I walked barefoot on the soft white sand, stopping now and then to admire the seashells and small fish in pools of crystal clear water. It was low tide here on the east coast of Mauritius; the sun was about to set on the other side of the mountain and the sea was bathed in countless shades of blue. As the gentle waves caressed my feet, two figures, far at sea, caught my eye. Precariously balanced on the rocks, a lady wearing what looked like a traditional Indian salwar-kameez, seemed to be teaching her very young son the ways of the fishing rod.
I watched in fascination as he tried to take the rod from his reluctant mother, almost tripping over in the attempt. After several tries, he found his balance by gripping her arm with one hand and holding the rod with the other. He caught no fish, but there was a sense of coming of age in his young face as they tip-toed ashore.
I couldn’t help but cross their path with a smile, and ask – in English and then Hindi / Urdu – if they lived nearby?
The ice quickly melted on that warm tropical evening as Uzma, the lady in the salwar-kameez, explained that with Ramzan starting the following morning, the entire family had come out to fish, to have enough to eat during the fasting period. Her husband was still at sea, and her daughter joined us shyly from her spot on the beach.
Like most Indian-origin families in Mauritius, their ancestors were forcibly brought to the island by the British, for back-breaking work on the sugarcane fields. Life had changed for the better over time, as they adapted to their paradisiacal surroundings through hard work and a resolve to create better lives for their children. Indeed, as the family’s fifth generation, Uzma’s daughter enjoyed studying Urdu poetry at school, an unintentional connection with the past.
When she graduates in two years, I’ll marry her off, Uzma told me with the proud smile of a mother that is way too common in India.
To someone of her choice or your choice? I asked, not so candidly.
The daughter, quiet all this time, laughed and answered before her mother could: My choice ofcourse. Gone are the times when girls married someone of their parents’ choice.
We laughed together for a few moments, and I confessed that many parents in India still think otherwise. That put Uzma in a contemplative mood, as though a long hidden longing for India had resurfaced.
Life must be so different there, she spoke softly, as though talking to herself. My husband works hard to make ends meet here; even during the fasting period, he’ll be working long hours, and probably be too tired to fish after that.
I was struck by the irony of a place like Mauritius. People all over the world work hard all their lives to make enough money, so they can buy a dream house in “paradise” someday. Yet the island dwellers, who already have a home here, work equally hard to be able to just survive in “paradise”.
Life isn’t easy anywhere, we agreed, and despite the fasting days and limited fish supply, she warmly invited me to her home for a meal. That Indian hospitality runs in the blood, I mused to myself, but sheepishly declined, feeling almost guilty that a ‘fancy’ dinner awaited me back at my resort.
But I had to ask one last question of Uzma before we parted ways:
Everyone who comes to Mauritius falls in love with the island; but you, who live here, do you love it too?
Almost like the poetry her daughter loves, she left me with these pearls of wisdom:
No matter what your problems are, you can come to the ocean and dissolve them.
Walking back in the fading light of day, I turned back to see the family excitedly gather around Uzma’s husband as he came ashore, admiring his catch of the day. That moment reminded of what the Arabs called Mauritius when they first arrived on the island in the 10th century: “Waqwaq” – another planet.
Have you had serendipitous encounters with island dwellers on your travels?
I wrote this post as part of the #MyMauritius blogging trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Create, AHRIM, Mauritius Tourism and Air Mauritius. Opinions on this blog are always my own.
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Such a beautiful chance encounter with an Indian family. Its not difficult to find Indians anywhere on this planet, but conversations like the above make wonderful memories.
Haha true, though those who live in Mauritius are really quite different 😉
A small correction. I hope I’m not annoying. The Arabic word for planet is Kawkab, not waqwaq.
Cheers!! Keep your writings coming!
Thanks for sharing that! I couldn’t find a literal translation of “waqwaq” but seems like it was colloquially used for describing many things – like an imaginary island, a place that might not actually exist, and in this case, another planet. Wonder if there’s an expert on 10th century lingual references to clarify? 😉
Definitely Pandit Google knows!!
Nice read Shivya 🙂 Wonderful. I really enjoy reading your travelogue.
Beautiful pictures!!! I love your articles 🙂
Thanks so much Dipika, glad to hear that 🙂
This was an awesome read; I adored reading your story. It’s given me food for thought- my favourite thing for a blog post to do. Ace pictures! ☺️
~ Kat ~
Thanks Kat, glad it got you thinking!
Nice post 🙂 Looks like you are having a great time and loads of fun!
Thanks Krish, I sure am trying 😉
Beautifully written. I love reading your travelogue and wish you all the best for many more of these so that I get to feel good too (selfish reason) And amazing photos <3
Aww thanks Smriti!
That was touching Shivya
Absolutely loved your episode with Uzma family. There’s no reason with this article why I wouldn’t love it. Although that’s a fighting life for her family in such a beautiful island, as her daughter said the Ocean must be definitely dissolving their sorrows. Wonderful episode. 🙂 🙂
Puts much into perspective, right? It was a serendipitous encounter.
Ohhh yes. Very true.
Beautiful story. Can’t wait to hear more of your experiences in Mauritius 🙂
Thanks Dan! More coming soon 🙂
Great post Shivya. I have always felt, travel is as much about people as it is destination.
Thanks Deepika, and I totally agree.
You write so beautifully Shivya. It is like readers can understand your feelings.
Aww thanks Chirag 🙂
What a beautiful post! Both the words and the photos evoke so much emotion. Happy travels!
Thanks Patti, I’m glad so many people are able to connect to these emotions 🙂
Hi Shivya – beautiful post. I like the fact that your post on Mauritius is not about resorts, sun, sand and water, instead it focuses on the people and that they are no different from any of us – they have hopes and dreams, challenges and tough times. Love your photos too – gorgeous! Thanks for sharing, looking forward to your next post 🙂
Thanks so much Katt. As much as I love the sun, sand and water, the people are what make it Mauritius 🙂 More stories coming soon!
Thanks for sharing such touching story Shivya!
Amazing photos and I must say, a well Thought and well suited title as well!
Thanks Pragya; dwelled over that title for several days 😉
Stunning photos, thanks! And I really hope the ocean dissolves their problems…
Your writeups inspire to travel.
What lovely photography! You are a true inspiration Shivya! I am a newbie at blogging and you indirectly motivate me a lot! Thank you so much!
Nice read Shivya 🙂 Wonderful. I really enjoy reading your travelogue.
Amazing travelogue. Mauritius is truly beautiful
Nice trip at Mauritius !
The title is spot on. We made our first trip to Mauritius last year focusing on sun, sand, and water but returned home with stories about the incredible people we had the priviledge of meeting and speaking with. Already working on our return trip.
This is a fabulous post, as we visited the island of Mauritius in 2015 and it was a revelation. I loved watching the young people fishing at sunset near our hotel and they always made wonderful photographs!
This is lovely. I recently met a mom and her two daughters from Mauritius. We met at an Ayurvedic clinic in Kerala. I hadn’t even heard of this island before them. They become really good friends of mine and I do hope to visit them on the island some day.
I am so glad that I came across your blog when searching for some good travel blogs. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. Good detail and pics.