Bhawna Atmaram

Things can get overwhelming at times.  Who hasn’t ever experienced this feeling of struggling to keep afloat, as the rough waves keep carrying us to unknown depths? There is no sense of direction as the compass is broken. Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ (1996) has come to my mind today. The novel, which has won the Booker Prize, explores the small things people take for granted in life and tend to overlook. Among the “small things”, people from the lower strata and caste feature predominantly in the novel.  They are viewed as being the undesirable souls amounting to nothing by those of the higher classes and castes and are hence callously disregarded.

My concern is that a similar scenario is repeating itself in our country.  Fiction has solidly turned into facts.  Rain, which is the free gift from the skies of our vast universe, is viciously targeted as the next priceless commodity which is up for greedy grabs, in the name of privatisation with vertiginous price hikes looming dangerously ahead.  Slowly, we are losing hold of our natural resources which have been generously donated by the forces of the universe.  The best beaches of our island have borne the brunt of savage development in the name of ruthless capitalism and been snatched from the common lot. Countless natural spots have been sliced and auctioned off.  And now, the rain from the skies is mercilessly captured, with alarming consequences for those stuck not only in the lowest strata of society but many families in the middle class category as well.

While it is commendable that wastage is addressed, nonetheless, in a country where the prices of kitchen food staples such as milk and cheese keep rising, with the latter being even classified as a luxury item in some supermarkets, kept under tight protection, won’t the privatisation of our water services be yet another nail in the coffin for the average struggling Mauritian? Or, does it mean that those in the plush seats of comfort have a blinkered perspective and are too obnoxious to even acknowledge that price hikes concerning water would have such a worrisome impact on the lives of so many? What guarantee do we have that the private operators would not resort to unethical practices of tampering with the price of water, time and again in the future? The government would then be logically not answerable nor questionable on this matter.  Chapter closed.

Another chapter would then open up for the “small things”, no longer understanding their God of Rain, who has favoured the “bigger things”. How can that god choose his disciples based on the size of their bank accounts, asking for extravagant sacrifices from those who have barely enough? If the God of Rain believes in fairness, it must be impressed upon everyone that all living creatures have the right to equal access to Nature’s precious blessing to Humanity.  Surely, the god must have better things to do than to shower the gift of water exclusively on the suburbs housing lavish swimming pools or sprawling gold courses, which belong to those churning out big bucks. So, what will the God of Rain decide? To be fair or unfair? To be reasonable or unreasonable? To bless or to curse?