The pilot had announced his last instruction to the crew… that was it, we were landing. After my seven hour odd journey from Delhi, I would be arriving at the island nation of Mauritius. The next few minutes would be my first encounter with the shimmering blue country which looked like paradise in pictures online. The clouds parted, as if acknowledging my thirst, and the mountains rose to greet us. The blue sea with sandy shores crept up on all sides. The plane swooped lower, tilted a bit, then swooped again, and after a light bounce, maybe a screech, we were on terra firma. We lurched to a complete stop and, inertia interfering with my desire to explore, I was pushed back in my seat. This airport looked like any other, and it could be anywhere in the world, except for the instructions in French. I was entering what was once French colony, though the history of Mauritius is far more complicated than that simple line suggests. I stood in the immigration queue, shuffling my feet every few minutes as we moved at snail’s pace. I was wanted to head out and see the real country immediately, but queues in India teach you a thing or two about patience!
We rolled out of the airport in a van and were greeted by sugarcane fields that stretched endlessly on both sides on the road. The sea waved from the distance, the black tar roads were smooth, a few villages or towns crept up on our way, and the traffic, by Indian standards, was negligible. It felt like Goa, but without the Portuguese yellow, and with even lesser traffic. Once I was back, a friend asked me, if I thought it looked like some parts of rural India… with those sugarcane fields on both sides. I thought about it, but I must say I thought Mauritius was unique, it could also be my lack of exposure to sugarcane fields, or rural India. I had never seen that particular mix before – sugarcane fields endlessly stretching, black tar roads cutting through them, mountains in the distance and when you reached the coast, blue seas and the blue sky.
Mauritius showed the nonchalance of a countryside married with the orderliness of a modern, developed city. It was very cosy, but that size bit I mentioned in my previous post was a little disconcerting. I had never been to a country this small; I think even Bhutan is bigger! There is just one motorway M1, which connects the North to the South, and the rest of it, is a network of small roads that crisscross through towns and villages. It is an intimate conversation between landscape and the wide-eyed tourist, instead of a sterile drive through an expressway that stands disconnected by its superiority to the story of its surroundings. I think of small roads as local bazaars, with so much to see and do, unlike supermarkets that are dead to the soul.
Despite my love for those meandering roads, those brimming sugarcane fields on either sides, and nothing in the distance but the continuing line of black that darted through the green… Despite by love for all that, it is the blue that I have come to associate as the colour of Mauritius. If I close my eyes today, all I see before me are those intermingling shades… that flowing weave that created hues I cannot name. Art class taught me to recognise Sky Blue, Cobalt and Prussian, and somewhere I learnt about Aquamarine, and then, the sea in Mauritius throws up an entire new palette. I felt uneducated about colour when confronted with those blues. Even when we went deep into the sea, we could see far into the water. I mustn’t be partial though for when the sky was grey, the water reflected that desolation too.
Every time we went out into the sea, I thought about the pollution the boat was causing. And I found myself wondering, if we would say, sometime in the future, that the waters around Mauritius were once clear and blue. That would be a tragedy, and one that does not have the cathartic coming together of a Shakespearean tragedy, but one that we could and should have avoided.
So, how many shades of blue do you see?
This was a media FAM organised by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA). I am grateful to them that I got to sample this wonderful country. All the thoughts and views on this blog are always my own.