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Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Newly-born stabbed to death

Horrible! It’s the least that can be said when you discover a newly-born, innocent, less-than-a-day-old child, draped in a piece of cloth and inert in a school bag. And on further probe you end up with a lifeless being, hardly born enough. Deeply lacerated and perforated at various places, the baby’s corpse bore a serious head wound and several cuts around the neck.

Yes, that was the horrible scene police found when they reached a small house in the suburbs of Port Louis, after a phone call at 7.00 pm on Sunday.

The baby’s mother, a 17-year-old student, was there too. She had apparently had a clandestine delivery, far from the specialized health care facilities, during the day. She had kept her pregnancy secret and nobody, not even her close relatives, ever knew about her health condition.

Postmortem examination revealed the baby-girl died from “multiple stab wounds of the chest”. Some 30 spots of severe injury, with serious throat cuts, were found. As of now there are no solid clues as to the real circumstances of the crime. Police inquiry is on and will definitely target the baby’s mother as soon as she’s released from hospital where she’s been admitted just after the police raid.

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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.

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Women empowerment

Women around the world face numerous challenges in their daily life. Victims of discrimination, injustice, rape and poverty, many have, against all odds, to strive for their rights and survival. And if they live in countries where women are treated like second-class citizens, it’s even more difficult to rise up.

I just want to share something I’ve read from Newswatch India. It tells us about how one newspaper in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh dedicates itself to the cause of women’s plight. The paper is called ‘Mahila Paksh’ and is run “by women, for women and to women”. It’s quite a different kind of paper. It’s concerned more with membership than readership. It aims at “creating awareness in the women not about the social issues but awareness for the self”.

It’s interesting to note how it contributes to the empowerment of women who otherwise would have had to content themselves to the so-called fate of injustice and oppression.

Quite a challenging task indeed, especially when the reporters are unskilled and hardly educated. You can also read more about it here at “Writing for their Rights“.

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It’s now a worldwide tradition, well at least here in Mauritius. Mother’s Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of May every year. Right form the early morning people flock to their mothers’ to wish Happy Mother’s Day. For those whose mothers are resting in peace it’s an occasion to pay a special tribute at the cemetery.

Flowers, fancy presents or anything that would please moms are enough to say “Thank you Mom for having given birth to me. There’s no better mom than you. I’ll ever be grateful to you, my dear mom.” These words full of significance echo in the ears of every mother this day, sincerely, honestly or just in words.

On this auspicious day it’s good if we thought a little about those who don’t have a mom or those who’ve never seen their mom, those who’ve lost their dear mummy, those who are longing to say “Mama” to the one who brought them in this world. They are numerous. Still there are quite a lot of them who despite having a mother are motherless. These are the ones with little heart, those who, rightly or wrongly, have ignored the ones who’ve sacrificed their lives for them. If only this day could bring them back to their dear mummy it would give a whole new meaning to mother’s day.

Then there are those who don’t have anybody to cheer them up, nobody to call them “Ma”,“Mamma”, “Mummy” or “Mom”. They may never have conceived, or they may have lost their kins or they may even have abandoned their children for various reasons, poverty, war, crimes, famine…. For them mother’s day would mean nothing more than a mourning day. May the Almighty be merciful upon them.

But the sad thing about this celebration is that it’s more a day for business people. Since two weeks we are being flooded with commercial adverts on radio, TV, the press and even on bill boards. Fairs have been organized at various places. Shops are offering discounted deals. The official pay day (which is usually two clear days before the end of the month) was advanced from Tuesday 29 to Thursday 24 May. All this to get people into the frenzy of buying for “mother”, or mother-in-law for that purpose, and to show that they (the businesses) care for mothers whoever and wherever they are.

As symbolic as this could be, years ago people greeted their mom with a flower. Not necessarily the case today. People are better off. They resort to material and expensive things. Does your mother require a flower or whatever gift from you to show her that you love her, that you owe her everything that you have? I’m no economist, but it would seem that it’s all a question of supply and demand, with the result that traders and businesses make the best out of this celebration.

Yet there are others for whom every day is a mother’s day. The much deserved love, respect and consideration they bestow on the one without whom they would be naught is all that they do to show how significant is every day they owe to their mom. For them there’s no better day than every day’s a mother’s day; no gift however expensive can ever compensate for a mother’s love and sacrifice.

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Hats off!

Some time back I wrote about Journalism as a dangerous occupation I think it’d be proper to come back to it on this World Press Freedom Day celebrated since 1993.

The press is often viewed as the negative force against those in power. Maybe that’s why many of them suffer the fate of being kidnapped, ill-treated, tortured and even killed. The case of Alan Johnston, BBC correspondent in Gaza, who is missing since 12 March is a case among many of serious outrage to the media people.

But it cannot be denied; journalists and the media do play a major role in the consolidation of democracies and in the socio-economic development of nations around the world. Without them many stories (real-life) would have remained untold, for ever. I have in mind those who risk their lives bringing us the live events in times of war and conflict; Iraq, Palestine, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, are but a few of the lands where anybody would fear to tread, not journalists.

They indeed deserve our praise on this day. Hats off!

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May Day

May 1 is celebrated throughout the world as Labour Day, often called May Day (not to be confused with “Mayday” which is an international distress signal code in radio communication derived from the French “m’aider” meaning “help me”). Its origin is found in the Industrial Revolution that took place in Britain at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. There was a fundamental transformation from manual to mechanized labour, which transgressed the socio-cultural barriers. Workers became exposed to poor conditions and irregular hours of work, putting in between 10 to 16 hours in some cases. The concept of the 8-hour work emerged in the struggle for workers’ emancipation; and it spread gradually throughout the other parts of the world.

In Mauritius Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in 1938 under the initiative of Dr. Maurice Curé, an eminent leader of the labour movement at that time. But over the years this “day”, which is a pubic holiday, has been taken over by politicians. It is an occasion for political parties (government and opposition alike) to demonstrate their popularity and force by organizing mass meetings in the main townships of the island. Unions can hardly mobilize their rank and file to the bare 100, while tens of thousands of people flock to the political gatherings. Most of the public buses have been booked to carry people free to the meeting places. Some roads have even been closed to allow for necessary arrangements.

However, in remembrance to those who struggled for workers’ emancipation, wreaths are laid by union leaders as well as political men at the respective tombs. Dr. Maurice Curé, Emanuel Anquetil, Guy Rozemont, Anjalay are but a few of the martyrs of the labour movement in Mauritius. Unions have been organizing talks around a particular theme each year in order to keep their members alert to the happenings of the day.

But there are others for whom Labour Day will mean nothing; it’ll be a day just like any other day. They’ll prefer a round at the seaside or at the hypermarkets or still at the various commercial exhibitions being held at the moment. Oh! Right at this time as I’m writing I overheard, and it’s confirmed by my wife, the TV news announcing government has just decided to prohibit all commercial sales on the 1st May. Are they anticipating low participation at their meeting? Will they be able to pull the shock-giving crowd? Anyway, one cannot underestimate people’s frustration these days with the ever-drastically-increasing prices of all commodities. As low participation means unpopularity, the government doesn’t want to take risks; so it seems.

As for me there’s no special arrangement. I’ll take a good rest in the morning before I get ready for a service and dinner at my niece’s place on the occasion of her birthday. The whole family will be there. You might call it a family day for me, if you wish; well deserved anyway, after long work commitments. It’s long since I’ve distanced myself form political meetings. When I was a trade union leader from 1984 to 1999, I had to show myself in prominent position; no longer now. I better devote my time for more constructive activities. And what’s better than writing?

Just one thing before I pen off, don’t miss the interview I announced yesterday. It’ll be up tomorrow, May 1. I just hope it won’t be a Mayday for me!

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When I woke up this morning I didn’t really have any plans for the day. I thought I’d reorganize my schedule so that I can have a smooth blogging the coming week. But then I decided to go to Port Louis. It wasn’t to watch the races. No, although it was the second day of horse racing here. I don’t feel like having an interest for the races any more. All seems to be high-betting business and you have to be armed with a good dose of patience if you want to see the sports side of it. So it was rather to visit a book fair that was organized by the National Library in the context of World Book Day. It’s become an annual feature now at the Caudan Waterfront.

I was curious to see what’s selling, how it’s being done and who the local publishers are. I was pleasantly surprised that people do indeed show the interest deserved in books and other literatures in this era of information technology. Although a wide range of resources is available on the internet; hard copies are still in high demand. We have to reckon that books will continue to exist, as long as writers and readers will exist.

It was a family event. Some years back there was no much rush. People now make it a point to attend such event, and with their wards. They want to “show” their children rather than “tell” them what’s going on and how, what’s there in the market, and how they can benefit. It’s sort of making them get the feel of the book world. Education and upbringing have become highly competitive. Excellence is the word. You could see everybody leafing through every single piece of literature. Much more, everybody had something in their hands, a book, a magazine, a periodical or other reading stuff as they were leaving the stands. Prices were considerably reduced on some materials.

The nearly two-meter-corridor in between the 20 or so book stands was crammed; and the air was roasting. In another stand some meters away, children were invited to story telling, quiz, reading and reciting poems. A well-known artist entertained them.

But my attention was drawn by an old lady, well, older than me, sitting in front of a desk with some books under a large umbrella. She was outside the stands. As I passed by she invited me to have a look. She was promoting inspirational items. She immediately discovered by my body language that I wasn’t interested. Even then she insisted. I didn’t want to displease her. So I had a quick glance. She knew I was doing it for her sake. In a move to conceal her embarrassment she asked me with a smile:

“You’re champion, Sir?”

On the spot, I didn’t get her. I just murmured: “Well… but I’m fond of reading…. and a bit of writing, for the pleasure of it… Just that.”

She regained her ease now; and we started exchanging some vibes about my interest in writing when I realized that I was wearing a T-shirt on which was written “Champion”. Before I’d blush I decided to withdraw as somebody else popped at the desk. I was just slipping away when she looked at me in my eyes: “I hope to see you in print, Sir. Good luck; and May God bless.”

The words she uttered during the brief conversation seem still to be rolling in my mind. I cannot imagine how meaningful they can be. I hope I can make it one day. If not for me, at least for my well-wisher. Although by now I cannot figure out who I talked to.

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