It was the grandest month of the year for the simple reason that it stirred within us sweet childhood memories, the greatest and most wonderful of all was that school was over. The satchel and its contents were conveniently thrown away into a corner and temporarily forgotten.
May be for the elders it also meant the turning point for new things to happen as the year drew to an end and the following month would usher in a new status to the life of the children. But for us children the atmosphere and bonhomie that it implied never died down; we secretly cherished them and went on to transmit them to the next generation.
No doubt the warmth and sultriness of that particular time of the year were of little concern when we were young; but we still remember it coincided with the coming of mangoes and litchis, so much that as soon as the fruit trees started bearing flowers something stirred within us to tell us that December was round the corner. After months of slogging and brain crammed for the impending exams, we looked forward to the 12th month of the year with enthusiasm and relish.
As we grew up and had children of our own, we were still burdened with more hard work as our children had to be wrenched through the torturous CPE course. And as soon as the exams were over, parents felt as relieved as their wards and they were seen flocking to the seaside or the hypermarkets to celebrate a well-deserved respite from their year-long worries. Suddenly the food courts and markets were flooded with tots and young children giving vent to their joys and hilariousness.
The picture is no different today. The flamboyant trees which have started to blossom by the end of October have also joined the party as if to brighten our routine lives. They now form part of the background of the merry mood and reinforce our feelings of bien-être at this time of the year so much so that we have come to label them as the ‘bouquet banané’.
For the children there is no escaping from the fact that December has always spelled the coming treat of Christmas, meaning gifts and toys. And one week later the merry and fun are heightened when their parents and neighbours will shell out some cash as they go round to wish them a Happy New Year. Of course there are the long awaited CPE results: some have made it to the top and into the best secondary schools; others, due to poverty, to an unfortunate environment or to unfavourable genes could not make the day for their parents, and would suddenly wake up to the fact that December is not that fun. But that’s the fate of our lot: some of us will always be consigned to the bottom of the ladder.
But still the combination of the summer fruits, the flamboyant at the top of their blooming performance, the closed schools, the gifts to come have all conspired to create in our psyche that sense of well-being that still lingers in our soul.
Where as long ago we would be looking forward to the annual gifts that our Chinese shopkeeper would bestow on the head of the family, nowadays that tradition is lost because no supermarket would indulge in that old tradition. They do have well-planned and calculated psychological tricks to cajole the clientele to their shops, but the human touch is long gone. Yet nowadays, may be because we are richer, people will gladly go to these markets with a smile on their face; they’ll even shell out their hard-won wages with great abundance.
One just wonders whether it is not a game of one-upmanship with each one of us prepared to show that one can afford to buy the best. We try to imitate our neighbour – we would like to outdo him – by spending more. Should there be a queue in one of the shops, we flock to it and buy whatever is for sale irrespective of whether we have need for that stuff or not. The shops’ psychologists have done their homework well. The prices of some stuffs will be halved, so people will rush to buy them. Instead of buying one, they would buy 5; and if there is some form of rationing – limiting the total that can be purchased to 10 – then they would end up buying 8 or 10. Despite all are the tricks employed for the December vacations, yet we won’t mind spending happily. Of course businessmen are also waiting for that last month to make up for the lull that might have affected their trade throughout the year, and they now want to make up for that by tapping into our merrymaking mood; there is the windfall effect to take advantage of, specially given that the 13th month has been granted to one and all.
And the 10th…
Now in 2014, grafted on this December background is the public holiday of 10th. It is an ‘aubaine’ for all of us. Why wait for the 25th when we can have an early holiday to enhance the December vacation mood. Children will surely remember the flags and ‘fanions’, the richly decorated roundabouts and the odd hand railings of the vicinity. Needless to say the “Greens” will disapprove, but Mauritian folklore is yet to come of age.
The time to go to the polls has come. Our leaders have respected the democratic tradition and are holding the elections, thus allowing us to cast our votes, while knowing quite well that it may be a very risky decision. Below-the-belt blows have been delivered, but surely those responsible for such acts may be telling themselves that these do not really matter – as soon the adversary might become a partner in crime — yet again — as new alliances will be struck. We are told the two major parties share the same ideology, and we therefore need not worry, so make merry and have fun.
Had we thought deeply about the many promises made, we would have started wondering as to how their implementation would be funded. But for many of us the electoral manifestoes are too high sounding for us to grasp the issues with the emphasis on the running of the affairs of the state, climate change and global warming, and erosion of the west coast of our beautiful island and other matters. However given that our fate will ultimately depend on international events and markets, we just hope that our future Minister of Finance will burn the midnight oil to secure our wealth while we will continue to ‘faire la fête’…
By the 11th we will know who would have been able to convince the electorate. And once our political choice would have been made, we’ll be back to square one, to our daily problems, our health issues, our search for a good secondary school for our children, a better job for ourselves or just plainly a job. But December is not over yet; the fun of Christmas and New year is there to titillate our expectations. People will rush to the supermarkets to hoard and pack their fridge, to attend parties and overeat to please their hosts. For once, we’ll lower our ‘méfiance’, our sense of clannishness; may be for a fraction of second, we’ll realize that we are all in the same boat even though some of us may be luckier, others less. Ultimately it will dawn upon us that we are prisoners of time and of the biological evolution on a blue planet.
Happy Election and Happy New Year.
* Published in print edition on 12 December 2014