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Blog 6 – On Spare Time and a Really Surprisingly Bad Smell and the IBA Bill


When I am confined to barracks, as old soldiers used to put it, I, like them, have lots of spare time. And unlike soldiers, who have plenty of company even while confined to barracks, we, during Covid don’t. So, we find other things to do. Ram makes gorgeous mayonnaise by hand. And with the egg whites left over, I make meringues. Or alternatively, I make meringues and Ram uses the left over egg yolks to make mayonnaise. And I cooked matzo-ball soup – which Evelyn Bibi first taught me to make decades ago – which is delicious served with satini kotomili. Anyone who wants the recipe can just ask me for it. I read, or re-read 800-page books – the longer the better. I also need the spare time because the two adolescent girl-dogs, Lok and Dawn (in Kreol spelling) are still destroying the odd sheet that they bring down from the clothes line. I have become the most proficient clothes darner in the world by now. When they turn two, I hear, they will stop destroying clothing and stop gnawing on the plumbing Ram has in the garden – for watering plants. I’ve got an Eco-egg for washing clothes in the machine – it replaces detergent – so our washing machine water drains into a little plastic “tuk” Ram adapted with a plastic outlet and then a long bit of hose-pipe to move around so plants can get recycled water. Well it was a long bit of hose-pipe to begin with. We have to join up short bits made by Lok and Dawn just about every day – with bits of old TV aerial cut to size – as well as repair or replace the little gnawed “tuk” fittings. 

But then yesterday we got this awful smell. 

It seemed to be everywhere. It smelt like the dogs had perhaps a few days earlier killed a neighbour’s pet cat – they have never done such a thing. So, we set about, in our spare time, looking for the source of the stink. I would have preferred to say “pong”, but it was nothing is not a pure stink. Eventually we found it. Our last-year’s suran – you know the big, prehistoric root that you make fantastic zasar with – had “flowered”. Big green flies ushered us towards it, and there it was. All these years we have been harvesting beautiful big suran, and we have never seen this flower. I had been warned, when first given bit of the kambar to plant about the terrible smell of the flower, and thought it strange that the flowers we get every year don’t smell much. Now I can inform readers that there are two kinds of “flower” in our suran anyway. The other flower is white, like a beautiful agapanthus, and harmless-smelling. It blooms just when the plant is ready to harvest. And then there is this amazing thing. Anyway, this big “flower” – as well as looking like the devil incarnate with all dark colours struggling out of a big lumpy thing like a poisonous-looking mushroom – grows directly out of the ground in the middle of a big 8-inch diameter stem and smells like hades. And this attracts flies that pollinate it. So, there you have it. 

I looked it up on google, with the string “smelly suran flowers” and found out that, just before it goes smelly, it can be cooked as a divine delicacy. Well, we know for next time. We live and learn in our spare time.

Some friends are busy today. They are all over Mauritius, telling us that they are in long Covid booster queues all over the country. So, that is a good thing – that people are taking the booster shot.

And I have, in the interests of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to tell you that, after saying I had “no side-effects” from the booster, although I always prepare for side-effects from any vaccination, and we know babies get grumpy afterwards – the minor side-effects are part of the contract we make when we go get the vaccine for ourselves or our kids – yesterday, some 30 hours after the jab, for about 4 hours or so, I felt absolutely awful. So, this means my immune system was practicing against the little “attack” that the vaccine represents. It gave me a little idea of what the real “attack” of Covid might produce. And by the time I woke up this morning, I felt perfect. It had just blown right over. (With a couple of paracetamol to help me out.) Ram, round the same time, got a slight fever but didn’t look as bad as I felt. His temperature has also just gone back to normal. And so we are back to time to spare.

In all this spare time, I began to study the IBA Amendment Bill. It is draconian. As well as proposing licenses for private radio companies be reduced from 3 to one year, it also includes two other draconian features:

While the existing IBA Act gave the IBA power to “give written directions to the Corporation or any licensee and they shall comply with those directions”, it now becomes an offense not to comply. The wording is very vast for something with a penalty. And offences will, if the Bill passes as is, have increased penalties. In addition, “the Authority may, in the exercise of its regulatory functions, impose such administrative penalties as it thinks fit” (just like that) and these can be up to Rs500,000. So this means the IBA will become super-powerful.  

It really is high time that the private radios and the entire press set up their own independent self-regulation system. The profession of journalist has immense powers and needs self-regulation. One thinks of the Rwandan genocide – now that all the court cases have been heard and panels of experts have reported findings – the role of a private radio (RTLM) supported by an extremist newspaper, the Kangura, has been established. It was horrific. So, the power of the press and radio needs to be subject to regulation, and the most democratic is clearly self-regulation by the whole of the profession. As self-regulation gets established, the IBA’s powers can be reduced completely, instead of being increased. The public must also be made to feel free to criticize the media – radio, TV and the press – without being accused of attacking free speech. This means we need – urgently need – a “freedom of information act” to give us all the right to all information. The Press will often be the institution that puts the information we are all free to get, out in the open.

Lindsey Collen for LALIT