Category Archives: Family

Time to Pack up

Cocos

Uuuhh… It’s the end of my tour. Do you still recall my first post from Rodrigues a week after my arrival here? Well, it’s already time to pack up. As from this evening I’ll be on hot ashes with the arrival of my relief, packing up of my personal effects and handing over procedures. My wife came some 10 days ago. After some quick visits to some sites she is busy doing some shopping so that we can bring little gifts for the close relatives. The specialities of the island are straw hats, bags, chillies, honey, lemons and pickles.

Six months have elapsed. I should say I had a cool moment, far from the rush and stress in homeland. I enjoyed the countryside, the seaside, the fishing parties and, most of all, my visit to Ile aux Cocos. The nice time I had with my son and a very intimate and special companion will ever remain as an unforgettable moment in my life. I have been here on several occasions. This one was indeed special. For the first time I visited the whole island and interested myself in the people’s way of life. And you know what? I had so many visitors, which made my stay really enjoyable.

This morning I conveyed the bulk of my personal effects for shipment. I’ll have to leave my car under the care of my relief to ship it back next week. The boat is expected on 10 August. Back home I’ll have to do without my car until around the 13th on the return of the boat to Port Louis.

I am sorry for having been irregular during the past month. I hope to catch up as soon as I’m settled at home. Until then take care. See you.

There’s Something in the Line

If you read my last post you might be asking yourself what the hell I have been doing. Of course work was my priority and I had to find time after office to bring my visitors around. Fortunately here we break off earlier as we start one hour earlier than in homeland. Although the sun sets 24 minutes earlier we have ample time to go around.

This island has a different panorama with its wide valleys and hilly features. I won’t go into the details as I wrote about it in a previous post. If you want to enjoy the sun and the sea the best place would be Cotton Bay or St François in the east. We didn’t as much as we would have wished. We couldn’t swim; it was too cold. With a series of anticyclones in the region the sensation of cold was intense. But that didn’t prevent us from trying our hand at fishing.

The youngsters bought fishing lines, hooks and baits (we used shrimps). We set off on three successive evenings at Point L’Herbe, a shore in between Port Mathurin (the capital) and Baie aux Huitres (Oyster Bay). Any guess who was the hero on the first occasion? I’m sure you made the good one – me of course (no boasting). I got the first and only catch with a small “vielle” as soon I threw the line. Everybody was excited. We baited one after the other. “Ni ene” (not even one more) until sunset.

vielle

A small “vielle”

On the second day the luck was with my niece. “Uncle,” she yelled couple of minutes after she threw her line. “Look, there’s something… Quick, I can’t hold it anymore.” I left my line and grabbed hers. “Yeah, it’s a big one… a carangue… probably 3 lbs.” Summa couldn’t believe her eyes. She took out her mobile and had some snapshots before messaging her mom and sister at home.

carangue

Carangue 

The excitement was so great; we tried again yesterday. But we didn’t have any more luck. We came back empty-handed, although we hooked three small eels which we released afterwards. My son’s face was dull; he’s yet to prove himself. Well, that’s part of the game.

We are not giving up yet. I just called a local friend for a fishing party on boat. The weather is OK and Carlo has agreed to take us on board tomorrow morning. We checked the tides and fixed the meeting at 7.00 am at a place called Caverne Provert further away from the English Bay on the eastern side of Port Mathurin.

Carlo is reliable, although somewhat lazy at times. He’s an experienced fisherman. He owns a boat propelled with oars. In May when the sea was smooth he took me off-lagoon one Saturday morning. He was there at 6.00am sharp. The weather was fine in the morning. Later around 10.00 am dark clouds built up and covered the whole sky. We could see the rain coming from the south and in no time we were soaked. The tides were low and we couldn’t make it to the shore in time. We had a good catch though; each of us, we were three, got about 5 kg of different variety.

Busy Month

 new sunset

May was lonesome; it reminded me of the Rodriguan Solitaire. No longer now. My stay is becoming more comfortable as I move towards the end. I can sense the tension relaxed despite the heavy work schedule. No more restless moments.

June has been exceptionally busy for me with work deadlines and visitors around. A colleague and his daughter visited me in the second week; my younger son also came with them. A couple of days later a technical team was here for a week for the maintenance of equipment. My mom and my niece arrived last week; they are staying until 5 July. I just arranged for an extension of their stay; they were initially scheduled to leave on Sunday 29.

But that’s not all. Other relatives will be here from the 7th until mid-July. My son is staying with me until my departure back to Mauritius in the first week of August pending the arrival of my wife around the end of July.

So I have every reason to rejoice and enjoy the last bit of my stay here. Bear with me if I’m somewhat irregular.

Duping children with the myth of Santa Claus

Childhood memories

While it’s about time for the Christmas presents I am reminded of my own childhood deception about this event. I have always been intrigued by the traditional tale about a mythical figure coming from a remote place in the North Pole, more precisely from Finland.

Clad in red coat and trousers with white cuffs and collar, and black leather belt and boots he is depicted as the magical figure bringing gifts at Christmas for children who have behaved well during the year. This attire fits well to the figure in the land of perpetual snow; not so much though in the hot equatorial and tropical zones where he can get roasted at this time of the year. But that’s another issue.

Behave yourselves

I still remember when I was a child some decades ago. I always wondered why my brothers and I didn’t receive any gifts, while my cousins got plenty of them: dolls, toy cars and jets, flutes, balls and the rest. Like any children our age we starved for these. Had we been so bad during the year? We have been attending schools regularly, getting good marks, feeding the younger ones, helping mom with the kitchen chores and well, obeying our parents throughout.

Polish your shoes

As much naughty as we were, my cousins would proudly say that they’d polish their shoes to shine on the eve of Christmas and place them under their bed before going to sleep early. Father Christmas, as Santa Claus is often referred to, would come at around midnight and lay the gifts in the shoes. Very early the next morning they’d get up to collect their presents and rejoice.

Sandals would do

But during those times my parents were less fortunate. We didn’t even have shoes; all we had to content ourselves with was a pair of wooden sandals which we’d wear on special occasions. Better off than us, my cousins would arrogantly add to our naivety: “it doesn’t matter if you don’t have shoes, the sandals would do. But do take care to keep them clean.

We had no reason not to believe. My uncles would confirm what they said. Better, they’d convince us that all Santa Claus needed was a pair of shoes or in default anything that could identify you at midnight; and you should behave well, be obedient to your parents. We did whatever they said.

The next morning surprise

Our heart pounded as we woke up the next morning. What could Father Christmas have left for us? We rushed to our respective sandals. They were intact, exactly in the same position as we left them the previous evening. Tears rolled off our eyes, my elder brother squeezing me against his chest; grabbing me firmly he murmured: “Don’t be disheartened Alfa, I think Santa Claus did not pass by. May be next time.

Children don’t realize. Their parents buy those gifts and place them at the appropriate spot; and they pretend otherwise. We thought we’ve been naughty, or Father Christmas doesn’t love us, or he discriminates bringing gifts only to the more fortunate ones, not to the poor people like us.

You see, our thoughts went to the extent of nourishing all sorts of worries: why we didn’t have Father Christmas’ favour. Our parents suffered in silence, for not being able to afford even a symbolic item. How could they, with a big family, a casual job, a meager income just enough to feed the mouth?

How many children have been and are still being duped this way? Can you imagine? Children believe in everything you tell them, naïve as they are. We shouldn’t lose sight of the era we are living in. Information is accessible at the tips of our fingers. Instead of cheering them up during this period of rejoicing, we indulge in telling them lies, so much that not only do they lose their self-esteem, they develop a feeling of mistrust towards us.

Tell the truth – save the blame

If we want to put Christmas time in its true perspective with the religious significance it is associated with, if we want to be trustful to our children, and if we want them to be more respectful to this event, if we want to avoid stooping too low in their eyes, we need to re-visit our stories and adapt them to the realities of the day. Children can no longer be fooled; they know very well that there’s no such thing as the legendary figure we call Father Christmas. He is not a magician; he doesn’t manufacture toys; he doesn’t travel the world in a sleigh pulled by a reindeer. What are planes for after all?

The sad experience I encountered in my childhood has taught me lessons. I cannot fool my children. I told them the plain truth and offered them gifts at daylight, not necessarily at Christmas time. Better, I brought them to choose their own gifts at the shopping malls so that they experience the joy of a real-life event. Not one where everything seems to depend on the so-called imaginary evaluation of the mythical figure bringing toys according to his own judgement, toys they might not like at all.

With hindsight I can say that our parents were taken up in the spiral of the myth. They had no other choice than to perpetuate the story. It’s time we thought about this issue in a more realistic manner. How long are we going to maintain this false belief?

I’d be interested to know what you think about this pertinent issue at a time when we are celebrating Christmas and New Year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. May God bless.

Which comes first, Christmas or New Year?

On Tuesday the world will be celebrating Christmas Day; and exactly a week after it’ll be New Year’s Day. It’s the festive season and there’s a lot of movement from shopping to visits to the dear ones.

Well, today we met at our cousin’s place. All the Kings were there, well almost. We were invited for a family lunch. On every such occasion it’s real fun. After lunch it’s time for the latest news, views, stories, jokes, riddles … Romeo is eldest of all and he is specially fond of riddles and is always teasing the others. The grown-ups, especially the males, get on easily with him; not the younger ones and the girls. They are easily offended and this is when Romeo enjoys the most of his sarcastic and ironical tales.

Today Romeo exposed a riddle. It was geared towards Ilalika who is a shop attendant; he is one of those who haven’t completed his schooling as others among us. So Romeo asked Ilalika: “Which comes first, Christmas or New Year?”

“What a silly question!” retorted Ilalika.

“You think I’m fooling you?” pursued Romeo.

“I think you are losing your head as you are growing old,” insisted Ilalika.

“OK, but why don’t you give me the answer?”

“Even the children know that Christmas comes before the New Year. What’s your point in asking such a silly question?” Ilalika was becoming furious. “Is it because I’m not educated as you are?”

Romeo is known for his ‘silly” questions. And whenever he has such questions you should know he is coming at something else. What that could be in this case, I wondered. I was silently brainstorming and I knew there was a catching point out there. Romeo is clever and likes to make fun. I was right. I was amused by Ilalika’s responses.

Everybody was watching in utter surprise. They knew Ilalika’s answer was obvious but couldn’t figure out the real issue: Christmas is celebrated on 25 December and New Year on 1 January. So Ilalika should be right. Isn’t it?

As the suspense was growing I intervened in an endeavour to try to resolve it in another way. “Wait a minute,” I shouted. “New Year comes first.” Everybody stared at me. I knew I owed an explanation.

Let’s take this year 2007. When was New Year in 2007? On 1 January. When will Christmas be celebrated in 2007? 25 December. January comes before December. Right? So New Year comes before Christmas. As simple as that.

Romeo smiled. “It’s just like the question: which came first, the chick or the egg?”

If you have any other “silly” questions, riddles or jokes I’d be interested to hear from you. Use my comment box or contact me if you’d like it posted here. Let’s get into the festive mood.

Enjoy the parties. But take care not to walk with too much money in your pockets. My son just came in to tell me from what he saw on the TV news there’s been a hold up in Quatre Bornes (a town in the centre of the island). There was bloodshed from gunshots.

Long weekend amidst sadness and joy

This week was a short one with only three days’ work. We have two consecutive public holidays: tomorrow is All Saints’ Day and on Friday we celebrate the arrival of indentured labourers in the early colonization period. And of course Saturday and Sunday we are off.

But I am squeezed in between today and tomorrow, between sadness and joy. Usually 31st October is somewhat sad for our family. It’s the death anniversary of one of my sons (he passed away 24 hours after his birth – 23 years ago). 1st November on the other hand is merrier. It’s my wedding anniversary. So we are not sure whether to mourn or to make merry. We got to organise ourselves for both, anyway.

It also happens that my youngest brother, who was on holiday for some three weeks after nearly seven years, is going back to his new homeland in Montreal on 1st November.

Tribute to my beloved Dad

Dad, I want to dedicate this post, the 100th, to you. Without you I wouldn’t be what I am. However I want to, I’ll never be able to pay back what you did for me and for the rest of us despite precarious means at your hand.

Exactly 30 years today. Exactly the same time as I’m writing this post. It’s still vivid in my mind. That night I came back late, later than usual (forgive me Dad). It was nearly midnight. I turned the door knob in a slow motion lest it’d tweet in the still air. The door wasn’t locked, purposefully so that I could get in without disturbing the family’s sleep.

Those were the days, the good ones; you could leave the door without lock, even open, anytime; nobody would intrude.

I got in, turned on the lock in the same manner, removed my slippers and tiptoed to my room. I know you are easily awakened at the least noise; and you had to get up early, before sunrise, for your usual prayer. But first I peeped into your room, which you shared with mom and the other children.

Mom lay flat in the large bed besides the juniors. In the adjacent small (single) bed, on your back, your right leg straight along the length, your left leg bent and protruding upwards, you were facing the ceiling. You were in a deep sleep. Well, that’s what I thought. I crept in my room and slipped under my cover. I didn’t know you had already left us, for the heavenly abode. Nobody knew at that moment. How could they? Everybody was snoring.

The next morning I was awakened in a jerk.

“Get up … I think your father’s no more … get up…”

Mom was yelling, disconsolately. You didn’t wake up for the Morning Prayer. She knew something was wrong. That was it. When I rushed to your bed, you were still in the same position as I last saw you. Beside your bed, I lay dumb, tears rolling off; you had gone, for ever. I felt the guilt of not having been able to bid you good night.

You were only in your early years of retirement; well deserved after so many days of hard labour. Yes, you had done everything possible for our comfort. You never thought of your own well-being. You were always concerned about others. I learnt it from you: “Care for others, God will care about you.” Your dynamism, multi-disciplinary approach and courage characterized your will to succeed in the decent upbringing of your off springs. You did it, Dad. We have nothing to complain about. Although you were the typical “jack-of-all-trade”, you didn’t want your children to endure the same sacrifice as you did.

I still remember the days when we used to go to the fields. You’d carry me on your bicycle through the stony and muddy roads, in the sun and in the rain. You’d pedal hard to force the headwind movement. You used to sermonize on the way. I do still recall your advice; and I try as far as I can to put into practice your teachings. They are engraved in my mind. For you what mattered most was the spiritual well-being that keeps you in balance.

For somebody with hardly any schooling due to poverty, a self-made man as you used to say, you had indeed a high sense of morals. Your quest for knowledge was insatiable. You had a mission: “learn… to teach others”. You shared everything you knew. I always cherish some of the values you taught me:

– Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t others do to you.
– Be calm, honest, truthful and sincere, always.
– Never let those who come to your door go empty-handed.
– Always respect the elders; don’t call them by their names, say uncle, Sir, Mr, etc.
– Seek education, always. Learn from the learned.
– Know that you are being watched by the Almighty.
– When you are in difficulty turn to the Lord.
– Avoid egotism. Share with others. The more you share the more you get in return.

Of course, there are a lot more; and they are not new. But I learnt them from you first.

Dad, I wish you were here. You left us too early. You were still young at 63. What could we do? The Almighty’s call knows no delay, not even a second. The angel (of death) had done its job in utter silence. You’ll always be remembered as a model, as a guide, as a teacher, as a writer, as a poet, as a priest, an honest, trustworthy and reliable person, although you led a modest life.

May the Almighty bless you! Love you Dad.

The break is over

My brother-in-law left this morning with his wife. His son stayed back, against his will. He started crying as they left. But he has no choice. His parents have to resume duty tomorrow and they can’t leave him alone at home. They’ve postponed his ticket and there’s no way he can travel as the planes are fully booked during this period. He’ll have to wait for his grand-mother, expected back from the UK on 4 August after a three-month visit to her daughter in London, to fly back around the 12th.

On Sunday, in a partly cloudy sky with a light but cool breeze, we rallied the southern half of the island all the way from the centre where we live to the south-eastern coastal village of Mahebourg near the airport. We then linked to Le Morne in the south-west through the southern tips of Gris Gris, Riambel, Rivière des Galets, Baie du Cap, Macondé and La Prairie before looping back to the centre. The roads were unusually jammed, probably because of school holidays when people flock to the seaside, if not to the fairs, or both.

Delicious Chop Soy (Chinese cuisine), gratin with cauliflower and bread for lunch; some boiled manioc for the mid-afternoon tiffin; and we refreshed ourselves with sweet coconut water on our way back. It was a little more than a half-day 180-kilometre-drive. We reached home at around 7.00 pm, all exhausted.

* * *

I just got a phone call from Reunion. My guests have reached home in good shape despite a shuddering descent at Pierrefonds (Saint Pierre) airport due to bad weather. They are relieved that their son’s doing better now. I can gauge how terrible it is to part from your dear ones, albeit for a brief period. I’ve experienced it on two occasions. The first one when I had to rush back home to resume work (I wasn’t granted longer leave), leaving behind the whole family in the middle of a two-week holiday in Reunion island. And the second when my family had to leave me alone in Rodrigues island where I was on a tour of duty in 2003. This time they had to be back for school. On both occasions my younger son (then in his early teens, grown up anyway) burst in tears, catching the airport crowd’s attention. Well, that’s life.

Born again

Amazing. He’s got up. Thank God. I couldn’t believe. You wouldn’t, had you seen him at Jawaharlall Nehru Hospital in Rose Belle.

It’s exactly one month since my niece’s husband had a serious accident. Limsa’s plight was critical when we visited him in ward 2.2 on 15 April. Everybody was upset. The doctors were skeptical about his fate. He’s now back, in convalescence, at home. Today it was an immense pleasure to see him on his feet again.

I was proceeding to his room together with Sierra, to see him. But my niece directed us to the lobby, telling us Limsa will meet us there. I was still wondering how he’d make it to the lobby. But Limsa did appear… on crutches. I didn’t have time to greet him than he shouted, “Hi Mr King, how are you?” (He always calls me affectionately Mr King, unlike the other youngsters who prefer Uncle Alfa).

Tears nearly rolled off my eyes as I gazed at him limping towards us. I trembled while I shook his hands. I couldn’t utter a word. I never expected to see him up again. The only instinct I got at that moment was to offer him assistance to take up his seat. He just smiled and said: “It’s OK Mr King, I can walk now.” He let go his crutches and stood straight. “I’m born again; God is great.”

“Indeed.” I added.

Tears have given way to smiles. We could see it on everybody’s face. He related the agony he’s been in during the last 30 days. He’s struggled hard to be able to walk again, although he knows he won’t be back to work soon. His wife and the rest of the family have been very supportive, he cherished.

He has a faint idea of the circumstances of the accident, he relates. We listen to him in silence. He only remembers having told the foreman that the tackle was worn out and could break…. He hadn’t finished his remark than the tackle broke down instantly. He was at the wrong place at the wrong moment. The electric pole plunged right on his lower abdomen; and he fainted. When he recovered he found himself inert in hospital bed, both arms tied to the bed frame.

Limsa is a courageous guy. He never lost hope. He never lost faith. He always kept in his mind there’s something like a supernatural being, call him God, Allah, Bhagwan, Dieu or whatever, watching constantly upon us; and that He’d be there for him. Even in the worst moments I could see the same smile, the same kind of survival instinct unique to him. I still remember him whispering in my ears at the hospital: “It’s hurting… indeed, Mr King; pray for me.”

Upset

Just a brief post to say: “Hi, am still here. Don’t go away.”

Somewhat upset today. It’s all the kind of feeling you get when you visit someone at hospital. My niece’s husband in his 40’s has been seriously injured. A loosely tackled electric pole fell straight on his belly during fixing. He was operated yesterday and it revealed laceration of the intestines. Doctors say it’s very serious.

My elder son was very distressed after this visit. He didn’t utter a word on our way back home for nearly half an hour. Anyway, that’s life. You never know what may happen the second after.