Being in lockdown – even if most of the working people are out at work on WAPs – is both tiresome and tiring. I feel I’d really love to run on a long dirt road barefoot, preferably in the rain. And anyway, just when I want to. But, I can only go out on a permit. And I am someone who spent five years locked up in a boarding school, so I’ve got practice at being confined to barracks. Just like being a girl and a woman means we get quite a bit of practice on the issue of only being allowed out to certain places and at certain times. And we get reminded. Not just in extreme cases like, say, when someone attacks us and then we are the ones that get asked, “What were you doing there? At that time?” but even in more ordinary ways. Once, on the spur of the moment, not that long ago Jean-Claude Bibi, Ram and I decided to go and have a meal at Peron, for example. It’s a fantastic restaurant, where you get korn frir, salad lalo and cucumber salad and where you tend to drink a bottle of Green Island for a table, cut with Coke. It’s a place that women don’t mind their husbands going. Because it’s all men. Only we hadn’t realized. So we sauntered up the stairs gaily. It was full, and there was a friendly hubbub. As we stepped in, a deadly hush, however, descended upon the place. By mistake, I had broken a holy taboo. So, we three walked the length of the restaurant to the only table for four free through utter silence, and waited to give our order as if nothing was wrong. By a glance at each other, we signalled we all three knew what had happened. Gradually the noise returned to its previous level. For the rest of the evening, and this is the lovely part, each of the other tables at Peron delegated, as if in apology, one of its “members” to come and sit with us for a warm chat – on any flimsy pretext that he knew any one of us. All that to say, a woman’s permit did not extend to the Peron. Has the Peron, by the way, disappeared under the Metro works? I haven’t noticed if that is the case. I hope it hasn’t. It is one of the most gentle, kind restaurants I’ve ever been in. Not a macho chord in there. All the sounds were dolcissimo.
All that to say, being enclosed is not easy. We are after all a nomadic species, and have been wanderers for more than nine-tenths of our existence as a species. Women, same as men.
Anyway, I try not to feel irritation or exhaustion during the lockdown. In English, when you say “confinement”, the first meaning that comes to mind is “being about to go into labour, or during child-birth, or just after”. So, the very word makes you conjure up a happy event, a positive outcome. And it requires that you have to stay calm and collected.
So, being at home, I convince myself, makes for every little thing to be a source of re-birth. Say, bathing the two adolescent dogs, Lock and Down, in the shower cubicle one by one, and then finding afterwards how beautifully pitch black and shiny sleek one is, and how snowy white and gently furry the other one is – two rebirths. And what sweet little segments they have eaten the hose pipe into. Each a new little baby hosepipe. And when Ram, early on in the process, had bravely joined the initial still longish segments of hose pipe together, using those little green plastic joiners that screw two bits together so nicely, Lock and Down found these absolutely irresistibly chewable. They have flattened three. We are tallying the cost of the dogs picked up “free” at the dump, which in Kreol is “demp”. Yes, they are “demp” dogs. Until after their baths. When they are reborn as divine pooches.
But, my feeling of being restrained got worse yesterday. It was something out there in the rest-of-the-world that did it.
We, and I’m sure most of my readers agree, were already stunned to realize that the Jugnauth Government had capitulated to the Covid epidemic – no longer saying, “We will contain it,” having contained the first wave so perfectly, and now coming with the awful slogan, “We need to learn to live with it,” or “Viv avek”. This “viv avek” business used to be the line of the bosses against the Government. Now it is the line of the Government, too.
Anyway, when on TV last night New Zealand and Australia announced that they have agreed to a no-quarantine “travel bubble”, I was really sad that Mauritius had not negotiated from long ago to be in it. It would have been so easy. We used to talk about it during the months of respite during “containment”. We could have now been receiving a new kind of tourist – from there – and have students going across for short courses in Australia, the world centre of private tertiary education. We could club together for a friend or two to visit New Zealand and get ideas from their wide pavements for pedestrians and their bicycle lanes.
Instead, we are buckling down for hospitalizations and deaths? No, we have to aim to contain this damned epidemic once again. No less. That is the only way to save people from illness and death and also to save society, including the little “economy” Mauritius had left – even before the epidemic. Can we contain it again? It depends on utter truth from Government, and on utter truth from us to health authorities.