The ‘Big Weight’ of the ‘Gros Pois’

Today, let us ponder on something that is very dear to Mauritians.  Let us momentarily forget about the CCID trips, ICAC, conflicts of interest, fraud and corruption that have been the talk of the town…Let us meditate on something that is close to home, that strikes a raw nerve and that is definitely worth its weight in gold! Yes, I am referring to a particularly ‘big weight’ which fulfils the stomachs of Mauritians and foreign visitors alike, which is a defining factor of our typical Mauritian cuisine; the humble ‘Gros Pois’ (butter beans). ‘Gros Pois’ curry is particularly appreciated when it is served with ‘dhall-puris’, another Mauritian staple, which is sold in every nook and corner of the island.
However, worryingly, ‘Gros Pois’ is fast becoming a dead weight for many.  ‘Dhall-puris’ sellers are increasingly substituting butter beans with other types of beans.  That is sacrilegious in itself; tampering with our local delicacy is an absolute no-no! But then, a quick nip to the shops or supermarkets will shed some light on what is going on.  A one-pound packet of ‘Gros Pois’ costs anything from Rs 44 (during special sales) to Rs 50.  This trend will keep on increasing undoubtedly, following the steps of cheese, milk, and butter among hundreds of other alimentary products.  No wonder, other cheaper varieties of beans are favoured over ‘Gros Pois.’
While some might consider Rs 50 as mere nothingness, just spare change, it is worth remembering that according to recent figures, there are about 100 000 Mauritians who earn less than Rs 5 000 per month, as basic salary.  For these people and by extension, their families, every single rupee matters and there is no room for wastage. With the depreciation of the Mauritian rupee, rise in the cost of living, stagnancy concerning salaries which stubbornly refuse to go up, many are finding themselves squeezed financially.  Added to that are the thousands of unemployed people who are desperate for a job (50 300, according to Statistics Mauritius 2015 reports), those who are being made redundant with the closing down of businesses or those on meagre state pensions and who have to struggle because of ill health or old age. From that perspective, Rs 50 is a big deal. Food is expensive in Mauritius, since we have to import a huge proportion of our foodstuffs. With time, things are bound to get more difficult. ‘Gros Pois’ is just one of the examples to highlight the changing patterns in many Mauritians’ eating habits.  Those who feel the pinch will testify to it while those who are cut off from the bitter reality will be complacent and brush it all aside.
The rising price of ‘Gros Pois’ metaphorically shocks us back into the reality we are living in and testifies to the ‘Big Weight’ on hundreds of Mauritians’ shoulders.  H. G. Wells (1866-1946) has a timeless quote about the struggles of survival: “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.” Nonetheless, for those disadvantaged souls who are weighed down by life circumstances, the ‘Gros Pois’ is certainly a heavy burden.