Down Memory Lane
In 1950, my parents won the lottery: I was born after 20 years of them being childless. I definitely was the apple of my father’s eye, and my mother became my best friend, as there was no other sibling. My first name beginning with R means prosperity. I don’t have money galore I thought to myself but with time I said: ‘You stupid fool, count what you have instead of what you don’t have!’ A roof over my head is more than enough for me.
When I had kids, I struck gold and was blessed with two sons. Money is not dense but nonetheless I have two pots of gold and three grandchildren. I never visualised someone calling me ‘aaji’ one day. One son is in the police and the other is manager in the NHS. I don’t play the Loto because I’d rather stay as I am than have a lot of money with an incurable disease and a lot of pain.
I am interested in medicine and, almost every week, I read about some illness or another most of which I’d never heard of when I was working, and there’s always a new one popping up. Of what good can that money be then? I have seen enough suffering. Check Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva online for example – very very sad, impossible to imagine.
When I was young, I was supposed to get hitched to someone who is now the other half of a politician. After a lot of bullying and even getting slapped, we parted company. What a relief that was! Only cowards hit females and maybe they should wear a skirt instead of trousers.
Because of this rupture, I was able to go to the UK and led a British way of life that I never thought possible, speak English everyday (my favourite), eat those delicious roasts, especially the desserts and puddings. Now my family brings me whatever I want from there.
What luck to live in London then, visit all those places of interest, museum, theatres in the West End, watch ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie (on stage) and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. I had a collection of her books. Going to fine Indian restaurants and, above all, making friends. One day while visiting London Zoo with a friend we noticed ‘brède martin’ in the flowerbed, as tall as reeds. We picked a lot and a passer-by asked: ‘What are you doing.’ Picking weeds, I replied, but to eat. ‘Be careful,’ he said, ‘for you could get poisoned.’
As student nurses, we were always given free tickets to go places, all we had to do was to show our badge, go in and no questions asked, the reason being that we were doing humanitarian work. Finally, I ended with my registration as State Registered Nurse (SRN) and a Diploma in Orthopaedics. Nothing much to write home about, you might think. We worked, studied and enjoyed ourselves. Plus a maid to do all the cleaning and provide us with clean laundry. Nowadays it’s all changed.
Now I don’t go sightseeing for I have seen it all, I only visit my sons and their families and old friends. Thanks to my qualifications, I later lived and worked in Switzerland. That was a different culture altogether. I spoke French and English to the Brits and of course ate ‘raclette’ for the first time, a sort of ‘fromage fondu’. Tried skiing and always ended on my backside.
Afterwards I went to the Middle East where I learned a bit of Arabic but mostly Hindi. I had to help Indian patients, Pakistanis and a few Iranians who spoke Urdu. Fancy learning Hindi in an Arab country. One day the hostel manager asked me why I wasn’t using the two fridges in the flat. I said, I don’t want to waste electricity. ‘This is Arab country, my dear’, meaning they were rich and could afford it.
Nowadays, I take all the memories from abroad off the shelves, give them a good dusting and put them back on those shelves again. If I had got hitched then, with due respect to ‘gobar’, I would have remained like cow dung. I’ve interacted with thousands of my patients in the past, met people from all walks of life, of so many nationalities — no amount of money can buy that. I was not sitting behind a desk but dealing with the public. As regards money, I’m not rich and I don’t care two hoots. I hate money gotten through dishonest means anyway. This is not my cup of tea.
When you leave for the next world, you go empty-handed, just as you came empty-handed. Sure, the generations that come after will benefit and it’s nice to be born with not just one silver spoon in one’s mouth, but some have two or even three. We must not begrudge them their luck.
So you see, these are my lotteries. You may agree or disagree, but personally I have no regrets. I’ll probably be pushing up daisies soon but that’s why we take birth, isn’t it?
Mona. R. Babajee
P.S. Thank you, C. Gallozzi, (see article in last week’s issue of the Mauritius Times) for spurring me on to write this article.
* Published in print edition on 6 September 2013