You can’t get lonely in Ragoo Lane. Yesterday showed it. Yesterday was tense for our household, and I’ll tell you why: the water tanker lorry was due, but would it come?
If you go up to your water tank on top of your house to wield the boa-constrictor hose-pipe from the Water Tanker pump below, and when the water gushes like mad into the tank, it stirs all the stuff that was at the bottom, making you notice, during this procedure that, of course, your tank’s got muddy sludge at the bottom. If you don’t know, it does not matter. But once you do know, then what? What do you do, especially when you know the water supply is so unpredictable? You can take the risk, like we did on Wednesday” we filled up all the buckets we could find with the trickle of water into an outside tap at low altitude, and we proceeded rashly to drain the whole tank on top of the house – on to the back garden and out to the front garden, and then Kisna and I mopped the tank through the hole at the top, in turn, for a few hours until it was clean as a bell. Shiny white. And we were exhausted – from the work and from laughing. So, then, the next day, yesterday, we started the day without a drop of water in our tank. So, it was tense. Will the water tank lorry come to Ragoo Lane? Or forget about us?
All the neighbours know that we have done this drastic thing. So, while they wait for top-ups, we wait for the full Monty. Time passes. No tanker. Then at about 4:00 pm, when we are all about to give up, and everyone has offered us the odd bucket of water, we hear the big lorry reversing up Ragoo Lane, beep-beep-beep. And about an hour later, it’s back near our house. Parvedee rings on the fixed line – just in case we haven’t heard it coming.
And soon there is a general assembly between our house and hers and Tibye’s. What a relief! Then, when it is their turn, the young lorry helper pulls the rip-cord on the petrol pump engine, as usual, to start the pumping. The pump refuses to start.
He pulls and pulls. Brrt! Brrt! Nothing. When he is exhausted, the driver gets out, comes around to the back of the lorry, and has his turn at pulling, and pulling. Then they decide maybe it’s flooded, and wait a while. The general assembly grows in size. Driver and helper are what in Bambous and all villages are called “etranze”, which means not Bambous people. Then Tibye goes to his workshop and fetches a tool, and proceeds to unscrew the spark plug on the lorry with it, for the driver-and-helper team of CWA sub-contractors. He then cleans it, and whistles into it. Then they try again, and hey! presto! the pump engine springs to life. So, they fill up Tibye and Parvedee’s tank. Then it’s our turn. Eureka!!
Again the engine refuses to take. We had cried “eureka” too soon.
Then Vijay, who lives up the road, brings a brand-new spark-plug that he thought might work that was left over from an old yellow car he had. So, with Tibye’s tools and Vijay’s spark plug, they get to work on the tanker. Eureka, the engine takes!
So, we fill our tank. A happy ending.
And I am left thinking about all the Mauritian culture in the episode.
And I marvel at all those Mauritian patriots – the ones who announce that they are “real Mauritians”. Compared, you can only deduce, with non-real-Mauritians, or that call themselves “100% Morisien”, or “100% sitwayin”. Compared, again you can only deduce, with less than 100% citizens, say only 80% citizens, or worse still, only 15% citizens, or Mauritian. They are, of course, more important than non-citizens who are just here to work as modern indentured labourers, it goes without saying. Anyway, these patriots have the following characteristics, as a general rule of thumb:
- They do not watch MBC-TV, but French TV.
- They do not follow Mauritian meteo, but only French meteo.
- They do not follow Mauritius’ Covid briefings about, for example, the tragic Covid deaths in the dialysis section of Souillac Hospital, then on social media they criticize the Government for not talking about it when they did.
- They compare Mauritius unfavourably to Reunion, a French colony, with obsessive regularity.
- They identify more easily with the “diaspora” than with their next-door neighbour.
- If Mauritius clearly does better at something – take containing Covid to some extent, where Reunion with 2/3 the population has suffered 10 times the Covid deaths, they will hide this fact under a bushel.
- They are the nationalists, the real patriots, the real Mauritian- flag-wavers, the national-anthem singers, the real Mauritians, the authentic Mauritians, the 100% Mauritians.
And yet, they might miss the profound beauty of deep Mauritian culture – as seen in Ragoo Lane, the most ordinary place in the country, on a day the water lorry is due, meaning we don’t even have running water 24/7.
They might not see the “lakorite” in Mauritian culture. “Lakorite” is a kind of deep agreement, a kind of loving union of souls amongst the oppressed. Something that exists perhaps everywhere where it is nurtured.