By Nita Chicooree
Before inviting primary school children to make any wish, it would be wise that teachers read out the tale of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp to them, and explain its symbolism. How the purity of a boy’s heart brings the world of magic in front of his eyes by the simple act of rubbing off the layer of dirt on the lamp and liberating the light within.
How once this discovery is made, Aladdin is tempted to steal the lamp and keep all its magic powers within his reach forever. Travelling on a flying carpet, such a wonderful idea! No oil, no pollution in the days of Arabian Nights. Nor petrodollars flowing into Purest Lands to cleanse them off any infidels’ heretic impurity.
An ocean of imagination
Children’s minds bubble with an ocean of imagination. If only they were given time to express their wishes and fantasy with brushes and plenty of colours on drawing pads! As such an event is being organized by the MCB, it is a most propitious time to tell our dear little ones the story of The Magic Slaveship, the last one in 1835, about how slaves were dropped into the blue waters of Port Louis harbour to dodge the British patrol of ships suspected of indulging in the illicit slave trade. A radical means to eliminate trouble and avoid the wrath of the law. How the ship became an emblem that has blessed its owners with plenty of wealth triggered by the banking adventure.
Children are receptive to stories because these enlighten them on things that already exist in their hearts and minds: beauty, truth, goodness, justice and the triumph of good over evil. A sense of ethics and morality is inherent in every one of us, at least we should like to think so. The trouble with real stories is that they do not bring the solace and moral comfort children look forward to, wide-eyed and hopeful. They are devoid of the ethics and morality that characterize fiction. Those who toiled in the fields continued to slog around for the past decades and some of them have taken a few strides forward but they can never catch up with the early winners’ motto that has been to remain winners forever. Wish No. 1 is to tell the story of the The Magic Slaveship in sailing colours so that children would get their first lessons in history, which might brighten up their intellectual landscape.
Wish No. 2 that will certainly draw public approval is the setting up of appropriate holiday camps for youngsters on the coasts of the island. Open them all year round so that children of all age groups would have the opportunity to spend at least one week a year with their schoolmates and teachers in a peaceful natural place by the sea. Re-open the one at Anse la Raie to start with. Let them enjoy colourful sunsets on the lagoon and listen to the chirping of birds perched on filao trees before darkness silences them.
Let the music fill their ears when they go to bed so that when they wake up in the morning they want to listen to it again. Like Caliban in The Tempest. Enjoyment of natural beauty is a key component of happiness. Humans are part of nature, and children should be given the opportunities to feel the bliss of unity in natural surroundings. From all the towns, villages, suburbs and ghettoes – whatever be their social background – let them have the opportunity to experience beauty and joy on the coasts.
Secondary school pupils will surely wish to benefit from the generosity of commercial banks. The theme of water as a precious commodity might fire the imagination of young artists and students of Economics. Trou aux Biches is a good example of long-term sustainable development, if we are to judge from the number of blue patches representing private swimming pools in front of each bungalow in the latest hotel complex zone that has grabbed more public lands. Let students present projects or case studies in which they gauge the cubic metres of the precious substance given to holiday makers, who are honest enough to admit that the welfare of foreigners is far too exaggerated. Add to these the private swimming pools of the villas that make up the several residential zones of Integrated Resorts Schemes. There is no benevolent genius to wish the grotesque policy of IRS started in 2003 which sells a single house at the incredible price of Rs 80 m out of the country’s economic landscape.
UoM students are in a better position to write the story of The Joys of Overlordship, of how a handful of people have made the island their private garden where all the projects that germinate in their minds promptly stem out of the ground with the blessings of their supporters in different governments. Mon Choisy, Gris Gris, in the valleys, on the mountains, domains, commercial centres — in every untouched spot of the country. How it feels to control and own everything, to develop capitalism into crony capitalism with the same people laying their hands and waiting to grab everything, media tycoons being the invisible spokesmen of their wishes, calling for random privatization.
‘300 Years of Free Labour and Exploitation’ sounds like an appropriate title for a thesis any ambitious student might want to take up. Instead of putting all our money in the same banks for ages as docile citizens, we should probably opt for alternative banking systems.
As for the rest of us, grown-ups who have stopped believing in saviours, we have our own private geniuses who are godsends to enliven our existence. For all tastes, classical or modern western music and songs, opera, African music, local songs, Indian soul-elevating classical music, most beautiful romantic Hindi love songs, qawali, ghazal and loads of blessings showered upon on us by the heavenly golden voices of our down-to-earth idols, Mohamed Rafi, Mukesh, Lata and Asha, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ravi Shankar and many others. Just click on Youtube and listen to our favourite voices. Real Magic. And forget that our wishes often fall on deaf ears, and as someone said: ‘La dictature, c’est : Ferme ta gueule. La démocratie, c’est : Cause toujours.’
* Published in print edition on 27 April 2012