Touria Prayag's Blog

The hunger games Par Touria Prayag 12 Juin 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 15, 2013



“Laughter,” Walt Disney said, “is America’s most important export.” He obviously hadn’t been to Mauritius. We produce so much laughter that, if we could export it, there would be no need for any other industry.


The latest pearl heard this week came, in the most natural way, from one of the Foyer Namasté hunger strikers: “We have put an end to our hunger strike for health reasons!” she told a daily newspaper. Isn’t that an exportable commodity? There is only one other equally honest answer she could have given: “We interrupted our hunger strike because we were hungry!” And there I was, stupid me, thinking that the aim of a hunger strike was to die for a valid cause before the anguished eyes of those whose cause you are dying for! But let’s face it: if one had to die, one had better die in good health.


If you are convulsed with laughter, however, get a hold of yourself: the whole hunger strike issue is not an altogether dumb idea. Hunger strikes do pay off. It is the quickest way to fame and glory. Previously, to get noticed by politicians, you had to commit to ‘social work’ in a kind of …ahem… ‘win-win’ situation: you take people’s money, dish some of it out to people in your constituency, win their eternal gratitude, pay yourself a good salary and work on your media image. After that, all you need to do is wait. Look at some of the most mediocre people in our national assembly. That is exactly how they got in.


That no longer works. Today, you need to have a minimum number of hunger strike hours to your credit to be able to attract others’ attention. The State Bank of Mauritius hunger striker for example does not qualify as she skipped only her afternoon tea during her two-hour hunger strike. Though she got the biggest return on investment, she did not get ‘activist’ status. Georges Ah Yan, on the other hand, did. He chose the cause of children inoperable in Mauritius and, without asking taxpayers for their opinion, went on a hunger strike to press for a second free ticket to be issued so that the whole family could go abroad! If you thought that his hunger strike did not yield any results, you are wrong. Although he never got what he wanted, skipping meals entitled him to represent the Namasté ladies in their fi ght to keep open an illegal shelter where children were going through the most sickening type of abuse.



When, for reasons known only to him, Ah Yan left, guess who replaced him as a representative? Jeff Lingaya, the guy you had never heard of before he went on a hunger strike in protest against CT Power and who, in order not to jeopardise his health, kept popping in and out of hospital for a drip. Eventually, a breathless media started informing us about the menu of his fi rst meal – a scene reminiscent of le petit déjeuner du roi in the times of Louis XIV…


In-between, there was Rashid Imrith who was apparently prepared to die – presumably in good health too – and the whole ceremony around his eating again…


What worries me in all this is that this is the better Mauritius we are being presented with. Well, between the rotten Mauritius of today and the opportunistic alternative on offer, where people are skipping a couple of meals to get personal gain, please allow me to stick to the former. But thank you all the same.


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