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V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville



CONTENTS

1 BOGART
2 THE THING WITHOUT A NAME
3 GEORGE AND THE PINK HOUSE
4 HIS CHOSEN CALLING
5 MAN -MAN
6 B. WORDSWORTH
7 THE COWARD
8 THE PYROTECHNICIST
9 TITUS HOYT, I.A.
10 THE MATERNAL INSTINCT
11 THE BLUE CART
12 LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, ALONE
13 THE MECHANICAL GENIUS
14 CAUTION
15 UNTIL THE SOLDIERS CAME
16 HAT
17 HOW I LEFT MIGUEL STREET

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
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INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville

4

HIS CHOSEN CALLING

PART 1

After midnight there were two regular noises in the street. At about two o’clock RX
heard the sweepers; and then, just before dawn, the scavenging -carts came and you
heard the men scraping off the rubbish the sweepers had gathered into heaps.
No boy in th e street particularly wished to be a sweeper. But if you asked any boy
what he would like to be, he would sa,JRLQJEHDFDUt -driver.’
There was certainly a glamour to driving the blue carts. The men were aristocrats.
They worked early in the morning a nd had the rest of the day free. And then they were
alwaVJRLQJRQVWULNH7KH didn’t strike for much. TheVWUXFNIRUWKLQJVOLNHDFHQWPRUH
a day; they struck if someone was laid off. They struck when the war began; they struck
when the war ended. The y struck when India got independence. They struck when Gan-
dhi died.
Eddoes, who was a driver, was admired by most of the boys. He said his father
was the best cart -driver of his da and he told us great stories of the old man’s skill.
Eddoes came from a l ow Hindu caste, and there was a lot of truth in what he said. His
skill was a sort of family skill, passing from father to son.
One day I was sweeping the pavement in front of the house where I lived, and
Eddoes came and wanted to take away the broom from me. I liked sweeping and I didn’t
want to give him the broom.
‘BoZKDWou know about sweeping?’ Eddoes asked, laughing.
I said, ‘What, it have so much to know?’
Eddoes said, ‘This is mMREER. I have experience. Wait until RXELJOLNHPH’
I gave hi m the broom.
I was sad for a long time afterwards. It seemed that I would never never grow as
big as Eddoes, never have that thing he called experience. I began to admire Eddoes
more than ever; and more than ever I wanted to be a cart -driver.
But Elias was not that sort of boy.

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
When we who formed the Junior Miguel Street Club squatted on the pavement,
talking, like Hat and Bogart and the others, about things like life and cricket and football,
I said to Elias, ‘So RX don’t want to be a cart -driver? What yo u want to be then? A
sweeper?’
Elias spat neatlLQWRWKHJXWWHUDQGORRNHGGRZQ+HVDLGYHU earnestl,WKLQN,
going be a doctor, RXKHDU’
If Boyee or Errol had said something like that, we would all have laughed. But we
recognised that Elias was d ifferent, that Elias had brains.
We all felt sorry for Elias. His father George brutalised the boy with blows, but Elias
never cried, never spoke a word against his father.
One day I was going to Chin’s shop to buy three cents’ worth of butter, and I asked
Elias to come with me. I didn’t see George about, and I thought it was safe.
We were just about two houses away when we saw George. Elias grew scared.
George came up and said sharpl:KHUH\RXJRLQJ"$QGDWWKHVDPHWLPHKHODQGHG
a powerful cuff on Elias’s jaw.
George liked beating Elias. He used to tie him with rope, and then beat him with
rope he had soaked in the gutters of his cow -pen. Elias didn’t crHYHQWKHQ$QGVKRUWO\
after, I would see George laughing with Elias, and George used to say to me, ‘I know
what RXWKLQNLQJ<RXZRQGHULQJKRZPHDQGKHJHWVRIULHQGO so quick.’
The more I disliked George, the more I liked Elias.
I was prepared to believe that he would become a doctor some day.
Errol said, ‘I bet RXZKHQKHFRPHGRFWRUDQGt hing he go forget the rest of we.
Eh, Elias?’
A small smile appeared on Elias’s lips.
‘Nah,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t be like that. I go give a lot of moneDQGWKLQJWRou and
BoHHDQGWKHUHVWRIou fellows.’ And Elias waved his small hands, and we though t we
could see the Cadillac and the black bag and the tube -thing that Elias was going to have
when he became a doctor.
Elias began going to the school at the other end of Miguel Street. It didn’t really
look like a school at all. It looked just like any ho use to me, but there was a sign outside
that said:

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
TITUS HOYT, I.A. (London, External)
Passes in the Cambridge
School Certificate Guaranteed

The odd thing was that although George beat Elias at the slightest opportunity, he
was ver proud that his son was getting an education. ‘The bo learning a hell of a lot,
you know. He reading Spanish, French and Latin, and he writing Spanish, French and
Latin.’
The year before his mother died, Elias sat for the Cambridge Senior School Cer-
tificate.
Titus Hoyt came down to our end of the street.
‘That boJRLQJSDVVZLWKKRQRXUV7LWXV+Rt said. ‘With honours.’
We saw Elias dressed in neat khaki trousers a nd white shirt, going to the exami-
nation room, and we looked at him with awe.
Errol said, ‘EverWKLQJ(OLDV write not remaining here, you know. EverZRUG that
boZULWHJRLQJWR(QJODQG’
It didn’t sound true.
‘What RXWKLQNLWLVDWDOO"(UUROVDLGE lias have brains, RXNQRZ’
Elias’s mother died in JanuarDQGWKHUHVXOWVFDPHRXWLQ0DUFK.
Elias hadn’t passed.
Hat looked through the list in the Guardian over and over again, looking for Elias’s
name, saLQJ<RXQHYHUNQRZ3HRSOHDOZDs making mistake, especiallZKHQLWKDYH
so much names.’
Elias’s name wasn’t in the paper.
BoHHVDLG:KDWHOVHou expect? W ho correct the papers? Englishman, not so?
You expect them to give Elias a pass?’
Elias was with us, looking sad and not saying a word.
Hat said, ‘Is a damn shame. If the know what hell the bo have to put up with,
theZRXOGDSDVVKLPTXLFNTXLFN’
Titus HoW said, ‘Don’t worr Rome wasn’t built in a da This HDU This HDU
things going be much much better. We go show those Englishmen and them.’

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
Elias left us and he began living with Titus Hoyt. We saw next to nothing of him.
He was working night and day.
One daLQWKHIROORZLQJ0DUFK7LWXV+R\WURGHXSWRXVDQGVDLG<RXKHDUZKDW
happen?’
‘What happen?’ Hat asked.
‘The boy is a genius,’ Titus HoWVDLG.
‘Which bo"(UURODVNHG.
‘Elias.’
‘What Elias do?’
‘The boy gone and pass the Cambridge Senio r School Certificate.’
Hat whistled. ‘The Cambridge Senior School Certificate?’
Titus HoW smiled. ‘That self. He get a third grade. His name going to be in the
papers tomorrow. I always say it, and I saying it again now, this boy Elias have too much
brain s.’
Hat said later, ‘Is too bad that Elias father dead. He was a good -for -nothing, but he
wanted to see his son a educated man.’
Elias came that evening, and everybody, boys and men, gathered around him.
They talked about everything but books, and Elias, t oo, was talking about things like pic-
tures and girls and cricket. He was looking very solemn, too.
There was a pause once, and Hat said, ‘What RX going to do now, Elias? Look
for work?’
Elias spat. ‘Nah, I think I will write the exam again.’
I said, ‘But why?’
‘I want a second grade.’
We understood. He wanted to be a doctor.
Elias sat down on the pavement and said, ‘Yes, bo I think I going to take that
exam again, and this year I going to be so good that this Mr Cambridge go bawl when he
read what I writ e for him.’
We were silent, in wonder.
‘Is the English and litritcher that does beat me.’

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
In Elias’s mouth litritcher was the most beautiful word I heard. It sounded like some-
thing to eat, something rich like chocolate.
Hat said, ‘You mean you have to read a lot of poultrDQGWKLQJ"’
Elias nodded. We felt it wasn’t fair, making a boOLNH(OLDVGROLWULWFKHUDQGSRXOWU.

PART 2

Elias moved back into the pink house which had been empty since his father died.
He was studying and working. He went back to Titus HoWVVFKRROQRWDVSXSLOEXWDVD
teacher, and Titus Hoyt said he was giving him forty dollars a month.
Titus HoWDGGHG+HZRUWKLWWRR+HLVRQHRIWKHEULJKWHVWERs in Port of Spain.’
Now that Elias was back with us, we noticed hi m better. He was the cleanest boy
in the street. He bathed twice a day and scrubbed his teeth twice a day. He did all this
standing up at the tap in front of the house. He swept the house every morning before
going to school. He was the opposite of his fat her. His father was short and fat and dirty.
He was tall and thin and clean. His father drank and swore. He never drank and no one
ever heard him use a bad word.
MPRWKHUXVHGWRVD\WRPH:K\ou don’t take after Elias? I reallGRQWNQRZ
what sort of son God give me, RXKHDU’
And whenever Hat or Edward beat BoHH and Errol, theDOZDs said, ‘Wh RX
beating we for? Not everERG could be like Elias, RXNQRZ’
Hat used to say, ‘And it ain’t onlWKDWKHJRWEUDLQV7KHER\(OLDVKDYHQLFHZDs
too. ’
So I think I was a little glad when Elias sat the examination for the third time, and
failed.
Hat said, ‘You see how we catch these Englishmen and them. Nobod here can
tell me that the boGLGQWSDVVWKHH[DPEXWou think they go want to give him a b etter
grade? Ha!
And everERG said, ‘Is a real shame.’
And when Hat asked Elias, ‘What RXJRLQJWRGRQRZER?’ Elias said, ‘You know,
I think I go take up a job. I think I go be a sanitarLQVSHFWRU’

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
We saw him in khaki uniform and khaki topee, going from house to house with a
little notebook.
‘Yes,’ Elias said. ‘SanitarLQVSHFWRUWKDWVZKDW,JRLQJWREH’
Hat said, ‘It have a lot of money in that, I think. I hear RXUIDWKHU*HRUJHXVHVWR
pay the sanitary inspector five dollars a month to keep hi s mouth shut. Let we say you get
about ten or even eight people like that. That’s — let me see … ten fives is fiftHLJKWILYHV
is fort7KHUHILIW, fortGROODUVVWUDLJKW$QGPDUNou, that ain’t counting RXUVDODU.’
Elias said, ‘Is not the mone,t hinking about. I reallOLNHWKHZRUN’
It was easy to understand that.
Elias said, ‘But it have a exam, you know.’
Hat said, ‘But they don’t send the papers to England for that?’
Elias said, ‘Nah, but still, I fraid exams and things, you know. I ain’t hav e any luck
with them.’
BoHHVDLG%XW,WKRXJKW\RXZDVWKLQNLQJRIWDNLQJXSGRFWRULQJ’
Hat said, ‘BoHH,JRLQJWRFXWour little tail if RXGRQWVKXWXS’
But BoHHGLGQWPHDQDQthing bad.
Elias said, ‘I change mPLQG,WKLQN,ZDQWWREHD sanitary inspector. I really like
the work.’

* * *

For three HDUV(OLDVVDWWKHVDQLWDU inspectors’ examination, and he failed every
time.
Elias began saLQJ ‘But what the hell you expect in Trinidad? You got to bribe
everybody if you want t o get RXUWRHQDLOFXW’
Hat said, ‘I meet a man from a boat the other daDQGKHWHOOPHWKDWWKHVDQLWDU\
inspector exams in British Guiana much easier. You could go to B.G. and take the exams
there and come back and work here.’
Elias flew to B.G., wrot e the exam, failed it, and flew back.
Hat said, ‘I meet a man from Barbados. He tell me that the exams easier in Barba-
dos. It easHDV, he sa’

V.S. Naipaul Miguel Street HIS CHOSEN CALLING
_____________________________________________________________________________________
INSTA: @valnville.usa YOUTUBE: ValnVille ENG ВК: Val -N Ville
Elias flew to Barbados, wrote the exam, failed it, and flew back.
Hat said, ‘I meet a man from Grenada the ot her day ’
Elias said, ‘Shut RXUDUVHXSEHIRUHLWKDYHWURXEOHEHWZHHQZHLQWKLVVWUHHW’

PART 3

A few years later I sat the Cambridge Senior School Certificate Examination my-
self, and Mr Cambridge gave me a second grade. I applied for a job in the Cu stoms, and
it didn’t cost me much to get it. I got a khaki uniform with brass buttons, and a cap. Very
much like the sanitarLQVSHFWRUVXQLIRUP.
Elias wanted to beat me up the first day I wore the uniform.
‘What RXUPRWKHUGo to get RXWKDW"KHVKRXWHGDQG,ZDVJRLQJIRUKLPZKHQ
Eddoes put a stop to it.
Eddoes said, ‘He just sad and jealous. He don’t mean anything.’
For Elias had become one of the street aristocrats. He was driving the scavenging
carts.
‘No theorKHUH Elias used to sa7KLVLVWKHSUDFWLFDO,UHDOO like the work.’
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