As we flew into the little island of Mauritius, we couldn’t help but admire the beautiful farm lands, the mystical mountains crowned with clouds, the playful sun enjoying a game of hide and seek…Yes, we could see the poetry in nature.
Such a paradise evokes tranquility and peace. Little wonder then that the inhabitants here seem so happy and content with life. Almost everyone we met at the resort we stayed, on the streets or at the local market appeared so calm that it made us a little envious. It also made us curious. We, therefore, ventured out of our resort (One and Only Le Saint Geran) to understand the local culture and know Mauritians better. What we learnt about the locals impressed us as much as nature’s splendors did.
The Mauritian Way of Life
You can call it mini-India. The geography is very similar to Goa. Even the sun-kissed skin and the very casual and friendly demeanor of the locals will remind a visitor of that Indian state. But Mauritians have learnt to respect their natural resources and cherish their nation. The beautifully clean landscape, the signages with a note of caution for people crossing streets, the smile people share even with a stranger, it all seems very different.
Life in Mauritius is laid-back and relaxed. People are allowed to fish freely in the waters. Imagine catching your own meal! Twilight embraces the island pretty early and that sets the mood for people to shut shop, go over to their friends’ place and cook their fresh catch over a glass of rum and a good helping of laughter. However, there isn’t much nightlife in Mauritius. People start their day early and end their day among the people who matter most for them.
We spoke with Sudhir Mohun, the restaurant manager at our hotel. He is a typical Mauritian, jovial, friendly and always ready to have a conversation. He gave us an entire history lesson on how the Mauritian culture came into existence, how the British and the French fought over the island, how India became significant for Mauritius and later on for its freedom, how people learnt to live with whatever little there was on offer, how limited means became proud traditions, how culture was and still is celebrated with élan and purpose, how the current generation is being made aware of the struggles of their ancestors. Mohun told us of the leisurely afternoons of his youth that were spent catching fish with friends and then the afternoon continued with some simple cooking with faratas and cans of beer.
Marks of colonization periods are visible all over Mauritius and it feels rather strange to see people who look very Indian but speak in fluent French or Creole. The British took over the island but the French influence seems dominant till date. Most of the places have French names, the architecture has a very clear French influence, the food has predominantly Indian and French cuisine and when it comes to local language, both Creole and Bhojpuri seem equally popular. It is actually quite common to hear Bhojpuri.
As for food, the French influence is quite strong but the local food here is predominantly Indian with dholl puri and farata being on the top. We visited the local market at Flacq, which was perhaps the Mauritian version of the INA market in Delhi. The fresh local vegetables, the wide variety of clothes and the street vendors selling the delicious concoction called the dholl puri, which is essentially a dal-ka-paratha roll stuffed with different vegetables. There were such stark similarities between Mauritius and India that somehow we always felt at home. From the places selling biryani to the Bollywood music playing in the stores, it all fell into our comfort zone.
The biggest reason we fell in love with this island isn’t just because of its similarities to India or its gorgeous landscape. It is because of its people, who have chosen to live in harmony despite their differences: that’s a big learning.
What could be a better place to celebrate love and your honeymoon than this!
Best weather to visit: Mauritius has tropical climate and can be visited throughout the year.
Connectivity: Well-connected to major cities across the world; Emirates offers one of the shortest routes.
Where to stay: The island has several luxury as well as budget resorts. For a relaxing vacation, we recommend One and Only Le Saint Geran.
First published in The Statesman, October 13, 2016