Mauritius: Champs de Mars. A Passion

Nature moulds, man embellishes so that this homeland shines the divine, rooting his presence. Thus, this land of mine in the limit south, garlanded by the deep blue sea, enrobed by evergreen mounts, subdued by little running stream cooing among rocks, breathes pride.

On no account the second best, he strengthens his territory, implementing his culture and civilisation. Hence, he jostles and creates for his own sake or his own pleasure. What hasn’t he invented just for a little fun and above all to boost up his adrenaline to the limit? India breathes for the cricket, Japan for the sumo and mighty America has made of the rodeo a prime which one can’t stay away from.

Hey! This little dot island of mine, has it lagged behind?

The English diplomacy at its best wanting to win the French on their side opted for a race meeting in 1812 at Port Louis, the capital of the island. It was open secret that no one could bring the two sworn enemies together, if not through horse racing. For be it English or French, the only denominating factor which could rally them on the same wave length was the horse.

That’s why the temperature has been plopping up two centuries during till our days as from Friday morning in racing season. Champs de Mars (oldest racetrack in the southern hemisphere) situated at Port Louis is at its boiling point. Saturday horse racing is in the starting block. We are ready. Everybody is ready. Jockeys, horse-handlers and mainly the owners have eyes but for the horses. One breathes for the racetrack, our meeting point, our heritage, people of an island not bigger than the palm of our hand.

We may be well off or at the bottom of the ladder, our mind is on fire at the tussles about to occur on the track. Layman or professional, one may be in the north or south, we do look for a “Tuyau” (a winning forecast) from a jockey or owner. But whoever you may be, it’s usually a fact that you do have your purse holed; for only a few succeed as far as horse betting is concerned. However, it does happen once in a while, that you may come across one or two fortunate ones just like this young lady to whom lady luck responded positively. She had her handbag full of banknotes, hence prompting her to claim to whoever wanted to hear, that no one around could have an inkling about the amount of cash her bag was concealing.

On the other hand, the blissful of the bliss remain for those who cherish our national four legged pride. He would miss the race for nothing, just to gaze at its wonderful attire, its Godly poise and penetrating look, yearning for a touch to balm such a divine creation which dwells nowhere but in the heart of man.

A day at the Champs de Mars, in a nutshell, deals not solely about horses. It relishes the multiplicity of human species at its best, in the real sense of the word. Here our diversity of culture goes hand in hand without any hidden agenda :

“The Maiden Cup” our Mauritian Derby where the best of attires competes, hairdos and ludicrous head gears caress the evergreen sarees on the ground or stand (reserved or paying cabin). Briyani (a Muslim dish), Bajas, chilli cakes, samoussas (Mauritian delicacies) sweeten the mind claiming for more while our “gateau lécourse” (small cakes primarily sold at the races) remain a must.

I, personally, can’t dismiss my first day at “De La Salle” primary school at Port Louis, a step away from the racing track. As soon as he moved in, our mentor went to the board and drew a big horse after which we were asked to name the drawing. All the kids lifted their hands saying “Sargasaut”, our day before champion : “Sargasaut! Sargasaut!” yelled the children in unison.

“No! No! Right you may be, but wrong you are! Not Sargasaut but “Char d’Assaut” smiled the teacher triumphantly.

Oh! What can I say? It did not matter an inch in the end. No one cared. We recognised our champion. That’s what mattered. For it’ s thus that “Bay Adam” turned out to be “Bye Adam” (Brother Adam), “Sepoy” nicknamed “Sepaie” (creole version for an Indian soldier).

What’s in a name? After all this is a bit of our lingo. For us people of this beloved scintillating corner of the world, lécourse (horse racing) is well-anchored in our DNA up to now.


Coconut…once I hold you, I can’t get enough!
Euphoria in the sky