I don’t usually think much of supposed “national characteristics”; they seem nothing more than some rule-of-thumb prejudice, disguised as something less obnoxious. But, when it comes to inventing a new kind of ceremony, something never held before, and holding it with panache, it is to the credit of many Mauritians that they/we do seem to be very good at it. Maybe it’s something in our history – of so recently as over the past 300 years having had to invent a whole society, again and again, when it was taken from us by slavery and indenture, generation after generation after generation.
Anyway, Sunday afternoon, 9th August, at La Potiniere in Ebene, there was one such invented ceremony.
It was held in memory of the late Vidya Golam. He was the passionate, life-long promoter of the mother tongues, Kreol and Bhojpuri, a fine writer, a legendary teacher and a sensitive, enthusiastic literary and film critic. As well as a bon vivan. And all this was, it would be accurate to say, celebrated – more than just commemorated – at this eclectic ceremony. The ceremony – completely secular, and deeply moving – was a homage, in itself, to a life, lived full to the brim of creativity.
And dramaturge, Henri Favory’s rendering of Vidya’s finest poem, Voltiz Tu, was perhaps the most poignant moment because it somehow celebrated life, relative to all the clutter in it – clutter that can be hurled out joyously, thus the title. Vijay Naraidoo’s reading of Petal Lapusyer, a little-known poem of Vidya’s, in fact unpublished before the reading, one in a more mysterious mood, held a fine note, celebrating life, this time relative to death.
To commemorate one year since Vidya’s death from cancer, his widow Lolita, and two children, Luvinska and Vilans, together with Ledikasyon pu Travayer (an organization with which Vidya was associated for over 30 years), held this get-together of friends, work colleagues and family around a ceremony. The form of the event was a medley of short speeches, the reading of poems, singing of a song or two, a short power point, and rounding off with a drink to the memory of Vidya. (See the program below; it gives a good idea of the ceremony.)
The MBC covered the event – as in life, in death, too, the written media was, by contrast, stingy in covering Vidya – and chose, I think, the best single introduction to Vidya’s commitment: He was, as well as being a writer and teacher, one of the members of the “International Panel of experts” for the 2009 LPT International Hearing on the Harm Done by the Suppression of the Mother Tongue in Schools.
Here is the program, which was lightly modified on an impromptu basis:
Program: Order of ceremony (3:00 to 4:00pm):
1. Song to Vidya by Lolita (with a candle march by children present)
2. Speech by Alain Ah Vee (Why we’re all here + words to Vidya)
3. “Thank you” and Ode to Vidya by Luvinska Golam
4. A few words by Lindsey Collen
5. Reading of Poem Voltiz tu – Henri Favory
6. A few words by Rama Poonoosamy
7. A few words by Atma Bumma
8. Song by Pascal Bestel (A nos actes manquee)
9. Reading of Poem Ti Pierre Marsan Dipin – Alain Fanchon
10. A few words by Kris Seeboo
11. A few words by students of Vidya
12. Reading of Poem Zot - Alain Muneean
13. Song with pictures of Vidya and friends
14. Poem Petal Lapusyer- Vijay Naraidoo
15. A few words by Lysie Ribot
16. A few words by Vilans Golam
17. Letter to Vidya from Lolita
18. We raise our glasses in a toast to Vidya
In fact, people stayed around chatting for ages, in a relaxed way, as the sun went down.
Report for Lalit, by Lindsey Collen
For Obituary in Kreol, see http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1640/obityer-vidya-golam-in-kreol/