BHAWNA ATMARAM

Fifty-two years of independence from British colonialists and twenty-eight years of being a self-sustaining republic; Mauritius has come a long way. The path ahead towards building a harmonious nation, however, is still riddled with doubt, intolerance and dogma. Today, in 2020, Nature is teaching us a valuable lesson as all major official flag-raising celebrations have been cancelled throughout the country due to heavy rains. Maybe, this is a sign that it might be a great opportunity to reflect silently on the real symbolism of being an independent nation and a republic, rather than mechanically raising our national flag and singing the national anthem, like parrots merely repeating what they have heard. If we actually take the time to ‘listen’ to each and every word of the Mauritian national anthem, our profound ignorance of the quintessential notion of nation-building is woefully exposed.
When interfaith marriages are frowned upon in 21st century Mauritius, with many families disowning their own flesh and blood, questions need to be raised about us genuinely vying to be ‘one people.’ There is not a single day that goes by without some Mauritians vilifying each other based on their religious convictions on social media platforms. This problem has become systemic at all levels of our society where one’s religious beliefs and caste take precedence even in supposedly neutral spaces such as the workplace. Gangrenous social cliques are formed where a ‘them and us’ attitude prevails, unceremoniously shoving professionalism and meritocracy into the background. Well, unscrupulous politicians have been the devious masterminds behind this social division by playing the same ‘divide and rule’ game of their former colonial masters. Political candidates are still handpicked due to their caste and creed, with some pseudo sociocultural associations lighting the fire of hatred and mistrust at the slightest opportunity.
Speaking of our Motherland, it is harrowing to note that women are statistically mostly the victims of domestic violence, harassment and sexual assault. When women as child-bearers are being abused, whether emotionally or physically, on a daily basis, it becomes easier to fathom why Mauritius as our Motherland is systematically disregarded. There are very few female politicians and women in strategic managing posts in the country. The Motherland is struggling to breathe. Pollution is rife in every nook and corner of the island. Green spaces are sacrificed for the sake of capitalist concrete jungles. The coffers of the Motherland are mercilessly pillaged by a handful of powerful individuals who have thrown the fundamental values of ‘justice’ to the wind. Adieu to the sweet ‘beauty’ and ‘fragrance’ of Mauritius?
This year, let us meditate on how to put our country first by reimagining our Motherland. May we stop taking our Motherland for granted. May we start raising our national flag and singing our national anthem in a meaningful way. May the four colours on our national flag mix as ‘one people, as one nation’ creating a unique canvas of hope. Then only will we be blessed, for ever and ever.