As the lock-down begins to lift on Saturday, as if to mark something happy for Labour Day, and even under official warning for torrential rain, and with rain pouring down already while the wind howls, I reflect on the coming to an end of the time of lockdown – with its plentiful home-made marmalade, made with bergamot, brown sugar, and caramelized sugar and a pinch of salt, and home-made mayonnaise, made with the egg-yolks left after making home-made gluten-free bread that uses egg-whites. Not to mention the home-made gato pima and karri barri, with home grown bringels and home-grown chilies, and home-nurtured kefir. And making cream cheese with kefir. Who would have thought I could do that? And polimas banann, also home-made, from green bananas and curry leaves. And a constant supply of satini koko in the fridge, “ek so lamant, ek so lamant”. Not to mention home-made dosa for breakfast. All these things that time-on-our-hands allowed us to do, then to perfect, then to share. And then realizing that, frankly, none of this takes that much time. And what is time for if not for such things? Things like cooking only with raw materials, and sharing?
And the bread-fruit crop for the year is now over, as is the avocado crop. We lived on these two for a couple of months, eating, like hunters-and-gatherers, what is plentiful and at hand when it is plentiful and at hand.
And with the lock-down beginning to lift on Saturday, and the hope that Labour Day each year always bears with it, I still fear that, like in India, the epidemic might flare up again here. Mauritius is one of so few countries that have been able, so far, to contain the epidemic – through prevention and careful contact-tracing, testing, compulsory quarantine in hotels paid for by Government of all doubtful “cases”, and admission of the totality of positive Covid people. Do enough of us constantly act to encourage the continued suppression of spread? Or do some take glee in being able to blame the Authorities for any failure? At the cost of any amount of human suffering from Covid, and any number of deaths?
In India, despite so many people believing that subsequent waves would be less severe than the first wave due to some significant immunity from both the illness and the vaccine campaign, the new wave is proving catastrophic. Heart-breaking. It reminds us all of New York City, when it, too, was overwhelmed, and we saw those queues for beds in hospital corridors, cold-storage vans not keeping up with the dead, and the thousands of people buried in mass graves on Hart Island, New York City’s graveyard of last resort, facts swiftly covered up and forgotten. No sooner had former Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s threatened to “sue the Chinese a million dollars for each body buried on Hart Island” than the scope of the whole tragedy was forgotten. It goes against the myth of “the American dream”, I guess. But in the USA, the 587,384 deaths cannot be forgotten. As in India, the 201,187 and rising fast cannot be forgotten. Even as the exporter of oxygen equipment, India is short of supplies of oxygen – the greatest life-saver of this pandemic – once it gets the better of society, and cannot be contained.
“Nature” magazine thinks the resurgence in India may be attributable to three factors: There are clearly known Covid variants in some areas, and some spread faster while also outwitting the defenses of both those who have had Covid or been vaccinated. The first wave did not hit the big Indian middle classes, who were protected by being able to stay home, while the workers from the villages were just banished from the cities by a cruel Modi decree; so in the second wave, the epidemic is spreading, at least in part, within a different “demography” by class. And then there were the big religious gatherings around Kumbh Mela, the biggest gatherings in the world from 14 January to April. Simultaneously, there have been huge election rallies in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The religious and political gatherings, until a couple of days ago, mean the peak is still quite far ahead.
There is an additional tragedy. India was the country due to export vaccines to the poorest 100 countries in the world. Now, its vaccine production will be slowed right down, its capacity to export, limited. India, being still subject, as often China is, to monopoly capitalism’s rule, has other problems. It is producing vaccines under license to imperialist countries’ companies who limit the number it can produce. India is kept reliant, for some inputs, on the imperial centres. The monopoly profits of the imperialist countries, as always, are maintained. And this reminds us what the word “imperialist” actually means, in analytical terms: it means dominant enough to rake in monopoly profits. Countries like India are still far from that.
And I end with an invitation on the subject, in a way, of “imperialism” – as linked to culture and the arts.
Tonight, Wednesday 28 April from 8:00 to 10:00, there will be a public debate. The theme is “Nation-building, Decolonization and Human Life: Towards a National Policy for Culture and the Importance of Promoting Art forms”. The debate is called a “Konversasion”. It’ll be live via Zoom. You can tune in on YouTube or Facebook. It’s in Kreol. (For international audiences, it will afterwards be available with English subtitles.) Organized by Mamajaz.org (one “z” only), by Gavin and Romi Poonoosamy and their team. Presided by Anupah Makoond, there will former culture Ministers, Joseph Tsang Man Kin and Rama Poonoosamy, the writer of a materialist history of Mauritian Art, Hans Ramduth, and me, as writer and political commentator. I am nervous already.