Not to be. Why not?

Because so long there is life there is hope, some might say so, for they genuinely value life or they fear what might happen to lost souls once they cross the frontier to the other world. The sinister monologue on the irrelevance of life in the face of unbearable adversity and misfortune that befall many a human being akin to Hamlet – which many of us may identify with as we pause for reflection at thorny crossroads in life – is yet alien to most people for they cling to hope of better things to come.

Right now, without much ado, martyrs in Paris, Nigeria, Istanbul, Kabul and Pakistan are the only ones who blow themselves up, in the belief that they are propelled thereafter to the other world convinced about the righteousness of their acts. To live or not to live is not a question which upsets them, and their surviving comrades are not worried about the ghosts of their victims that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

‘Hamlet’ on stage

Too bad for us. It was not to be for latecomers. All the tickets for the two shows of ‘Hamlet’ have already been sold out. Anyway, not a bad way to start the year. Congratulations to Mahatma Gandhi Institute, the staff, the actors, the British Council, the English Speaking Union and the various sponsors who contributed to set up ‘Hamlet’ on stage. A whole generation received formal education without the benefit of watching plays in theatre halls.

Drama clubs working all year round to offer plays in the different languages understood in Mauritius, will be a blessing to students and the public. Various forms of art open minds and hearts to thought, beauty and emotions, and indeed, plays should be made accessible to common folks, as it has been the case since Shakespeare’s days or centuries earlier in other parts of the world. The sole pursuit of material prosperity, in a spirit of competition as well as the little spare time available to hard-working citizens in the low-income category for pursuits other than work, has defined features of the national character that we cannot claim to be proud of. Incivility, insensitivity, coarse manners, lack of good breeding to name a few.

Radio One star presenter Finlay Salesse switches from Creole, French to English with equal ease in the programme ‘Enquete en Direct’. It is indeed quite refreshing to hear English spoken on the local radio. Giving opportunities to the public to express themselves in more than one language should be most welcome. What is the use of having a multi-lingual policy in the educational system and assuming that Mauritians are fit to speak only one language? Making maximum use of languages locally without the necessity of travelling to test one’s proficiency is a sound policy which should have been promoted decades ago.

The woman from La Tour Koenig pouring out her woes on the radio in English seemed to do it so naturally. By the way, her English largely surpasses the one spoken at the National Assembly, which often prompts us to switch off television for the shame it brings on us especially when we are in the company of foreign guests. If anything, the English Speaking Union should make efforts to enhance the general standard of English of the Honourable MPs by coaching certain of them on the stress pattern and proper intonation.

Keep it up, Finlay Salesse. And may other presenters on private radios promote more English in different programmes. A multi-lingual policy is more interesting intellectually and culturally.

Cultural grossness

The cultural grossness reflects itself in several other domains. Year in year out, those who are at the lowest rungs of the social ladder, as regards income, are exploited by unscrupulous employers who change workers’ pay at their whims and fancies – not necessarily for the better. This situation makes us wonder whether the Ministry of Labour will wake up one day to address the harsh realities faced by workers and enforce laws to protect them.

Even Mauritian expats owning businesses over here sometimes join in the fray to make employees work for peanuts. ‘Be fair, be modern, respect workers’ appears to have become so unnatural even after a long stay in developed countries. They would rather not be. It speaks volumes on the feudal mindset plaguing otherwise successful people despite years of exposure to humane laws in European countries. ‘Hire and fire at will’, the game is set to continue as long as the issue is ignored by the authorities.

We all do not share the infinite patience of Mauritians when it comes to putting up with the vagaries and nuisances of everyday life. It just seems that there is a deliberate will to complicate your life. Get the CWA to deliver water is quite a feat, and as if that was not enough, it is the only country so far where you have to buy a tank and a pump to be able to get water in your house. For no reason whatsoever, the pump decides to go on strike; then, water splashes out of the solar heater. Take a red candle and wait for the technician from Orange to come over and check Internet connection. You barge into MT office and ask them why the hell they are using the private electric pole you paid out with your own money to connect the neighbours. You are asked to present the bill proving that you paid for it.

A lack of refinement of manners appears to have overwhelmed the local scene. This explains the usual absurd topsy-turvy way things work here. Then you send a threatening mail to MT to tell them that judging from their yearly profits they are not beggars and you are not Mother Theresa. By the way, as regards good manners, politeness and courtesy in social interactions and exchanges, it is all upside down and you have stopped raising eyebrows and lifting up your hands in despair.

You have already solved the issue of the damn leaking washing-machine by getting rid of it. No more washing-machine, hand over the task to the laundry nearby or a maid who is willing to do it. To add insult to injury, the fridge breaks down. An electrician comes, fixes the wall plug, which has some defect, according to him, charges you the foreigner fee. Thanks, the fridge works. Next day, it breaks down again. Then you are told that Mauritius is the dumping ground for poor quality electronic appliances imported from abroad. But the price is even higher than in richer countries. Can anyone explain that?

This state of affairs seems to indicate that there is something rotten in the Republic. By that time, you are not desperate enough to indulge in a ‘To be or Not to be’ monologue and take your own life with a mere bodkin. But the damaging effect arrows of misfortune can inflict on your mental health is quite challenging, though. You have had enough of the Capital where street hawkers play hide and seek with policemen, and shop owners illegally occupy the pavement in Corderie Street with garments, shoes, trinkets and other stuff, where you barely have forty centimetres to elbow your way among the crowd. Not to mention reckless driving in the country causing hapless accidents.

In an interview, the President pinpoints the source of the whole mindset: lack of discipline. Be disciplined, be respectful, be the change you want to see happen. Vain words. Both governing body and the public would rather not be. Surprising? No, as long as the right example is not set from above.

At a personal level, if you do have the means to satisfy your whims and fancies, let us say, spend a day with a book in your hand and enjoy a tacit dialogue with an unknown writer, or pack up and delightedly fly away from all the nerve-rattling incidents, you cannot complain.


* Published in print edition on 15 January 2016

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