DEV VIRAHSAWMY

 

When I was a little boy on the dusty road of Goodlands

I was told I was a ‘Telgu’.

My ‘Telgu’ father fathered a child with a ‘non-Telgu’ girl

Before marrying my mother

A ‘Telgu’ girl from Quartier Militaire

Where she had learnt Tifrer’s and others’ Creole songs

Which she sang to me:

  • Pa bate li misie,
  • Ler mo ti kontan twa Lilinn,
  • Kari lalo milatres,
  • Roule mon’pti Sir Zil,
  • Nwar, nwar, nwar do mama,
  • Charli – O, aret bwar diven banann …

 

My ‘non-Telgu’ friends who spoke Creole and Bhojpuri

Loved to tease me.

For them ‘tel’ was ‘oil’ and ‘gu’ was ‘shit’

And so I was – what was I? –

Oily shit or shitty oil?

 

A Telgu child who listened to Creole songs

Sung by a Telgu mother

And Creole stories

Told by a Telgu granduncle (Tata);

Whose dream was peopled by the cunning hare

And the wise tortoise

And fuelled by the tricks of Tizan

That was the Telgu I thought I was.

Later I was told I was not Telgu

But Telegu from Andhra Pradesh.

Much later my identity sketched by others

Took a new shape:

I am Telugu from Telangana!

 

Yet I still feel like the little boy

On the dusty road of Goodlands

Who listened to Creole songs

Sung by a Telgu mother

And Creole stories

Told by a Telgu Tata.

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!

 

When I was three I had polio

And lost my left arm.

My Telgu mother dragged me to different places of worship:

Shivalas, kovils, mosques, chapels, churches, different shrines

To beg the Almighty to restore the lost limb.

And yet everybody insisted that I was

A Telgu boy.

Why?

I’ll never know.

What makes a Telgu boy?

 

Death of my Telgu mother.

Had to leave my Telgu comfort zone

For urban running water and electricity Euro-Christian zone;

Went to Catholic schools,

Discovered I was a pagan

For whom there would be no salvation

– Ad Altiora Cum Christo.

The Creole culture fountain started to dry up

(No Guna or Tata Iranah to keep the fire burning)

And an avalanche of Frenchified Americanism swept through.

(Now Elvis, James Dean and Alliance Française

Topped the chart.)

My grandmother was worried:

I was becoming “Kondoru”

For my Telgu roots were rotting.

 

On the road again!

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!

 

Met a Telgu girl,

Decided on a non-Telgu relationship;

Married outside Telgu zone

In a non-Telgu way;

Studied in a non-Telgu University;

Discovered a non-Telgu branch of learning;

Thought of building a non-Telgu Bharat;

Brought up our children in a non-Telgu culture …

 

Who am I?

Out of Africa my ancestors

Peopled a planet;

They then settled

On a Creole island;

Changed it;

Developed it to the best of their abilities.

What should I do now?

Dig deep into the earth to find Telgu roots?

Or chart a new course?

 

On the road again!

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!

 

In a world of having

A Telgu boy from the dusty roads of Goodlands

Wants to grow the tree of being;

The African-Indian-Telgu

On his Creole island

Wants to carve his new dynamic identity.

 

What?

Trying to replace the blond-hair, blue-eyed god?

What?

Mixing lard with ghee?

What?

Denying access to Sanscrit, Latin, Esperanto and Volapük?

What?

Speak dialect and patois?

What?

Destroying blood purity?

What?

Worship Marx, Fidel and Mao Zedong?

 

The admirable true blues

Went on a rampage.

Why?

No one knew.

 

On the road again!

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!

 

I felt like Prince Hamlet.

To be or not to be?

The torture was unbearable.

I could not find my way.

Tossed and turned until …

 

Just before I woke up

My fairy-godmother slipped into my soul

A few words of wise mystery

Which drove me into rethinking,

To have a fresh look around me,

Marvelling at simplicity,

So simple that we tend to ignore it:

If we all, on our island,

Sound the depth of what we are,

We’ll get the shock of our lives

Because we are,

Willy-nilly,

We are … Creoles, yes Creoles all of us

Transplanted into new soil.

 

Indo-Creoles, Afro-Creoles,

Euro-Creoles, Sino-Creoles;

Believing and non-believing Creoles;

Hindu Indo-Creoles, Christian Indo-Creoles;

Muslim Indo-Creoles too;

Christian Afro-Creoles and Rasta too;

Muslim Afro-Creoles too;

Christian, Hindu Euro-Creoles;

Muslim Euro-Creoles too;

Buddhist, Christian Sino-Creoles;

Muslim Sino-Creoles too;

Indo-Afro-Euro- Sino

We are … Creoles, yes Creoles all of us

Transplanted into new soil.

 

A dream? Reality?

True reality?

Another reality?

Surely an irresponsible dream!

A traitor’s dream!

Mixing pork with clarified butter?

Renegade rascal!

 

My fairy-godmother smiled

To say that was alright

For even within the same breed

Conflicts often arise.

Conflicts between two thoughts,

Between two groups,

Between the past and the future

Between forward and backward …

That’s why, she told me,

I should sharpen my pencil, open my eyes,

Keep my ears wide open,

Allow Creole colours and music

To seep into my soul;

Dip my heart in emotions

From the Ganges, the Seine and the Loire;

Let the sea breeze caress my hair,

Let the summer rain water my feet,

Let the soil’s fragrance titilate my nostrils.

Then with Creole words

Carve my identity

And chart the road to development.

 

On the road again!

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!

 

I remember again the meeting I had with

Peter Ustinov

At the old Port Louis Theatre

“Blood purity? NONSENSE!

We’re all mixed-bloods!”

From River Omo to Asia, Australia, Europe, Americas…

To Indian Ocean Creole Islands

We’re all mixed-blood

Homo-Sapiens.

 

Yes I know!

I’m a metis, a universal metis,

Full of the milk of human kindness …

And proud to be so.

 

On the road to Damascus and Emaus

I make music with my friends

For those I love.

Ek hi raasta!