You, who aren’ t of this land born, have a try, unfold a world map, trail your soul, husking the wide ocean from north to south. Only an acute concentration can help you perceive a tiny dot, tossing on the southern sea.
Invisible, nearly insignificant but how referring because of its multitude of races and cultures. A deep-rooted diversity harboring a unity of positivity, of thought soothing, one and all, to live in harmony while cherishing the fundamentals. Fundamental! Mutual respect. Fundamentals! Cultural and spiritual brazing. Our Fundamental We islanders. Hence Christmas primes in the hearts of insular kids. Eid transcends boundaries and Diwali, Festival of light, shines in our heart.
Thus out of this basic unifying fact, blooms an annual event in which diverse social midst explode expressing their joy, happiness and utmost wish: positivity in the year to come. The new year, to be more locally precise, Banané (New year). Banané overshadows all cultural and spiritual festivities whatsoever, and drowns one and all in a bliss which we people of this island alone can feel.
Mind you, Banané is not an event to be taken lightly. It calls for weeks and weeks of advanced planning and preparation. As from October brain-racking to get a painter, mason, cabinet maker in hand for they are all taken up. The house needs a relooking. The none by-passed paintbrush. A new flooring, a must. Outdated sink to be replaced by a latest design. To the bin, the poor 20 inches TV. You note please, a 50 inches carved screen basks in the living-room. Customers invade shopping malls in quest of recent designs curtains and basic necessities so that Banané can rock in and boost our soul in eternal joy once a year. However, no denial, those dealing with our foodstuff supply have to see to it, stocks must be catered for island wide needs, four months at least preceding the awaited event. No shortage whatsoever will be tolerated. Let it be said for instance, a shortage of chicken can engender a stressful outcome if ever such mishap occurs.
“Nou ti whisky”(our Whisky) “ Nou ti Rhum” (our local made rum) Chamarel (a tourist attraction village) or not, a none avoiding, none by-passed “Nou ti Séga” (our folkloric song), séga of the year on C.D or YouTube, ready for New Year’ s Eve, after midday feast or dinner, a pinnacled exaltation jettisoning one and all in a realm of joy and happiness. Worst of the worst, banks quiver for the end of the year seismic thrones. ATM bank machines sustain unparalleled assault for queues prove to be endemic. Thank God, credit cards prime in supermarkets, trading centres and megastores for New Years’ gifts await and we people of Mauritius, “Nou Banané” (our New Year) is welcomed in pomp and extravaganza. A new attire at least, new pair of shoes for ladies and gentlemen, top model dress for the spouse, a new style shirt and jeans for dear husband, usually instigate a smile on January 1st! One see to it, one’ s look is enhanced to please and above all to welcome our dear ones with open arms; readily prepared, decently clothed when Banané is at the door and we, with eagerness on the forefront, prompt to sing : ”Vini Banané ! Amene to la zoie, to prosperité, to lapaix” ! Come on New Year, bring your happiness, prosperity and peace! Besides Banané, in fact, incites us at least for a while to forsake our divine ocean and enchanting beaches, for the whole island smiles at the wishes of our red flaming tress showering hope in the year to come. And above all, never to ashtray Chinese fire crackers for those from India are more than crackers but explosive which you have in hand. On no account to miss firework display!
Hey Grandad and Grandma of the old guard, if the sickening yearns of the fifties tickle you, darken your heart, be aware, now we are more at ease. Although the very word “Réveillon” (New year’s eve) may be out of your vocabulary, you are pretty well aware, how you did outstep your own soul despite bitter precarious needs just for Banané of the good old days.
31st December the countdown ticks. A day like any, but with a landmark. One may be at the office but not at work, for one’ s soul , one’ s thought is at the planning, fretting to the utmost, mind at bay, scaling strategies to be ready for the event. Oh Dear! Noon strikes. Time to go. Either one puts on his vest or gathers his tools and on the road we are so as to do the rounding up. Alert! On the toe for Banané and Réveillon!
Five stars hotel or star below, fully booked months before. Reservations have been scheduled by tourists and the cream of society. In fact, the helm of the New Year’ s eve is here, where the organizing body and professionals, challenge their counterpart the world over. The celestial welcome, the menu suggested by chefs of international fame, contemporary and traditional music energize one’ s blood, rocking one’ s legs in heavenly bliss. The whole organizational body incenses your soul and mind and explodes your very self to the sound of the island. Oooh ! it rings out the preceding year and welcomes the year to come on the doorstep. Just a brushstroke in the firmament and the sky of the lagoon explodes in amazing wonders, calling the new year to crown in. A myriad of color glitters sky high, sparkling the above, vivid beauty, diming far away galaxies.
Happy, the inner self blooms joyfully, welcoming the future, the soul, the whole being to a standstill, for a wish of hope to crown one and all. Banané! Bonne Année! Happy New Year! erupt without any agenda from one and all, expressing their deep-hearted wish to those present. There is no need mentioning, the “Ooooh! “ resounds full volume in towns and villages, no matter how far apart they are. If fire crackers in every hook and corners of the neighborhood, resound to blast signal of the coming of the much awaited zero hours, ears are stuck to the radio. Eyes don’t leave the screen eager to welcome Banané.
Champagne glasses or “Ti Rhum” in hand. The countdown everyone yearns for strikes 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and every soul in one voice yells all its might : Bonne Année ( Happy New Year). While fire crackers explode deafening towns and villages and suburbs. Multicolored fireworks shine in the darkness of the night defying nocturnal obscurity. Non-stop bombarding activates a blinding smoke perceived by none, residual pollutant, shadowing the whole island. This too is Banané.
In festivity, one swings, hip-hop, snaked to the rhythm of the ravanne beat (a local drum made of goatskin). The Sega is king. The Sega leads, misleads, of African origin, enhanced with Indian knowhow, now a music and culture of our own. Banané, vini zenfan nou alle danse sega ! (It’ s New year ! Come on kids, let’s dance the sega !) of Serge Lebrasse, Mauritian Sega singer.
Banané, Banané ! (it’s New Year ! ) sings the Bhojpuri Boys – a Bhojpuri group.
Vini Mamé, anou danser ! (Come on uncle, let’ s dance) from a tamil group.
Such traditional exuberance keeps the island ablare till early morning. Very often one crumbles just to honor Banané. 1st January, say the children of the island, starts with a round in the neighborhood wishing neighbors and friends a happy and prosperous New Year. Traditionally, such visit goes hand in hand with a peg and snack. After three or four rounds, one is usually burnt out. However, the family lunch can’ t be avoided, despite drunk for the treat has a jumpstart, the table prides its best at least once a year and good or low-cost wine fill the glass to the brim. Local whisky or Rhum Ferraille (local rhum of poor quality) are at will. Bacchus is king, with the best of eatables for the appetite is divinely served. As customs have it, the Sega primes, if it’ s not, the Sega of the year impulse uncle, aunt, cousins and close relatives to shake the hips with ravanne and maravanne (typical traditional music instruments).
This, in a few words is Banané, the Mauritian New Year which we people of this island celebrate. If it ever happens one is on one’ s feet for dinner, the feast keeps going on quite late. But what we can bank on, the rejoicing does not end thus. Neighboring visits pace on for the wish to succeed in welcoming the New Year with dignity.
This island New Year flags the optimism of the children of the land, how far they believe in their country of birth. Despite the pessimism which lurks worldwide, we wish a happy New Year to our brothers and sisters, for we have faith in the zeal which boost up the heart of the youth of today for a thriving and prosperous Mauritius. So let us toast for the well-being of our beloved island.
Banané, vini zenfan nou ale danse sega ! « Ayé Banané ! Ayé Banané » !
It’s Mauritius on the swing.
“Cassé lérein mam !” (Shake it up dear!).