Life is an Incredible Story
I was born on 29th March, 1950, in a small village on the east coast of Mauritius. Ours was a large family, with six brothers and three sisters. My father, Lutchmun Mungur held a job in the government service and had a pool of workers under his responsibility for maintaining the cleanliness of rivers in the district of Flacq. My mother, a virtuous and knowledgeable woman of her times, was self-employed as a seamstress and taught all village girls in the making of garments. In the afternoon, my father used to sell these garments in and around the nearby villages to make both ends meet. In our upbringing and training, my mother played a decisive and fundamental role and emphasized on the importance of our education.
I clearly remember how the intense tropical cyclone Carol destroyed the thatched roof of my childhood home and we had to seek shelter elsewhere for a few days. I was hardly ten years old and seeing the roof collapse, our personal belongings strewn here and there and many blown away by the wind, all soaked and wet. I cried, amidst this desolation. Most houses lay flat on the ground and iron sheets were flying in the air like paper sheets.
On the whole, my childhood days were interesting and exciting. What I used to love best was going about the woods with my friends to look for wild fruits which grew in abundance. We ate, we sang, we danced, all in open nature which I adore till now. I still go to the woods with my family and it is always a pleasurable activity, whatever be the time or season. The mountains on a misty morning, the cascading waters in the green valleys, the rivulets, the wild flowers dancing with the breeze, the wild animals gamboling around have all had an empowering influence in the unfurling of my emotions as a poetess.
My schooldays were generally spent with no pocket money and even if by chance I had some, they were insufficient to buy an ice cream or a fizzy drink, which I longed for and yet, sadly enough, could not afford. I did not have a selection of clothes, shoes or toys and I never cut a birthday cake or received a present. Even today, I don’t carry any money with me and the best present someone can offer to me is roses. Because I treated my rags with pride, God gave me riches. He knew I would treat them with humility. I still believe in high thinking and simple living and this is the main driving force of my life and now that of my children as well.
My secondary schooling was full of challenges. I had great interest in all subjects, science sharpened my curiosity, languages were my forte and Mathematics was never my cup of tea. When I sat for my Cambridge School Certificate in 1966, I erased so many mistakes with an elastic eraser from my answer sheet that finally when it was submitted it had many holes, like doughnuts which are characterized by a hole. I managed to pass my exam with a pass ‘eight’ in Mathematics but English Literature got me a credit three fortunately, to my great joy. Here I can say the seeds for my interest in prose and poetry were sown through my text books namely, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ A Tale of Two Cities and ‘The Old man and the Sea.’ It widened my horizon towards the passion for love, creativity and the beauties of writing. I was almost devouring books as there was a deep thirst for knowledge within me. The first Holy book I went through was the Bible as my mother had an open mind to all religions and beliefs, which of course influenced my thinking and writing.
After completing Higher School Certificate, I taught English and Literature for four years in Eastern College. I was only eighteen, the pride of my parents and a good financial support to my two elder brothers who were pursuing tertiary education in India. I gave private tuitions after working hours, so as to improve the overall home status.
In 1972, I proceeded to Pune’s S.N.D.T Women’s University for a degree in Home Science. It was the first time I was separated from my family, ate almost nothing in the airplane and cried until I had no more tears to shed. I thought of my differently-abled brother who always sought for me whenever he was sick and he used to fall sick very often.
It was like entering a black hole where life had other stark realities. Yet, I remained as sturdy as the banyan tree. Initially, I found the food spicy for Mauritian cuisine, a mélange of European, Indian and Chinese, light in nature and very colourful. With time I got used to it and now not only me but my children relish Indian cuisine, Punjabi, South Indian and all the rest. I encountered problems in getting myself adjusted to Science subjects, especially Biochemistry and Microbiology; was a daunting task. Somehow, I paddled and rode the wave before it could crash on me. Most of my time was spent in the library, studying, and on some occasions going out with my friends, my roommates mostly, who had a great love for me.
Those were glorious days indeed. One afternoon, I met a handsome gentleman from my island who followed me on the road and talked to me. The love story started with a blast and I had my first kiss to be followed by thousands later as the gentleman was Raj, now my dear husband. Back home in 1976, I got married within a few months’ time and after that life has been a roller coaster ride.
My first baby girl Rajnee was born and to be a mother is something which cannot be put in words. Let’s put it in a single word…..divinity. Within six years, I got all my three kids, Rajnee, Kaviraj and Priyumvada. Like all mothers, life was hectic and always full of challenges. Motherhood is always full of demands and yet spending quality time with kids makes up for those hours we are away from them. The joys of caring for and rearing children are so rewarding and elating but there are some sad moments as well.
With tear-filled eyes, I write about the sickness of my younger daughter, Priyum. She started by having double vision. We took her to the ophthalmologist and he said it is a neurological problem. On examination, the neurosurgeon said it is a problem that the other doctor must solve. We were at a loss, not knowing what to do. Priyum started having fever and vomiting and we had her admitted in a private clinic. I stayed with her. The pediatrician suspected meningitis and carried out a lumber puncture to remove a specimen of her spinal fluid for laboratory tests. She screamed and I could not bear to see her screaming so much. After a two weeks’ stay, she came home and the fever recurred and the vomiting persisted. She lost weight abundantly and we felt helpless. She went into a coma and we transported her to the hospital urgently. The neurosurgeon operated on her finally after having diagnosed a cerebral abscess. Priyum spent another two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit and again I spent the days with her. She recovered clinically but her left eyesight failed totally owing to pressure created by the abscess. She sees only sixty per cent with the right eye.
She joined school again but owing to visual problems could not cope up with her classes. I helped her throughout but it was pointless. One afternoon, she removed all her books from her bookshelf and said her studies are all over. That day, I cried like a child. After a few years, we accompanied her to South Africa to learn about Braille with the idea being that she could open her own school in years to come and help children having visual problems. However, she did not show much interest, kept coming home all the time, almost five to six times within two months and finally we had to abandon this project. Later, we took her to Kerala to learn Ayurvedic massage. We stayed with her throughout the course to encourage her in completing the course with the idea in our mind that she has to be able to stand on her own feet. This time, she successfully completed the course. We as well got the opportunity of appreciating the exquisite natural beauties of Kerala, the backwaters, the beautiful sea and the lovely lifestyle of the people and their rich cultural heritage. I enjoyed the food with my family, especially the biryani. Priyum has her clinic next to our home and she enjoys doing her work.
This occurred in 1993. Two years later, I stood as a candidate for the general elections in Mauritius under the leadership of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth of MSM, our freshly elected Prime Minister. That time, we lost the elections but I got twenty four per cent of the votes, second highest percentage after my leader. Many hope that I will make a ‘come back’ in the political field. Let time and fate decide although the willingness to serve my country will continue glowing in me under any condition.
Another great event of my life that I would like to share with my dear readers is my biggest achievement in my teaching career. It is about Shalini, my colleague’s daughter. She was about to sit for her School Certificate exam and her Dad asked me to correct her scripts of pass exam papers. While correcting her papers, I knew she was very intelligent. When she joined my college for her Higher School Certificate with food Studies as one of her major subjects, I was confident that under my guidance she could be classified as a laureate for the government scholarship. Such an event had never taken place in my institution in any of the fields of study. It would be a great matter of prestige for the team, that is the rector, staff, parents and classmates. I called Shalini to my office and told her about my dream for her. I remember having told her, ‘Shalini, I am about to retire and I would like you to help me make this dream come true and bring honour to all.’ She smiled broadly and shyly replied, ‘Yes Madam.’
And the dream came true. She was ranked 13th and got a scholarship in the university of Mauritius and is now working as educator in Ravindranath Tagore Institute teaching Food and Nutrition. This event was given wide coverage throughout a week with interviews, pictures and so on. Never had such an event occurred in a private secondary institution where most of the students are supposedly mediocre as the best ones are allocated the best colleges, mostly state owned. This was indeed a great achievement for me and it gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. In addition to this, I have never had a single student of mine fail for Cambridge exams though it might sound unbelievable. I believe if we apply certain principles of teaching and have faith in ourselves and our students, we can create miracles.
Currently I am retired and spend my time reading, writing, and travelling abroad. During my last visit to South Africa, my son drove us hundreds of kilometers simply to allow me to have a view of Dragonsberg Mountains for he knows I love mountains and nature on the whole. When I touched snow in Simla, I was equally thrilled for mine is a tropical climate with no extremes of weather. And now I hope to see the vineyards full of grapes in my upcoming European tour.
Quite a number of my poems have appeared in international anthologies or will soon do so. Some of them are:
- The Same Sky – A collection of poems from around the world by Naomi Nye, USA
- National Library of Poets, Maryland.
- Brian Wrixon’s four anthologies -Winter, Summer, Spring and Autumn, Canada.
- Muse for World Peace -, an anthology of contemporary poets propagating world peace.
- Pic Spaces, Coubourg, Canada used one of my poems in a public exhibition and reading.
- Brian Wrixon’s anthology -Women of One World.
- Dr Ampat Koshy’s anthology – The Significant Anthology.
I have had three collections of poetry published and more are on the way. Recently my textbook ‘Food and Nutrition Simplified‘ was launched by Lifi Publications at the Kolkata and Delhi World Book Fair and my novel entitled, ’When Love Speaks’ will soon be in print. My husband Raj, daughters Dr Rajnee and Priyum and son Captain Kavi, Air Transport Officer for WFP, have always been supportive in all my projects. They are my very good friends always trying hard to make my life interesting and fruitful.
Life is a journey and I have travelled through good as well as bad times, like everybody. It has been a great challenge and I left no stone unturned to face it. I personally feel that I have never encountered problems, I always found the solutions, not the quick-fix ones, but the sustainable and durable ones. I have never grumbled in adversity or reveled too much in prosperity, I have always been the same throughout, both in pleasure and in pain. This is life and if it is God’s wish, I would love to see one of my grandchildren grow up as a poet. This way, the poetic ink will never dry up in my family. Poetry will keep blooming, creating joy in hundreds of hearts. Women have to be brave, hardworking, positive and most importantly loving. The home will be what the mother wants it to be and the children will be what the mother desires them to be. The father may be the fuel but mothers are the engines, I feel. One needs faith in God, not only for the big things in life but the smaller things as well. Whatever be the storm, keep the candle of trust burning and never let sorrow show on your face. If life has its roses, it has its thorns as well. He who is afraid of the thorn will never touch the roses. We have to stay focused on the larger picture, always. Stay blessed.
By Pramila Khadun
There is silence
In the singing of the constellations,
In the deep murmur of the waves,
In the barren beautiful deserts,
With lovely desert roses and sand dunes,
And in the temples of learning
By the mighty mountains
Where flocks of sheep graze quietly.
Sometimes, as we contemplate and reminisce,
Morosely with unshed tears,
And think of the flamboyant spirits
Of the glorious days of our childhood,
While the wind bellows far away,
There is silence
Masking the melancholy
With its soft and warm hands.
At other times, too much purity and morality,
Amidst the sounds and shadows of life,
Too many feelings of insecurity,
With threatened comfort zones
Do create a silence
That makes us feel like
A harp without strings.
When passions are unbridled,
There is silence,
When two lovers meet,
There is silence,
When two lovers kiss,
There is silence.
There is silence in the smile,
Silence in the act of love making
And silence in the waiting
And the longing as well.
There is silence everywhere.
Silently, all beautiful things are created
And silently appreciated.
Silence is not only gold,
It is something much beyond that.
Silence is silence, gracefully silent.
Article Written by : Pramila Khadun
Edited for INCREDIBLE WOMAN OF INDIA: Rhiti Bose