The launch ceremony of ‘The Curse of Bêti’, penned bySita Devi (Shakuntala) Seecharrun Harris was held recently at Hennesy Park Hotel. Written in a hybrid style encompassing both factually researched parts as well as fiction, ‘The Curse of Bêti’ completes a trilogy with two earlier books – Island Folk Stories of the Indian Ocean Vols 1 and 2 – also set in Mauritius amidst transitions in the island’s colonial history from the time that the French brought in the first African slaves till its take-over by the British with the intake of indentured workers from India.
Shakuntala’s book tells the tale of Bêti, who belongs tothe fourth generation and revisits her native island to fulfill her departed Mother’s wish – that of finding about who her own mother was. Armed without a picture of what her grandmother looked like, Bêti goes on to discoverthrough arduous research many hidden secrets about her maternal family’s roots and ultimately a hard truth which shatters her understanding of the historical past of the island. “Here cultures clash, the colour of the skin matters, faith in supernatural beliefs brought by the tribal African slaves and the indentured Indian labourers forge a way of life.”
Shakuntalat’s ‘Curse of Bêti’ makes a significant contribution to the recent expansion of research on Indian Ocean cultures. Its originality lies in its focus on the ‘under-researched, affective dimensions of belonging and identity within forced migration by allying fiction with historical facts’.
Shakutala has a number of publications to her credit. Besides ‘When the stars Shine’ and ‘Taming of a Brew’ – both available on Amazon, and major online bookstores – there are also the ‘Island Folk Stories from the Indian Ocean’ Vols 1 & 2, ‘Essays: Medium’ and ‘Through the Eyes of the Children’. She has worked as an International Senior Knowledge Management & Strategist for the United Nations (UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, UNHCR); she founded and directed EcoVivre Sustainable Living Program for women Empowerment (Sub-Saharan countries, India, Vietnam, U.K.); she is also an active blogger, vlogger, writer, art critic, research moderator, evaluator on History, Art, Aesthetics, Anthropology SE & East Asia as well as an artist and held exhibitions around the world – Vietnam, U.K., Denmark, Holland, France, Belgium, Australia, Japan, India, etc.
She also undertook professional training in Interaction Design (Stanford University, USA), Pedagogy, Training of Teacher Trainers, Applied Art, Art Appreciation & Aesthetic. She also earned an MPhil in Education & Technology, and an MBA in Management & Strategy.
‘Teeluck Callychurn – A Dedicated Social Worker of Mauritius’
By Pahlad Ramsurrun
Another publication that would be of interest to students of history, social and religious workers and those with a particular interest in the evolution and development of the Indo-Mauritian community is ‘Teeluck Callychurn – A Dedicated Social Worker of Mauritius’ by Pahlad Ramsurrun. To the latter’s credit, it has to be recorded that he has over several years painstakingly brought out thanks to his personal research numerous books and other publications on different facets of Mauritian society, its evolution and history and the contributions of numerous individuals dedicated to the task of nation-building as well as against different forms of injustices that were meted out to weaker sections of our population. The present publication on Teeluck Callychurn has been done in that same spirit.
Those who have known Teeluck Callychurn remember his contribution and dedication to the Mauritius Arya Samaj. He was for a number of years the Secretary of the Sabha, a responsibility which, it is widely recognised, he undertook with great devotion. He also gave his unflinching support to the Gayasing Ashram, which he managed for a number of years.
Born in the district of Pamplemousses on 3rd August 1909, Teeluck Callychurn became an orphan at the early age of 10, but that did not deter him from assiduously pursuing his studies initially at the Pamplemousses Government School, and in later years at the Technical School in Port Louis, where under the guidance of Mr Dabee, then Inspector of Schools, he passed the then much coveted Second Class Teacher examination.
In the late 20s, his family moved to Port Louis from where started his association with the Bissoondoyal Brothers who influenced him immensely. That influence and his personal grit were to manifest themselves in his refusal to change his religion, but that would debar him from joining the School Department. He thus chose to apply for a job in the postal services. His seriousness of purpose and sense of dedication to duty made him quickly climb up the ladder in the Post Office department to ultimately become Postmaster General in 1964.
His discipline and righteousness won the respect of his superiors. Late Guy Balancy, the Minister of Telecommunications, noted in 1966: ‘M. Callychurn a un dossier vierge et a toujours donné satisfaction comme fonctionnaire. Il est un chef de service mauricien qui a commencé au bas de l’échelle et qui a progressé dans sa carrière par son mérite, son expérience et son intelligence.’
Being a staunch supporter of the Labour Party, he contributed to the cause being defended by the party by writing on various subjects in the columns of the Mauritius Times. It was befitting therefore that it was Yvan Martial, former editor-in-chief of l’express, who spoke about the personal struggle and contribution of Teeluck Callychurn to Mauritian society in a memorial lecture held some time back.
‘Education and society in Mauritius’
By Suren Bissoondoyal
‘Education and society in Mauritius’, a collection of articles and interviews of Suren Bissoondoyal published in local newspapers, including the Mauritius Times, has recently been launched by the author.
More commonly known for the directorship of the Mauritius Examination Syndicate (MES) for almost 13 years and which kept national examinations at both primary and secondary levels away from controversies, Suren Bissoondoyal has also presided over the destiny of the University of Mauritius in his capacity of Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council of the University of Mauritius from 1988 to 2005.
His long career in education started in 1956, when he came out as Laureate of the Royal College of Port Louis for the English Scholarship, which allowed him to pursue higher studies at the University of London. After obtaining a BSc Honours in Mathematics, he took up employment as a teacher of Mathematics and General Paper at the Royal College of Port Louis before he joined the Teachers Training College in 1965. He also took up in later years studies in Educational Administration at Leeds University, which would thereafter open his way to a long career in educational administration at the Mauritius Institute of Education, the MES, the UOM and as Adviser to the Minister of Education, and finally as Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission from 2015 to February 2020.
Surendra Bissoondoyal has contributed with other educationists and educational administrators to carve and shape the educational landscape since independence. His expertise and knowledge of the education sector and human resource and skills development are widely recognized by his peers beyond the borders of the countries of the region.
In the first part of ‘Education and society in Mauritius’,Surendra Bissoondoyal writes about the importance of educational reforms necessary for the economic, social and cultural development and transformation of society in Mauritius in a series of articles published by l’Expressand Le Mauricienand Mauritius Times. In the second part, he shares his views on Mauritian society since independence as well as two interviews given to this paper.
The selected press articles show a “rare mix of a culture of ‘grit and wit’ in writings about educational and social concerns” points out Cadresse Armoogum in a foreword to the book. ‘Education and society in Mauritius’is however more than that: it offers a scholarly insight into the evolution of the country in diverse fields – education, politics, religion and democracy, the language issue, electoral reform, etc. A recommended read for students of history and those keen to learn more about the evolution of our society.
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