From Darkness to Light – Diwali in Mauritius

Standard

Mauritius has a very large Hindu population which means that Diwali is celebrated. The festival is celebrated in October/November at the time of the new moon, when the night is darkest. I sensed, a few days before new moon, in the activities of the local population that something important was going to happen soon. Vendors began selling little bags and fold up boxes with pictures of rows of sparkling lamps and the markets became very busy with women buying food and families buying new clothes. On the beach young boys began throwing firecrackers at the feet of passing tourists (ME!), scaring them (and strangely not the feral dogs) witless.

I understand Diwali to be “The Festival of Light”, a celebration of a new year and an opportunity to leave the negativities of the past year behind and to begin again, afresh. It is also seen as a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and hope over despair.

Hindus celebrate the goddess Lakshmi who represents abundance and wealth, as well as the elephant deity Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and a symbol of wisdom. Homes are traditionally lit up with lights and “Rangoli” patterns are drawn in brightly coloured vegetable powders on living room floors or in courtyards.

I took a stroll into town, in the early evening of Diwali and found the local temple ablaze with light and a group of people chanting and singing in accompaniment to indian musical instruments. At first, I stood outside, my Western “Abrahamic” upbringing imposing a hesitancy to intrude. I remembered that the Hindu tradition embraces all systems of belief, so I joined the group in the temple for some chanting and singing which involves one person singing a phrase and the group replying in answer while clapping and ringing “Kartal” (Indian cymbals) to the rhythm set by the drummers on their hand drums. I loved the companionable atmosphere of chanting with the group and afterwards made a donation to the goddess Lakshmi, thanking her for my privileged life. I felt humbled as I was presented with a generous handful of blessed Indian sweets (prasaad).

Diwali Chanting

Diwali Chanting

Happy Diwali to anyone reading this, may any darkness you may carry at present become illuminated with the light of knowledge that . . . like the phases of the moon, change is inevitable and that light follows dark and dark follows light and all is as it should be, even in the world of certain ungrateful and mildly discontented cruising “Yotties”.

There is a Vedic Chant in Sanskrit which goes like this . . .

“Asato Ma sat gamaya
Tamaso ma jyoti gamaya
Mrtyor Ma amratam gamaya”

Lead us from the unreal to the real
From darkness to the light (of understanding)
From (the fear of) death to (the knowledge of) immortality

My attempt at a Diwali Rangoli, on paper though!

My attempt at a Diwali Rangoli, on paper though!

An Honest Look at the Cruising Lifestyle

Standard

I am struggling personally with the aimlessness of the cruising life at the moment. We are surrounded by new things all the time which is fun for a while, but I feel so much an observer to life rather than a participant. This is an unexpected feeling and I am still trying to figure out if it is a good one or an unpleasant one? So what is this cruising life about?
We are at anchor in a protected bay, the sea is a deep turquoise colour, the air is milky warm. Grande Bay is a busy tourist part of the island of Mauritius. It is fun, colourful, there are restaurants and coffee bars, boat charters and people in bikinis under umbrellas over warm sand. There are juices for sale under the coolness of the trees on the beach and music filters over the bay. It is lovely and beautiful. In the Chagos Archipelago, where there are no people, no restaurants , where the sea is a deeper turquoise and it is so clear that the blacked tipped reef sharks can be seen circling 10 metres below and one only has raw nature for entertainment, it is also beautiful.

But why the feelings of mild discontent?

On passage from one place to another I am convinced the cruising life is about getting to our destination, finding land, a safe anchorage, a quiet bay, a coffee shop, ice-cream, fresh vegetables and fruit. Once at our destination for a few days, a restlessness presents itself and I find it difficult to reconcile the feeling of being a simple observer to the places we visit.

Fish Market Grande Bay

Fish Market Grande Bay

Before we bought the boat we were land based and I felt trapped, bored, discontented. I was restless for change, but now, after living with change for a short period of only three months I feel a need for stability, for a feeling of “rootedness”. I am confused at these wide swings of emotion and these constant questions about what is important and what I want and need, in order to find “happiness”.

This confusion calls into question the nature of contentedness. Perhaps there is no such thing as the perfect lifestyle, only choices and consequences and the challenge of finding, or realising a contentedness in whatever one does. I ask myself if being rooted on land, perhaps on the farm which I am so drawn too, would make me feel any happier, any more content or would I soon find myself longing for the space of the sea and for the excitement of change in a new landfall.

While there is much to be said for being the objective observer, the feeling of being aimless and unable to participate on any real level is confusing. On the positive side as the outsider, you possess a certain objective perspective that is lost when living in a place for a long time. This is interesting, as the new observer the mundane becomes extraordinary. I have noticed this with tourists when they visit Cape Town, they stop and notice the small detail, the odd flower, the penguins, a garden an insect, things South Africans take for granted. The cruising  lifestyle offers that freshness. But at what point does one need to participate more, to contribute rather than to simply pass through? I am preoccupied with these questions at present, as I write, on a verandah, above a beach, overlooking a turquoise bay while I watch the weekend beach visitors, the families, friends and the tourists get on with their day.

Grande Bay, Mauritius

Grande Bay, Mauritius

We have a visitor from Cape Town who is helping us repair our steering issue and then we will move on, again, to Reunion Island, for the euphoria of yet another set of new experiences.

From there we will face the challenging trip back to South Africa. Back to family and to the reality of our “land life” for a little while, until once again, life becomes mundane and the need for new experiences begins all over again.

But at what point does the constant change become the ordinariness of life?