October - December 2008 lime 41 Festival of Lights October 28 Diwali, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular events in Trinidad. Although it is a Hindu festival, in the island's multicultural and multi- religious society it is a national holiday observed by people of all denominations. The day is marked by prayers, feasts and the lighting of thousands of deyahs ( small clay pots filled with oil in which a wick is immersed and lit) all over the country. Diwali, or Deepavali, has been celebrated by Hindus throughout history and is the most important event in their calendar. The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, justice over injustice and intelligence over ignorance. Like other cultural events in Trinidad, Diwali is celebrated in offices and schools all over the island. Employees and even government ministers dress in East Indian garb, and variety shows featuring aspects of Indian and Hindu culture are staged. There is also a Diwali Nager ( a spacious expo type facility) where thousands visit each night to learn about aspects of Hindu culture and buy trinkets, books and food. A community event, after pujas ( Hindu prayers) have been performed, Hindus throw open their doors to welcome all non- Hindus to partake of delicious sweets and Indian cuisine. The climax of Diwali, however, is the lighting of deyahs after sundown. In yards, open spaces, staircases, roundabouts and porches, deyahs are lit by the thousands. They are usually placed on bamboo stalks bent into fantastic shapes and designs. If visiting Trinidad during Diwali, it helps to have a vehicle to travel to many of the areas where the glittering displays can be seen. In some villages, one may have to join the throngs of people walking through the streets in order to get a first-hand view of the lights and to receive sweets that are handed out. Alternatively, gaze up at stunning rainforest- cloaked mountains and listen to the chattering of orange- winged parrots above as you cycle through towering bamboo cathedrals in the nation's only national park, Chaguaramas. Otherwise, rent a car and explore the nation's highways and byways with map in hand. Be careful if you're driving though, you're more likely to be raising your hands to cover your eyes than in acknowledgement of a fellow driver's courtesy. Maxi Taxis ( public service minibuses) are the most flagrant offenders, taking a laissez- faire approach to road regulation. Watch as the drivers – who rejoice beneath monikers like ' Temptation', ' Pretty Boy' and, more worryingly, ' Stalker' – hurtle along sorting their cash whilst controlling the steering wheel with their elbows; blanch at the thumping volume of the ' tunes'; and wince in expectation of imminent impact as they veer across three lanes to pick up a late- hailing Tanty. l Conclusion Trinidad is truly an experience unlike any other. Trinidadians have been blessed with a beautiful country and are some of the friendliest, most down- to- earth people you are ever likely to meet. When you mix this with a natural flamboyance and joie de vivre you have the recipe for a dedicatedly fun- loving culture. It's loud, it's colourful and it's vibrant: one thing it is not is dull.
The Well- timed Conference Conference organiser Jane Barsby explains how well- planned conferences can provide a refreshing change from the information overload of our everyday lives BUSINESS 42 lime October - December 2008 " When there is a surplus of information, the degree of comprehension falls in direct proportion to the amount of information provided" ( The law of ' fast time', by Thomas Hylland Eriksen) T here was a time when conferences lasted for a number of days, when papers spanned a couple of hours, when facilitators were hired to ' orchestrate' interminable question and answer sessions, and when one of the main conference hazards was falling asleep in the dreamy doze-time of the afternoon session. These days, conferences are threatened by a much more powerful adversary – time. It's not that we don't have time to attend a conference; it's more that we don't have time for anything; because we spend most of our time processing the deluge of informational ' lint' ( lightweight trivia), which floods hourly across our technological thresholds. Nor do we have any real hope of actually absorbing the influx of information, much of which is of poor quality, and vast chunks of which we neither want nor need. The trouble is, we can't avoid it; because whenever we attempt to ' save time' by using the Internet or Email – more information floods in. And every time we attempt to ' take time- out', by watching TV or listening to the radio, even MORE information floods in. As a result, the actual events of our lives are squeezed into steadily decreasing time slots. And, because we are under ever- increasing pressure to demonstrate just how much the influx of ' instant' information has improved our performance ( and allowed us to work faster), we become increasingly stressed. Illustration of this concept lies in the contention that more information has been produced over the last 30 years, than was produced over the previous 5,000 years; and that one copy of the Sunday edition of the ' New York Times' contains more information than a cultivated person living in the Eighteenth Century would have consumed during a lifetime. Slow time vs Fast time As a result, the most valuable commodity in the ' information society' is the attention of others, whose vacant ' slots' of time become fewer and shorter with every passing day, while the efforts of those wishing to grab those slots become more aggressive by the moment. Apply this concept to conference- planning, and it becomes immediately apparent that most people are so busy dealing with their own informational deluge, that the idea of adding to it is appalling. Worse still, is the idea of talking about doing one's job when there no longer seems time enough to DO it in. According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who has made a lifetime's study of the relationship between time, technology and human life, there now exist two forms of time; ' slow time', which you can control and enjoy; and ' fast time', which you can't. This, he contends, reveals the REAL