United by Manchester…

I am not a football nor, in general, a great sports enthusiast, but in good and pleasant company I am not averse to watching and thoroughly enjoying a thrilling match.

Like the one I saw at the Giants Stadium in New York several years back, between Man U and AC Milan, who were on a friendly match tour of the US. I and my son joined the crowd in clapping, shouting in delight and alternate standing/sitting for the ‘wave’ when this was called for. I have been a boy scout in the past, until I was in Form IV, and had the opportunity to take part in physical activities ranging from climbing mountains to hiking and camping.

Oh yes I have also played plenty of football as a kid and as a teenager, along with volleyball and basketball when I was at RCC when I felt like it. In adult life I have been part of a group that did Sunday treks of several hours in the woods, which used to be great fun – which was the essential purpose of the exercise, especially after a week of heavy and concentrated work. However, with age and for other social reasons, I have now settled down to daily morning walks at Trou-O-Cerfs. This has opened up whole new horizons — of enjoyment of nature’s moods as experienced at the crater, of new friendships and enriching exchanges on all manner of subjects, of shared jokes and loud conviviality, of the threads that link us in a common humanity in the midst of our striking diversity as fellow walkers belonging to all creeds and colours, of what it means to live in a country generally at peace with itself and with the world. Of living mauricianisme at grassroots, in the raw as it were.

A real example of it was the sole subject of interest during the walk on last Monday morning, such that even the ladies had something to say. Because Ton Maurice had asked one of them about the time of the match that was to be played on Sunday last between Manchester United and Liverpool. Poor guy wasn’t there on Monday: Man U had lost, and whenever this happens he goes into a depressed mood. Quite natural I suppose, especially at his age, which must be around 85.

There was very animated discussion in the group that I started to walk with, which had fans belonging to both sides. Naturally there were some sad faces, and some happy – even at times triumphant! – ones, but there was never any nastiness. Fine points of ‘technical’ nature were laid out, analyses made of passes and dribbles among the players, and retrospective thoughts entertained about which player could/should have done what. There was even speculation about what recently retired Sir Alex Ferguson, ex-manager of Man U, would have been thinking as he watched his old team play – and lose. As I was leaving when my time was up, another regular walker was coming in and after we had crossed and saluted each other, I heard him being greeted with ‘Ki maniere mo frère, eh Manchester la…’

I entertained a pleasant thought that reflected our local reality: everything else being equal, what strongly unites us is the quasi-tribal devotion of a great number of our citizens to English football, of which Manchester United is emblematic. Long live Man U! Sorry, Liverpool guys – but I did say I am not a great enthusiast, so there is no bias whatsoever I swear. And oh, I forgot to mention that my son is a Man U fanatic. See, no bias I said…

* * *

Book Launch: Babooram Mahadoo’s ‘Bhagavad Gita’

On Friday last, the President of the Republic Shri Rajkeswur Purryag launched ‘Bhagavad Gita – Message of Heroism’ written by Shri Babooram Mahadoo, at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute. This was another occasion of mauricianisme on display, with several friends and well-wishers of the author packing the Subramania Bharati Auditorium of the MGI. It was the Indradhanush Sanskritic Parishad which organized the event, and its representatives Mr Pahlad Ramsurrun and Mr Yvan Martial were present there. Were also present Swami Krishnarupananda of the Ramakrishna Mission and the Vice-Prime Minister Shri Anil Bachoo.

All of them spoke highly of the author and made their comments about aspects of the Gita, with Mr Yvan Martial recommending the book as a ‘meditation’ that could guide one to seek out the good from the bad in the difficult times that our society is going through.

The affable Shri Babooram Mahadoo in his address explained what brought him to write the book, namely his chance meeting in London in 1994 (when he was High Commissioner of Mauritius there) with the one who was to become his guru: late Swami Maharaj Saraswati, at a conference on ‘Gita and Universal Brotherhood.’ Having ‘perceived in you a light which is dormant and it should be awakened’ the Swami urged Shri Mahadoo to ‘make a deep study of the Bhagavad Gita, write on it and disseminate its teachings.’

With the blessings of Swamiji, Shri Babooram undertook this labour of love, which lasted a whole seven years as he went through commentaries written by many other thinkers and writers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoda Bhave amongst others. The result was this nicely produced book of about 475 pages which reflect the author’s journey towards gaining the Supreme Knowledge which Bhagavan Sri Krishna imparts to Prince Arjuna on the battlefield at Kurukshetra, which in fact is a metaphor for the daily battle that we as individuals have to wage against negative forces so that it is good that eventually triumphs.

One point that needs to be understood here is about ‘interpretation.’ One often hears that different authors give different interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita. This is not right, because there can be only one correct ‘interpretation’ or understanding of the Gita. Rather, as there are so many aspects of the teaching that are unfolded in the Gita, each author tends to focus on that aspect which is of greater appeal to him – in other words, it is his appreciation rather than ‘interpretation’ that is being referred to.

Shri Babooram Mahadoo’s treatment of the text is extensive and comprehensive and, viewed as a meditation on how to make the wise choices in the conduct of our lives, his consideration of a wide selection among the 700 verses of the Gita can help us too in a better appreciation of them. He deserves to be congratulated for the effort, not only because of the long years of preparation, but perhaps more because of the commitment and perseverance to accomplish this kartavya or sacred duty.

This is all the more commendable as he is 80 years old, a time of life when most retired people prefer to be laid back and to take it easy, enjoying the company of their near and dear. Shri Mahadoo, instead, decided make the necessary effort to fulfil his guru’s wish, and we are given to understand that he has other book projects in mind. We can only wish him all the best in his future endeavours, which will surely be as fruitful as the present one.

 


* Published in print edition on 21 March 2014

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