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2nd Lockdown – DAY FOUR


Ram takes an 8-foot boat-hook, no longer doing service on our pirogue moored at Flic-en-Flak for all those years, to bring another bread-fruit down in the front garden. Buf! A loud thud. It is in no way damaged. Thus perfectly ready to boil and serve with, say, satini kotomili, for lunch. 

 It must be the perfect fruit. Or vegetable? Straight from the Garden of Eden. Artocarpus altilis, Wikipedia says it’s called, but their pictures are not of huge, big breadfruit like the ones Ram is bringing down in Ragoo Lane. Utterly perfect. Each breadfruit isthe purest green colour for a start, the shape of a 3/4-sized football, with a relief pattern of hexagons all over its surface. (At this point, no lie, I get up from my computer to check that it is, in fact, hexagons, and not pentagons or octagons. I’m back at my keyboard. I confirm, it is a hexagon. But what is wonderful about the myriad of interlocking six-sided structures, I realize, is that the sides are all unequal in length, thus making unequal angles, as well as being in sculptured relief. The glory of evolution.) Anyway, I clearly need a lockdown to study what’s always there hanging in the air before my very eyes. And I need to write this blog for you so that I get up, go check in case I’m spreading false information. Which as we all know is perhaps a worse epidemic than the one produced directly by Coronavirus. Ivan Bibi, one of Bruneau Laurette’s right-hand men (they tend to be men), and leader of one of the multitude of “citizens’ parties” that has recently been engendered in the petty-bourgeoisie that is running amok, has been arrested and released, the police say, for spreading false information on Facebook about a supposedly imminent state of emergency. 

Anyway, once seven breadfruit are brought down, and Ram is standing there, a prophet leaning on his staff, deliveries must start. Kisna manages to get one into a biodegradable plastic bag that looks as though it might degrade before she gets it to the friend who lives a block or two away, it’s that heavy. The friend, Koko, leaves vegetables secretly in our big flowerpot that’s got a margoze growing in it. Like a good food fairy. Anyway, Kisna is on her way to his house, herself being a breadfruit fairy, on a home delivery mission. The police will not likely spot her between Ragoo Lane and Rut Vaudagne. She’s donned her mask, and food fairies are invisible, anyway. 

I meanwhile go to the back yard with two breadfruit. There I give one over the fence to Guy, the late Kawlawtee’s brother in law, singer and former winner of geet gaata chal. He shows me his new tank installed because of the water shortage, and explains how he then pumps the water up to the tank on his roof, the roof that he sweeps so clean. Then I give the other one over another bit of fence to Lorenza and Guito, which is a noisy operation because Lock and Down, our two adolescent girl dogs, decide to accompany me and to raise a friendly if frenzied hullabaloo together with Guito’s four dogs – all yapping at the fence and tails wagging all over the place. The other day one of their dogs escaped into our back yard, and that was more than a hullabaloo. It was a palaver. A lot of romping, and luring, and catching, and putting back through the hole in the fence. And then fence-repairs.  

Anyway, I, then, donning a mask, which I should have donned before, but forgot – the verb “don” makes it sound as if we are all off to a masked ball – go out on to Ragoo Lane and up, and give one to Geeta. Her husband gave us the miniature frisiter tree that is right now producing its strange and esterful fruit. It strikes me: the neighbours names are all phonetically related: Guy, Guito (not family), and Geeta (family, via Kawlawtee’s sister’s marriage to Guy). She, Geeta, immediately cuts down from a tonel above her head a big “grenadinn kari” just hanging there and hands it to me. Wow! I’ll cook it with mince and spices, perhaps, I say. Then a breadfruit for Prabawtee, who is my main mentor in things agricultural and culinary. I call out to her, and announce I’m leaving it just inside her front door. Then one for Ti-bye and Parvedee that I leave on the little wall they sit on, around the trunk of their letchi tree. And finally one for Kamlesh. I can’t raise him, so I go in and leave it next to his radio that’s playing on a table. Then I cell-phone him to ask if he knows how to cook it. He does. He gives us bananas when his tree produces. And he made us a beautiful wooden reindeer for our garden. It plays out there amongst the solar lights at night. It’s one thing in the garden that Lock and Down have not yet set about demolishing. They came from the dump at La Chaumière when they were four inches long and near dead of starvation (their Mom had produced 14) and of a lice infestation. And since then, they have grown beautiful, and also set about making our back patio look like the dump they were born on. They excavate things from the garden, from before we bought the land 45 years ago, and drag said things up on to the patio, and mix them up with dried banana leaves, assorted long sticks, pebbles and even little rocks, mango pips, and an endless number coconut husks that they pull out of thin air and then shred making a fine reddish dust, bits of a sock or two stolen from off the washing line plus concomitant clothes pegs, and an excavated fossilized boot that makes an amazing hollow sound. Then, they take it in turns to jump up into the big flower pot and dig the soil out on to the patio, to add a layer of earth to the display. But, they haven’t touched Kamlesh’s reindeer.

It’s unfairly easy, if you’ve got neighbours so loveable, to love thy neighbour. And such loveable dogs, to love them, too.

Anyway, they make the lockdown much better than just bearable.

So, with three clusters – one around the fruit-and-vegetable importers Surat, one around a family that held a religious gathering, and one around Curepipe College – we sit tight and lie low. 

The vaccination campaign is due to re-start Monday. 

Along with the AstraZeneca from India, Mauritius will also be getting vaccine from both Russia and China. 

In LALIT, talking of vaccines, we call on the Mauritian Government, as well as dishing out medals to our UN Representative Koonjal (hats off to him for his work on Chagos, not counting his recent low-moral-ground episode of claiming rent money from the US for the military base) for Independence yesterday, gives him firm instructions to not just support the India and South Africa-led initiative at the WTO to suspend patents on coronavirus vaccines to allow equitable distribution all over the world, but to work actively at getting all countries in the African union to support it. Just as he did so well on Chagos.

The pro-capitalists, when they found out people were beginning to reject the idea of “patents” and how they make private profit out of everything, changed the name of “patents” to something else. You know like “off-shore” got a bad name, so they call it “global business”. Anyway “patents” are now “intellectual property rights”. But, a patent by any name smells just as bad. It means keeping the profit from a new idea to yourself. It is the opposite of science. Whatever you call it. Even if you call it “rights”. And this re-naming, in turn, makes us remember the limitations of “rights”-based struggles: there is an inherent trick at the very historic centre of “rights”: “property rights”. Where all property – collective like air and land and the sea and capital produced by past labour – is defined in the same way as genuinely private property, like your toothbrush or your sandals or your cell phone.

So, anyway, in the middle of a pandemic, multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies put their profits and their monopolies before the health of the people of the planet. It is a huge, ugly symbol of capitalism. Money for the few out of suffering of the many. But sometimes, even capitalist States realize that capitalism has limitations. So it was India and South Africa’s governments that led, and won, the struggle to make AIDS medicines break out of the “property rights” treaties. Let’s get Mauritius to help win this new battle the two countries are leading for vaccines to escape from the WTO profit-motive, too. Right now, the USA and other big economies are blocking this India-SA initiative.

The USA, the country that is the main capitalist ideologue of the world, though still supposedly the richest country in the world, has had the highest number of deaths in the world from Covid. With only 4% of the world’s population, it has been responsible for over 20% of the world’s Covid deaths. Not to mention 20% all the suffering of those who died, and of those who, in ICU, escaped death narrowly. how does this happen? It’s a symbol of how the logic of capitalism, as well as ransacking the planet, cannot cope with the intransigent logic of a pandemic. The logic of nature escapes the narrow-mindedness of capitalists’ profit-motive. Food for thought that. Like breadfruit is, during an epidemic.

Lindsey Collen.