Pourquoi il fait toujours bon…
Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
…de vivre à l’île Maurice? Of international relations I had a faint idea, because one of our seniors at the Royal College Curepipe, Nuvin Akaloo, had gone to Aberdeen if I am not mistaken, and come back with a Master’s which had included international relations as a subject. A number of times I had listened to some of his interventions, and what impressed most was his level of erudition, which was allied to his mastery of the English language. He spoke the latter with a naturalness that, as I subsequently came to know, could be dubbed ‘Queen’s English.’ In fact he went on to become the finest interviewer in English on the local TV, in my opinion unmatched to date.
I received several responses to my article of last week, Il fait toujours bon de vivre à l’île Maurice, but the one that attracted my attention most was from an old friend, a few years my senior. He is more or less housebound now, after he returned from overseas where he had spent several years teaching English, in which he had majored at university. But he had also studied political science and international relations as subsidiary subjects, and I had always wondered what the hell did one study such arcane subjects for! Especially political science: of what earthly use having this in one’s CV could ever be?
To come back to my friend. He made a few remarks about my article in general. He diagnosed me as ‘an incurable romantic’ for letting my imagination fly in describing the scene at Trou-0-Cerfs, it was almost an accusation! Well, what can I do as an ex-student of late Georges Espitalier-Noel, who used to enthrall us with the lines of John Keats, William Wordsworth and other romantic poets? It was inevitable that such power would have left its imprint on our minds, and I therefore gladly accept the charge. However, since my friend’s forte, besides English, was political science, I had better let him ‘speak’ through his words – for I can almost hear him! And this is what he had to say:
‘… I hope you have not been upset with my remarks about your dreaminess, but I only say so to confirm that yes, il fait toujours bon de vivre à l’île Maurice – however, in your essay (as he refers to my writing – ah, these teachers!), you miss the point altogether about the pourquoi of why our little island is still attractive to live in, especially for senior citizens like us who have seen harder days and struggled to rise in life. But that is precisely the point.
You know I have spent many years abroad, and when I decided to come back some of my friends there thought I was crazy. No, I said, I know what I am doing. In my country, I told them, universal suffrage has been the norm for nearly 60 years. The founding fathers decided the country was going to be a welfare state, and so it remains to this date. Do you know that education is completely free from the primary to the tertiary level, and that parents are given a monetary incentive for their children to attend pre-primary classes? I know you will tell me about the evil of private tuition – but do you know what happens in Japan or Korea? And in any case, I understand that Minister of Education Vasant Bunwaree has already taken some very positive steps to tackle this issue.
Some years ago I fell ill with chest infection, and my visit to the doctor plus medicines cost me nearly 500 USD. My insurance did not cover the whole sum, and I took a risk and did not go for a return visit, which would have made a big hole in my pocket. Luckily I was already on the mend and nothing worse happened to me for not having gone to the doctor again. But last year I had chest trouble again when the pandemic flu was on, and I feared the worse for myself as I attended hospital: when I wrote to a friend overseas that I had been admitted and treated entirely free of cost, and on being discharged given free medicines to take home too, he could not believe that I was telling the truth!
And yet that is a fact, that healthcare is free. On top of that, I get my old-age pension, which allows me to employ a part-time maid, because I can only do so much now. Do you see that somebody is being employed because I receive a pension? So the micro-economy is ticking, you see, because of the pension I receive…
I have become a member of a senior citizens group, and some time back we spent a few days at the residential home in Pointe-aux-Sables, all provided for including transport. I am told that next time we will get a chance to have a similar break at the new centre that was inaugurated by the current Prime Minister in Belle Mare, and I am really looking forward to that because the winter is setting in and it would be great to spend some time where it is warmer. Good for the creaking bones!
I enjoy walking about the la foire two days a week, when I meet some old friends. I have also made some new acquaintances among the vendors at the bazaar, and I always get a little discount, sometimes I am even given some cotomili or even a cucumber free! There is no dearth of vegetables and fruits, at least I have not faced any lack so far. Of course there is some scarcity after cyclones or heavy rains, but what the hell it’s not if we are in famine zone! In any case, the cyclone warning system is so well-honed that we have ample time to take precautions. Best is that I have learnt that there are hardly any deaths during cyclones now, unlike what we hear happening elsewhere.
And there has been so much of improvement in the roads, getting from one part of the island to the other is not a major problem as it used to be earlier. However, I concede that there is a big problem of traffic congestion during the week for people going to work – and that definitely is a problem that requires a very urgent solution.
I could go on, but lest I bore you I will rest my case here. Do stop by sometime, we can have a spot of Old Rhum together. And bring some gateaux piments when you come. And your Palgrave’s Golden Treasury too – you could entertain me with your reading, my eyes are failing.’
I’d better go arrange for all that soon. Cheers, friends.