moment I set my mind on studying in England, I knew I was studying it so that I could come home and help make a difference, improve, contribute. Be the reason someone else realised how grateful they should be to live in Trinidad and Tobago. Without Trinidad and Tobago, I am not Rishi.