Friday, November 29, 2013

First American Thanksgiving

Languages are like tectonic plates that are constantly moving, and along the seams where they collide, you have Creole. - Phillip L., history professor, CA
Change Me As We Go is about taking ideas from one field and applying them to another. It’s about sharing our views and learning from each other. Yesterday, I had my first American Thanksgiving. We were invited to join a colleague, his aunt, uncle and cousins for an exquisite family lunch. As we introduced ourselves, we learned a bit more about american culture, the history behind thanksgiving, Austria, Canada, and a bit about Mauritius, of course. I told them about the Dutch, French, and British settlers, the different holidays we celebrate in Mauritius, and how we generate hydro power from accumulated rain water in our reservoirs. Then I explained how you will barely ever see any Mauritians speaking our official language (English) on a daily basis, while virtually all media is in French, but most people really speak Creole. Furthermore, I admire many of my friends of Indian decent who can not only speak English, French, Creole, but also one or more of Hindi, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Telegu, Urdu, Arabic. I explained that our Creole was mostly derived from French, and was quite similar to Haitian creole and Seychellois creole and that started a short discussion about language. The quote above is a line said by uncle Phillip which stuck with me during our conversation.
I also heard a very interesting story of how online genealogy research has led them to suddenly discover that they have relatives in Ontario, Canada! It was a fascinating story. Unfortunately, it would be really hard for us to find much about our history. Most Mauritian Chinese came from the same areas of China. So we know where our grandparents or great grandparents are from. Could there be more to the family history than we might think? Maybe we have relatives in Trinidad! Or Saudi Arabia or India. The Hakka people migrated a lot. I wonder…
Overall, I would say it was a very pleasant first Thanksgiving in America and it was an absolute joy to share this special meal in such great company. While I’m typically not a history buff, I really enjoyed hearing uncle Phillip’s mini history lessons. It somehow gave me a little glimpse of why history fascinates some people. It’s not just about remembering the past. It’s also about inspiring the next generation, contributing to their careers, and hopefully their character. Thank you to the wonderful family who made my first American thanksgiving a special one.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Comments on News Articles in Mauritius

Change Me As We Go is about accepting that we are not perfect and that sometimes, we should learn to improve ourselves before criticizing. Words are cheap.

While I cringe at some of the articles written in Mauritian press, something else ticks me off even more: the comments. Every news article is usually followed by a seemingly endless thread of comments, most of which are blaming the government for anything and everything, their language often flourished with inappropriate words. Their occasional refuters unfortunately don't fare much better either. While I agree that there is for improvement for those at the helm, it just strikes me that so many Mauritian internauts complain relentlessly, without any constructive propositions. Just saying the rules/government/mentality sucks isn't going to change anything!!!

Having spent the past 6 years in Canada, where the public is very engaged and people right and left are trying to find solutions to every problem imaginable, I find it a desolating comparison. I know that the most vocal comments are likely not representative of the nation's opinion as a whole but I still find it concerning that many people are still waiting for the Government to fix all their problems. Why do we feel so powerless as a people? Why don't we learn more about the real difficulties of our Government and try and come up with solutions together? Why don't we have more public engagement? As far as I can tell, most of the community is not involved in politics. Criticism flies left and right but I rarely see a comment that is carefully considered and passionate about improving from the status quo.

Perhaps being a remote island unbeknownst to most of the world has something to do with it. A lot of things seemed out of reach or impossible when I was living there. Becoming a famous musician? Impossible. Becoming a famous scientist? Also impossible. In fact, becoming a famous anything seemed quite impossible unless you were an extinct animal (ie dodo) in Mauritius. It felt like anything I did wouldn't matter as much, because we're a tiny spec in the Indian Ocean, in our own little bubble.  The highest indication of success was if you became a doctor or lawyer. When my physics teacher told me "maybe one day you will work for Microsoft", even he didn't seem so convinced. Now I work for Apple. Kind of crazy if you ask me :)

Then I moved to Canada and almost anything became possible. High school graduates were building playgrounds and schools in Africa, college students were creating their own charities to improve access to education, people young and old are running for the cure, everyone is involved, everyone is doing something. Many university students teach anything from ballet to French in their spare time. Sure, people still complain about the Government here too, but many more people are doing something to change the world, because we know that we can.

So, dear Mauritians, it's time to wake up and realize that you too, can make a difference. You are a talented people. Don't let it go to waste. Speak slow, think fast. Say less, do more :)

Inspiring The Next Writers

Writers who don't proofread their work because they have editors/proofreaders are like coders who don't write tests because there's a QA team. Do you know what happens if coders don't write tests? Planes crash, machines go crazy and people may die :)

I regularly read Mauritian news online but with time, it has become less interesting to do so. I find many  (not all!) of the articles lackluster, sprinkled with grammar and spelling mistakes. My eyes tend to glaze over. To be fair, Canadian and American press also suffer from the same plague. One could argue that my expectations have gone up with time, but I'm not sure that's the case. It bothers me when newspapers don't hold high standards regarding the articles they publish. They are supposed to be authoritative sources of information! I wish people would at least proofread their work, ensure their verbs are properly conjugated and their sentences are proper.

When I was a student, I used to read the papers (English and French) to find new words and different ways of expressing ideas. Bhishmadev Seebaluck's "Dear Shakespeare" column was a staple in my weekly English diet. I would underline new words or interesting expressions and add them to my copybook, complete with definitions and examples. I would review them every now and then to refresh my memory, and these articles are what got me ranked in the top 10 in General Paper in my year. I am incredibly grateful to great journalists and writers who, through their work, have enticed me into pursuing eloquence and, by extension, excellence.

Columnists like Bhishmadev Seebaluck have inspired many readers (including myself) to develop vocabulary, creativity, and mastery of language. Writing is an art and a profession. Isn't it the goal of every artist to inspire others through their work? How can you inspire the next generation when your articles read like the noise in your head? Of course, it would be over-the-top to have every article à la "Dear Shakespeare", but a little effort in language mastery would go a long way to inspire the next generation of writers in Mauritius. The arts are so underrated in our educational culture already. There are many passionate young writers budding in our midst who could use some encouragement. So if you are a writer, please, be an articulate writer. We want to look up to you.

Some Mauritian writers who make me proud (I'll add to this list as I find more):
Bhishmadev Seebaluck
Ananda Devi
Jacques K. Lee