‘Hey, what will you cook tonight?’
‘I will make dalpitha and a nice satini coco as I will be tired after my long day, and tomorrow make preparations for the Sunday meal for everybody.’
‘Great idea, that’s what I will do too at bonnefemme’s place!’
That was Jenny in Toronto talking (in Creole) to her cousin Linda in Mauritius late last Thursday night (Good Friday morning locally), asking her what she was going to cook for dinner. Linda replied that since it would be rather late when she got back home after work and attending mass, she would make a simple dish, namely dalpitha and a nice coconut chutney to go with it, since all her children would be coming. But on Saturday she would get everything ready for their traditional Easter meal on Sunday with all the family. Jenny exclaimed that that was a super idea. She too would make dalpitha at her mother’s place where lived her brother and his family too. Linda’s daughter who had gone to Toronto about two years earlier resided in the same house with her husband and their three children. Jenny’s mother, Louisa, was Linda’s elder cousin who had emigrated to Canada over three decades ago.
I have known the family for a long time – in fact well before several years ago when Louisa, then seventy plus, on a visit back home sustained a fracture of the ankle and I had to operate on her. When the children had their first communion I was always assured of my share of brioche. This is just one example of the exchanges that we have shared over the years on any number of occasions with them, and with my other non-Hindu friends during Divali or Kung Shee Fat Choy.
Then there are the patients belonging to all communities who from time to time express their gratitude in the form of gifts according to their means. The latest one I have received is a shell-encrusted tissue box from the daughter of a fisherman from Mahebourg, who unfortunately has had to undergo amputations of both lower limbs above the thigh because of poor circulation. Despite that, he has always maintained a cheerful disposition and a fighting spirit. If only all patients were like that…
I am absolutely certain that all of us Mauritians would have similar stories to tell, of friendships and bonds with friends and acquaintances from across all communities. Despite all the social ills and the difficulties that we are going through, I see no reason to despair that this common ground of happy shared experiences – that span culinary customs, language and dress too – will disappear in future. For me, this has ever not only represented but been the true Mauritianism that erudites and academicians seek to define to no avail – a will-o’-the-wisp that will always remain elusive, so multilayered it is. And just as well, for to define it would be to circumscribe and limit it, whereas the field should be left open for further affective enrichment and expansion, in line with the global order and the realities of social media which allow us to connect from anywhere and everywhere.
Despite the ups and downs of our political and social history, and the more recent convulsions and hiccups, if we look at the larger picture, we cannot but conclude that it is one of peaceful coexistence. I would venture to premise that it derives from the shared cultural spectrum that I have described above, a richness that we must never lose for the sake of our children and theirs too. I sincerely believe that we all want to live together in peace and harmony – as we actually do, don’t we -which is the essential condition if we want to continue to develop and progress.
I was prompted into these reflections by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The pictures that are sent around 24/7 are so painful to watch that I cannot help switching off when they become too unbearable. Isn’t it so ironical that the killings have raged on despite the period of Lent and Easter? The pious message of the Pope and the appeal of the Anglican bishop of England have had zero effect on the resurrection of any goodwill, not to speak of brotherhood, among the two major groups in Ukraine, largely Catholic in the west and largely Russian Orthodox in the east as pointed out by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in an article in The Washington Post of April 16.
After identifying what appears as another faultline, that ‘the West speaks Ukrainian; the East speaks mostly Russian’, he warned that ‘any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other – as has been the pattern – would lead eventually to civil war or breakup.’ But ‘…the root of the problem,’ he continued, ‘lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other…They represent the two wings of Ukraine and have not been willing to share power.’
The ‘root of the problem’ then, to go by this reasoning, is leaders choosing dominance over coexistence. Under the circumstances, what to speak of peaceful coexistence? Neither their common religion, nor their belonging to the same White ‘race’ (though genetics has overturned this notion of race) has been able to salvage them from their divisive, instinctive, animalistic and domineering propensities towards each other. If we add to that the geopolitical overlay and game plans of NATO and the EU, largely Christian as well, agendas which according to those who know better (such as Democrat US Senator Tulsi Gabbard) are driven by warmongering lobbies and other vested interests both occult and overt, is it any surprise that warring was inevitable? And again, sadly and most unfortunately, the spirit of Easter has not been able to prevail, if only so much as agree to a cessation of hostilities during that saintly period, at least to allow families to bury and mourn their dead, and the beleaguered citizens to receive some humanitarian aid.
What is the lesson that the whole world must learn from this seemingly interminable conflict? Surely it is the importance of peaceful coexistence instead of dominance, of living side by side with real human and human feelings predominating.Otherwise, humanity runs the risk of endemic eruptions of social violence in a state of quasi-permanent instability that can any time morph into war.
What then is the alternative? I would make bold to say the Mauritian model, despite the couple of dark episodes that have blackened our history in the past. It is that of accepting each other’s differences, appreciating our diversity and continuously exploring its potential to enrich our cultural and social life in myriads of ways, of spontaneously supporting each other in times of adversity.
It is the model that all Mauritian leaders should actively promote and market. It is the model that makes Mauritians enjoy yummy dalpitha and satini coco on Good Friday locally and in Canada, and who knows elsewhere too. I know, and all of us know, that it is our lived model, the one that we would wish to remain as a permanent legacy to our future generations and to the world too. And at this time in particular to the suffering Ukrainian and Russian families and other victims.
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