Friday, 30 June 2006

5 Philosophical Questions

This is not a meme. This is serious. I requested to be interviewed by Mr. Kimananda. He said, it will be à vos risques et périls. Shut up and shoot said I. He aimed...


Shot #1: You have been raised in many places, and been exposed to many different languages and cultures. If you had to pick one of these languages or cultures or places as more your own than the others, which would you choose and why?

F: When I was a Child, I used to be asked this question but differently. Which one do you prefer, they'd ask, the grown ups, your papa's country or your mama's country.
I was forever terrified lest they told mama on me if I choose papa's country or vice-versa.
They're spies the Suspicion-Prone-Child-Fitèna used to think.
Why do they do this to me the Victim-Child-Fitèna would silently wail.
It's none of these bad people's business thought The No-Nonsens-Child-Fitèna scowling.
It's a hard choice says Me, today. For many reasons. Mainly for the reasons above. Born to parents from two different countries, two completely different cultures and two different languages makes me bi-everything de naissance. Not taking them for granted I sincerely wouldn't be able to objectively chose between those two. This narrows it down.
My most beautiful memories are those of my childhood spent in Niger. The best years of my life I always say. My primary school, my childhood friends, my father's friend at whose place we spent the holidays and who had 18 kids from 4 wives. The battles we used to have. The beatings I took from the big ones and took out on their little brothers and sisters. The memory of my mama clipping off our sometimes friend but most times enemy Hudda's fingernails. Because Hudda's weapons were her long fingernails. My sister's cheeks still bear her scratches. The memory of Hudda then telling mama You clipped off my Nails but have a look at THIS showing her a strip. The horrified look on mama's face. The memory of my friend Moundé who came to spend the night over with her little nephew and how we got scared by our own shadows and almost jumped off our skins and how he hysterically laughed at ourselves afterward. The neighbours at whose place I never knew why everyone went to watch TV; even those who owned one. How nobody left while the neighbour and her husband were having a row right in front of all. How we quit watching the TV and watched them instead. And no one left. On Eid day we'd go from house to house wishing all a Happy Eid and they'd give us money and offer juice and beignets. They never ever see us again but they act as if they've known us for ever. Memories of Le Fou du ludo, a crazy man who got crazier whenever he'd see miniskirt dressed girls. He'd chase them with a club. Memories of the boy mama employed and how he used to sneer at us whenever she wasn't looking asking You think You're black skinned White People, Don't you? And how mama did not believe us when we told her and how he was sacked the day she heard him. That was sad because by that time we'd gotten used to having him around. Oh, more good memories. The time I lost my front teeth and papa said there's something wrong with her teeth, they don't take 8 months to grow. I still haven't lost my self-conscious hand covering mouth movement when I laugh and smile. And oh so much more that cannot be enumerated here. The best. Am not choosing them though. They're mine to treasure.
I'd chose Mauritius where am living right now. An island where Africa and Asia meet and give birth to a palette of cultures and languages. It's not a culture per say, its a way of living different cultures and speaking a language which is a cross between broken French and seasoned with some English. A smiling Chinese faced Melissa, the belly laughter of my African descendant friend Wendy, the funny French accent of my Franco-Mauritian next door neighbour Gabrielle, the Divali lights lit at Meenakshi's and the Briyani we share at aunty Mahani's place on Eid day. Here, is a miniature planet. If this island not become, for you, a school where you graduate with the full knowledge of what respecting others with their beliefs an cultures means, then there's something the matter with you.



Shot #2: You have the power to erase one food off the face of the Earth, and replace it with another food of your choosing. Which food would you get rid of, and what food would you use to replace it?


F: It's not a food its a way of cooking the food in question. I can't stand oil and fat in food. Excuse me, I meant visible oil and fat. Not visible OK. Visible, very bad. So am asking, requesting from a particular food joint in Port Louis to please please not ever serve me my pizza with the emballage dripping soaked in oil. And that other joint which I won't mention either. My Pain au poulet sauté, I like it better without the oil running down my hands while am eating. In short Kim, I'd say its Fat and Oil but since they're irreplaceable and food would be so bland without them. Let's keep them till we find a substitute.



Shot #3: You can meet anyone in the world, and ask that person one question. Who do you meet and what do you ask?

F: Nelson Mandela. People become your heroes for one reason or the other. He's mine for many interlinked reasons. The main of which is courage and hope. Whenever am down or find myself in a difficult situation I talk to myself. I tell myself every night ends and with it the darkness and enter the sunrise with it light. Just think of Mandela says Me to I. Imagine that. who would have thought that after so many years of imprisonment he'd get out? Not only does he get out but he also becomes President of no other country but South Africa. Black President. Of South Africa. Imprisoned because he wanted to achieve just that. Change.
Mr. President, you give me courage and hope to believe that tomorrow everything is going to be alright, but what gave you courage and hope to believe that, eventually, every thing's gonna e alright?
This is what I'd ask Mr. Nelson Mandela, when we meet. If we meet.



Shot #4: The person you meet in the previous question writes you a thank you note after your meeting. What is he or she thanking you for?

F:
Dear Fitèna,
Meeting you has been a great pleasure. I wish to thank you for the humbling conversation we had. Your questions made me think a lot. About life, what we call faith and destiny. You made me realise that nothing happens in this life au hasard. Everything has a meaning. For those who pay attention.
Thank you for the simplicity of your questions.
My regards to Mr. Kimananda who arranged the meeting.
God Bless,
N. M.



Shot #5: You can provide a special gift to each person on the planet. What gift will you give? It can be something material, or something intangible.

My father told us the last time he went to France how terribly bad he felt. For them.
In the Parisian cold morning many people are sleeping outside. Because they're homeless. because in times of trouble they've had nowhere and no one to turn to. They sleep anywhere they can squeeze in, under the stairs of a building with upstairs people warming up with a cup of tea or coffee. They sleep in the metro. You stumble upon them turning a corner because you're in a hurry to reach home sweet home because its so cold outside. Seeing them, my father said, raised the hair on his head rise. It made us laugh because he's bald my father. But it wasn't and is not funny.
Yesterday I went to the World Press Photo exhibition hosted at the Netherlands Consulate. It was beautiful. So sad. The image of this five or six year old child being prepared for burial in a cardboard coffin by her father stayed on my mind and brought out the water of my eyes. You feel terrible because there's so much misery and you are oh so powerless.
A blanket. A blanket to make them warm in the cold cold nights that make them which they were never born. When they're unclothed and are ashamed because they can't even hold onto dignity, a blanket. A clean blanket for them in times of war and famine to give their dear ones a decent burial in. a blanket.


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Friday, 23 June 2006

Chocolate

[This post has been submitted for the Carnival of the Mundane XIII
at The Hyperion Institute
by Hyperion;
if he'll have me...]

I love chocolate. Chocolate Shakes. Chocolate Bars. Chocolate Anythings. Chocolates.

When L came over to Mauritius for a week, a month ago, she treated me to a massage. My first and not to be the last. Professional Massage I mean.

Relaxing music. Dim light. The sound of hands against skin. Rubbing up and down. The smell of the scented oil. The burning hot rocks gently placed when your back archs into the small of your bee-hind.

The first session was sheer bliss.

I had no idea my second was going to be even more memorable.

How is it like , I asked the girl. She thought a bit then said, sensual!

Chocolate.

After scrubbing your skin off les peaux mortes, you're covered with Chocolate.
What it is added to it, no idea?

It's not edible she says, you don't want to taste anyway.

The smell of rich brown chocolate fills your nose and all your senses are heightened by this inexplicable feeling that your brown skin is soaking and sucking in this second "browner" skin of yours.

Her hands are feathery. They're soft.

This is good, you think. Very good.


Soon you stop thinking. You feel a smile playing on your lips.

You close yourself and let yourself go.

She wakes you up and tells you its over smilingly.

It's not, you go home feeling you're Chocolate.



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Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Gonna Be a Bear

Right?!



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Wednesday, 14 June 2006

A, B, C

Neil asked me, surprised, in which languages I read two novels a week. English was my reply.

I remember the first book I read in English. I didn't read it, really, was just pretending to. We were living in Niger and it was a book one of my father's étudiant forgot at home. I went through it, pretending I had an idea what it was about. How was I to know that it was in my destiny to come to a country where the official language is English and where I'd have to learn the language?

When we moved here, the teachers thought my case was hopeless. My maths teacher kept telling me to go to a French private school. That's when I fell out of love with math and been bad at it ever since.

The Librarian was a real nice guy. He looked at me with compassion, asked me what I knew in English. The Alphabets and the colours of the rainbow I said. He didn't blink. He didn't laugh. He said, wait, I have something for you.

He gave me an illustrated book. One word per page with a picture. 3 years old book. I was so ashamed. Now am grateful.

The purpose of this post is to thank. To thank all those who have, knowingly and unknowingly contributed to making it possible for me to post in English Today.

Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist. For all the humiliation I was subjected to in class while reading aloud to prove to the teacher that I could do it. I read everything in French. "Eyes" turned into "Et-yes" and "Please give me some more" sounded like "Ple-a-ce jeev meuh someh moreh". The snickers and laughter gave me courage.

Prince. Yes, the singer. "Could you be, the most beautiful girl in the world...". The first song in English I sang and realised I understood what I was singing.

Christopher Pike. The writer. It took me a month to read half of his writings. When I was done I sat and wondered. When did the transition occur? At one point did I turn from completely Englishically ignorant to the opposite? I had no idea and still don't.

Texas. The band. For inspiring my best essay. Read to the class by the teacher. She smiled at me and said to the class: Just listen to this sentence. I miss you, like the desert misses the rain. Isn't it just beautiful? I thought, Oh my God, she actually never heard them!

The Backstreet Boys. I thought they were beautiful and learned their lyrics with translations just to understand what they were saying. It turned out, not much.

Mrs J. My Indian English Teacher who, not once, treated me as an Englishically ignorant and encouraged me to write. I once asked her what does primordial mean? (It's the same word in French but I didn't know that either). She thought and said. Say you're in class now and there's a Cyclone Alert and you have to leave the class quick for a shelter, what would you take with you? I said my lunch box Miss. She sighed.

My Indian friends R. & R. I remember how I was telling them about this guy I'd seen and how puzzled they were looking and how I thought they were dense not to follow. It turned out, I said the guy was wearing yellow "sockets" and that he was "bald". I actually meant yellow "socks" and that he had a lot of nerve "bold".

Eventually, in the second phase of my English Evolution, my gratitude goes to Stephen king, Danielle Steel, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, The Ragratz and the Boyz II Men.

I now listen to Shaggy. Can anyone tell me what he says?

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Monday, 12 June 2006

Tomatoes

Travelling by bus, is something I immensely enjoy. Catching up on reading, thinking, day dreaming or just watching the scenery are so relaxing and take your mind off a day's work stress.


What I deplore though, in my Mauritian bus travels, is the lack of communication, smile and greeting.

The first time I got into buses and said hello I was answered with She's a foreigner remarks. Saying please and tank you to the conductor is regarded with suspicion by many. I remember one time when I offered peanuts to my seat neighbour. The lady changed seats as soon as she could.

To make a long story short, when you're traveling alone, you keep to yourself.


Last week I had to work late, so my sister preferred not to wait for me. In the bus I took out “Soul Mountain” and began to read. Suddenly, laughter erupted from somewhere behind. I turned to look as did those sitting in front of me. One to two persons were laughing loudly but soon others joined in too. It was so contagious that I started chuckling. My seat neighbour look at me questioningly. I shook my head I have no idea and he put on a look which clearly asked what was I laughing about then.


The still laughing back passengers started talking among themselves. This was a change. It had to be good.


We, the front passengers noticed they were looking down and laugh harder. I looked down and nothing.


Reaching the surroundings of Reduit where the road goes down, we got it.


Somebody's tomatoes had spilled down and were everywhere. My seat neighbour and I exchanged a look. I burst out laughing and he smiled.


When he reached his bus stop he turned and said Aurevoir. I smiled.

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Friday, 9 June 2006

Trapped



I must get out of this. I can't. Thoughts are running through my mind.

I remember the time, when as a child we were playing hide and seek and I hid behind the mattress. My friend knew I was there and instead of seeking me out she called the others and they all came and threw themselves against the mattress.

I feel trapped. Like I did that day.

My mind tells me to call out. No sound comes out when I open my mouth.

Mum, Mum, Zip, Mum, Zip, Help, Mum, Zip, Zip go through my mind.

It's not very difficult says my mind, just pull it down.

But I can't. It's too tight I say.

But I know it's not. It's just that am petrified. Blackness surrounds me. It can't possibly be this dark. It's daytime. I blink in the dark and it’s still dark when my eyes open. Are they open? Am not sure of anything. Am going blind. Am going insane. I feel am soon going to be hysterical. Nothing to be done. Think. Think. thjdg. thjyw.

My mind goes blank.


I stand there. My arms and head taken in it. Am suffocating. Voices. I hear voices. What are you doing says someone. I can't recognise the voice. There's this ringing in my ears. Am I going to faint? I've never fainted before.

Oh, it’s tight says the voice. Wait, I'll help you. It is pulled up and I stand there my legs weak taking deep breaths. Are you allright says Mum. I smile weakly.


I stare at it without speaking. There's no such thing as dressphobia, is there?

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Monday, 5 June 2006

Why love is Blind

[This is a translation of a fwd sent to me in French. I first posted it here!]

Crazy decided to invite all her friends for a cup of tea and cookies at her place.

All were present.

After tea and cookies Crazy suggested:

"Shall we play hide and seek?"
"Hide and seek: What's hide and seek?"
asked Curious.
"Hide and seek is a game. I count to one hundred and you hide. When am done counting I look for you and the first one I find gets to count next and so on."

All accepted to play except Fearful and Lazy.

"1..... 2 .... 3 ...." started Crazy.

Hurry hid first. He hid anywhere.

Timid, timid as always, hid behind a bush. He didn't dare go far.

Happy run in the middle of the garden.

Sad started to cry because he could find no place appropriate enough to hide in.

Envious taged along Success and hid with him behind a rock.

Crazy was still counting while her friends hid.

Despair was desperate when she heard Crazy's count already reaching 99.

"100!" shouted Crazy, "Here I come!"

Curious was first to be found because she couldn't help herself and got out of her hiding place to see who would be first to be found out.

Looking around Crazy saw Doubt looking over a fence and wondering on which side she would be best hidden.

And so on and on, she found Happy, Sad, Timid .....

When they finally all got together, Curoius asked:

"Where's Love
?"

Nobody had seen Love.

Crazy started looking for her. She looked everywhere. She looked for her her over a mountain, in the river, in the sky. But, she, Love found not.

Still looking, Crazy saw a rose-tree. She took a wood stick and started poking and parting the rose-tree's branches when she suddenly heard a cry.

It was love crying because a thorn had gotten into her eye.

Crazy didn't know what to do. She apologized, implored Love's forgiveness and even went as far as promising to follow her forever and ever.

Love acknowledged the apologies and said fine.

Today, Love is blind and Crazy follows her everywhere.

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