May 20, 2006

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on India in West Indies 2006

Marley country

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Once you enter Trench Town, it doesn't take too long to realise that you're in Bob Marley territory. The walls have caricatures of Marley and bright screaming headlines concerning the Wailers. In a lane opposite Boys' Town cricket and football club, is arguably one of Jamaica's most famous houses – the one where Marley lived.

There's a flag of Jamaica outside, music blaring from a speaker, and a couple of men, decorated with Rastafarian braids, smoking. We're not allowed inside the house but take a tour of the backyard. There's Marley's van, now in a dilapidated state, on the verge of collapse; there's Marley's statue, a medium-sized structure erected from plaster of Paris, with a guitar in his hand and a football at his feet. On the plinth, are drawings of Haile Selassie I, the Ethopian emperor who was a strong advocate of Rastafarianism, and Marcus Garvey, one of the pioneers of black emancipation in these parts. Hens cackle at Marley's feet; the music in the background gets louder.

Marley played football for Boys' Town and some of his contemporaries remember him as a talented player who could play anywhere. In a run-down region facing rampant poverty he was a beacon of inspiration, urging young men and women to dare to dream. Today, Trench Town is the hotbed of violence and corruption. It's difficult to get to the place without being approached for money, without being bullied. Heroes like Marley and Collie Smith, the talented allrounder who tragically died at the age of 26, remain fresh in memory but the mention of Boys' Town is always accompanied by a regretful sigh. It was once the pride of the country; now it's better to stay far away.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo

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