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To our Dear Rulers, From Mwa, tidimoun

BHAWNA ATMARAM

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The ‘tidimoun’ Archetype in Mauritius

The tidimoun is typically characterised by a person with an exhausted demeanour, worry lines creasing his/her face and chronically empty pockets. Dark circles are a usual feature, due to nights of anxiety pertaining to the rising living expenses on a daily basis. Life seems to be a whole bubble of suffocation and frugality is the norm in order to sustain oneself. Things are limited to a bare minimum and shopping expeditions, whether to the corner shops or supermarkets, have become an ordeal. It is a race against prices to identify discounted items. And the hell starts right there.

With despair, the tidimoun realises that inflation is a terrible scourge that shows no sign of going away soon. With meagre or no savings, projects such as constructing or owning a house have become white elephants for many. Leisure is practically non-existent as bills have to be paid. For various tidimoun, taking on additional jobs to supplement the family revenue is essential but somehow that is never enough. It is a perpetual spiral of stress that grips those stuck on minimum or low wages, the chronically ill, lone senior citizens with no support from others or struggling families with children. And these are their stories.

Mwa ti dimoun and my Dodo sandals

Dear rulers, you are right in assuming that I have to content myself with basics. I cannot afford branded items and encourage my children to use hand-me-downs. I do have to watch what we eat at home so that we do not go over-budget. Each rupee matters. In the midst of all this nightmare, my budget Dodo sandals which have been my faithful companions since forever have now been shamefully taken over by the rich and powerful in tacky photo opportunity sessions. Do you honestly feel that wearing Dodo sandals will make you rulers understand our plight? I cannot help but shake my head as I wonder who came up with such an insensitive idea. The clothes do not make the man.

So please, just stop, dear rulers. Stop trying to show that you care. You will wear your Dodo sandals till you get into your luxury cars, chauffeured away like superstars and fussed over. These sandals will then be relegated to the background, just like I am. I am no-one to you. Just a vote maybe, when you fleetingly come to visit the constituency where you have been elected. My life goes on, irrespective of the sandals you wear. I am not privileged enough to be nominated in governmental or parastatal bodies because you do not know me. I am not in your circle of friends or relatives. But I know that I have earned my Dodo sandals in a rightful manner. I wear them with pride and will not be fooled.

Mwa tidimoun and tinned sardines

I am aware that you think that I will survive on canned sardines and ‘rotis’ when you beat your chests and proclaim yourselves as the saviours of the nation. Rest assured that while you are indulging in your caviar and champagne, treated to endless banquets, courtesy of the taxpayers, I shall be opening my tinned sardines and having an absolute feast, or so you think. You are screaming from all rooftops that you have my interests at heart and are subsiding so many foodstuffs. You are doing me a huge favour. You have turned into self-proclaimed gods while I am expected to kowtow to you and pay my salutations for that gift of subsidised sardines. I just hope that when you tuck into that five-star lunch or dinner when you are working your day job (yes, working as the rest of us) at none other than the house of parliament, wish me well when I am managing with sardines. As if you would! You will surely huff and say that I deserve my fate!

Mwa tidimoun and public transport

It is difficult for me to buy or ever aspire to buy my own car. I use my bicycle, autocycle or motorcycle to get around. Else, I have to use public transport such as buses or perhaps, once in a blue moon, the tramway which somehow benefits those who live in specific areas where it runs. It is a hassle to wait for overcrowded buses which are not on time and often leave you at the bus stop, in the scorching sun or battering rain.

Now, the bus fares have gone up. I am told that this is an inevitable situation due to recession, the Ukraine/Russia war. You will tell me that my employees incur my travelling costs and I should not complain. That senior citizens, the disabled and students are benefiting from the free public transport scheme. But I do need to get around. I am human too and have commitments. Yes, I try to curtail things but every time I have to use the bus, my purse is now lighter. My arms are sore as I carry my grocery bags. I subconsciously plan fewer bus trips because I am learning that my utility bills might go up soon. Dear rulers, spare us from your pretence of enjoying public transport, once again as publicity stunts. Our lives are not publicity stunts. The photos are simply ridiculous. Leave us to be.

Mwa tidimoun and the law

As a tidimoun, I have been witnessing the excessive zeal of law enforcement officers towards us. They do not have the same attitude towards you, dear rulers. Recently, some of them have not hesitated in being disrespectful to the Chairperson of the Mauritius Bar Association. You can only imagine how we, common lots, are treated then. If by mistake, I have pulled down my face mask for a few seconds to wipe down my sweaty face in a public place or struggling to breathe, I am quickly swarmed by a bunch of law enforcement officers and fined instantaneously. Or, law enforcement officers are given five quotas daily and have to look for opportunities to fine us at all costs. I feel that these do not apply to you.

Therefore, is it ethical of you to breach all legal protocols simply because you are rulers? How many times have we seen you in public, with photos of you splashed on social media or newspapers, with no face masks? Have you been fined yet? Or are you above the law? It seems that you are because tidimoun are always at the receiving end. We are the perfect scapegoats while some of you can get away with murder. We are watching and analysing. When we do speak out, we are served with annoyance papers and prosecuted. Anyway, the wheel turns. You should remember that.

Mwa tidimoun, the anti-patriot

Dear rulers, you love to label us as anti-patriots when we try to point out how unfair life is at times. You deride us when we try to tell you how those in your circle are abusing their positions of power and raiding our country in broad daylight. How inept people are ruining our national institutions because they are clueless.  However, you choose to ignore us and treat us like dirt. You try every measure in the book to shut us up because you think we are mere disposables.

Trust me, I love my country above anything else. I feel the words of our national anthem. But they are devoid of meaning when they come out of your mouths. Hollow words coming from the mouths of hollow men or women. You keep using instruments of division to garner votes, shrewdly setting one against the other. You are the ones allowing your kind to spend public money on useless trips abroad, without an ounce of accountability. Their per diems, allowances and other privileges are preciously preserved. So, who is the anti-patriot here? You or us?

Mwa tidimoun and my future

I am proud of who I am. My hands are calloused. My feet are bruised. I do not know what is in store tomorrow or whether I will be able to make it. I think about this every day. Still, I have my dignity, despite being a tidimoun. I look at my children and know that I have to be strong for their sake. Their innocence breaks my heart but also motivates me to give the best of myself. They depend on me. They need me. They need a better future. A life better than the one I am living. I cannot give up. I will not give up.

I am one of the thousands of anonymous faces in Mauritius. We cross each other, each having a tacit understanding of what the other is going through. We are out there in the early frostiness of the morning shifts or the darkness of the evening shifts. Dear rulers, you possibly would not know this. You are there in your ivory towers, convincing yourselves that we are an ungrateful lot. Trust me, we are not. Our conscience is clear and serene. I might be a tidimoun but I am genuine. No pretensions. No forgetting of my roots. No shame in who I am.

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