In 1884, a twenty-year old by the name of Hazareesingh boards a ship in Calcutta, destination Mauritius. Nothing is known of the forces that propel this young man to embark on a journey that will forever sever his ties with his parents, Jhingoorsing and Rajonee, and brother Mooruth. While we have no idea what exactly he left behind, aside from his immediate family, we know that his legacy is a family that has marked and been marked by the incredible historical changes occurring in this country in the last century. No one is left of the first generation of the Hazareesinghs born in Mauritius, and only a few are left of the second generation. Among these, my father, Beesoonduth, is celebrating his 90th birthday this month.
It is tempting to think of him as just a caring and proactive father overcoming considerable odds to provide a future for his children that many of his peers could only dream about. In reality, his birthday is also a time to remember the thousands of families, like mine, who, because of the desperation or perhaps the vision of a single individual, fanned out across the world in search of something better.
As the world gets smaller, many of my generation and those after me are undertaking their own voyage of discovery, fueled by a passion for learning and for providing a better life for their families. Equipped with cell phones and computers, distance may seem immaterial but for most of us, it is real.
In paying tribute to my dad for all that he has done for our family, I also want to pay tribute to his generation for creating a Mauritius that turned out to be so much better than any of us had a right to expect, given how humble our beginnings were.