ON SECOND THOUGHTS!
I grew up in the village of Goodlands in the north of Mauritius and also spent quite some time in Quartier Militaire, a village in the centre of the island. In both villages I was taught to respect elderly people who should not be called by their names which must be preceded by attributes such as ‘Tonton’ (uncle) or ‘Tantinn (auntie). In urban areas attitudes were different and shocking for the village boy I was. There was a culture clash but I stuck to my village culture. Yet when Loga and I built our family in an urban zone we adopted a more flexible attitude. We used the respectful ‘ou’ (you) when addressing our parents but our daughters, Saskia and Anushka, could use the familiar pronouns ‘to/twa’ (thou/thee) when addressing us but the respectful term was to be used when addressing their grandparents. When our grandchildren came, they opted for the familiar mode. Loga and I did not object but we told them precautions to take, i.e., when the formal and familiar could be used. I am now 80 years old and on this I have not changed. The formal mode is used with non-intimate people and the familiar with intimates.
I must admit that I am irritated when non-intimate young people, sometime younger than my grandchildren, address me as Dev and use ‘to, twa’ in Mauritian and ‘tu, te, toi’ in French. I try to understand. Could they be influenced by “Pater Noster” in Latin or French?
In Latin: Pater noster, qui es in cœlis;
sanctificetur nomen tuum:
In French: “Notre Père, qui est aux cieux,
que ton nom soit sanctifié,
que ton règne vienne,
que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
If they can address God via the familiar mode, why should they use the formal/respectful mode when addressing a common man who is only 80 years old and may have been their teacher for several years? … And yet I don’t like it. Maybe I am not as progressive as my young fellow citizens!
In the Christian world, God is masculine-singular. “He” is the father. In Islam, Allah is assumed to be a masculine word for specific reasons, too complex to discuss here. In Hinduism, the three aspects of God, namely creation, preservation and destruction, i.e., Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, are closely related to their Shakti, i.e., Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, the three active forces of creation, maintenance and destruction. As my knowledge of Hinduism improves, I find it very hard to accept the ‘masculinity’ of God and so the pronoun ‘He’ becomes improper. I suggest “S-He” instead as subject and “S-im”as object. In French the 3rd person singular personal pronoun as subject may become ‘Ile’ ONLY when it refers to God and the object form may become ‘luie’. In the case of Mauritian, there is NO PROBLEM AT ALL for the 3rd person singular pronoun ‘li’ is gender neutral and its meaning is determined by context. Moreover, the subject and object forms are similar.
Here are some examples:
1. Ena enn sel Bondie. Li kreater; Li prezervater; Li destrikter. Anou priye Li, dimann Li montre nou bon sime.
2. Li al legliz dan so zoli rob pa pou priye me pou fer dimoun remark li.
3. Li sou, li sap lor kal brit e li bat so fam.
LE ROI EST MORT; VIVE LE ROI!
No, I’m not a monarchist! Yet, I must admit that the general outburst of strong emotions following the death of Queen Elizabeth II compelled me to reappraise certain symbols and review certain concepts and beliefs. I was also surprised to listen to several political observers in different French media outlets. They were surprised by the popularity of the Queen as much as I was and their words suggested some form of envy. They admitted that there was nothing in the Republic NOW to generate such popular outburst of strong emotions.
Although, initially, democratic republicanism was a marked improvement in the affairs of human development, with the passage of time it became bogged down in the mire of money and today it thrives on division, repression and corruption instead of liberty, equality and fraternity. Presidents and governments are short term symbols and values and the whole set-up lacks a precious symbol which stands the test of time and gives a sense of continuity.
In spite of this, I believe that the Republic of Mauritius can offer something different.
Mauritius is the land of immigrants who have come from different parts of the world to build a new home. Unlike the USA or Australia where millions of natives were robbed and murdered, Mauritius had no native population and is a typical Creole Island as defined by Professor Megan Vaughan. This Creole Island can show that humanity is ONE; that human creative power can raise aspirations and make us reach for the sky. This island will never be Little France or Little India for its destiny is to be a beacon to guide humanity to a culture based on love and care, solidarity and sharing, harmony with nature …
I may be wrong but I don’t mind for the dream fills me with joy.