The Salt of the Earth

I met him on the ‘twister’ exerciser at Trou-O-Cerfs, and I initiated the conversation with this young man. It turns out he was from Sebastopol, and he was a contract driver. He took workers back and forth to Curepipe, and in between he had about half an hour to spare, so he decided to come up to the crater and do some exercise instead of idly waiting. Initially the idea was to kill time, as it were, then, he said, he found that he started to feel really better in himself. That’s why he has now made it a daily habit to continue with a routine of doing a few rounds and then avail of the open air gym facilities that have been put at the disposal of the populace.

That is one very commendable initiative that was taken a few years ago (as was the one of erecting railings at some strategic places in Curepipe and which have recently received a much-needed fresh coat of paint) by, I presume, a health conscious mayor. I felt good that someone from as far – to us Curepipians – as Sebastopol was benefiting from this arrangement, but there are already other people who come from outside Curepipe to enjoy the natural gift that Trou-O-Cerfs undoubtedly is to our rainbow island.

Vikash, as I will call him, had been doing this for about seven months now. His wife worked in a factory and they had a nine-year old kid. As happens upon contact with a medical doctor, as I introduced myself to him in return, he needed some medical advice which I was only too happy to give, taking account of his motivation for keeping healthy. I only wish that this was more widespread than our medical data unfortunately reveal, namely that only a relatively small percentage of our adult population does regular physical exercise, despite all the awareness campaigns that are conducted. And, likewise, people continue to indulge in fast foods and drinks in defiance of advice to the contrary, to their detriment of course.

“As I walked to my car with my loaded bag, I reflected upon my meeting with the new acquaintance from Sebastopol that morning, and the honest-to-goodness folks manning the stalls as well as those, like the rustic looking lady and the man sitting each with their bundles of brede chouchou and brede mouroume respectively awaiting customers. They, the salt of the earth, the producers and suppliers of the most vital ingredient we need to keep us alive: food. Where would we be, we urbanites driving in and out with their produce in our posh cars, without their toil?”


So it was a pleasure to meet a young person who is taking care of his health, and hopefully will transmit this to his progeny and family. If more such young people adopted such an attitude and practice, instead of preferring to die stupidly on the roads because of their unhealthy lifestyles, that would surely raise the level of general good in the country, and goodness too for ‘mens sana in corpora sano’ (a healthy mind in a healthy body) – which was the motto of my athlete college friend Alvin Ekstrom who unfortunately left this world too early.

Trou-O-Cerfs, like Ganga Talao, are things of beauty that are a joy forever. At the beginning of the week a lovely mist had suffused the crater with its freshness that enhanced the coolness of the morning. As I and my equally lovely fellow walkers reached a certain point we suddenly saw the outline of the new radar building coming up at TOC outlined in a ‘orange-ish’ glow that lit up the side of the building and the sphere perched atop it, a glow that came through the diaphanous haze of the surrounding mist. This fairy-like spectacle had us in awe as we ‘wowed’ almost in one voice. And we are blessed that everyday we can enjoy scenes that touch our very core, that make us feel connected to all that forms part of that ecosystem there.

It has been announced by the meteorological office that it’s going to be a dry winter: mercifully so given the amount of rains we’ve had since the beginning of the year. And as we are transitioning from summer, we have really been having a pleasant time during our morning walks. That kind of addiction, I daresay, is the only one worth having! Just imagine: the happily chirping birds, a symphony of low-decibel sounds that almost tickle our eardrums; the saffron hues of the skies as the sun rises – itself the wonder of wonders that daily renews our life force, and not for nothing did our sages commend us to the surya namaskar!

And then there’s the variety of greenery that greets our eyes, that stretches down into the crater which looks even more awesome when thin mist fills it as we saw a few days ago. Why, I was reminded afresh of the Grand Canyon that I visited years ago, and hope someday to be able to do so again! There’s also the sound of laughter at jokes shared and the babble of discussions on every possible subject under the sun, from football to horseracing to the inevitable politics. Bonhomie and good cheer prevail, and that’s what is important and the carry home call in our hearts as we take the road down to the terra firma of our normal routine.

One of them that I had relinquished for almost three decades was going to the la foire (open market). However, the chaos of traffic congestion and the virtual impossibility of finding parking place recently forced me to abandon my trips to the market in Curepipe and go instead to the one in Forest-Side. Currently it is a temporary one as the new market there is under construction; nevertheless at least on Wednesdays there is ample parking space, and the stalls are not too crowded with customers jostling each other as on Saturdays. But that also is not all that bad, provided one has the time.

Reminds me of the la foire at the site of present Jan Palach bus terminus after the old railway station buildings were pulled down, and which I used to attend on Saturday mornings before going to hospital. Then of course it was open skies, but perhaps it’s not a risk worth taking now what with the vagaries of the weather and the risk of catching colds. And so the covered stalls at Forest-Side, but the experience of going around and buying fresh stuff is as exhilarating as I remember it to be during my earlier walkabouts with my tente.

The entrepreneurial spirit is indeed fully alive, and there’s everything that one possibly needs for feeding oneself healthily. For the past month I have enjoyed selecting from the wide range of vegetables on sale, and I quickly spotted the guy sitting with his bundles of brede mouroume, which has become part of my regular fare now. Not because of the virtues of moringa that have recently been the focus of interest by those who make as if they have discovered the north pole, but because of the nostalgia of childhood. Then of course we used to absolutely hate the stuff, because of its slightly bitter aftertaste. But now we – all my walker friends – look forward to a good bouillon or touffe, and as all sensible Mauritians know, this goes down very well with white rice and poisson sale. There, I hope I have whetted appetites, so go and get yourself the stuff and look forward to your Sunday lunch!

I would have rested my case, but I must also mention the lady vendor near the entrance with her range of yummy pickles and something new to me: the chilly and orange combination that my taste buds have taken to, wow! Oh, I forget bottled fresh coconut juice and coconut la crème that are also available, and how could we miss the readymade fresh satini coco!

As I walked to my car with my loaded bag, I reflected upon my meeting with the new acquaintance from Sebastopol that morning, and the honest-to-goodness folks manning the stalls as well as those, like the rustic looking lady and the man sitting each with their bundles of brede chouchou and brede mouroume respectively awaiting customers. They, the salt of the earth, the producers and suppliers of the most vital ingredient we need to keep us alive: food. Where would we be, we urbanites driving in and out with their produce in our posh cars, without their toil?

Something to ponder, and to be grateful for, surely.

 


* Published in print edition on 18 May 2018

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