By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Hard times come with a string of apprehensions, anxieties and fears; but they are also a catalyst factor for introspection and awakening of what is best in society. For a few months, appearances, showing-off and false ideas of self-worth are allowed to rest. Self-importance based on material acquisitions, lengthy titles of diplomas and status take the back seat. Because all display of superficial features in language, behaviour and social interaction needs a public. And the public is just not there. It has been told to stay indoors.
The current situation relieves the social atmosphere of unnecessary stress that pushes folks to be on the move in all directions so as not to miss out on something that is catching attention and that others are not likely to miss. It creates less psychological strain and physiological discomfort that comes with it. The collateral benefit is an awareness of channeling energy in the right direction, of using precious time in the best possible ways – in talks and actions, and in giving attention to what matters. A quest for what is natural and genuine in oneself and in social interactions, with a renewed interest in the purity and beauty of the natural environment.
Calls for help from the most underpriviledged groups of society are met with compassion and empathy. A surge of solidarity and generosity reaches out to all nooks and crannies of the island: Members of Rameshwarnath Toolsee Krith Hanuman Mandir and Indian Folk Music Academy distributing food packs to needy families of Chitrakoot
Calls for help from the most underpriviledged groups of society are met with compassion and empathy. A surge of solidarity and generosity reaches out to all nooks and crannies of the island. The confined space of radios has become the echo chamber of voices from everywhere and a social medium for finding ways and means to sort out things. Some of them are doing a good job in coordinating a team of volunteers to scour kilometres across the island to bring help to the needy.
NGOs are active in fulfilling their part as intermediaries in the chain of solidarity.
Solidarity Mauritius is the name given to a particular programme on a private radio, and apparently, not only does it put in practice what it preaches by galvanizing volunteers in a social aid plan but it also shows interest in promoting a philosophical outlook and instilling positivity. Go ahead and keep it up!
Doctors, officials, radio presenters and all do not mince their words in certain circumstances. The right language at the right time when it comes to driving in recommendations that should be taken seriously. Straightforward, no polished language or whatever in admonishing people to adopt the right conduct. What we hear is : Come on folks, no fooling and hanging around, get that into your cocovides, no negative cases is not a signal for al vang vang, al vacarné ek tréné and such like. A community instinct for collective survival. At the end of the day, this is what it is all about : survival.
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A Transcendental Experience
The world of culture, art and music not only responds to a genuine need in human beings to have a break with daily materialist preoccupations but also offers a transcendental experience in the quest for what is pleasing to the eyes and ears. Musicians, singers and actors become endearing figures to the public during their lifetime; their demise leaves admirers aggrieved and sad.
Sometimes it is more because of what they stand for, what they embody and represent than who they really are. And often, their personality or their commitment to certain causes reflected in their art find a favourable echo in the public. They encapsulate the mood of the moment and gives it artistic expression — just as a writer is a story-teller, a spokesperson for the society which provides the organic substance and matter for expressing feelings, thoughts and ideas.
The feeling of loss when it comes to musicians, singers and actors is something special. They appeal to a sense of aesthetics, beauty and magic which echo deepest yearnings and intimate wishes nestled in the minds and hearts of people. Sometimes a projection of desires and phantasms, and sometimes, an identification with facets of their personality. In all cases, they are iconic figures in a country, with some of them transcending countries and cultures.
How the public mourns their demise differs from one country to another, depending on cultural factors. For instance, the tribute paid to Johnny Hallyday by the French, the procession all along the Champs Elysés and the funerals attended by the President himself, former presidents and topmost stars is unimaginable in Britain, and that feeling was voiced by a British musician. It is an expression of the sentimental attachment French people have in respect of their intellectuals, artists, musicians and actors.
India is country where the public connects in a very special way with film stars, singers, musicians and key national figures. The recent demise of two actors at two days’ interval has happened in a social context of confinement that forbids gatherings would have drawn huge crowds in normal times. Instead, fans overflood the internet in an outpour of grief and pain.
Irfan Khan, gone at the age of 53, was an original actor who was given original roles which fit his personality as ‘a man of few words and of silent expressions’ as described in a tribute in the Indian press. Mumbai Meri Jaan, The Namesake, The Lunchbox are a few of his films that come to mind. Not the hero-chasing-heroine type of role, no absurd eve-teasing and bursting suddenly in romantic songs amid nowhere. Deep-set eyes, bushy eyebrows, speaking little, his tall figure moving elegantly on the screen, he was the sexiest actor in Hindi cinema in recent years. If anything, his demise is an irreparable loss to the Hindi film industry. As to us here in Mauritius, we will really miss him.
The Kapoors are a legend, indeed. A legacy left by grand-father Prithiviraj, himself a stage actor in dramas, who applied in films the technical art of facial expressions used on stage. Rampur Ka Laksman is a film casting three generations – grandfather, sons and grandsons – in which Rishi Kapoor made a debut as a young adult in the exuberance of youth. The very name of Kapoor summons a vision of the bigger picture of the whole family, of their performance and handsome figures. However unequal the performance from one generation to another may be, the dynastic family of actors gives a sense of continuity in the film industry and to the public in their relation with the icons they cherish in a lifetime.
In India, the public relates to artists, musicians, singers, actors and actresses in a way that reflects something deeper. It is a way of cherishing, loving, showering praises and garlanding unparalleled in the world. May be, it is part of the devotional bhakti tradition of offering gratitude and flowers to a myriad of deities. It reflects an Indian way of loving, the understanding and loving hearts of the people who raise icons to the status of demi-gods and goddesses. A form of worship which encompasses the land, its rivers and mountains, all regarded as sacred. In certain circumstances, the love and trust put in the rulers of the country reflect the same spirit of adoration. Then, it creates an overarching sense of unity in the country.
* Published in print edition on 5 May 2020