A slice of India
No wonder when most locals see a “fellow Indian”, they open up. Many of them have never visited India, yet they feel an affinity towards the country from which their grandparents came, writes Aradhana Sinha.india Updated: Aug 30, 2007 00:02 IST
Wherever Indians go, they carry their world with them. Take Mauritius for example. Indians reached this country as indentured labourers in mid-19th century. They were contracted to work on the sugar plantations for a period of five to ten years. Many stayed back.
Their children were born and brought up in their new homeland, very much influenced by the culture, the values and the cuisines of their original homeland. With the passage of time, came the third generation: Mauritian in their lifestyles, speaking a new language — Creole.
Interestingly, Creole is a mixture of French, English and Bhojpuri. These are the influences that make Mauritians what they are. For these were the predominant influences on the island in the 18th, the 19th and the 20th centuries. The Dutch were the first to colonise Mauritius. But they did not stay for long. The French stayed for a longer time and developed the place. The British made Mauritius a plantation colony. Although the cultural influence remained largely French, specially among the gentry, the English brought in a new influence, a new flavour and a new spirit — that of India.
No wonder when most locals see a “fellow Indian”, they open up. Many of them have never visited India, yet they feel an affinity towards the country from which their grandparents came. The man at the ticket counter in the SSR Botanical Garden broke into Hindi the minute he learnt we were from India. The driver of the taxi made helpful suggestions as we tried to reconcile our sight-seeing preferences.
The Indian influence is indeed visible. There are several temples and mandapams in Mauritius. Very often, during festivals, after the bhajans and kirtans are over, the devout end with the Indian national anthem. As somebody told me, the Indo-Mauritians (they always call themselves Mauritians) are patriotic. They celebrated Independence Day much before Mauritius became independent — and the date was August 15.