MV WAKASHIO , a Japanese- owned bulk carrier ran aground on the coral reefs, off the coast of the tropical island Mauritius, on 25 July 2020.
Wakashio was empty of cargo but had an estimated 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 tons of heavy fuel oil on board.
Little by little, with the strength of the heavy waves, cracks arose in its hull. Fuel oil started to spill on the turquoise blue sea of the coastal district, Mahebourg. In no time, the oil spill reached its shores, destroying marine life, seaweeds, and corals.
The inhabitants ran to the rescue of the lagoon. They made floating booms with sugar cane straw to absorb the oil. In the meantime, foreign help was sought by the Government of Mauritius to block the catastrophic flood of oil from the hull of Wakashio to the sea.
On Assumption Day 2020, Wakashio broke into two. The authorities estimated that it would take decades to tow the two fragmented parts of the ship. Finally, the bow part of Wakashio was sunk in the deep ocean, far from Mauritius. It was also decided that the stern part of the ship that was stuck in the reefs would take decades to tow back. It remained as the remnant of a shipwreck in the lagoon, in the southeast of the green island.
The story here is told from the perspective of two Mauritian children, Angela and Oshin.
INSPIRATION TO WRITE THE STORYBOOK.
Earlier this year, I started a campaign to urge young Mauritian children to read books.
By coincidence, MV WAKASHIO met with a terrible accident at sea and it became the talk of the town in Mauritius and in the whole world. Social media wrote about the shipwreck and posted pictures of the sinking ship.
It dawned upon me to write the story of the Wakashio for children. I felt deep inside that it was a subject that will draw the attention of children, they will pick up the book and they will start to read.
Reading books and listening to stories stimulates the imagination of children.
As Albert Einstein has wisely said-
Imagination is more important than knowledge,
For knowledge is limited,
Whereas imagination embraces the whole world,
Stimulates progress, giving birth to evolution.
I strongly believe that children of all ages should read books and good books. In this age of electronic books, it is much better for parents to encourage a child to read traditional paper books, that he can carry and read every he goes – under a tree in the garden, on the lap of his mom… even where there is no electricity or an internet connection.
Reading books starts at home. First by a mother or a grandmother reading to a child, then by an elder brother or sister reading to a child and finally by a child reading a book by himself.
Salman Rushdie, the world acclaimed bestseller author says –
When a child is born, there are two things that he requires – LOVE AND SAFETY;
The next thing the child says is –
TELL ME A STORY.
Undoubtedly stories are an important part of our adult life; without them life is boring. Most of all, children love stories as dearly as they love toys and games.
My mother was an excellent storyteller. I vividly remember the story of Cinderella and Prince Charming as concocted and told by her when I was a kid. I bemused at her facial expressions and her body movements. I traveled to fairyland, wonderland, to faraway places; I fought with dragons; I talked to birds, rats, rabbits, and other animals.
Mostly, I started to daydream of Prince Charming. Often I took a broom, bigger than myself and arduously swept the kitchen. All the time, I kept an eye on the big pumpkin that mom kept in a corner of the kitchen, wishing that it would explode and Prince Charming would jump out.
From listening to stories, and putting myself in the shoes of Cinderella, I very rapidly developed a fondness for books. From reading books, I gradually started to write stories.
WAKASHIO is my new storybook for children and my first book in French. Mauritian children are more familiar with the French language, oral and written; I have written this book primarily for them.
It is legitimate for writers to remember that children are the adults of tomorrow. They should be made aware of the important happenings of their country and the consequences of their acts from an early age. Wakashio is a tale that relates the story of the wreck of MV Wakashio in pure and simple prose, illustrated by amazing color pictures.
After the immense success of the first edition in the French language, my audience started to ask for a version of my illustrated children’s book in the Kreole language and in English.The French version was launched and immediately put for sale in December 2020.
I contacted many translators and publishers in Mauritius to translate and publish the book in Kreole. I did not get any response mainly because Mauritius was under confinement for a long time.
As all things have a good and a bad side, I spent my time in confinement to translate the book in English.
The Mitsui O.S.K Lines (Mauritius) Ltd, the Japanese Company, owner of the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio that ran aground on the coral reefs and spilled oil off the coast of Mauritius, collaborated in the printing and publishing of the new book.
On Tuesday 10 August 2021 , Mitsui O.S.K Lines Mauritius Ltd organized the launch ceremony of the English Edition in the presence of His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan in Mauritius, Mr. Kawaguchi.
The launch ceremony was held in the office of the Mitsui O.S.K Mauritius Ltd at Pointe D’Esny in Grand Port, Mauritius. We could see with binoculars the remaining part of the wreck of MV Wakashio. A sad sight!
I am overjoyed with the progress of my illustrated children’s book Wakashio. Je souhaite partager avec mon audience cet élan de bonheur.
Je remercie mes lecteurs pour leur soutien.
‘To have a great book, we must have a great audience’. C.S.Lewis.
In traditional Japanese poetry a kigo is a word associated with a season. Nowadays poets mostly outside Japan do not use a kigo as a must when writing haiku poetry. I think that a kigo adds a streak of romanticism in haiku poems for the simple reason that we and our moods are ruled by seasons.
Lord Shiva is the All- Compassionate Hindu God, who swallowed the deadly poison ‘halahala’ to save the world from annihilation.
It is told, by munis (wise men) and sages, that when creation was complete, Lord Shiva and His Consort, Goddess Parvati went to live on the top of the Kailash Mountain in the Himalayas. Parvati Devi, one day, asked Lord Shiva- “O Lord! Which of the many rituals observed by your devotees please you most?” Lord Shiva replied- “The fourteenth night of the new moon in the dark fortnight, during the month of Phalgun, is My Favorite Day. It is called Shivratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by fasting rather than ceremonial offerings of flowers, sweets and incense. They observe strict spiritual discipline in the day and worship me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to me than the most fragrant flower and the most expensive jewel. They bathe me in milk in the first period, in curd in the second, in clarified butter in the third and in honey, in the fourth and last period. In the morning, after the prescribed ceremonies, they break the fast. No ritual can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.”
It is interesting to note that the bael leaf that we offer in the ceremonial rituals to Lord Shiva is considered sacred as the bael tree grows near the Shiva temple and the leaf has the particularity of blossoming in the shape of a trishul- three small leaves in a tiny twig, one in the middle and, one on each side. -Anita Bacha-
Once there was a little boy who lived with his poor, widowed mother in a far away village. His name was Harry. During school holidays he had no friend with whom to play. His mother was a loving woman and played with him when she was not busy with her household chores. One day, however, she fell ill and Harry became very lonely. His mother consoled him and told him to go out and play with Krishna. ‘Who is Krishna?’ Harry asked his mother. ‘Krishna is the friend of all!’ Harry rushed out eagerly calling ‘Krishna! Krishna!’ ‘Hello!’ said a cow herd boy coming from behind a tree ‘why are you calling my name?’ “Let’s play!’ Harry uttered with joy. They played together during the school holidays. Back to school, Harry told the school master about his new friend, Krishna. The school master listened to his story but did not believe a word of it. Soon it was the birthday of the school master. Harry became very sad; he had no money to buy him a birthday present. His mother then reminded him of his friend Krishna. ‘Go and talk to your friend Krishna’ she told Harry, ‘he will surely help you!’ Harry did as he was told and Krishna gave him a pot of butter milk. ‘Here! This is a birthday present for your school master!’ Unfortunately, the school master was not happy with the present. He scorned at it and asked his servant to throw the milk curd away. The servant complied but amazingly, the pot was filled with milk curd again. After several attempts to empty the pot, he ran to the school master to tell him about the incredible happening. ‘What!’ the school master exclaimed ‘it must be a magic pot!’ He immediately summoned Harry and asked him about the source of the pot. When Harry replied that his friend Krishna gave it to him, the school master asked him to take him to Krishna immediately. ‘I want to see your friend!’ he exclaimed. The school master followed Harry to the place where he met Krishna. At the top of his voice, Harry called for his friend but Krishna did not appear. Then from behind a tree, they heard another voice: ‘Why are you calling me Harry?’ Harry recognized the voice of his friend Krishna. He replied: ‘My school master wants to see you.’ ‘The school master cannot see me, Harry, because no one can see me unless he believes in me!’ said the voice gently but firmly. The school master was bowled over. He returned to the school with his tail between his legs.
Intoxicated with the elixir of love, My head spins with the fiery beats of the tropical drums, As my body swirls and whirls with the rhythmic vibes; The burning sand scorching the sole of my feet, And I dance and I dance in ecstasy! Imbued with passion, my heart flies high above, Like a shooting star in broad day light, Falls back in the blue lagoon with candid delight And I dance and I dance in ecstasy! Shrouded in a mist of mirage, In the horizon I see your image. In frantic folly I run to tenderly hold you… The mystic drums stop me, The enchanting melody beckons me, Lifts me up and invigorates me, Fills my soul with bursting fantasy And I dance and I dance in ecstasy! -Anita Bacha- Excerpt from my poetry book #SoulPoetry (2015)
After the Second World War, there was a shortage of food stuffs in the Island. In those years, Mauritius was a colony under the British rule.
Nonetheless, our family did not feel the immediate pangs or the aftermath of the war as we were quite well off. My mother, I fondly remember, splashed herself with Yardley Eau de Cologne every morning after her tub bath. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I could follow her around the whale of a house that we had, sniffing her perfume like a little dog.
My father was a whole sale merchant and he was bringing home our share of ration rice. It was our basic food and also the basic food of the whole population of some 500,000 heads.
A hard, little, yellowish pearl, unpolished and unrefined, my mother told me that this grain of rice came in its husk during the war. In those days called ‘le temps margoze’ (the sour gourd days) by the local people, the women folk had to pound the rice in a mortar to separate the husk from the rice. They used to call it ‘du riz pousse femme’ (the rice that drive women away) because it was a real nightmare for women to pound the rice.
We were fortunate, I gather, because we did not have to pound the rice. But once in a week, in a ceremonial manner my mother sat a small wooden bench and surrounded by the maid servants, they would busy themselves at cleaning the rice. The rice was placed on large aluminum trays in small heaps. It was winnowed and then the grit was separated from the grain. In a small tin, my mother kept the small black stones to throw away and in her lap, the broken rice to feed the birds.
Close to her, on a smaller bench, I sat down to be with her. I felt like a big girl because I could pick out the stones and the broken rice from her heap.
After she had finished and filled a big iron container with the clean rice, I had the liberty to bury my head in the warm and loving lap of my mother. I breathed in the intimate scent of a woman interlaced with the perfume of eau de cologne and the smell of ration rice.
Years after, this scent still filled my whole being with the sweet memory of my mother.
A mother will take you under her wings, even when you know how to fly – my quote.
I don’t know how true it is for you. For me, I always come to the help of my grown up children even when they refuse my help. A child remains a child for a mom even when he is an old man and a great granddad. I refer to child as a male because I have only boys and four of them.
I remember telling them stories, mostly imaginative, when they were very small. Later and now, I tell stories to my grandchildren.
Even later and as far back as last year, I wrote my first story book for children, The Princess and the Crow.
A few months ago, I conceived the idea of a new, illustrated book for children. I am expecting to deliver the book any time now.
A book is like a child to me. I have in all ten children, four biological children and six books. Awaiting the birth of a book gives me the same anxiety problems, coupled with short breath, cold sweat, loss of appetite and loose bowels.
Most of all, I am on top of the world as a creative writer and a mother.
Writers write because there have something deep inside their guts that they need to bring out.
My advice to writers is to write and write until you bring out what is inside you.
Your name I’ve painted, In henna on my palm; As days and night spent, Your name is a blessed psalm; Your name I’ve tattooed, In ink on my heart too; Time and tide may pass, Your name will forever last. Anita Bacha