MY BIRTH 2
My father was from Mauritius, also called Sister Island. As the war raged in Europe, my father often went to Reunion to sell goods. He traveled by boat, carrying suitcases filled with rag bag and went up and down the paths of the highs to sell his goods. This was how he earned his livings. My mother came from a large family in the mountains. Many families left the city to shelter in the highs, fearing that the Germans could bomb the capital. My mother was the fifth child of a Christian family and she was twenty years when she first met my father. She was beautiful, with a clear complexion, long brown hair and pointed nose.
The first time my father saw her was on a Sunday morning as she came back from the church of the Délivrance in Saint-Denis. He was struck by her beauty, her nonchalant walk, her ease but he was not in love with her yet. My father was 22 years old at that time. Combed like Rhett Butler in Gone with the wind, a thin mustache above the lips, he was charming and exalted a charisma that left no woman insensible. But my mother was not attracted to him. She lived in a family with many children and all her time was taken by her brothers and sisters and the daily household chores. Her father worked in a furniture workshop at the Port. He left the house very early in the morning and came back late in the evening. Her mother was sick and could not manage to do the household chores alone. Sylvia, was my mother’s name. Her three elder sisters were already married and lived in other cities and villages of the island. His elder brother who had already graduated worked in a transport company in the west. He lived in a flat in La Possession, some kilometers from his workplace. A girl he met at the vocational school when he was a student lived with him. He paid visit to them once or twice in a month. Three brothers and two sisters aged between eight and seventeen were still dependent on their parents. The three brothers were boarders in a high school situated in Saint-Denis and the two sisters were students at the school in La Montagne. They left early in the morning and returned home at five in the afternoon. My mother picked them up at the end of the path, most of the time with an umbrella, as it often rained in that region.
The birth of a child has always been an important event in the history of a family. The birth of the first baby is expected with new sensations, strong emotions, huge expectations, and great joys. Only the woman, who carries him during nine long and sometimes painful months, knows about the difficult moments of pregnancy. On the other hand, she feels intense happiness in giving birth to a creature that brings light and happiness in a house and represents the symbol and proof of love between two persons. Their existences are welded and strengthened so that the father can share the same emotions and deep joys.
My birth coincided with the end of the Second World War. It was a difficult period for the population of Reunion Island, French Colony at that time. The shortage of goods had allowed dishonest merchants to take advantage of the situation. The island didn't succeed in pulling out of misery. People gathered early in the morning in front of the shops, with ration coupon in their hands, to buy a few kilos of cassava root, corn or bacon. Several unscrupulous persons were arrested, prosecuted and fined. The black market was a common way of selling. Times were tough and relentless. However, I felt comfortable there, tiny, stark naked, letting out a piercing scream as soon as the umbilical cord was cut and I was moved away from the maternal warmth. This could be interpreted as a distinctive sign of freedom. For Mom, it was a relief after nine long months of pregnancy. I was heavy, three and a half kilograms at least and delivery had lasted long. Several persons were present that day to assist Mom to give birth to me.
It was a Friday, just after the great prayer. My father came back as I was still in the arms of the person who made my first treatment. When I was put in the brand new cradle that was near the bed, my father came close to me and gave Azan in my right ear and ‘Ikamah’ in my left ear. Every Muslim child who was just born must hear the evidence of faith and the call to adore the creator. When I was born, I was particularly admired by the amusing face I had when weeping for my food. My mother didn’t feel well enough to satisfy my daily needs. She had to give me powdered milk that my father bought from the merchants he knew in town. He worked as a storekeeper in a company specialized in the importation of building materials that just opened its door in Saint-Denis.