Mr Michael Sik Yuen and The Poor Cherry Seedlings

By Dr Balmick Foogooa

It was in 1905 that the year-long 1904-1905 war between Japan and Russia came to an end. Theodore Roosevelt, the late American President, acting as mediator, brought the belligerents to the negotiating table. Russia, having suffered many more casualties, agreed to cede the control of Korea to Japan and Manchuria to the Chinese. So the winners were mainly Japan and, to a lesser extent, China.

As a token of friendship between Japan and the USA, the former resolved in March 1912 to offer thousands of cherry seedlings to the Americans. The USA government decided to plant all of them in Washington. In March 2012 these seedlings have grown up to become centenarians. When they blossom in March, early spring, every year they are the centre of attraction in the American Capital.

In my former garden in Sodnac, there are three cherry trees. They blossom in November, and their white flowers are just like snowflakes on pinewoods. And what a fragrance the flowers exude on a rainy morning! Just like the jasmine or even better.

To share the elation those shrubs used to give me, I offered a few seedlings to a close friend. Some fifteen years later, one of them has grown up to become a majestic tree in his garden. And in the shade of which grew more than a hundred tiny seedlings.

In 2009, Mr Michael Sik Yuen became the Mayor of Curepipe. Some time during his mayorship there was an uproar after he rightly demanded more hygienic conditions for fast food vendors who like most of them around Mauritius, do their business by dusty roadsides.

In a bid to support him in that laudable action, my friend Ramesh Beeharry and I went to meet him at the Mayor’s office. He found it strange that as inhabitants of Quatre Bornes we had come to meet the mayor of Curepipe.

After praising him for cleaning up the town of Curepipe, I offered to give him about a hundred cherry seedlings and further suggested that they be planted round Trou aux Cerfs and on both sides of the La Vigie-Nouvelle France motorway.

He immediately loaded information about us in his laptop and promised to keep in touch. Bidding good-bye I casually prophesied that one day he might become Minister and the prophecy materialised.

Let us come back to the cherry seedlings. On a few occasions I had asked my friend to allow me to uproot some, which I had promised to other friends. For reasons unknown he would grudgingly say, “You may have them next time, why hurry.”

Mr Sik Yuen’s mayorship came to an end by the beginning of 2010. Luckily he did not inquire about the promised seedlings, for my friend had by then called his handyman and had them all dug out. I just felt extremely sad, for so many people living in the central plateau could have grown them in their gardens, what with the climate being suitable.

* Published in print edition on 20 April 2012

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