MOOMTAZ EMRITH

(Windsor, ON, Canada)

Dr. Rajendra Paratian’s book ”Maurice: intellectuels et champs intellectuels” (*)  is a first on the topic by a Mauritian. By virtue of its subject matter, it calls on the readers (les intellectuels de Maurice) to become engagés and reflect and – yes, why not? — become involved in discussions on the many issues that are inherently prevalent in a plural society like Mauritius’.

(Dr.) Rajendra Paratian is a Mauritian by birth, who grew up in Curepipe, Mauritius. After completing high school, he flew to Europe for higher studies, which he did in England, France and also in Switzerland, where he is domiciled. Coming as he did from an under-privileged family (his father passed away when he was still a toddler), he was raised by his mother, a brave and courageous woman, who also had to care for his other siblings: two brothers and three sisters. So much so, growing up was tough for Rajendra but never boring thanks to the love and affection he enjoyed as the ‘benjamin” of his family and also the support and love of his caring Paratian uncles. Rajendra learned very early in life that whatever he wanted to be, he would have to work for it although he knew he could always count on the support of his uncles and family. Thus, Rajendra learned early in life that nothing would come to him on a platter.

He also realized that education was the key to success in life and he made it his priority. He knew that if he wanted to succeed in life, he needed to have a good education. Looking up to his uncles and to his elder brothers, who were his role models, he was determined, like them, to succeed. He would make the most of their guidance and support, and achieve what he wanted to be in life.  He learned to never shy away from any odds that came his way. Instead, he learned to face them head on. Indeed, he put himself through university with the help and counsels of his elders in the family. His eldest brother was already an M.D. and the other was an official at an International body based in Africa.

Rajendra completed his studies successfully earning himself a doctorate in Socio-Economic Development from L’Université d’Aix-Marseille, France. After a few odd jobs in consultancy, he joined the ILO (International Organization of Labour) as a Specialist in political and employment strategist for Africa in 1991. He would be based in Zimbabwe for several years and later moved to the ILO’s Head Office in Geneva, where he worked till his retirement in 2013.

Never intimidated by hurdles

Rajendra, who developed a sharp, inquisitive and critical mind that was a natural to him, coming as he did from the stimulating  multicultural and multi-ethnic island-nation of Mauritius, which is itself ‘a microcosm of the world in miniature’ where unity, peace and harmony in diversity, has ever been a virtuous component for peaceful co-existence. And that would form the subject matter of his new book. What is the role of ‘les ‘intellectuels’ vis à vis the issues facing them in a plural society? Rajendra has always been intrigued by the fact that the intellectuals of Mauritius generally have an attitude that is more blasés than engagés in discussions and debates on issues – whether religious, social or political – issues that often came up whenever Rajendra and I happened to get together.

Rajendra is always very good company and talking with him is always stimulating. He is well read and well informed on issues around him and the world. Besides, he is also very friendly, hospitable, courteous – indeed, a perfect gentleman and host ! I cherish the moments I have spent in his company in beautiful Geneva where he lives with his charming wife, Margaret.

It was during one of those moments that I urged Rajendra, whom I have known for some years now, to put down on paper – indeed, in a book — the issues that were close to his heart and mind. Perhaps they might generate some discussions among the intellectuels of Mauritius! Who knows?

I stressed to him that if anybody could write such a book, it was him. I knew he is not one to have cold feet in the face of challenges. I also knew that once his mind was made up, he would go for it. And, soon after he retired, that was the one thing he wanted to do. I am so glad he did. “Maurice: intellectuels et champs intellectuels” is the result of months of research and hard work on the ‘intellectual issues’ that were always close to his heart.

Rajendra is one, who is never intimidated by hurdles. “Mountains are there to be climbed, to be conquered…” he once told me.

“Maurice: intellectuels et champs intellectuels” is a first book of its kind in terms of its subject matter to appear in Mauritius. It is a book destined particularly to the ‘intellectuals’. It is a book that talks about ’intellectual’ issues; it is a book that calls upon the intellectuals of Mauritius to become involved and engagés. He raises issues and questions the passivity of those intellectuals who would rather cling to the circle of power and enjoy the perks and look askance to corruption and nepotism around them and ignore the moral and ethical aspects of it all. Rajendra, in good faith, questions their ethics and their stand vis-à-vis such attitudes. The book is, as he himself puts it: “… un ouvrage novateur et important pour comprendre l’histoire intellectuelle du pays.”

“Maurice: intellectuels et champs intellectuels”, which was launched at the University of Mauritius in November last year, in a sense made history and, by its content, touches a cord with the intellectuals of Mauritius and arouses interests on the many issues that make our little sun-bathed, rainbow island-nation a unique and beautiful place to live and where peace and harmony have always triumphed over pettiness and narrow-thinking. Mauritians are adepts of tolerance par excellence. And, it is to be hoped that books like Rajendra’s will only galvanize the interest and encourage debates and help enhance Mauritius as a country second to none in terms of goodwill, benevolence and understanding. And the kind of debates and discussions (Dr.) Rajendra Paratian advocates – should it come to pass — will only help make our beloved Mauritius a more colourful and more beautiful place to live.

I enjoyed reading this very ‘intellectual book’! It is stimulating and morally satisfying. To (Dr.) Rajendra Paratian, I say congratulations on a job well done! Indeed, cher ami, de tout coeur, chapeau!

___________________

(*) Published by: L’Harmattan, Paris, France, 2019