The Importance of Being Mauritian

Published: 11th September 2015 03:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2015 03:36 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD: I was in Mauritius recently. And like all social media addicts, I bombarded my accounts with photographs and status updates. Now that I am back, and have the luxury of longer posts, I hope to take you on a trip around Mauritius, introduce you to the people, the culture and all things that are 100 per cent Mauritian.

Mauritius is a funny country. Not because there are stand-up comics by the dozen over here but because of the way it can throw you off balance. It definitely threw me off. As an Indian, when you enter the country, most of the people look familiar. You might not have flown the distance across the ocean at all. Imagine walking past a woman on the road who looks like your neighbour, is wearing a salwar kameez (or maybe a sari), a bindi, a mangalsutra and yes, even the streak of sindoor on the parting of her hair.

discover.JPGYou could be somewhere in North India. It is when you speak to her that all perceptions are thrown right out of the window. She only speaks French and accented English, sometimes even just a smattering of it. This lady struggled over my name, like a foreigner would, saying it with a French lisp. I was confused. Those skills that helped me box people into countries, states, origins and culture, failed me here. I had no clue who I was talking to, a tourist, a local, a migrant.

Then I saw a man with pronounced African features. His origins? He has roots in India. Later on I came across someone I would call a typical European.

Was she French? Mais non, she corrected me. Mauritian and proud to be so. Later during the trip, at a dance party in my hotel, two people with Oriental features were having a gala time.

Ah, Chinese tourists, I thought. Midway, when the Mauritian singer Stephanie belted out a Creole song (Creole is the local language which is a version of French) the Chinese couple burst out singing. The elderly gentleman knew all the words. Once the party is over, I walked over, introduced myself. Pierre and his wife Fifi are Mauritian, too.

And that is Mauritius. This exotic blend of Indian, European, African and Chinese roots, of folks who look like they belong elsewhere, but all of them bound to this tiny country that they call their forever home.

Today, of a population of 12 lakhs (1.2 million), around 60 to 70 per cent are of Indian origin and just around 15000 are European (Franco Mauritians, Anglo Mauritians).

Around 40 per cent follow Hinduism, and then there is Christianity, Islam and a small percentage of Buddhism. This eclectic potpourri is what defines Mauritius.

Bhavani blogs at http://merrytogoaround.com

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