Mark Twain has very rightly said “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”
Way back when I was young, I had visited Mauritius with a brand new husband in tow. As our plane lost height, I caught sight of a lush green jewel surrounded by turquoise blue waters. Soon afterwards as we drove from the airport to the city, on one side was the vast Indian ocean while beyond were hills in strange shapes The lower slopes of these hills were laden with bougainvillea bushes with colours alternating between magenta and white. As we drove on, we could see long stretches of sugarcane plantations flanking either side of the road. The greenery all around was extremely soothing to the eye.
We finally reached the apartment where we were to spend the next fifteen days of our honeymoon. It was high up on the sixteenth floor and the view was breathtaking – one to write home about. Everywhere I looked I could see the green and blue waters of the ocean changing colours as the day advanced from dawn to dusk. We were very comfortable in the apartment and it felt almost like home. Every morning we would go for long walks, taking in the sights and sound of this little paradise, which was quite laid back then.. On one such walk we visited the Botanical Gardens. A walk through the gardens presented an array of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers. but the pink lotus remains unmatched in beauty. What remains etched in my memory even after so many years, is the large saucer like leaves of the lotus, I hadn’t seen anything like this before and it was a sight I wouldn’t forget in a hurry.On one of our morning sojourns, we also visited a place where the ground was made up of seven distinct colours of earth – the result of. lava flow a long long time ago.
Afternoons were spent swimming in the tranquil waters closest to our apartment. or just lazing around on the pristine white beach. Our quest for the sun and sand and a beach far from the madding crowd ended here. Since it wasn’t one of the well-known beaches, we sometimes had the luxury of having the beach exclusively to ourselves. During the evenings we used to do a lot of window-shopping as we were on a shoe-string budget. Along the windows were displayed branded cosmetics in alluring cases, pretty clothes, stylish shoes, designer bags. Of course these stuff were far beyond our means . So we had to be content with glancing through them and buying some local cosmetics and clothes from the factories that we visited.
Since we were staying in a self-contained apartment, there was arrangement for cooking. We thought we would very well manage by cooking some of our meals. We diligently went to the nearby market, Back at the apartment I tried to cook a simple vegetable curry and rice…the rice came out all sticky. In fact it had turned into an inedible glutinous mass and the vegetable had got burnt beyond recognition because I had forgotten to add water! After that disastrous experiment with cooking we continued having tinned pork – ball curry and bread whenever we were perforced to have our meals in the apartment. Believe me it was very yummy. Mauritius being an island with abundant fish, all types of sea food was available. Prawns, the most sought after, were real big. ‘Dholl puri’, an Indian flat bread stuffed with yellow split peas and then rolled and fried is hugely popular in Mauritius. This was also our favourite dish. We used to make a meal of ‘dholl puri’ and grilled prawns whenever we dined out.
On the whole, we found the Mauritians to be very friendly. We had managed to befriend some of the local residents within the first few days of our stay. Since they were all of Indian origin, we felt very much at home in their midst. In one of their houses I had seen dwarf coconut trees with full sized fruits almost touching our head as we sat down in their garden. We were served some of these coconuts and they tasted as good as any normal coconut.. We were privileged to spend the last few days with one of these friends who had taken us home with him. He lived in a villa atop a hill from where the view of the sea with rolling waves crashing on the rocks was exhilarating.The few days that we spent at their house every need of ours was taken care of. Friends and relatives of theirs dropped in just to say hello. We were overwhelmed by their hospitality that too to total strangers like us. They even took us to attend a family wedding.
Our stay in Mauritius suddenly ended or so it seemed. I had nothing to complain about….we had our solitude and the long walks and swimming in the sea and evenings spent window shopping and my disastrous experiment with cooking, spending the last few days with a Mauritian family…..all had a charm of their own. Could anybody ask for more?
About the Author: Onku Gosh
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