Mauritius: Arrival


From the window of the plane I saw a rainbow appear. It was at first a short stroke across the top of a hill, and soon it was a dazzling arch straddling the hills, a part of the ocean, neatly marked cane fields, and large haphazard pockets of water. The plane passed it over a long time, and when I turned back, lo, it was there still.

The latitudes of Mauritius run into Northern Australia, which I had overlooked when I packed. It is winter here, and though in this winter the temperatures are around twenty celsius, there are strong winds that take away some degrees. I left the beach and went into Mahebourg to buy a light sweater.

The taxi dropped me before a bazaar-style shop selling tacky clothes, on Rue des Flamands, and we agreed that I be picked up an hour later, at six, because the shops close by then. I decided not to buy the sweater and walked about, going up to Royal Road and down through it to Cavendish Bridge where I took the picture above. A sign in red at the start of the bridge warns: Strictly no Drinking and Gambling. (Why the fear of them, there by the bridge?) It began to drizzle and I hurried back to the streets—narrow streets busy with buses, and numerous taxis that appear clean, good, and new. The shops are dingy and unattractive, the eateries are dark inside, and on their outside the paint on the walls has flaked off. This town has a population of sixteen thousand, so I am puzzled by the number of barber-shops which, in the hour I walked, were mostly empty.

My taxi-driver showed me his house: a large bungalow with two floors. After some minutes he showed me his sister’s house, an attractive bungalow in a reasonably large compound by the sea. He told me he built them both, that he was once a professional builder but the job was fatiguing so he struggled and got himself a taxi-permit. “Why struggle? Did you have to pay?” “No, no payment” he said, “only, it takes a long time, but past president Anirudh Jagannath is my friend, and he helped me get the permit.” I cannot verify the statement. “But I’m not a rich man,” he clarified. The driver’s name is Dada, and he is large and tough and equal to the name, and if only his car didn’t reek of tobacco I’d have agreed to call him for my day’s use tomorrow.

Just now a man knocked on my door in this up-market resort and served me two letters: one inviting me to “Management Cocktails” tomorrow (which invitation he gave first), and the second notifying me that there would be no cold water in my room tomorrow from 0930 to 1400. I will not be in my room during those hours, plus I am in the final pages of Eckhart Tolle’s latest book, but I’m still annoyed. I’m going now, to talk to them.

(Changed to a color image in response to Mouna's comment; 30-July-08)

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