From Darkness to Light – Diwali in Mauritius

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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!

The Challenge of Inevitable Departure

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SY Jerrican sailing off Kalk Bay, Cape Town

 

 

Things are escalating into a crazed frenzy of activity. We MAY be leaving in 4 weeks (more about this another time, don’t want to jinx anything), but what this means is that the work we had planned to complete over the next 6 months will have to be completed in 1 month. This is of course quite mad, but we need to try. I accept that not all will be completed and that we will have to cultivate an attitude of contentment towards the aspects of our boat home that will remain less than perfect for a little while. However, the non negotiable tasks are themselves quite overwhelming at times. I have a week of full time sewing of pockets, bags, covers and shade awnings. We need to complete our “heads” story and given that we have chosen the non conventional (although gaining in popularity) dry toilet option, this requires lots of thought and planning as we are breaking some new ground with this. We need to have stainless steel work done in the form of grab rails and a design for the saloon bench, we have all the ceilings on the boat to complete, water makers to install, foul weather gear to purchase, safety harnesses, life rafts . . . . draws in the galley, floor boards to be secured, lockers to be sealed and completed, hard dodgers to be installed . . and then all of this is to be done by the end of June, when, if all goes to plan we leave, turn South and then East and then head to Chagos. It all seems a bit surreal, but, academically possible. On the positive side . . . . there is nothing like a little pressure to motivate one to move. We had become a little complacent over the last few months. Enjoying boat life alongside in a marina. SY Jerrican acted as a committee boat for the Western Province Dinghy Championships, we have enjoyed a few fishing trips and have generally been just a little lazy!

 

SY Jerrican as Committee Boat

Western Province Dinghy Championships 2014

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