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In remembrance of Koomara Venketasamy,  an ex-journalist of Le Mauricien

Meghanaiyegee Venketasamy 

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Twenty years and I still grieve. As young as I remember I have learned to survive and twenty years later, I have softened in this loss. We mark his twentieth death anniversary, I pause to gather that which has been on wait at the steps of my heart.

Writing was fired and wired in his inner world and I recount sharings of how he started writing at the age of fourteen, still a student at Royal College Port Louis. He would write as a clandestine and would drop his write ups to be published. He was an actively engaged voice. He had touched lives, left behind echoes of his work, his dedication to communities. He completed only his lower six and the fire of writing had taken over him and off he went on this path that was his calling. He did not doubt. He did not question. He was politically engaged at one point and remained highly opinionated till the end.

The local bus line that we have in Long Mountain, we owe it to him, to his work, to his writings. My aunty, his sister shared about how he wrote about injustices in society from the beginning and some of his early works were published in “Advance”, “Le Cernéen” and “Star”. The magnanimous works engaged through the years for the local temples in Long Mountain, we owe them to him and how he moved mountains to make things happen.

I am only slowly beginning to collect artefacts of his movements, he was a wave of movements on his own.

Twenty years ago, I could only see how he had shaken my foundations in life, left me scared of people, of men, of relationships. My father was an alcoholic with phases of violent fists. It was great shame, fear and danger for us, the children, his wife and the extended family. At the same time, he was an utterly intelligent man with a wit like none.

I write as an act of echoing to many around us, for I know our story is not an isolated one.

To process numbness in one’s body and to be able to gather richness inside asks of a community and safe people. I am blessed to have received this on the way.

Today, I see the gift of life that I have received from my father. I am humbled by his life. I include all of him within me, the pain, the tears, the addiction, the hate, the love and much more, yet to be understood by me. I acknowledge the missing of him, a constant wave and reminder. 

Twenty years ago, I had to be dragged next to his lifeless body to pay a last homage, the pain was too much for my body to hold. Today, I feel swept right in front of his lifeless body and I hear myself say “out of my ideas of wrong and right, you are my father and I am your daughter. Thank you for the gift of life.”

These words did not come smoothly, it took a community, therapies and movements for me to be able to receive the gifts and how my life has been impacted by my father.

He believed in the power of words and somehow my life took me on a path where I work and dwell within and amidst the power of words. Through his life, I have learned to honour and respect the lives of the journalists that I have met, those that I am yet to meet and those that I will never know.

The courage that it takes to put oneself out into the world and the acknowledgement that most do not receive. It is a tough race, often tougher for a man of colour.

My first memory of shame as an adolescent is within the corridors of “Le Mauricien”, seeing my father in a shabby state, smelling rhum from afar. It took years for this memory to surface. As I write today, all I can say is “being human means all of this”.

Maybe you have experienced this depth of shame and maybe it’s familiar for you.

I have learned to include. I am still learning to give it all a rightful place. 

Healing is about gathering fragmented parts of our inner world, our psyche, our nervous system. It is not about overcoming rather titrating our meeting of our grief and pandiculating this experience till we are resilient enough to move deeper.

Resilience is less about us practicing some tools but rather about life and love passed across generations through the elders to the younger ones.

To be able to see greatness in our parents beyond our ideas of what happened, what we did not receive, what could and should have been, is a walk of a whole life. A walk that does not have to be lonely and challenging.

I hope and pray that my story, my path, my gathering of myself echo to you and that it fuels your long-await grief.

To a man who carried greatness inside out. He would have turned 68 on the 20th January and he left on the eve of his birthday on the 19th January 2003.

You are many to have supported him through his years of work, you are countless to have supported us through the years, we are grateful for this.

Our gratitude to the people of “Le Mauricien” for having received within your walls our father, for having been a pivotal place in his life till his last days. My gratitude to the people of “Le Mauricien”, your presence has played a key role in my gathering of myself through the years.

In honour and reverence of my life, my elder sister and my younger brother and in gratitude for my mother, she who carried us through life.

We thank you for witnessing our life as it unfolds.

In beauty and kindness.

 

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