We would have liked to look back at 2019 with happier eyes; but nevertheless let’s give thanks for what we already have, and keep fingers crossed not for more to come but for better to happen
By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
A few days ago I shared an end of year lunch with a group of children who, having been abandoned by their parents, are being lovingly cared for by dedicated people. They were hosted by means of some generous donations received by the organiser on their behalf, and I was requested to be Santa for the occasion and give away the gifts. My training as a Boy Scout of the St Clement Troop, Curepipe came in handy, as I joined in to sing Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…
Talking to a fellow senior citizen who was also present, I told her how my mother-in-law’s favourite phrase used to be ‘Count your blessings’. I never gave it much thought until the visit a few months ago of Swami Mitrananda of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, who specialises in the education and motivation of youth, and goes round the world to awaken them to their own potential – which these kids I was with must definitely have too. During his visit he spoke to students in several secondary schools. In one such session addressing an HSC cohort, he was trying to make them understand the value of thankfulness and gratitude.
When they could not quite grasp what he was aiming at, he told them: ‘Do one thing – when you get up tomorrow morning, write down 20 blessings that you have’. To help them along – they were quite shy – he said start with number one blessing: you are able to get up from the bed. He then went on: you can open your eyes and see; you can hear; you have a house to stay; you have a mother and father; food to eat; clothes to wear; a school to go to…
That’s when I really appreciated my mother-in-law’s maxim, and when I was with these children and heard about their backgrounds and some of their stories, the full force of that truism hit me. Many of us never seem to have enough, and are always complaining, and do not ever appreciate our simple, but fundamental blessings – possession of all our faculties being the most basic to start with – let alone have some gratitude to that Almighty whence they emanate. What would not this innocent young girl seated facing me, being deaf and dumb, have given to recover her speech and hearing? But this deficiency was made up for by the joyful expressions on her face as she relished her meal and responded to her inmates with simple movements of her lips and her smiles.
I was given in to some reflections on these matters, and another saying that I had read earlier came to mind:
I had the blues ‘Cos I had no shoes Until I stepped out on the road And saw someone Who had no legs…
And then you hear about millions and millions exchanging among already soiled and heavy hands, the concentration of wealth amongst a few, a former Vice President of the Republic complaining that the Rs 200,000 per month as pension is barely sufficient – you wonder, does it ever cross their mind that there are those who have nothing and have been left to fend for themselves until the lucky ones find some saviour?
When it comes to the national level, though we cannot speak of ‘blessings’, there are some features that we can justly be proud of when we compare to other countries in our region, as well as fairly favourably with some of the developed countries also.
For example, a few days ago too, I came across an online question about why the Nordic countries are considered year after year to be the happiest ones. In the reply given, a number of their special provisions were pointed at. These included among others: free healthcare; free education up to tertiary level, with soft State loans for those who join university; social security benefits for widows and orphans and the unemployed; sponsored and organised leisure activities by several NGOs and State entities for those who cannot otherwise afford them , and all beaches are freely accessible by everybody; unemployment benefits; their simple habits – taking homemade lunch to work so as to save money, indulging in the most popular leisure activity on Sundays of taking a walk in the woods and hills which are to be found even in the vicinity of their big cities. And lastly:
‘Nous ne donnons pas dans le spectaculaire avec des bâtiments ou des monuments. Notre palais royal ressemble à l’écurie des palais royaux d’autres pays. Mais nous avons de l’air pur, une eau du robinet incroyable, une nature magnifique et de bonnes perspectives d’emploi. Nous avons tout ce dont une personne peut avoir besoin, à condition qu’elle soit prête à travailler dur. L’absence de soucis contribue grandement à assurer le bonheur.’
Goodness me, I thought – this almost sounds like Mauritius! If we add to this the recent increase in old-age pension that has definitely been a factor in the re-election of the incumbent government though variously viewed by different quarters – populist by some and humane/equitable by others, the promise of a PRB advance in 2020 for civil servants; the extension of facilities such as recreation centres that are available for senior citizens, and so on – why at least a good number of compatriots could surely count their blessings! And reckon Mauritius too among the list of happy if not happiest countries.
“We certainly have less to complain about on many fronts: no major street protests with violence to boot. We had a short election campaign, though unfortunately tainted with allegations of irregularities which are being addressed by due legal process. The ‘metro’ service is shortly to be operational. There are some major road development projects in the pipeline. We fare less well on the law and order situation and the social scene with all the horrible crimes being reported daily, as well as the ravages being wrought by the unresolved drug scourge and its spread among the youth. We would have liked to look back at 2019 with happier eyes; but nevertheless let’s give thanks for what we already have…”
We certainly have less to complain about on many fronts: no major street protests with violence to boot as have taken place and are still happening in so many countries around the world. We had a short election campaign, though unfortunately tainted with allegations of irregularities which are being addressed by due legal process. The ‘metro’ service is shortly to be operational, and its extension is underway. There are some major road development projects in the pipeline that will hopefully address transport woes.
But all this does and should not prevent us from raising alarm about the many dysfunctions we still suffer from. We fare less well on the law and order situation and the social scene with all the horrible crimes being reported daily, as well as the ravages being wrought by the unresolved drug scourge and its spread among the youth.
We would have liked to look back at 2019 with happier eyes; but nevertheless let’s give thanks for what we already have, and keep fingers crossed not for more to come but for better to happen in all aspects of our lives.
May we not be betrayed by promises not kept or not sustainable.
* Published in print edition on 20 December 2019
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