It’s incredible! Suddenly I remember the way I was brought up in both Goodlands and Quartier Militaire.
In Goodlands, I mixed up with only my cousins and other close relatives and not with other neighbours who were either ‘Kalkitas’ or ‘Kreol Mazanbik’. Most of the people in my street were either my father’s siblings or cousins and their families and relatives. My grandfather (Tata Ganganah), the eldest member of his generation, was the much respected and obeyed patriarch. He ruled the tribe. Yes, I grew up in a Telugu tribe. Tata Ganganah saw himself as the God-ordained Guardian of our blood-purity. This is why when my father, in his late teens had fathered a child with a Kreolinn (an Afro-Creole woman), he was ordered to cut all links with that woman and was quickly married to my mother, a ‘genuine’ Telugu girl from Quartier Militaire. This is also why, when one of my sisters fell in love with a ‘Madras’ (Tamil) boy – a friend of mine – and I publicly gave them my full support, my Tata declared me a renegade to be ‘banished’.
The story of my father’s first love and first child was hidden from us although my mother frequently, when she was angry with me, told me to go to ‘to fami, lao laba’ (your family uphill). Much later, with the help of my great cousin, Sanass, I established contact with my half-sister, Monol.
In Quartier Militaire, the situation was different. On Bonne Veine Road, my grandparents were the only Telugus and they were forced to mix with non-Telugus. There, my best friend was Farook Aumeer, a Muslim boy.
In the 1950’s, my Tata bought a big house in Trotter Street, Beau-Bassin and as my mother had died in childbirth (8th child), most of my siblings were able to live under the same roof with my Babam (Tata’s wife, my father’s mother) and two aunts, Appa Narain and Appa Vidya.
The new situation opened the door to new experiences.

Electricity. Running water. Telephone. Tarred streets. Street lighting. A new world.
We were the only Telugus on Trotter Street. There were middle-class and lower middle-class Whites, Creoles, Muslims and Mulattoes and one family of lower middle class Kalkitas.
No sugarcane fields. But a beautiful public garden by a waterfall close by. On the streets, Bhojpuri was totally absent. Only Creole and some French.
I underwent a great cultural change. I completed my primary education in a Catholic school (St. Enfant Jesus) after which I went to a Catholic secondary school (St. Joseph’s College). My father and grandparents were sure that I would get a very good education. They were right. But they did not suspect that this would also mean a change in mindset. I became an Elvis Presley and James Dean fan; went regularly to Roxy, Plaza and Royal cinema halls to watch French films and Hollywood films dubbed in French; started to sing American songs; I even wrote lyrics in English and tried to put them to music. My Babam was worried and said I had become a ‘Konndorrou’, her word for Creole.
All my friends were lower middle-class creoles and this terrified Babam for she though that Creole girls would snare me into marriage. What she did not know was that most of them thought I was a ‘malbar bitasion’ (a derogatory term for village Hindus) and moreover, my handicap due to polio did not make of me a worthwhile catch.
If she only knew how much my secondary education had changed me! In several ways.
• Hindu religious rituals were meaningless for me. I found Catholic rituals more attractive. Worse. My parents and grandparents had failed to impart to me the essence of Hinduism; in fact, rituals had taken the place of faith.
• By the Creoles, mulattoes and ‘Ti-Blan’, i.e., not wealthy whites – (Gran Blan – wealthy whites sent their children to boarding schools in Apartheid South Africa) – I was mockingly called a ‘zangarna’ (worshipper of Jagannath, another name for Vishnu and Krishna). As I knew nothing about my ancestral religion, I had to simply shut up. But great was the humiliation.
• My spoken French was poor for I could not pronounce certain phonemes, specially [ə] as in ‘le’, [œ] as in ‘coeur’, [ø] as in ‘voeu’, [ʃ] as in ‘chance’, [ʒ] as in ‘jamais’ or ‘visage’ etc. These phonemes are not used by my mother tongue, Mauritian Creole. Again, I was the object of mockery. Fortunately, I had a good ear and with great efforts, I overcame my limitation and eventually mastered the phonology of French and won an Alliance Franҁaise prize. That helped me to command respect.
Babam was right. I had become a ‘konndorrou’. A very happy one. Being a Hindu or a Telugu meant nothing to me. Then I met Loga, a Port Louis Telugu girl and my life changed again.

When we met, she was 17 and I was 19-20. Something attracted us to each other. She was not considered as beautiful as her elder sister or as intelligent as her younger sister but her personality generated a lot of kindness. Her father, Samy Mulleegadoo, was a founder member of the Mauritius Andhra Maha Sabha, an association which looked after the rights and welfare of Telugus and his wife, known by all as Madam Samy, was a ‘choli’ specialist (a special blouse worn with a saree). On Loga’s side, I was warmly welcome. On my side there was plenty of opposition. Why? I could not understand.
Loga and I were sure that we were made for each other and we decided to ignore those who were against our union. When they understood that we would act according to our will, they reluctantly accepted to be present at our official betrothal. As I had to leave for Edinburgh University, Loga and I decided that she would save some money to come to UK. We were helped by Loga’s uncle, Seemat, who organised our wedding in England.
We have known each other for almost 60 years now. We have 2 daughters, Saskia and Anushka, and 3 grandchildren: Taz, 25 yrs. old; Yann, 24 yrs. old and Rachel, 20 yrs. old. Together we have built something very beautiful. Saskia, an accountant, has moved to paramedical activities, specialising in aqua therapy; Anushka, a graphic designer, is now running a home for battered women and manages the Gender Links branch of Mauritius. Taz did a first degree in psychology and now aims at becoming a professional singer; Yann is a forensic accountant and Rachel is an interior designer. Loga, a gender equality militant, has now successfully turned to creative writing. Our lives together have been a marvelous voyage à deux with all the ups and downs of loving togetherness.


Besides a degree in English and French and a diploma in Applied Linguistics; besides the artistic delight of Edinburgh Festival; besides the friendship of Sue, Irene, Heather, Paul and Mick, Edinburgh has equipped me with knowledge on feminism, political thoughts and creole languages, knowledge which has greatly fueled my life since.
I discovered feminism first through an interpretation of Lady Macbeth by my personal English literature tutor and a sort of surrogate mother, Madeleine Ly Tio Fane, who told me that the truly tragic character in Macbeth was Lady Macbeth who sacrificed her life and soul to help her husband. Further knowledge came from plays by Henrik Ibsen and Bernard Shaw and through friends, male and female. Loga and I did our best to make of feminism an important aspect of our conjugal life. I think we have been rather successful.
Through friends, I learnt about Quakerism, Anarchism, socialist revolution; I was quite close to a group which was militating for Scottish home-rule. I must admit I was quite naïve, politically speaking, and had to grow through practice which would start in 1968.
Before I left Mauritius, twice I raised the Creole language question, suggesting that it was the language of Mauritius and both times I was politely told by my elders that it was broken French, a pidgin, a dialect and NOT a language. As I was not intellectually equipped to explain my intuition or defend my belief, I chose silence.
After an average performance during my first university year and was admitted to yr. 2, the head of the Faculty of English asked to see me in his office. He wanted to know more about my language skills. When he asked me what language I spoke at home, I stammered and repeated what my elders had told me about the Creole language. He stopped me gently to say that Creole was a language and consequently I knew 4 languages (Creole, English, French and Latin). That short interview got me very excited about future academic work. But as the excitement subsided, the language project sank at the back of my mind. I got very interested in economic studies, known at that time as political economy and started to plan a double-degree. A set of unforeseen circumstances forced me to drop that plan and suddenly the old idea of creole studies rose to the surface. I knew that Edinburgh University had a post-graduate diploma in Applied Linguistics which would allow me to specialise in the teaching of English and write a dissertation on a related subject. Was I qualified for the course? I went to see the Director, Dr. Pit Corder, who told me that it was too late to apply but he would see what could be done as a student had just dropped out. He talked on the phone to someone, smiled and told me that I could have the place. I was just very lucky.
My mind was made up. My dissertation would be on the revaluation of Mauritian Creole and its use to develop literacy and numeracy and to build a national culture.
Loga and I returned to Mauritius in 1967, a few weeks before the general elections which were to ‘decide’ on the future of my homeland. The two protagonists were MLP (Mauritius Labour Party) which was campaigning in favour of independence and the PMSD (Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate) which was against independence and was proposing that the Mauritius archipelago be made a British Overseas Territory. The sad truth is that both belligerents were lying to the people.
• The Mauritian delegation in the pre-independence talks had already agreed on the excision of the Diego Archipelago which would become an American military base;
• Military strategists in the UK were already thinking of pulling out of East of Suez;
• It was not the policy of the Labour Party under the leadership of Harold Wilson to create overseas territories.
The 1967 campaign was ugly in several ways. One the one hand, there were great promises for a better life for ‘swaraj’ would benefit the poor for there would be a land reform and nationalisation would take from the rich to give to the poor. On the other hand, there was a campaign based on hatred and fear. The country was split into two (56% for independence and 44% against) along ethnic lines with Hindus in general on one side and non-Hindus in general on the other. I realised that bridging the social, cultural and political gap would be a Herculean task. Perhaps Mauritian Creole could help us in this mammoth endeavour. Rightly or wrongly, this is what I thought.
As soon as the results of the 1967 general elections were known, I started a series of articles in l’Express on the nature and importance of Mauritian Creole which should be renamed ‘Morisien’ (Mauritian). That was 55 years ago.
A group of young Mauritians who had started an association which they called “Club des Etudiants Mauriciens”, contacted me to invite me to join their club, which I did.
Less than a year later, a young Mauritian intellectual fresh from a Canadian university contacted me and asked if he could meet me to discuss some issues. This is how I came to know Jooneed Jeerubarkhan. A few weeks later, it was the turn of Paul Berenger to meet me to express his appreciation of my work. The MMM seed was planted then and over a period of roughly 14 years, it became a very powerful party with the help of Anerood Jugnauth and Harris Boodhoo. It reached its zenith in 1982 and then started to decline and now it is just a shadow of its own self.
Although I did some creative writing between 1967 and 1971, it was in 1972, while in prison, that the creative writing urge became dominant. Over a period of 50 years (1972-2022), I must have written about 3,000 poems, about 20 short stories, about 40 plays, 5 novellas and 1 novel; I have translated into Mauritian 9 plays by William Shakespeare; works by Molière, Lafontaine, Prévert, Keats, Blake, T.S.Eliot etc. Besides lay literature, I have also translated religious literature: pages from the Bible and the Holy Koran; the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads etc.
To promote literacy and numeracy, I have written hundreds of articles and dozens of training materials.
Now ill-health (PPS) forces me to slow down considerably and concentrate on alleviating discomfort and pains. I was told by doctors that I would end up on a wheelchair, a damning perspective. Fortunately, thanks to MS Anna Blackwood, a friend of my daughter, Saskia, I heard about Raha Bamboo Lagoon Ayurveda Village and there I learnt to face my dilemma. I feel much better now.
As my sun is getting closer to the horizon, I find that the dream of a progressive and eco-friendly Mauritius is getting stronger. Moreover, my belief that Jesus is an avatar of Vishnu gives me the assurance that one day soon, more people will become convinced that bridges can be built to connect the different religions of the world.



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