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The Far Away Colony Chapter 4

18 Février 2014 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Far Away Colony 



 

Chapter 4

 

 

 

Julie had proved in some days' work what she worth and the bosses were satisfied. She easily managed to please the girls and fascinate the boys. She found herself in a situation she could not refuse to allow favors to her young bosses all day long. They required her to do this or that with the aim of familiarizing with her. Sometimes she was shy and felt embarrassed while perceiving to what extent she incited her little bosses' curiosity and interest. Those boys were still young; their minds were open, despite their father's strictness to preserve them from all corruption; they could not ignore the pleasure they got while getting closer to this girl who rushed up at their least call. Since their very young age they were corrupted by their schoolmates, influenced by the relationships they established with young rascals from poor neighborhoods and with friends having lots of experiences in this field; they let themselves dragged by adventures allowing them to satisfy their curiosity and discover the perversity and vice. They were interested in girls and looked for ways to get their esteem. They turned around the newcomer and waited for the moment to start a conversation and know more about her. She found peace when she returned to her bedroom late at night. She was not really bothered, even though she preferred the girls' company. She avoided familiarizing with the boys. She always founded an excuse to get rid of them when she found that they were spending too much time by her side. She was not interested in encouraging her young masters to have their hearts set on her and to represent that object of desire that was there to corrupt the good customs. Yet at any time of the day one of the little bosses found the opportunity to snatch some words from her mouth. She could not tolerate such behaviour to avoid unpleasantness. She understood that they were interested in her for fun; sometimes, in order not to displease them, she accepted to play their game.

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The Far Away Colony Chapter 3

12 Février 2014 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

 

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The Far Away Colony


Chapter 3

 

Before daylight pointed on the horizon, Mr Karim was already out of bed. He went to the bathroom to take a bath and perform his ablutions. He drank the black coffee Leila prepared the night before and  the maid heated in a pan, slipped on his white shirt, put his Turkish hat on his head, took the old portal key pending from the wooden door and left the house to proceed on foot to the mosque situated not so far from the house. The streets, at that moment, were still dark and desert.

The boys had some difficulties to get up early in the morning. They went to bed late the night before and the sleep was overwhelming them. Mrs Karim should have to shake them; they hurried up in order not to lose the morning prayer. The girls slept in the adjoining bedroom. The parents preferred to have them next door to cast a glance at them.

As time passed by, Mister Abdul Aziz Karim became hardened and was then a severe man. He had raised his children himself, watched them, given them education, taught them the rudiments of religion and corrected them when necessary. He was a strong-tempered man, with remarkably intelligent eyes, a large shiny forehead, a thick beard hiding his large chicks, lips that were not used to smiles and a corpulence that represented the family patriarch. He seemed to be at ease with himself and was admirably confined to his leading role. In order to succeed in business, he led a long fight during several years in which he had ups and downs, but managed to get through after hard labor and constant struggles. At fifty-five years old he had acquired the necessary experiences to lead his business correctly. He was strict with his employees who were afraid of him and respected him. He was also a good man, with a generous heart. He listened to his employee's requests, if they had some, understood their weaknesses and offered them money when they had important events to celebrate.

The house was huge and the bedrooms immense. It was a structure dated since the colonial period. The roofs were covered by corrugated iron, which had replaced the clapboards gone off by the bad weather. The walls were repainted in white. The cement had replaced the lime detached by the time. The doors in the ground floor were remade and conditioned to discourage thieves. It was in this part of the building that Mr Karim has been running his business since thirty years. The carpentry, padding and mattress workshops were situated in the back of the building. The merchandise depot where the furniture pieces were stored occupied a considerable surface at the end of the big courtyard that completed the property.

In the first floor, the residential part of the building was composed by several big rooms and some small. Many employees were at Mr Karim's service to help him with his business activities and to take care of the house. A designer used to come and make dresses for Mrs Karim and the girls. A driver was available to drop the girls at school and bring them back, to do the shopping, to take Mrs Karim to pay visits to her relatives and friends, to drive Mr Karim to his providers, to the bank, to the notary or wherever he wanted to go. Several employees  produced the furniture, mattresses, bolsters and pillows. They covered the armchairs and sofas, stuffed the chairs, covered the headboards with jute canvas, velvet and fabrics. A driver and three depot boys were in charge of the deliveries, furniture installation, maintenance and selling. A cook took care of the meals. Three maids took care of the house; Julie was one among them.

Early in the morning the house was empty; the kids had left for school and the other members of the family were at work. The servants assisted Mrs Karim to accomplish different tasks in the house. At this time of the day she was in the big prayer room, where nobody had the right to come and disturb her. She had already met Julie in the morning and given her instructions.

Calmness prevailed in all the rooms. Julie set to work very early. The beds were already done and the blankets put away in the closet. The furniture was dusted and the mirrors, the nickel-plated edges, the  windows ledges, the corners, the polished wood, the mahogany or teak wood wardrobes, the dressing-tables, the desks, the libraries, the solid wood tables, the reversed feet chairs, the sideboards, the armchairs, the sofas, the couches, the glass cases and the tableware all cleaned, polished and lustred; they gleamed, shined and sparkled with the daylight. The floor was waxed and polished and the booties placed at the entrances of the glass doors dressed with happy colors and flower design curtains.

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The Far Away Colony Chapter 2

21 Janvier 2014 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

 

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The Far Away Colony


Chapter 2

 

In the west, the town of Saint-Paul was immersing slowly into the darkness. The town was located between the sea, which the sunset had transformed into a yellow orangish color, and the high mountains, whose peaks were still enlightened by the last rays. The shadows, which were already crawling along the low roof building's walls and the cut stone facades standing along the deserted streets, loomed out from everywhere, chasing the glimmers that illuminated the thatch shingles and the crests. The noise of the waves crushing against the shore became definite because of the silence that prevailed in the town. The window blinds were not closed yet and we could distinguish the unsteady flame lights showing the occupant's presence. At that time, in some houses, the rooms were illuminated by lights, candles and oil lamps.

On the corner of two important streets of the town was standing a building which revealed its particular aspect and shown a certain originality that the pedestrians took pleasure to admire. This structure has been constructed in the middle of the eighteenth century and has braved the so frequent bad weather during the hot season. Several restorations had been necessary to prevent it to sink into dilapidation; the building was still keeping its freshness since the laborers in charge of its renovation had respected the norms and preserved the style. This single-story house, with balconies opened onto the two streets forming the corner, was occupied to run a business in the ground floor and as a residential house in the first floor. The store name hanging under the balconies had written on big letters: "Ets. Karim and Sons. Import - Export."

Mr. Karim was returning from the prayer he practiced regularly. When Sheinaz informed him that a girl from the Highs had come looking for a job, he thought about gathering the members of his family in the evening to take a decision. He was accustomed to discuss with his wife and kids: he had six in all, of which four boys and two girls, all teenagers. They were waiting for him in the hall at the opposite side of the house. When he sat down at the head of the huge table to speak, the kids were very motivated. A candelabrum was placed in the middle of the table and there was enough light projected to distinguish the expressions drawn on each of their faces.

“We are getting close to the month of Ramadan”, said Mr. Karim, “and we need personnel. Sheinaz told me about a young girl from the Highs in whom we can be interested. It's been a month already since Solange is absent and she hasn't given any sign of life yet; Fatema  complains that she has a lot of work to do in the kitchen and the house. It's the right time for us to find a solution to lighten her tasks."

“As for Solange,” said Mrs Karim, “I was told that she moved together with a metropolitan and nobody knows where she is. She still hasn't come to take her money and her stuff.”

“Maybe she left the country, who knows?” Said Aissa.

“In any case, this doesn't arrange the situation,” said Mr Karim.

“Is she honest, the girl you are talking about?” Asked Mrs Karim.

“How can we know? Time will tell us,” retorted Mr Karim.

“We have lost quite a few precious objects in the last years by hiring girls that constantly knock at our door. They all come from poor families and hardly manage to integrate in good families' ordinary life. I don't really see the need of hiring once again a stranger,” told Leila who, thinking about the bad memories, was incited to express herself like that.

“You don't have to exaggerate,” said Mrs Karim while looking at her other children to let them know she was also talking to them, “and see only the negative side. This way of thinking shows your ungratefulness towards people who bothered for you during your childhood. They took care of you like a mother, cleaned you, washed you, fed you and gave you to drink. They cradled you in their arms for hours to stop you from yelling or crying, to make you sleep. How they cannot deserve a more respectable place in your ungrateful little hearts? It's sickening though to say so many silly things and it surprises and disappoints me to hear that from the mouth of my children.”

“In any case,” said Haroon, “only time would reveal a person's qualities and defects; it's our duty to take precautions and not to leave valued objects lying around. Their lost and disappearance can only be explained by our lack of principles.”

“Well, if we cannot dispose of our own stuff as it better suits us, I wonder about the way the world,” retorted Leila.

“Not all the people looking for a job come from the same social background or necessarily have the same mentality, the same character, the same manners. It's absolutely natural that some show themselves hard-working, conscientious and laborious while others are lazy, careless and have plenty of other defects. It's not a reason to sentence them all and put them all together in one pot,” said Mrs Karim.

“These domestic little people are not as silly as we can imagine,” said Yacoob. “They are aware of the importance they have in the society. Also they are convinced they have good opportunities to fit in the workforce by evolving within wealthy families. For them it's a way towards freedom. Something that enables them to escape from their family's influence, where their existence has no meaning and their life no importance. They are right to escape from a society in which an evolutionary stagnation is observed and there is no progress. Also, the idea of winning some money and leading a life they like crosses incessantly their mind. I'm talking about this youth full of ambition trying to make its way in the society to find a reasonable place from where they can distinguish themselves from the others and occupy a privileged position. That's why the idea of rivalry is so manifest in them. The thirst for money awakens the jealousy in them. We can detect their changing attitudes or strange behaviors that make them appear dangerous.”

"All this doesn't mean at all that we can do without their services," said Mr Karim. "There's a girl waiting in the other room and I am convinced that in this moment we need a person to take on some responsibilities. I noticed the bedrooms are not done early in the morning, the bin is not emptied, the furniture is covered with dust, the parquet is not polished and a lot of domestic works are neglected or unfinished. So, I wish to inform you that I am pretty much decided to hire this person so that these works be done in the best terms."

“I agree with you,” said Mrs Karim.

“We too,” answered the boys, while the girls remained reluctant.

Mister Karim stood up and went towards the room where Julie was waiting. She was sitting on a chair but stood up as soon as she heard some footsteps. Before Mr Karim opened the door she had the time to tide herself up. When he entered in the room Julie said:

“Good night Sir.”

“Good night. You are the girl that came during the day, right?”

“Yes Sir.”

“What's your name?”

“My name is Julie Deschamps, Sir.”

“Well, and how old are you?”

“I am seventeen years old, Sir.”

“Have you already had a job?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you know what it is to work in a house? Do you have any idea about the kind of work you have to do?”

“Yes, Sir. I know how to do everything in a house. You can notice it by yourself if you hire me.”

“That's what I intend to do, relying on your words and your good faith. I hope you won't disappoint me.”

“Oh Sir, thank you for trusting me.”

“Don't be glad so soon. I am hiring you for a four weeks try-out. You will be put up in a bedroom upstairs and have the right to daily meals, as the other maids. You will receive your wage every Saturday. You will have some rules to respect. You will have the right to rest on Sunday. You will receive orders from myself, Madam and the other members of the family you are going to meet soon. If this suits you, you can already consider yourself hired."

“It suits me very well, Sir. I would like to ask you if I can start from this evening. My home is in the Highs and I don't have any mean to go back.”

“Of course it's too late to go back home. I am going to send you Suzy to show you where your bedroom is and you will have diner with the other servants before going up to bed. Remember that you have to wake up very early in the morning to start working.”

“All right Sir. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed.”

"I hope so, however remember that you can be fired for the slightest slip-up," said Mr Karim getting ready to leave.

“Understood Sir. Good night Sir.”

“Good night.”

 

When the door closed, Julie let out a big relief sigh and raised her head to thank the Lord for having had the job. She was already thinking about the good news she would announce to her parents when she would visit them the following days. Her gaze was admiring the few wood furniture pieces visible with the weak flame of the kerosene lamp lying on a shelf in the room's corner. She heard voices coming from far away, probably from the dining room where all the family members were gathered for diner. Plates, glasses, spoons' noises reached her ears so distinctly that she told herself that diner was already served. The water from the tap, a raised voice calling, the hurry of heavy steps on the floor indicated the maids were at work. She felt in the house an intense warmth issued from this well organized life led by people anxious to give a meaning to their existence, to find a way of making it more beautiful, comfortable, pleasant and interesting. The bursts of laughter heard indicated that a family living in harmony and good understanding was taking advantage of this solemn moment to gather. In her little corner, Julie tried to imagine what was happening in the other rooms, whose decoration and atmosphere she could not but figure out. She knew there would be a lot of things to discover, to learn and that surprises were to foresee. She was not worried at all and her enthusiasm for wanting to work pushed back from her mind all the regrettable thoughts that tended to hamper her moves and constrain her state of feeling. She trusted she could prove her worth and quickly understand how to give satisfactions to her bosses. She had barely been diving in her thoughts, which had brought her far in a world where she foresaw beautiful prospects, when Suzie came looking for her and brought her in a big room where she met the other servants working in the house and living on site. She met Suzanne, an old maid who saw all the kids from the house born and grow up. She was at the Karim Family's service since she was twenty years old. With fifty-five years old, she had not anymore the strength of her youth and did her work decently. She didn't take on big responsibilities. Worn out for having spent some energy in a period of her life when she had some kids to raise and several mouths to feed, she has lost a big part of her physical potential with the age. She used to get sick several times, to come down with a chronic bronchitis, to hang around with a cough for weeks and even months. She treated herself her rheumatism, arterial and stomach aches with infusions she prepared with leaves she found in the woods. She didn't like to see doctors and preferred to deal with her aches quietly, writhing in pain in her tiny bedroom without letting the others notice she was suffering. She was esteemed by the members of the family and never a single person dared to reproach her something or to observe the way she carried out her work. Her face was devastated by wrinkles and her eyes ringed by the fatigue when Julie met her for the first time in that room. Suzie has been working in the house for three years. Her father, who was an inveterate drinker, died from an aneurysm rupture when she was only twelve. To help her mother raise her three brothers and two sisters she started doing small domestic works until the day she got noticed by a person who knew well Mr Karim, who was at the time looking for a maid to help Suzanne. Suzie was eighteen years old when she started working. She has always won the esteemed of her bosses.

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The Far Away Colony Chapter 1

28 Août 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

The Far Away Colony

 

Chapter 1

 

The paths of the Highs of the island, drawn for a long time by the residents who ventured there to seek refuge, led mostly in small villages scattered on the sides of the mountains, the hollow cirques, and deep forests. The Medlar Wood, so named because of the abundance of shrubs of the same name that grew there was a quiet little village that was halfway between coastal clarity and shadow of the forests. At that time, many people from the Highs especially the poor and disadvantaged families went to town to work. Among them, many girls who had reached the age of puberty do not hesitate to look elsewhere for a new form of existence.

A century ago, when slavery was abolished and Sarda Garriga, the liberator, was carried through the streets in triumph, the white ones, due to fears of further reforms and reprisals, were hiding in the mountains and the most remote island corners to rebuild their lives. They so joined the brown slaves, who had already taken up residence there, to build together a nation. Paths to go through were filled with pitfalls. Their struggle for survival was long and painful. Families faced huge difficulties in life, and the years spent in hard work brought them no fame nor fortune. Misery, they had tried to avoid, hunted them into the folds of their imagination. They lived with a troubled mind which constantly settled in their hearts a terrible doubt about their future. They kept, since then, to provide efforts to improve their living conditions. To do this, they would look elsewhere for what they could not find in their small village.

At dawn, a shape, that anyone would have no difficulty to compare to that of a woman, was furtively sneaking its way under the shadow of old trees. This rapid, strange and suspicious movement of a young girl of the heights indicated, at first glance, the state of disturbance in which her mind was.

Such unusual approach, that was rare in a remote country, hid so much mystery that a diligent and prudent observer would not fail to bind it to the personal frustrations, that was current then. At her passage through the daylight that rose up, the villagers who know and who cross that path by going to their work so early, did not miss to greet her:

« Good morning, Miss Julie. »

Julie Deschamps felt lonely and dejected that morning when she went through the tortuous path that led to the public fountain where she was passing because of the air flow. At this early hour, several people who had to go to work in the city is already gathered here. Julie's eyes were filled with tears and her heart was big when she moved to the bottom of the old bus, and when she threw her sad eyes on that small village which recalled many memories. The bus went down the ramps by making a terrible noise and stopping frequently at specific locations to pick up passengers who were traveling to remote areas. People brought with them bulky luggage which the driver filed on the roof of the vehicle.

The roads were in a bad state and the bus could not run quickly. Travelers were patient and never gave signs of fatigue or nervousness. They were quite happy to have this means of transport enabling them to reach their destination in less time than they expected. When they imagined that before their parents should travel all the way on foot, sometimes braving the stormy weather, they felt happy to do it in a proper manner.

The whole history of the country spread out the eyes of an aware walker in front of the remains of the recent past, full of legends and pleasant stories to listen to.

Such a harvest of cultures, at the time of great poets as Parny, Dayot and Leconte de Lisle, could add, to the existing heritage, wealth that was the pride of the people who did not have any recognition.

The blank stares of uneducated passengers remained indifferent to all signs that recalled much of the history of this remote island in the Indian Ocean.

When the bus passed through the crowded streets, the blocks of houses and stopped at the station which was at the end of the town, the young girl came down and mingled with the crowd. She went to the mall. She was tired from the trek. She wanted to rest a bit but thought it was late and the store would soon close. Noon was not far away and she had little time to make representations to good families to find work. She had time to show up at several retailers to offer her services. For her, it was the most accessible way to meet employers.

Colonial houses occupied the wealthy people and feel the richness retained her attention although she knew that it would be hard for her to meet the master or mistress of the house at this hour.

She went to the commercial center. She was tired from that long and painful journey. She wanted to rest a bit but thought it was late and the store would soon close.

Noon was not far and she had little time to make initiatives for good families to find work.

She had time to show up at several retailers to offer her services. For her, it was the most accessible way to meet employers.

While passing in front of the door of a furniture store situated in one of the busiest streets of the city, the young girl noticed, at the bottom, the presence of a Muslim woman of a reasonable age whose head was covered with a shawl of sober color. She sat behind a massive wooden desk and waited for the hour of the closure. The clock which was suspended from the wall indicated half past eleven. With a hesitating step the girl penetrated inside and says:

"Hello, madam. Can I talk to the boss, please?"

"The boss is away now, Miss. why do you want to see him?" the lady replied.

"I'm not here to buy. I am looking for work."

The store was not well enlightened. Little of openings which it had, were not sufficient to present the various furniture which was exposed. The woman made some steps forward to get closer to the girl.
" From which region do you come? "

"I come from the highs of Saint-Paul, madam."

"Have you already worked before?"

"Yes, madam. I have worked as the housemaid in my village in several houses of good families. "

"For what kind of work you look?"

"I can do everything in a house, madam, I wish to find a job where I am housed and fed. I have always given satisfaction wherever I worked. You can put me into the test and see by yourself. "

"Today is Friday. The Boss went to Saint Denis. He will not return until late in the evening. I promise you nothing but come back tomorrow."

Julie became sad. She seemed tired by the long journey she had made by bus. She needed to rest. She thought of the afternoon she had to spend and the night to come and waited. She did not know where to go. She left the store with courtesy by thanking the lady.

She kept the hope of finding work with the lady whose home had seemed friendly. She had noticed traces of generosity and kindness in her. She did not know if she has to rely on the answer she expected or whether she should continue to seek employment. In any case, this glimmer of hope rekindled her enthusiasm to be accepted by a generous family motivated her state of mind and gave her courage to proceed under the blazing sun. She stopped sometimes under the trees that lined the paths located on the waterfront and enjoyed the soft shadow projected by large branches bowing downward such as the tentacles.

She possessed very little money. She thought best not to waste it and spend only the strictly necessary. That was why she had bought a piece of bread and ham in a shop she had found on her way. She installed on a bench and ate her bread before going to drink water from a public fountain located a little further to quench her thirst. 

What worried her was how she would spend the night. She did not know anyone in this town that she had very little opportunity to go for the sole reason that she rarely left her area and yet she did not want to sleep under the stars. She did not want to be attacked by people of bad character or neighborhood thugs. Only bad women lay around the streets at night. She was not yet in a position to be thought of as this kind of person. She should rather find a solution to solve this problem. Nevertheless, during the day when she had spoken to that lady in the store, she did not lack the desire to ask for hospitality. But she did not know herself why she had lacked courage. She regretted now she found herself alone and did not know where to go.

She was tempted to knock again at the door of the house to ask hospitality for the night. The boss might be there and she could use all her talents to explain the situation in which she found herself. She was to have no shame or lack of courage if she wanted to succeed. Otherwise, she would be lost forever in this world which does not forgive. It belonged to her now to decide what to do. The night already began to fall and she did not have a lot of time in front of her.

Circumstances sometimes require courage and determination. The decision was made; Julie returned obviously to the store, which represented the only hope for her.

It was already late. The sun declined slowly towards the horizon. Yellow beams still lit the old gate that was not easy to open. Julie called up several times but nobody answered. She pressed on the handle and then relieved to notice that the door was not locked. The court was dark. Julie decided to move inside.

When she reached the steps of the staircase leading upstairs, she heard footsteps. It was a girl of color, with frizzy hair, a face that pleased and beautiful lips which discovered white teeth. She was called Suzie and came from these poor and numerous families living in small huts scattered almost everywhere in the suburb swarmed with these miserable huts hidden behind the coconut palms that had replaced date palms in the time when the city had gained a reputation to be called Jericho. Although time had elapsed. Suzie left the house cheerfully to search for the bread at the bakery.

"Good evening," said Julie.

"Good evening," answered Suzie, "You are looking for someone?"

"Yes. I talked to a lady in the store this morning. Can I see her?"

"Ah, this is Mrs. Sheinaz. She does not live here. She will be here tomorrow morning."

"Well, in that case, I can only see the boss. Does he want to receive me?"

"Wait. I'll see."

While Suzie climbed the stairs, Julie scrutinized the darkness. She could hardly distinguish the facades of the big house and her eyes tried to understand the formless and unusual objects. There was total silence and waiting seemed long. Suzie appeared a moment later and asked Julie to follow her. They climbed the stairs, went into dark corridors and reached a waiting room lit by kerosene lamps whose flames flickered in a light breeze room.

"Wait here. The Boss is at a meeting. Once he finishes he will receive you. I have to run to the bakery before it closes."

"Thank you for what you did."

"It's nothing," Suzie answered before disappearing.

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LA COLONIE LOINTAINE Chapitre 1

12 Août 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

La colonie lointaine

 

Chapitre 1

 

Les chemins des Hauts de l'île, longtemps tracés par les habitants qui s'y aventuraient, menaient pour la plupart vers des petits villages disséminés dans les flancs des montagnes, les creux des cirques et la profondeur des forêts. Le Bois de Nèfles, ainsi nommé en raison de l'abondance des arbustes du même nom qui y poussaient, était un petit village tranquille qui se trouvait à mi-chemin entre la clarté du littoral et l'ombre des forêts. En ce temps-là, de nombreux habitants des Hauts issus particulièrement des familles pauvres et défavorisées se rendaient en ville pour travailler. Parmi eux, beaucoup de jeunes filles, qui avaient dépassé l'âge de la puberté, allaient chercher ailleurs une nouvelle forme d'existence.

Un siècle de cela, l'esclavage fut aboli et Sarda Garriga, le libérateur, fut porté dans les rues en triomphe. Les petits blancs, par craintes de nouvelles réformes et des représailles, se dissimulaient dans les montagnes et les recoins les plus reculés de l'île pour refaire leur vie. Ils rejoignaient les esclaves marron qui y avaient déjà élu domicile pour construire ensemble une nation. Les chemins à parcourir étaient remplis d'embûches. Leur lutte pour la survie était longue et pénible. Des familles rencontraient d'énormes difficultés pour vivre, et les années passées dans des durs labeurs ne leurs apportaient ni gloire ni fortune. La misère, qu'ils avaient essayé d'éviter, les chassait jusque dans les replis de leur imagination. Ils vivaient avec un esprit tourmenté qui installait dans leur cœur un doute effroyable sur leur avenir. Ils ne cessaient de fournir des efforts pour améliorer leur condition de vie.

Par un mois de Novembre de l’année 1937, à l'aube, une silhouette, que quiconque n'aurait aucune peine à comparer à celle d'une femme, faisait furtivement son chemin à l'ombre des gigantesques arbres centenaires. Ce déplacement rapide, étrange et suspect indiquait l'état de perturbation dans lequel se trouvait la personne. Une telle démarche cachait de mystères qu'un observateur avisé ne manquerait pas de lier à des contrariétés personnelles. A son passage dans la clarté du jour qui se levait, les villageois qui la connaissaient et qui croisaient son chemin, en se rendant à leur travail, ne manquaient pas de la saluer.

— Bonjour, M'amselle Julie.

Julie Deschamps se sentait seule et abattue ce bon matin quand elle parcourait le chemin tortueux qui menait vers la fontaine publique. A cette heure matinale plusieurs personnes qui se rendaient à leur travail se regroupaient déjà à cet endroit pour attendre l’arrivé du bus. Les yeux de Julie étaient remplis de larmes et son cœur était gros quand elle s'installait au fond d’un vieux véhicule, et quand ses regards tristes se posaient sur ce petit village qui la rappelait tant de souvenirs. Le bus descendait les rampes en faisant des bruits épouvantables et en s'arrêtant fréquemment pour prendre des passagers qui se rendaient dans des quartiers lointains. Ces gens emmenaient avec eux des bagages encombrants que le chauffeur déposait sur le toit du véhicule. Les routes étaient en mauvais états et le bus ne roulait pas vite. Les voyageurs étaient patients et ne donnaient aucun signe de fatigues ou de nervosités. Ils étaient contents d'avoir ce moyen de transport qui leur permettait d'atteindre leur destination en si peu de temps. Quand ils imaginaient qu'auparavant leurs parents auraient dû faire tout ce chemin à pieds en bravant parfois un temps orageux, ils s'estimaient heureux de pouvoir le faire de cette manière.

Toute l'histoire de la contrée s'étalait aux yeux d'un promeneur avisé devant les vestiges du passé riche de légendes et des récits agréables à écouter. Une telle moisson de culture, cueillie à l'époque de grands poètes tels que de Parny, Dayot et Leconte de Lisle, ajoutait une richesse aux patrimoines existants qui faisait déjà la fierté des habitants. Les regards vides des passagers incultes demeuraient indifférents devant ces témoignages qui rappelaient une grande partie de l'histoire de la colonie.

Quand le bus traversait les rues encombrées, les pâtés de maisons et s'arrêtait à l'extrémité de la ville, la jeune fille descendit et se mêlait à la foule. Elle se dirigea vers le centre commercial. Elle était fatiguée par ce long et pénible trajet. Elle voulait se reposer un peu mais pensait qu'il était tard et que les magasins allaient bientôt fermer. Midi n'était pas loin et elle avait peu de temps pour effectuer des démarches auprès de bonnes familles pour trouver du travail. Elle avait eu le temps de se présenter chez plusieurs commerçants pour proposer ses services. C'était pour elle la voie la plus accessible pour rencontrer les patrons. Les maisons coloniales qui abritaient les gens aisés et qui sentaient la richesse retenaient son attention quoiqu'elle sût qu'il serait plus difficile pour elle de rencontrer le maître ou la maîtresse de maison à pareille heure.

En passant devant la porte d'un magasin de meubles situé dans une des rues les plus fréquentées de la ville, la jeune fille remarqua, au fond, la présence d'une femme musulmane d'un âge raisonnable dont la tête était couverte d'un châle de couleur sobre. Elle était assise derrière un bureau en bois massif et attendait l'heure de la fermeture. La pendule qui était suspendue au mur indiquait onze heures et demie. D'un pas hésitant la jeune fille pénétra à l'intérieur et dit:

— Bonjour m'dame. Est-ce-que je peux parler au patron, s'il vous plaît?

— Le patron est absent, mademoiselle. C'est pourquoi? répondit la dame.

— Je ne suis pas venue pour acheter. Je cherche du travail.

Le magasin n'était pas bien éclairé. Le peu d'ouvertures qu'il y avait n'étaient pas suffisantes pour présenter les divers meubles qui étaient exposés. La femme fit quelques pas en avant pour se rapprocher de la jeune fille.

— Vous venez de quelle région?

— Je viens des hauts de Saint-Paul, m'dame.

— Avez-vous déjà travaillé?

— Oui m'dame. J'ai fait des ménages dans mon village chez des blancs et dans plusieurs maisons de bonnes familles.

— Quel genre de travail vous cherchez, que savez-vous faire?

— Je sais tout faire dans une maison, m'dame. Je souhaiterai trouver un travail où je suis logée et nourrie. J'ai toujours donné satisfactions partout où j'ai travaillé; vous pouvez me mettre à l'épreuve et constater par vous même.

— Aujourd'hui c'est vendredi. Le patron est parti à Saint-Denis. Il ne sera pas de retour avant le soir. Je ne vous promets rien mais passez demain dans la journée.

Julie devint triste. Elle paraissait fatiguée par ce long trajet qu'elle avait effectué par le car. Elle avait besoin de se reposer. Elle pensait à l'après-midi qu'elle avait à passer et à la nuit qui l'attendait. Elle ne savait où aller. Elle quitta le magasin en remerciant avec courtoisie la dame.

Elle gardait l'espoir de pouvoir trouver du travail chez la dame dont l'accueil lui avait paru sympathique. Elle avait remarqué en elle des traces de générosités et de bontés. Elle ne savait pas si elle devait se fier sur la réponse qu'elle attendait ou si elle devait continuer à chercher de l'emploi. En tout cas cette lueur d'espoir qui avait ravivé son enthousiasme à se faire accepter par une famille généreuse motivait son état d'esprit et lui donnait du courage à poursuivre sa route sous un soleil de plomb. Elle s'arrêtait des fois sous des arbres qui longeaient les chemins situés sur le front de mer et profitait de l'ombre douce que projetaient les grandes branches descendant vers elle telles des tentacules.

Elle était en possession de très peu d'argent. Elle avait cru bon de ne pas gaspiller et de ne dépenser que dans la stricte nécessité. C'était la raison pour laquelle elle avait acheté un morceau de pain et du jambon dans une boutique qu'elle avait trouvée sur son chemin. Elle s'était installée sur un banc et avait dégusté son pain avant d'aller boire l'eau d'une fontaine publique se trouvant un peu plus loin pour apaiser sa soif.

Ce qui l'inquiétait était de quelle manière elle allait passer la nuit. Elle ne connaissait personne dans cette ville qu'elle avait très peu d'occasion de fréquenter pour l'unique raison qu'elle quittait très rarement son quartier et pourtant elle n'avait pas l'intention de dormir à la belle étoile. Elle ne voulait pas se faire agresser par des individus de mauvais caractères ou des voyous du quartier. Seulement les femmes de mauvaise vie trainaient les rues le soir. Elle n'était pas encore dans une situation à se faire passée pour ce genre de personnage. Elle avait intérêt à trouver une solution pour régler ce problème. Pourtant dans la journée quand elle avait parlé à cette dame dans le magasin l'envie ne lui manquait pas de demander hospitalité. Mais elle ne savait pas elle-même pourquoi elle avait manqué de courage. Elle le regrettait maintenant qu'elle se retrouvait toute seule et ne savait pas où aller.

Alors que les heures passaient et qu’elle était exténuée, elle achevait sa recherche d’emploi par un bilan négatif. Aucune famille n’avait voulu d’elle. Elle était déçue, découragée. Elle s’était affalée sur un banc faisant face à l’océan et imaginait combien son sort était déplorable, son destin pitoyable. Elle était tentée d'aller frapper une fois de plus à la porte de ce magasin où la dame qui l’avait accueillie avait retenue son attention plus que jamais. Elle avait le pressentiment qu’elle pouvait tenter sa chance là bas pour demander hospitalité pour la nuit. Le patron serait peut-être là et elle pouvait servir de tous ses talents pour expliquer dans quelle situation elle se trouvait. Elle ne devait pas avoir honte ni manquer de courage si elle tenait à réussir. Sinon elle serait à jamais perdue dans ce monde qui ne pardonnait pas. C'était à elle maintenant de décider ce qu'elle devait faire. La nuit commençait déjà à tomber et elle n'avait pas beaucoup de temps devant elle.

Certaines circonstances des fois exigent courage et détermination. La décision prise, Julie retournait bien évidemment vers le magasin qui représentait pour elle le seul espoir.

Il faisait tard déjà. Le soleil déclinait lentement vers l'horizon. Des rayons jaunes éclairaient encore le vieux portail qui n'était pas facile à ouvrir. Julie appela plusieurs fois mais personne ne répondit. Elle appuya sur la poignée et fut soulagée de constater que la porte n'était pas fermée à clé. La cour était sombre. Julie décidait d'avancer à l'intérieur.

Quand elle atteignit les marches de l'escalier qui menait à l'étage, elle entendit des pas. C'était une jeune fille de couleur, avec des cheveux crépus, un visage qui plaisait et des belles lèvres qui découvraient des dents blanches. Elle s'appelait Suzie et était issue de ces familles pauvres et nombreuses qui habitaient dans des petites paillotes disséminées un peu partout dans la banlieue pullulé de ces misérables cases cachées derrière les cocotiers qui avaient remplacé les dattiers au temps où la ville avait acquit la réputation de se nommer le Jericho. Bien de temps s'était écoulé depuis. Suzie sortait de la maison allègrement pour aller chercher le pain à la boulangerie.

— Bonsoir, dit Julie.

— Bonsoir,     répondit     Suzie,     vous    cherchez quelqu'un?

— Oui. J'ai parlé à une dame dans le magasin ce matin. Est-ce-que je peux la voir?

— Ah! C'est madame Sheinaz. Elle n'habite pas ici. Elle sera là demain matin.

— Eh bien dans ce cas il ne me reste qu'à voir le patron. Est-ce qu'il voudra bien me recevoir?

— Attendez. Je vais voir.

Pendant que Suzie grimpait les escaliers, Julie scrutait l'obscurité. Elle pouvait à peine distinguer les façades de la grande maison et ses yeux essayaient de comprendre les objets informes et insolites. Le silence était total et l'attente paraissait longue. Suzie se présentait quelque instant plus tard et demanda à Julie de la suivre. Elles grimpèrent les escaliers, passèrent dans des couloirs sombres et débouchèrent dans une salle d'attente éclairée par des lampes à pétrole dont les flammes vacillaient par une légère brise.

— Attendez là. Le patron est en réunion. Aussitôt terminé il vous recevra. Je dois courir à la boulangerie avant qu'elle ne ferme.

— Merci pour ce que vous faites pour moi.

 

— II n'y a pas de quoi, répondit Suzie avant de disparaître.

 

Lire la suite

A love of youth Chapter 13

12 Juillet 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

 

 

Door Desh wasn’t located on any map of the world I had difficulties to find by a bookseller I found on my road when we left the old town of Delhi to go to a temple. Joseph affirmed he had already heard about an old Sadhu who lived in a monastery beyond a hill and knew every nook and cranny of India as he had travelled back and forth since his childhood. His father was a fervent disciple of Ramakrishna and he had acquired a deep knowledge of his religion while staying among the disciples and listening to them preach the religion. Prakash was happy to leave these busy and tumultuous places to enter into quiet and restful trails. We avoided by the hair’s breadth the bicycles ridden by imprudent teenagers. Sometimes a flock of ewes led by a shepherd without experience made us lose lots of time. I amused a lot in front of this disorganized life. I had no choice even though I keenly wanted to find Devika. We reached the temple in a short time. Joseph jumped down and climbed the stairs four by four before disappearing in the sanctuary. The region was quiet and few people were regrouped in the shade of the gigantic trees. The sun was high in the sky and the heat was stuffing. I waited for long for Joseph. I decided to climb slowly the stairs. At the top, I discovered a vast room. Some bells were suspended above the head but a hand could touch them. In the middle, enormous pillars were sustaining the vast dome. Prakash had joined me. In the bottom, the God Hanouman attracted my attention. I was impressed by his monkey face and his long tail. Prakash presented him to me, saying to me that he was the God who helps people in trouble.

Joseph joined us long after to inform us that Door Desh was the name given to a faraway village. It was the region that was always attacked by thieves. A long time ago, a big pundit who was travelling around India to preach the religion and share with people his deep knowledge in Sanskrit spoke of the vision that he had had while he was in Door Desh. This vision informed him that all Gods of the earth and heaven met there to speak about the problems of men and earth. This news spread across the country. No one had the right to commit the least sin while staying in Door Desh. Those who were sick recovered miraculously while reaching Door Desh if their heart was pure. The impure badly affected experienced atrocious sufferings. They had to leave the region as quickly as possible.

People hunted from their house by thieves took refuge in Door Desh. The thieves hid in the mountains and attacked the villages, terrorized the inhabitants, killed men, kidnaped and raped women and girls. The justice was not able to fight them. They sent spies into several areas to inquire about the dangers that threatened them. They often spread the rumor that they were going to attack a village and when the police and a whole garrison arrived to ambush them, they were in another region to rob the rich. They kidnapped children and ask for ransoms. Thus the Dakhus succeeded in surviving. Sometimes the presence of a beautiful young woman captured from a big Seth broke the harmony among men. To make the rights respected and honors protected, the commander in chief had to be uncompromising with them and punish them severely. Those hurt always ended up betraying his friends one day out of revenge. The den was surrounded and the gang hunted. A great number of these bandits were killed, others surrendered or escaped miraculously. A decimated gang could hardly regroup. A lot of people wanted by the justice changed identity, integrated in the society with another identity. But they hardly could lead an honest life. They continued their bad life exploiting the weaknesses of the others. They became richer at the expenditure of the public misery. They became powerful and bought for rupees the key people in politics and administration.

Why Devika asked me to return to Door Desh. Why? She certainly had her reasons. I was informed that some religious chiefs organized excursions to Door Desh. The persons interested had to register and wait for the moment of the departure. The distance being long and the journey grueling, I imagined that I could never reach them as I knew that I would not do it. We regrouped one evening to examine in details how to reach Door Desh as quickly as possible. To avoid the bus that was very slow, we decided to look for a more appropriate means of transportation. Our goal was to reach the Ganges valley before pursuing our road on the backs of elephants.

Prakash was not part of the expedition. His presence was useless for us. Before separating, I gave him a large sum of money for his services and thanked him. I went to my hotel to rest. In the evening I wore a beautiful dress and went on the terrace to have dinner. I spent a marvelous evening watching until late the women dancing ballet accompanied by the beautiful music of Ravi Shankar.

Our departure was scheduled in two days. I wanted to go where Devika lived in with doctor Ajay. I would find someone to inform me of what had happened. Joseph disagreed. He wished me to rest to prepare for the long journey. I was preoccupied and could not allow me such fantasy.

I asked Joseph to pick me in the beginning of the afternoon. I prepared a bath and spent a good moment in the tub. After a good meal, I stood next to the window to write two letters of which one to my son in France and the other to my father in Reunion. I went to the post office to send them. I didn't know that at this time of the day people queued in front of the counter. It was impossible for me to mix with this crowd. Some bystanders who sidled among people proposed me some stamps for which they asked twice the price. I paid and leave the place with relief. When I told it to Joseph, he was not happy at all. I could have entrusted him this task instead of venturing among people who could attack me. I had not assessed the risks I would run. If making my own way, I would regret it one day. It was not good to encourage the black market. Joseph blamed me for that and warned me not to commit the mistakes that could cost me much. “A lot of imprudent tourists”, he said, “are dispossessed by swindlers and are obliged to go to their embassy to leave the country as quickly as possible. They lost their traveler's checks, jewelry and passport.

It was almost three hours when Joseph hailed a taxi. We drove half an hour in the main streets of New-Delhi, passing next to the Central Cottage Industries, the Bankura restaurant, the Imperial hotel and the Krafts Museum. The taxi dropped us off at 146 Ramprasad Road in front of a beautiful colonial house. It was the address I had indicated to the driver. The street was large and crowded. I was fascinated by the beauty of the building. The portal was closed by a big chain. I could see inside and the herbs were long. A thick layer of leaves covered the lawn. It was not possible, I thought. It was there that Devika lived with doctor Ajay. What had happened? I stopped a man who passed by there to ask him for information on the house. He made out that I was a stranger and to satisfy my curiosity he accepted to tell me the sad history of the family Chowdurry. He was informed thanks to the newspapers when the scandal exploded. He had been living for a short period in the area and knew absolutely nothing about this family. But the newspapers had mentioned a woman came to upset the existence of the Chowdurries who were living before in the tranquility. Doctor Ajay was found poisoned in his room. What had happened? No one knew. The headlines mentioned a crime of passion, the suicide of a physician bewitched by the love of a western girl, a murderer who came from far away. When the man told me that the doctor's wife was in jail, I was frightened to hear it. No one could tell me where Devika was imprisoned. It was probable that as it is often the case, she was forgotten in a cell and that she was known by her registration number.

I returned to the hotel with an immense sadness. I didn’t want to have dinner that evening. I went to bed early. I made some nightmares during the whole night. I woke up early a little bit tired because of the agitated night. I got ready for departure. I decided not to lose a second. I thought the situation was much more complicated than I knew. I had to act as quickly as possible if I wanted to save Devika before it is too late. I wanted to hurry the things as if my instinct warned me that the time was playing against me and that if I didn't succeed to solve this mystery on time, my steps would only be a failure. In the meantime, Joseph had searched on the card the paths that we should take to reach Door Desh. He explained me in detail how we intended to do this journey and the risks that we could run along the way. He attached a lot of importance to inform me of the main obstacles we could meet.

I met Seth Gopalsingh the day before our departure. Joseph had spoken to him of our journey and he could find a guide for us. Seth Gopalsingh was from Bengal. Before, he earned his life travelling around the country with snakes in a basket and a flute. He settled in populous areas and began to charm snakes from the morning until the evening. The tourists, who went through, threw him coins. He won a lot of money and also provoked the anger of his rivals. Once, he almost died as he was bitten by a poisonous snake hidden under his seat. His wife quickly called for help and the neighbors ran to save him. He understood this day how much he was despised. He had saved enough money to buy a land and build his house. He had several jobs before launching his own moving company, of excursion and trips organized. He made me visit his warehouse constructed behind his house and in which I could see shovels, pickaxes, billhooks, sickles and a great deal of agricultural tools well arranged. Our guide who was introduced to us the same day was called Dheeraj and his assistant Jay.

We met early in the room of my hotel on the morning of our departure. We wanted to check a last time together the way we intended to do the expedition. When all the questions were fixed and that nothing had been forgotten we jumped an old pickup whose boot was cluttered with the luggage and all the paraphernalia necessary for the journey. As going across some villages, we were delayed by crowds and chaos in the streets. The Muslims and the Hindus fought for the offenses of religious matter caused to some by others. We should have avoided the cities to continue our way to the valley of Gange. I was especially dazzled by the beauty of the landscapes I saw. I did not want to take my eyes off the landscapes that exercise on me a strange fascination. I noticed some old monasteries in ruins and tried to imagine the history that had reduced them to this state. We drove three days on cliff roads and slept, me on the bench in the bottom of the pickup, and others on the side of the road in sleeping bags. Then we went through vast plains by carriage and dusty paths. I badly supported the bumps. After five days, when reaching the beaches of Gange, we were obliged to park the pickup in a corner and to continue our road by foot and on the back of an elephant. During the night we lit a fire on the bivouac to hunt mosquitos and frighten animals. I feared snakes and scorpions. At the top of a hill where we stopped to rest, one afternoon, I looked at the maneuvers of a man in the fields below. He had a strange way to move and didn't seem to hurry to go back home despite the night begins to fall. His figure remained in my memory. His history was a tragedy that was related to me as I was looking at this farm. Years before, a man who had drunk too much were driving too fast under the bad weather with his truck overloaded of goods. He struck full force a peasant who came back from work and killed him instantaneously. A woman and ten children suffered a bereaved while his judgment went to court. He was condemned to work until his death to feed this family. He didn't have the right to move away from his workplace where he was considered like a prisoner. Some inspectors controlled him regularly to assure that he was in the fields. The children called him "hostile uncle" and, escaping their mother's vigilance, joined him in the fields. This history intrigued me a lot. I tried to imagine the sense that the life he led could have.

On the high plateau, the weather was overcast and menacing. At any time it could begin to rain. The thunder already roared when we decided to shelter us in an old castle in ruins. The walls were covered with the climbing plants and lichens. We sheltered in a vast room before the rain started. The wind blew so strong that I had the impression that the castle was going to collapse. The flames of the torches suspended on the walls flickered all night long. The following day I woke up early. I wanted to visit every corner of the castle to discover the hidden mysteries and secrets. I went up the stairs in stone and entered in vast and dusty rooms. Centuries before, a doughty Mongolian conqueror invades the region and undertook the construction of this fortress. He conquered the lands around with the help of his powerful army. He pushed back several attacks of enemies who wanted to hunt him of his territory. This Mongol was a terrible warrior. On the battlefields, he persecuted his enemies with such fury that his soldiers had a great respect for him. He was appreciated and feared by his men who were devoted to him. His desire was to prepare his only son to succeed him whereas he was already an adult. His son accompanied him on the battlefield and fought by his side. The conquered lands were plowed and cultivated and the harvests allowed to feed all his soldiers and to improve the accounts. The feasts embellished this person's life. After the rough works of the fields, the men had good foods and women. In the evenings, there were often spectacles, dances executed by beautiful, intelligent and graceful women. The great Mongol was interested in the well-being of his family. The presence of a young dancer, whose extraordinary beauty had conquered the heart of the young Mongol prince, disturbed the calm mind of the old Mongol. Some jealous people made him suspicious. He supervised himself his son and had the confirmation of what he knew. This made his life difficult. He could not accept the idea of seeing his son having an intimate relationship with a dancer. But the flame in the heart of the young Mongol could hardly be extinguished by the anger and the pride of the old lion. The dancer was locked in a jail and the prince was prohibited from seeing her. Indignant at the disrespect of his father who didn't want to approve his desire to marry this woman, the son left the castle and formed his own army to declare war to his father. His intention was to go to deliver her lover. The father and the son fought on the battlefield. The son died. The father was sad forever. While returning to the castle, he had a tomb built where he buried the woman who was responsible for this tragedy attached to a post. The old Mongol also died also of a broken heart. My looks flew a long time over this kingdom reduced forever to silence.

When the sun appeared in the middle of the day, we were back on the road. After two days of an exhausting way, we approached a small abandoned village. Beyond this village, we saw a house in ruins. We decided to settle there to spend the night. I slept very badly in the evening. I made the nightmares that frightened me. The following day, whereas we continued our road in the plain, Dheerajs told me the history of the home in which we were spending the night. If I had known it before, I would never have accepted to stay inside a minute. According to the Hindu, history is constantly repeating itself. The souls return to earth under another shape, and in another body. Suraj was the son of a rich trader of Bombay. He had some strange visions when he was very young and affirmed to his parents that he remembered his previous life of which some pictures came back to his memory. He made the exact descriptions of the places he had frequented and also remembered the relationship he had with a girl of his village and the problems he had to cope because of this love. He told that in this other life he had the conviction his parents who were from a superior caste didn't want him to marry the daughter of a poor peasant. He fled with her and took refuge in the mountain. His father made him searched for by his. He had no possibility to escape and knew that his lover would be beaten to death. He decided to die. But before throwing from the top of a cliff, his lover and he promised to meet in their next birth in this small village. He did everything possible to go there. Shanti had been waiting for a long time for him in the house where I had just spent the night. She was old. He came too late. When she died, Suraj became mad and terrorized the village. He died shortly after and people pretended that his soul haunted the regions. Some had even heard plaintive voices in the woods; others had seen the ghost of Suraj flew far away and disappeared in the fog.

We reached Door Desh two days later at the beginning of the afternoon. It was a small quiet village situated at the bottom of a hill. People had grouped outside to watch us going through. Our arrival was expected and before we asked the people of the house where we should go, a delegation arrived led by an old woman who should be Dadima. Devika had often spoken to me of her in her letters. She called me by my name and kissed me on the cheeks. She shed a tear while looking at me. I understood that she should feel big pains. She took me to her cabin to take care of me, help me to relax and begin to tell me the history in which the history of Devika was also related.

 

 

Lire la suite

Un amour de jeunesse Chapitre 13

12 Juillet 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 



 

Une étrange aventure

 

Door Desh ne figurait pas sur une vieille mappemonde que j'avais eu grande peine à me procurer de chez un marchand de livres que je trouvais sur ma route quand nous quittions le vieux Delhi pour se rendre à un temple. Joseph affirmait avoir déjà entendu parler d'un vieux sadhu qui vivait dans un monastère au delà d'une colline et qui connaissait les moindres recoins de l'Inde pour les avoir parcourus de long en large depuis son enfance. Son père était un fervent disciple de Ramakrishna et lui-même avait acquis de profonde connaissance de sa religion en demeurant parmi les disciples et en les écoutant prêcher la religion. Prakash était heureux de quitter ces lieux grouillants et tumultueux pour s'engager dans des sentiers calmes et paisibles. Nous évitions de justesse des bicyclettes montées par des adolescents imprudents. Parfois un troupeau de cabris dirigé par un berger sans expérience nous fit perdre beaucoup de temps. Je m'amusais devant cette vie désordonnée. Je m’armais de patience pour attendre que les événements se déroulent comme ils devaient. Je n'avais d'ailleurs pas de choix malgré qu'au fond de moi-même je désirais ardemment retrouver Devika. Nous atteignîmes le temple peu de temps après. Joseph bondit à terre et montait les escaliers quatre par quatre avant de disparaître dans le sanctuaire. La région était calme et peu de gens étaient regroupés de part et d'autre sous l'ombre des gigantesques arbres. Le soleil était haut dans le ciel et la chaleur accablante. Longtemps après Joseph n'était pas de retour. Je décidais de grimper les marches lentement. En haut je découvris une vaste salle. Des cloches étaient suspendues au-dessus de la tête à la hauteur qu'une main pouvait les toucher. Au milieu, des énormes piliers soutenaient le vaste dôme. Prakash était venu me rejoindre. Au fond le Dieu Hanuman attirait mon attention. J'étais impressionnée par sa tête de singe et sa longue queue. Prakash me le présentait, me disant qu'il est le Dieu qui vient au secours des gens qui sont en difficulté.

Joseph venait nous rejoindre bien après pour nous apprendre que Door Desh était le nom donné à un village lointain. C'était la région qui n'avait jamais été attaquée par des voleurs. Longtemps de cela un grand pandit qui parcourait l'Inde pour prêcher la religion et partager au peuple sa profonde connaissance de sanskrit parlait de la vision qu'il avait eue pendant qu'il se trouvait à Door Desh. Cette vision l'apprit que tous les Dieux de la terre et des cieux se donnent rendez-vous dans ce lieu pour parler des problèmes des hommes et de la terre. Cette nouvelle se répandit dans tout le pays. Personne n'a le droit de commettre le moindre péché en demeurant à Door Desh. Ceux qui sont malades trouvent leur guérison par miracle en atteignant Door Desh si leur cœur est propre. Les impures sont atteints des maladies qui les font souffrir atrocement. Ils doivent quitter la région le plus vite possible.

Les gens qui étaient chassés de leur maison par des voleurs se réfugiaient à Door Desh. Les voleurs cachaient dans les montagnes et attaquaient les villages, terrorisant les habitants, tuant les hommes, enlevant et violant les femmes et les filles. La justice ne peut rien contre eux. Ils déléguaient des espions dans plusieurs quartiers pour s'informer des dangers qui les menaçaient. Ils firent souvent courir les bruits qu'ils allaient attaquer tel village et quand la police et tout une garnison les tendaient des embuscades ils se trouvaient alors dans une région éloignée à dépouiller les riches. Ils enlevaient des enfants pour demander des rançons. Ainsi les dakhus parvenaient à survivre. Parfois la présence d'une belle jeune femme capturée chez un grand Seth perturbait l'harmonie qui régnait parmi les hommes. Pour faire respecter les droits et sauvegarder les honneurs, le chef suprême devait se montrer intransigeant envers les méchants qui étaient sévèrement punis. Ceux qui étaient blessés dans les sentiments finissaient toujours par trahir ses amis un jour pour assouvir sa vengeance. Le repère était cerné et la bande chassée. Bon nombre de ces bandits se faisaient tués, d'autres se rendaient ou s'échappaient par miracle. Une bande ainsi décimée pourrait difficilement se regrouper. Beaucoup des personnes notoires que la justice cherchait changeaient d'identité, s'intégraient dans la vie courante de la société sous une autre forme. Ils pourraient difficilement mener une vie honnête et ordonnée. Ils continuaient à pratiquer la malhonnêteté en exploitant les faiblesses des autres. Ils s'enrichissaient donc au dépend de la misère publique. Ils se faisaient puissants et achetaient pour une poignée de roupies les personnes influentes de la politique et de l'administration.

Pourquoi Devika me demandait-elle de me rendre à Door Desh. Pourquoi ? Elle devait assurément avoir ses raisons. Je fus informée que des chefs religieux organisaient des excursions jusqu'à Door Desh. Les intéressés devaient se faire inscrire et attendre le moment du départ. La distance étant bien grande et le parcours éprouvant, j'imaginais que je ne pourrais jamais atteindre le village à pieds comme le firent d'ailleurs ces pèlerins bien décidés. Je ne voulais surtout pas tenter cette expérience, sachant bien que je ne la supporterais pas. Nous nous regroupions un soir pour examiner dans les détails les moyens d'atteindre Door Desh le plus rapidement possible. Pour éviter de voyager par le bus qui est d'une extrême lenteur nous décidions de chercher un moyen de transport plus convenable. Notre but était de gagner la vallée du Gange avant de poursuivre notre route à dos d'éléphant.

Prakash ne fit pas partie de l'expédition. Sa présence ne nous était d'aucune utilité. Avant de nous séparer, je lui remis une forte somme d'argent pour les services qu'il m'avait rendus sans oublier de le remercier. Je me rendais dans mon hôtel pour me reposer. Le soir je portais une belle robe de soirée et descendit sur la terrasse pour commander mon dîner. Je passais une soirée merveilleuse en regardant jusqu'à fort tard des femmes exécutaient des danses classiques accompagnées d'une belle musique de Ravi Shankar.

Notre départ était fixé dans deux jours. Je voulais me rendre à la maison où Devika habitait avec le docteur Ajay. Je trouverais bien quelqu'un pour me renseigner de ce qui s'était passé. Joseph n'était pas de mon avis. Il aurait souhaité que je me repose pour affronter le grand voyage. Ma conscience n'était pas tranquille pour me permettre de telle fantaisie dans un moment pareil.

Je demandais à Joseph de venir me chercher au début de l'après-midi. Je me fis couler un bain et passais un bon moment dans la baignoire. Après avoir pris un bon repas, je me plaçais auprès de la fenêtre pour rédiger deux lettres dont une était adressée à mon fils en France et l'autre à mon père à l'Ile de la Réunion. Je me rendis moi-même au bureau de poste pour les expédier. Je ne savais pas qu'à cette heure de la journée les gens bousculaient devant les guichets. Impossible pour moi de me mêler à cette foule. Quelques badauds qui faufilaient parmi l'affluence étaient venus me proposer des timbres pour lesquels ils me réclamaient le double du prix. Je les avais payés en quittant le lieu fort soulagée. Quand je racontais cela à Joseph, il n'était pas, content du tout. J'aurais pu quand même lui confier cette tâche au lieu d'aller me risquer parmi des gens qui pourraient m'agresser. Je n'avais pas mesuré les risques que je courrais. En cherchant à faire par ma tête je pourrais le regretter un jour. Ce n'était pas un bon principe que d'encourager les ventes au marché noir. Joseph me le reprochait en me prévenant de ne pas commettre des erreurs qui pourraient me coûter cher. Beaucoup de touristes imprudents, me dit-il, se font dépouiller par des escrocs et sont obligés de se rendre auprès de leur ambassade pour quitter le pays dans les plus brefs délais. Ils ont perdu chèques de voyage, bijoux et passeport.

Il était près de trois heures quand Joseph héla un taxi. Nous roulions pendant une demi-heure dans les rues principales de New-Delhi en passant devant le Central Cottage Industries, le restaurant Bankura, l'hôtel Impérial, et le Krafts Muséum. Le taxi nous déposait à 146 Ramprasad Road devant une belle maison coloniale. C'était l'adresse que j'avais indiquée au chauffeur. La rue était large et dense. J'étais fascinée par la beauté de l'immeuble. Le portail était fermé et conditionné par une grosse chaîne. Je pouvais voir   et les herbes étaient longues. Une épaisse couche de feuilles couvrait la pelouse. Ce n'était pas possible, pensais-je. C'était bien là que Devika vivait avec le docteur Ajay. Que s'était-il passé? Je n'avais pu me retenir d'interpeller un homme qui passait par là pour lui demander des renseignements sur la maison. Il avait deviné que j'étais une étrangère et pour satisfaire ma curiosité il accepta de me raconter la triste histoire qui se liait à la famille Chowdurry. Il était lui-même informé par les journaux quand le scandale éclata. Il habitait depuis peu de temps le quartier et n'en savait absolument rien sur l'existence de cette famille. Mais les journaux avaient fait mention d'une femme qui était venue bouleverser l'existence des Chowdurry qui vivaient auparavant dans la tranquillité. Le docteur Ajay était trouvé mort empoisonné dans sa chambre. Ce qui s'était passé, personne ne le savait. Les gros titres des journaux parlaient de drame de jalousie, de suicide d'un médecin envoûté par l'amour d'une occidentale, d'une meurtrière qui venait de loin et de crime passionnel. Quand l'individu m'apprit que la femme du docteur se trouvait en prison c'était avec effroi que je l'écoutais. Personne ne pouvait me dire où Devika était incarcérée. Il était bien probable comme c'était souvent le cas qu'elle était oubliée au fond d'une cellule et qu'on la connaissait que par son numéro d'immatriculation.

Je regagnais l'hôtel avec une immense tristesse. Je n'avais pas voulu dîner ce soir là. J'étais couché tôt. Je fis des cauchemars pendant toute la nuit. Je me réveillais de bonne heure un peu fatiguée par une nuit agitée. Je me mettais prête pour le départ. J'étais bien décidée à ne pas perdre une fraction de seconde. Je jugeais que la situation était bien plus compliquée que je ne le savais. Je devais agir le plus rapidement possible si je désirais sauver Devika avant qu'il ne soit trop tard. Je voulais précipiter les choses comme si dirait que mon instinct m'avertissait que le temps jouait contre moi et que si je ne parvenais pas à découvrir à temps les mystères qui planaient au dessus de toute cette affaire, mes démarches ne seraient qu'un échec. Entre temps Joseph avait examiné soigneusement sur la carte les chemins que nous devrions parcourir pour atteindre Door Desh. Il m'avait ensuite expliqué en détail la manière dont nous comptions border ce voyage et les risques que nous pouvions courir en cours de route. Il attachait beaucoup d'importance sur le fait que je sois informée des principaux obstacles que nous pouvions rencontrer.

J'étais allée faire la connaissance de Seth Gopalsingh la veille de notre départ. Joseph lui avait parlé de notre voyage et il pourrait nous trouver le guide que nous cherchions. Seth Gopalsingh était originaire de Bengale. Auparavant il gagnait sa vie en parcourant le pays avec un panier de serpents et une flûte. Il s'installait dans les quartiers populeux et commençait à charmer les serpents dès le matin jusqu'au soir. Les touristes qui passaient, lui lançaient des pièces de monnaie. Il gagnait beaucoup d'argent et provoqua aussi la colère de ses rivaux. Il faillit trouver la mort quand il fût une fois mordu par un serpent venimeux dissimulé sous son drap. Sa femme appelait vite au secours et les voisins accoururent pour le sauver. Il avait compris donc depuis ce jour combien il était méprisé. Il avait économisé suffisamment d'argent pour s'acheter un lopin de terre et construire sa maison. Il pratiquait plusieurs métiers avant de monter sa propre compagnie de déménagement, d'excursion et de voyage organisé. Il me fit visiter son entrepôt construit derrière sa maison et dans lequel entre autre je pouvais voir des pelles, des piques, des pioches, des serpes, des faucilles, des prélarts et une grande quantité d'instruments aratoires rangés convenablement. Notre guide qui nous fut présenté le jour même s'appelait Dheeraj et son assistant Jay.

Nous étions réunis dans la chambre de mon hôtel tôt le matin que nous devrions partir. Nous voulions voir une dernière fois ensemble la façon dont nous comptions aborder l'expédition. Quand toutes les questions étaient réglées et que rien n'avait été laissé au hasard nous nous installions dans une vieille camionnette dont le caisson était encombrée des bagages et de tous les attirails nécessaires pour le voyage. En traversant certains villages nous étions attardés par des attroupements et des désordres dans les rues. Les Musulmans et les Indous s'affrontaient pour les offenses d'ordre religieux causées les uns aux autres. Nous aurions dû contourner les villes pour poursuivre notre chemin dans la direction de la vallée du Gange. Je fus particulièrement éblouie par la beauté des paysages qui défilaient devant moi. À aucun moment je n'avais voulu détacher mes regards des étendues de terres qui semblaient exercer sur moi des étranges fascinations. Je repérais des vieux monastères tombés en ruines et essayais d'imaginer un peu l'histoire qui les avait réduits dans un tel état. Nous roulions pendant trois jours d'affilé sur des routes en corniche et couchions les soirs, moi sur la banquette avant de la camionnette et les autres en bordure de route dans des sacs de couchage. Ensuite nous traversions des plaines par des chemins carrossables et poussiéreux. Je supportais mal les secousses. Au bout de cinq jours en atteignant les rivages du Gange nous étions obligés de border la camionnette dans un coin et de poursuivre notre route à pieds et à dos d'éléphant. Pendant la nuit nous avions allumé un feu de bivouac pour chasser les moustiques et pour effrayer les animaux. Je craignais les serpents et les scorpions. Du haut d'une colline où nous étions arrêtés pour nous reposer une fin d'après-midi je regardais les manœuvres d'un homme en bas dans les champs. Il avait une étrange façon de se déplacer et ne semblait guère être pressé de rentrer chez lui malgré que la nuit commence à tomber. Sa silhouette est restée imprégnée dans ma mémoire. Son histoire est une tragédie qui me fut contée au moment même où mes regards planaient au dessus de cette ferme. Des années auparavant un homme qui avait bu plus qu'il en fallait, roulait à vive allure dans son camion surchargé de marchandises par un temps affreux. Il percuta à plein fouet un paysan qui rentrait de son travail et le tua sur le coup. Une femme et dix enfants devaient garder le deuil pendant que son jugement passait au tribunal de la province. Il fut condamné à travailler jusqu'à sa mort pour nourrir cette famille. Il n'avait pas le droit de s'éloigner de son lieu de travail où il était considéré comme prisonnier. Des inspecteurs venaient le rendre visite régulièrement  pour s'assurer qu'il se trouvait bien dans les champs. Les enfants l'appelaient "oncle ennemi" et, trompant la vigilance de leur mère, allaient lui rejoindre dans les champs. Cette histoire m'intriguait beaucoup. J'essayais d'imaginer le sens qu'il donnait à la vie qu'il menait.

Dans le haut plateau le temps était couvert et menaçant. D'un moment à l'autre il pouvait commencer à pleuvoir. Le tonnerre grondait déjà quand nous décidions de nous abriter dans un vieux château longtemps tombé en ruines. Les murs étaient couverts des plantes grimpantes et des lichens. Nous avions pris refuge dans une vaste pièce avant que la pluie ne commençât à tomber. Le vent soufflait si fort que j'avais l'impression que le château allait s'effondrer. Les flammes des flambeaux suspendus aux murs vacillaient pendant toute la nuit. Le lendemain je me levais de grand matin. Je voulais visiter les moindres recoins du château comme pour découvrir les mystères cachés et les secrets. Je montais les escaliers en pierres pour m'introduire dans des pièces vastes et poussiéreuses. Des siècles auparavant un vaillant conquérant mongol envahit la région et entreprit la construction de cette forteresse. Il conquit avec l'aide de sa puissante armée les terres avoisinantes. Il repoussait plusieurs attaques des ennemis qui voulaient le chasser de son territoire. Ce mongol était un grand guerrier. Dans les champs de bataille il s'acharnait sur ses ennemis avec de telle fureur que ses hommes lui portaient de grands respects. Il était aimé et craint par ses hommes qui lui étaient d'un grand dévouement. Son désir était de préparer son unique fils pour prendre sa succession alors qu'il commençait déjà à entrer dans l'âge. Son fils l'accompagnait dans les champs de bataille et se battait à ses côtés. Les terres conquises étaient labourées et cultivées et les récoltes permettaient à nourrir tous ses hommes et enrichir la trésorerie. Les fêtes et les amusements embellissaient l'existence de ce peuple. Après les rudes travaux des champs, les hommes avaient de bonnes nourritures et des femmes. Les soirées étaient souvent animées par des spectacles de danses, exécutées par quelques belles femmes cultivées et pleines de grâce. Le grand mongol s'intéressait beaucoup au bien être de sa famille. La présence d'une jeune danseuse dont l'extraordinaire beauté avait conquis le cœur du jeune prince mongol, venait perturber quelque peu l'esprit tranquille du vieux mongol. Quelques personnes jalouses, lui avait mis la puce à l'oreille. Il surveillait lui-même son fils et eu confirmation de ce qu'il avait appris déjà. Cet état de choses rendait son existence difficile. Il ne pouvait accepter l'idée de voir son fils entretenir des rapports intimes avec une danseuse. La flamme qui embrasait le cœur du jeune homme mongol pouvait difficilement être éteinte par la colère et l'orgueil du vieux lion. La femme danseuse fut enfermée dans une prison et le prince était interdit de la voir. Indigné que son père ne veuille pas respecter son désir d'épouser cette femme, le fils quittait le château et formait sa propre armée pour ensuite déclarer la guerre contre son père. Son intention était d'aller délivrer la femme qu’il aimait. Le père et le fils s'affrontaient dans le champ de bataille. Le fils trouva la mort. Le père ne fut jamais consolé. En retournant au château, il fit ériger dans l'enceinte un tombeau dans lequel, la femme qui était responsable de cette tragédie, fut ensevelie,  attachée à un poteau. Le vieux mongol mourut aussi de chagrin. Mes regards planaient pendant longtemps au dessus de ce royaume réduit à jamais au silence.

Quand le soleil fit son apparition au milieu de la journée, nous réprimes la route. Après deux jours de parcours épuisant, nous approchions un petit village abandonné. Au delà de ce village, nous aperçûmes une maison en désuétude. Nous décidions de nous installer là-bas pour passer la nuit. Je dormais très mal le soir. Je fis des cauchemars qui me donnaient des frayeurs. Le lendemain alors que nous poursuivions notre route loin dans les plaines Dheeraj me racontait l'histoire qui se rapportait à la maison dans laquelle nous avions passé la nuit. Si je l’avais su avant, jamais je n'aurais accepté de demeurer une seule minute à l'intérieur. Selon la croyance des hindous, la vie n'est qu'un éternel recommencement. Les âmes retournent sur terre sous une autre forme, et dans un autre corps. Suraj était le fils d'un riche négociant de Bombay. Il eut des étranges visions quand il était encore bien jeune et affirmait à ses parents qu'il se souvenait de son existence antérieure dont certaines images lui revenaient à la mémoire. Il fit des descriptions exactes des lieux qu'il avait fréquentés et se rappelait également de la liaison qu'il entretenait avec une fille de son village et des problèmes qu'il avait rencontrés à cause de cet amour. Il racontait que dans cette autre vie qu'il avait la conviction d'avoir vécu ses parents qui étaient d'une caste supérieure, ne voulaient pas qu'il épousât la fille d'un pauvre paysan. Il avait pris la fuite avec elle et s'était réfugié dans la montagne. Son père le fit rechercher par ses hommes. Il n'avait aucune chance de s'échapper et il savait que sa bien-aimée serait battue à mort. Il décida d'avoir recours à la mort lui aussi. Mais avant de se jeter du haut d'une falaise, son bien aimé et lui-même avaient fait la promesse de se retrouver dans leur prochaine naissance dans ce petit village. Il fit tout son possible pour se rendre là-bas. Shanti l'attendait depuis longtemps déjà dans la maison où je venais de passer la nuit. Elle était vieille. Il était venu trop tard. Quand elle mourut, Suraj devint fou et terrorisa le village. Il mourut aussi peu après et les gens prétendaient que son âme hantait les régions. Certains avaient même entendu des voix plaintives dans le fond des bois; d'autres avaient aperçu au loin le spectre de Suraj qui passait et disparaissait dans le brouillard.

Nous atteignîmes Door Desh deux jours plus tard en début d'après-midi. C'était un petit village paisible situé au pied d'une colline. Des gens s'étaient regroupés dehors pour nous regarder passer. Notre arrivée était attendue et, avant même que nous nous renseignions auprès des gens de la maison où nous devrions nous rendre, une délégation nous attendait avec à la tête, une vieille femme qui devait être Dadima que Devika m'avait souvent parlé dans ses lettres. Elle m'avait appelée par mon nom et m'avait embrassée sur mes deux joues. Des larmes roulaient dans ses yeux quand elle me regardait. Je compris qu'elle devait faire preuve de grandes douleurs. Elle m'entraîna dans sa cabane pour prendre soin de moi, pour m'aider à me détendre et pour commencer à me raconter son histoire dans laquelle celle de Devika aussi était contée.

 

 

 

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A love of youth Chapter 12

21 Juin 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 
 

I discovered a different world when landing at Delhi airport. I felt lost among the crowd of busy people who hardly left me enough place to circulate. Obviously, after making my path in the human wave, I found a taxi in which I took place while sighing with relief. I had to bend over backwards for explaining to the driver where I wanted to go. He didn't understand a word of French. I crossed several areas that struck me by the disastrous aspects of the human nature. The streets of the village where I was going were so narrow and the circulation so dense that I preferred to pursue my way using other means of transportation to reach my destination before night falls. I climbed on a rickshaw and finally arrived in the area indicated on the telegram. It was the city of the poorhouse where the grinding poverty ruled everywhere. As soon as I put a foot on the ground, a crowd got around me begging while calling me “Sahiba, Sahiba.” Fortunately, a pujari who passed by there came to my rescue and disperse them. He wanted to know what a girl like me was doing in this area. He told me it was not prudent to put myself at risk in the streets like this. In truth, people milled about almost everywhere with a frightening appearance. The sidewalks were full of homeless that slept with their children in the arms all night long. The pujari hardly understood French, but I succeeded in discussing with him. I gave him the address where I had to go. He approached several people while we walked in the streets and took some directions that, I supposed, had to lead us to the address we were looking. Then when night began we were in front of an old crumbled home whose door was closed with a rusty padlock. It was my destination. I had to wait the following day to get the first information. Therefore that evening, I didn't have the choice but to find me a room in the center of the city. The pujari left me in the hands of an Indian youngster I could trust. His name was Soubash, the guide who would drive me to a hotel. I took place in his rickshaw and we crossed to at top speed several narrow streets before reaching my destination. It was an astonishing race that we made. I sighed of relief when reaching a dilapidated hotel situated in a noisy street. After dinner, I went to my room. From my window, I looked at a woman who was performing classical dances in a big room. Even when I was in my bed, I heard this music of Ravi Shankar that accompanied me until the morning.

The Indian Soubash came to see me to help me to find my friend Devika. The pujari had sent him to me because he knew the area very well since his very young age. He succeeded in exchanging some words in French. He was around forty years but appeared to be a lot more. He was married to a woman older than him and who had given him fifteen children, the oldest was not yet twenty years. He had never stopped working hard to feed his wife and children.

  He took me to a house situated in the suburb that was surrounded with a wall constructed probably long ago by the former inhabitants to protect themselves against the flooding. The house was constructed with bamboos and the gaps were stopped up with cowpats and whitewashed. The roof was covered with straws and foliage. Pieces of decayed metal sheet, surely collected in rubbish helped to hide the openings that could harm in the rainy time. The courtyard was big enough to allow the children to play during the day. They preferred to regroup under the soft shadow of the trees. The sun was burning and spread a torrid heat. Some women were waiting around a well and talking loudly while looking at the fields where men were working. Some hens cackled on the left side of the courtyard and to the rear, far from the house, cows mooed in a cow-shed that gave off a sickening smell. The other houses were far and hidden behind the clump. Soubash’s wife welcomed me and got me into a bare but clean room. It was the only appropriate place to receive me. A bed was at the bottom, next to the window. She invited me to sit. I was just installed that some children entered the house to admire me. They spoke together while looking at me and bursting out laughing. Soubash chased them away and said they thought I looked like an actress they knew. Soubash’s wife was called Shanti. She brought me a cup of very hot tea and sat next to me to chat. But she didn't understand a word of French. Her friends had come to see her to inquire who I was. My presence had excited their curiosity. Shanti knew that I was searching for a friend who was in danger. She explained the women while dragging them in the room. I stayed all alone to think about the kind of life that women led in this region. They seemed satisfied and maybe a little overcome by hard and exhausting work. Shanti seemed older than she was. Soubash had asked me to wait for him while he went to see a friend. Shanti made me visit the house. Portraits of Gods were hung up on the walls and in the corner there was a statue of Vishnu surrounded with the offerings and lamps. It was there that Shanti made her prayers every morning. I found no mirror. Shanti hardly worried about her beauty. The worries of life didn't allow her to take care of herself. She couldn’t afford fantasies. The children wore dirty and torn up clothes. They played all day in the dust. The women used to go to the river to wash the dirty linen.  It was a joy for the children to accompany the groups of women that walked along the trails, the bags on their head. The region was never sure. The louts, the thieves, people without scruples, those hunted by the society hid somewhere in nature to attack the weak. They wounded and killed men and raped women and girls. The justice was made by force by a fighting between adversaries. The strongest always defined the laws.

All the seasons were not good for the inhabitants. The scourges that disrupted the existence of people were the monsoon, the flooding and the drought. It was not the only enemies of the population. The epidemics, the illnesses, the conflicts between communities killed a great number of people. But people still walked in the streets. The beggars pestered the tourists. Since the rising of the day, people have gone out every corner to occupy the smallest free place. This wave of people in continuous movement was frightening. If rushing into it, we had no luck to escape. All kinds of people were living in the middle of this tumult. The pickpocketers, the drug dealers, the criminals the justice could never lay a hand on the swindlers, the highwaymen, the impostors, all those who search for a way or another to live off the others. Only those who knew the risks and the dangers never exposed themselves to it. Among them of course are the big traders, the rich, and the famous and distinguished people.

After having drunk a cup of tea, I decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood. Whereas I walked on a potholed trail, accompanied by the children who got used to me, I saw a hut hidden behind a grove. While approaching it, I heard the voices of the children who were repeating what their professor taught them. I got round the stone wall where I saw some children were sitting on the floor in the shadow of the hundred-years-old trees. It was their school.

The professor was old and wore white mustaches. His head was covered with a white turban. He wore a djellaba, a dark gray overcoat and a dhoti. His face was tanned; his eyes expressed tiredness. When seeing me, he hurried to me. He knew I was a stranger and wanted to talk to me in English. He didn't understand a word of French. My English was bad. It was with a lot of sadness and regret that we separated.

The heat was oppressive. To escape the ardor of the sun, I entered a narrow trail to take advantage of the shadow projected by the big trees. I noticed several huts in which many people were living. I was surprised with the condition of life of these people. They had no perspective for the future. I wondered if it was really the country where Devika came to live. But when you are happy, no matter where you live, it is a paradise. You just have to accept the life with an open heart and satisfy yourself with the few pleasures you get from it. In any case, everybody is used to his world. It would be useless for me to feel sorry for the others. Their existence could be better than mine in a certain way.

The children came to announce me that their father was back. I quickly returned to the house. Soubash was there in the company of a man from Pondichéry who spoke French very well. He was called Joseph because it was said that he had been sold by his brothers. A short time ago he came to live with his aunt who took care of him. His great-grandfather was a slave from Africa who died of a heart attack when he learned that slavery was abolished. His children were sold and went to serve families in other countries. Those who stayed could never take advantage of their freedom. The colonists always continued to exploit the workers. The proletariat replaced the word “slavery” and the exploitation of the human energy continued with more discretion. The laws promulgated for the protection of workers, the decrees were procedures that a lot of colonists ignored. They run their empire their own way before the union representatives came to make some problems. The generations followed each other until the rich became even richer and the poor even poorer. When Joseph was still living in Pondichéri with his disabled father, his mother was sick; his brothers and sisters were still young; he had kept an indelible memory of this period of which he spoke to me as we sat in a cart that took us to the village.

"I had three older brothers," he said, "I had to accompany them to Europe. When arriving on the embankment, they left me to the care of Arabs and told me that I had to follow them. Then they go through immigration and went up the stairs of the big ship. I looked at them while imagining that I had to join them. The two Arabs caught me by the arms and took me to a car. I knew that my brothers had sold me and had snapped up the money to pay for their tickets. In the evening, whereas we were laid down in a clearing and that the fire of the bivouac was lit to frighten animals, I escaped. I hid in the bush and continued my way in the woods. After several days of hooky, like me and are as ignorant as I am.

During the summer, when we regrouped outside in the oppressive heat of the night, we looked like a tribe of Africa. Our faces gleamed at the gleam of a bivouac fire we lit to hunt the mosquitoes. The neighbors came to join us and keep company until late. The children played and made a din. The adults spoke about the gossips of the city. I slept out on a straw mattress. I wasted time in deep reflections. I saw my dark future. I had no education and couldn’t do much.

I was very young and was around sixteen years when, while turning home one afternoon I found my mother in tears. I wanted to know why she was in such a state. She told me that my father had been knocked down by a bus and was seriously wounded. Not only he lost his leg in this accident, he also lost his tiny salary that a dishonest and unscrupulous person had surely stolen.

We stayed two days without eating. It left in my mind a strange feeling that accompanied me all my life. My brothers and my sisters cried and uttered screams because they were hungry. It was hard for me to support all this. I decided to leave the house and to return only with the hands full of food. I knocked at doors and went through the streets to search for a job. No one wanted me. My disappointment was big. I was exhausted when the night fell. I implored the Lord to help me and to save my family from sufferings. I leaned against the electricity pole before taking the road, staggering. I walked on the bumpy path, passing sometimes under the reflectors where people had regrouped to speak. I went along the boulevards, hugged the walls of the big buildings thinking about my brothers and sisters who certainly were waiting for me.

When I went through a badly lit area, I heard some hens cackling; I had the awful thought to steal them and bring them home. In a leap I was on the other side of the wall. I held in my hands two very fat hens. I found the course pretty long and even heard voices shouting, “Thief, thief”. My imagination played tricks with me. My night escapades gave me the opportunity to trespass. I burglarized some shops and stole rich people break-in their home as they were absent.

"The very ill-gotten never prosper”. The misfortune came three years later. I was in a district faraway when the bad weather started. There was a strong wind; there were no means to go back home. It was a cyclone that lasted all night long and all day. The country had undergone big damages. The roads were cut; the sills were flooded, the bridges were taken away, hundreds of houses were destroyed; many people died. My parents, brothers and sisters were the victim of this curse. I stayed all alone in the pain. My aunt came one week later in housing." Joseph promised himself not to do a dishonest work again even it was necessary he should starve. Prakash had met it once in the city; he was running after three persons who had stolen his bag. They became good friends.

Since he came to live with his aunt, Joseph felt uncomfortable. He wanted to contribute to the expenses of the house. His uncle had an important position in the administration. The supports he had brought to Mahatma Gandhi before the proclamation of the independence had allowed him to assume high functions he held with compunction and ability. He owned a wonderful colonial house abandoned by the English during the revolt of the cipayes.

Although he was appreciated and was considered by his aunt Irène and his uncle Daram, Joseph preferred to escape the comfort, the security, the insurance that this big home offered him. He went to an area faraway to contemplate from the top of a promontory the vast and immense landscape that spread in front of him. He often admired the tourists who left the inland on the elephants back. It was there that he had the idea to serve the visitors who had the pockets full of money. He could earn his life easily since he knew the region well as he had travelled all over it several times. He often went to the airport to approach foreigners in order to propose his services. He gained the reputation to be one of the best guides thanks to his way he faced the adventures that waited for him every time an agreement was concluded with his customers. He took his new companions in most squalid places to the most fantastic palace. The adventures they lived thanks to their guide marveled them so much that when they left they offered him gifts and gave him a lot of money.

His imagination made him discover the existence of a different and better world far from what he had known. His constant contacts with the tourists allowed him to increase his knowledge and to excite his curiosity. He knew very little from his country. He did once a journey to Calcutta to accompany his aunt to a funeral. This journey in a train jammed with passengers had left him a memory he could not forget.

Joseph had many important problems. In the house where he was living, his cousins were jealous of him. He had his own room and was well considered by his aunt and uncle. So to forget the affronts of his cousins, he preferred to stay a long time outside of the house. He went home very late in the evening. His aunt worried for him. She feared a misfortune might happen to him. His uncle was absorbed in his business to notice it. Joseph had the recognition and gratitude of his uncle; his aunt worked hard for his well-being. He didn’t want to deceive them or hurt them. But he understood that his presence wasted the harmony in the house. He didn't want to destroy the feelings that united a mother and his sons. He knew that he was amiss.

One day he decided to go to live in an old hut at the extremity of the village. The former tenant, an old Muslim priest, had died there in awful conditions. No one wanted to live there. Joseph was afraid of nothing, was not superstitious and was in good term with everybody. He had heard that some Evil spirits were living in the cabin. The neighbors told stories that made hairs stand up.

Joseph used to interfere in arguments between Muslim and Hindu without taking up the cause of one or another. He always lined up with the weakest to defend them. He was respected because of his sense of justice and for his dexterity to fight body to body. Once he fought alone against five well-known criminals who terrorized the villagers. He had learned the art of fighting from an old Chinese master who was living in the mountain.

 

Prakash was happy to see us talk. I was proud to have been able to find someone to speak. We crossed several narrow and crowded streets before reaching our destination. Devika had left a message to an old pundit. I went to Door-Desh, a village lost in the heart of India and difficult to reach.

Lire la suite

Un amour de jeunesse Chapitre 12

21 Juin 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

 

A la recherche de Devika.

 

C'était un monde différent que je découvris en débarquant à l'aéroport de Delhi. Je me sentais perdue parmi une foule de gens affairés qui me laissait à peine la place pour circuler. De toute évidence, après avoir frayé un chemin dans la vague humaine je parvenais à trouver un taxi dans lequel je prenais place en poussant un grand soupir de soulagement. J'aurais dû déployer tout mon art pour expliquer au chauffeur l'endroit où je voulais me rendre. Il ne comprenait pas du tout le Français. Je traversais plusieurs régions qui me choquaient par les aspects désastreux de la nature humaine. Les rues du village où je me rendais étaient si étroites et la circulation si dense que j'avais préfère poursuivre ma route en utilisant d'autres moyens de transport pour atteindre ma destination avant la tombée de la nuit. Je grimpais dans un rickshaw et parvenais à me trouver dans le quartier indiqué dans le télégramme. C'était la cité des pauvres où la misère noire régnait dans tous les coins. Aussitôt que j'avais mis les pieds à terre une foule de gens se mettait autour de moi pour me demander l'aumône en m'appelant Sahiba, Sahiba. Heureusement un pujari qui passait par là venait à mon secours en les dispersant. Il voulait savoir ce qu'une fille comme moi faisait dans le quartier. Il m'avouait que ce n'était pas prudente de ma part de m'exposer dans les rues de cette manière. En vérité des gens grouillaient un peu partout avec une apparence à faire peur. Les trottoirs étaient occupés par des personnes sans abris qui dormaient avec leurs enfants dans les bras pendant toute la nuit. Le pujari comprenait difficilement le français mais je parvenais quand même à livrer conversation avec lui. Je lui donnais l'adresse où je devais me rendre. Il approchait plusieurs personnes pendant que nous marchions dans les rues et prenait des directions qui, je supposais, devaient nous mener à l'adresse que nous cherchions. En fin de compte quand il commençait à faire nuit nous nous trouvions devant une vieille demeure en décrépitude dont la porte était fermée avec un cadenas rouillé. C'était là ma destination. Je devais attendre jusqu'au lendemain matin pour obtenir le moindre renseignement. Donc ce soir là je n'avais pas d'autre choix que de me trouver un logis au centre ville. Le pujari me mit entre les mains d'un jeune indien auquel, me dit-il, je pourrais faire confiance. Il s'appelait Soubash et devait me servir de guide pour me conduire dans un hôtel. Je pris place dans son rickshaw et nous traversions à une allure folle plusieurs rues étroites avant d'atteindre ma destination. C'était une course époustouflante que nous avions faite. Je poussai un soupir de soulagement en me retrouvant devant un hôtel délabré situé dans une rue bruyante. Après le dîner je montais dans ma chambre. De ma fenêtre je regardais une femme exécuter des danses classiques dans une grande salle d'en face. Même quand je me trouvais dans mon lit j'entendais cette musique de cathare qui m'accompagnait jusqu'au matin.

L'indien Soubash était venu me voir pour m'aider à retrouver mon amie Devika. Le pujari lui avait envoyé vers moi parce qu'il connaissait bien le quartier où il opérait depuis son très jeune âge. Il parvenait de plus à échanger quelques mots en français. Il était âgé d'une quarantaine d'années mais en paraissait beaucoup plus. Il était marié à une femme qui pouvait avoir deux fois son âge et qui lui avait donné quinze enfants dont le plus grand n'avait pas plus de vingt ans. Il n'avait jamais cessé de travailler dure pour nourrir sa femme et ses enfants. Il m'avait emmenée chez lui dans une maison située dans le faubourg et entourée d'un mur construit depuis bien longtemps par les anciens habitants probablement pour se protéger contre les inondations. La maison était construite avec des bambous dont les fentes étaient calfeutrées par des bouses de vache et badigeonnées à la chaux. Le toit était couvert de pailles et de feuillages. Des morceaux de tôles pourries, ramassées assurément dans des dépôts d'ordures aidaient à camoufler les ouvertures qui pouvaient nuire au temps pluvieux. La cour était suffisamment grande pour permettre aux enfants de jouer pendant toute la journée. Ils préféraient se regrouper sous l'ombre douce des arbres. Le soleil était cuisant et répandait une chaleur torride. Quelques femmes attendaient autour d'un puits et papotaient bruyamment en tournant leur regard dans la direction des champs où des hommes travaillaient. Des poules caquetaient dans des poulaillers rangés sur le côté gauche de la cour et à l'arrière, loin de la maison, des vaches beuglaient dans une écurie qui répandait une odeur nauséabonde. Les autres maisons étaient assez loin et se cachaient derrière les bosquets. La femme de Soubash était venue m'accueillir et m'avait introduite dans une pièce dégarnie mais propre. C'était je suppose le seul endroit convenable pour me recevoir. Un lit se trouvait au fond tout près de la fenêtre. Je fus invitée à m'assoir dessus. A peine je fus installée que des enfants entraient dans la maison pour me porter une grande admiration. Ils parlaient entre eux mêmes en continuant à me regarder et en pouffant de rire. Soubash les chassait et dit qu'elles me trouvaient comme une actrice de cinéma dont elles avaient le portrait. La femme de Soubash s'appelait Shanti. Elle m'avait apporté une tasse de thé bien chaud et s'était installée à côté de moi comme pour me livrer conversation. Mais elle ne comprenait pas du tout le français. Ses amies étaient venues la voir pour s'informer qui j'étais. Ma présence avait incité leur curiosité. Shanti savait que j'étais à la recherche d'une amie qui courait un grand danger. Elle était allée leur expliquer cela en les entraînant dans la chambre à côté. Je demeurais toute seule à réfléchir sur le genre de vie que les femmes menaient dans une région pareille. Elles me semblaient satisfaites et peut-être un peu écrasées par des travaux durs et exténuants. Shanti elle même donnait l'air bien plus âgé qu'elle ne l'était. Soubash m'avait demandée de l'attendre pendant qu'il était allé voir un ami. Shanti me fit visiter la maison. Des portraits des dieux étaient suspendus aux murs et dans le coin se trouvait la statue de Dieu Vishnou entourée des offrandes et des lampes. C'était là que Shanti faisait ses prières tous les matins. Je ne trouvais pas de miroir. Shanti ne se souciait guère de sa beauté. Et puis les soucis de la vie ne la permettaient pas de prendre soin d'elle même. Ensuite pour faire des fantaisies elle devait avoir des moyens. Les enfants portaient des vêtements sales et déchirés. Ils jouaient toute la journée dans la poussière. Les femmes avaient l'habitude de se rendre une fois la semaine à la rivière pour laver les linges. Pour les enfants c'était une joie d'accompagner les groupes de femmes qui défilaient dans les sentiers, les ballots sur la tête. La région n'était jamais certaine. Des voyous, des voleurs, des personnes sans scrupules, ceux qui étaient chassés de la société se cachaient quelque part dans la nature pour s'attaquer aux faibles. Ils blessaient et tuaient les hommes et violaient les femmes et les jeunes filles. La justice se faisait par une épreuve de force entre adversaires. C'était toujours les plus forts qui établissaient les lois.

Toutes les saisons n'étaient pas bonnes pour les habitants. Les fléaux qui venaient souvent perturber l'existence des gens étaient la mousson, les inondations, et la sécheresse. Ce n'était pas les seuls ennemis de la population. Les épidémies, les maladies, les conflits intérieurs entre communautés emportaient également une forte proportion de la population. Ce n'était pas pour cela que les gens ne grouillaient pas dans les rues. Les mendiants poursuivaient par essaim les touristes. Depuis le lever du jour des gens sortaient de tous les recoins pour parcourir les rues de manière à ne pas laisser la moindre petite place libre. Cette vague des gens en mouvement permanent était effrayante. En nous engouffrant à l'intérieur nous avions peu de chance d'en sortir vivant. Toute sorte de personnes opérait au milieu de ce tumulte. Des pickpockets, des trafiquants de drogue, des criminels que la justice n'avait jamais pu mettre la main dessus, des escrocs, des voleurs de grands chemins, des imposteurs, enfin tous ceux que d'une manière ou d'une autre cherchent à gagner leur vie aux dépens d’autres sont présents. Seuls ceux qui connaissent les risques et les dangers ne s'y aventurent jamais. Parmi eux se trouvent bien entendu les grands négociants, les riches, et les personnes illustres et distinguées.

Après avoir bu le thé, je décidais d'aller faire un tour dans les environs. Alors que je marchais dans un sentier défoncé, accompagnée des enfants qui commençaient à s'habituer à moi, j'aperçus une case cachée derrière un bosquet. En l'approchant, j'entendis les voix des enfants qui répétaient ce que leur professeur leur lisait. Quand je contournais le mur en pierre je vis des enfants assis par terre sous l'ombre des arbres centenaires. C'était leur école.

Le professeur était vieux et avait des moustaches blanches. Sa tête était couverte d'un turban blanc. Il portait un jaleba, un paletot gris foncé et un dhoti. Son visage était tanné et ses yeux exprimaient la fatigue. En m'apercevant il s'était précipité dans ma direction. Il avait deviné que j'étais une étrangère et avait voulu me livrer conversation en anglais. Il ne comprenait pas du tout le français. J'étais nulle en anglais. C'était avec beaucoup de tristesse et de regret que nous nous séparions.

La chaleur était accablante. Pour éviter l'ardeur du soleil je m'engageais dans des étroits sentiers en passant dans l'ombre que projetaient des grands arbres. Je remarquais plusieurs cases dans lesquelles habitaient nombreuses personnes. Je m'étonnais devant la condition de vie de ces gens. Ils n'avaient aucune perspective d'avenir devant eux. Je me demandais si c'était bien ça le pays où Devika était venue vivre. Enfin quand on est heureux n'importe quel coin du monde est un paradis. Il suffit tout simplement d'accepter la vie de grand cœur et de se contenter de ce peu de plaisir qu'elle nous procure. De toute manière chacun est habitué dans son univers. Ce serait inutile pour moi de déplorer le sort des autres. À bien voir leur existence pourrait être dans un sens meilleur que la mienne.

Les enfants étaient venus m'annoncer que leur père était de retour. Je prenais la direction de la maison sans perdre un instant. Soubash était là en compagnie d'un pondichérien qui parlait bien le français. Il s'appelait Joseph parce que, parait-il, il avait été vendu par ses frères. Peu de temps de cela il était venu habiter chez sa tante qui prenait soin de lui. Son arrière grand-père était un esclave d'Afrique qui mourut d'un arrêt cardiaque quand il apprit que l'esclavage était aboli. Ses enfants étaient vendus et partis pour servir les familles dans des autres pays. Ceux qui étaient restés n'avaient jamais pu profiter de leur liberté. Les colons continuaient toujours à exploiter les travailleurs. Le prolétariat venait remplacer le terme esclavage et l'exploitation de l'énergie humaine continuait avec plus de discrétion. Les lois promulguées pour la protection des travailleurs, les décrets étaient des formalités que beaucoup des colons ignoraient. Ils gouvernaient leur empire à leur façon avant que les délégués des syndicats ne viennent leur faire des ennuis. Les générations se succédaient ainsi jusqu'à ce que les riches deviennent encore plus riches et les pauvres encore plus pauvres. Quand Joseph vivait encore à Pondichéry avec son père invalide, sa mère malade et ses frères et sœurs il avait gardé un souvenir indélébile de ce temps dont il allait me raconter quand nous nous installions dans une charrette qui devait nous emmener au village.

« J'avais trois frères plus grands que moi, racontait-il, je devais les accompagner pour aller en Europe. En arrivant sur le quai ils m'avaient confié à des arabes et m'avaient dit que je devais les suivre. Ensuite ils avaient passé l'immigration et avaient monté les escaliers du grand navire. Je les regardais en imaginant que je devais les rejoindre. Les deux arabes m'avaient attrapé par les bras et m'avaient conduit dans une voiture. Je savais que mes frères m'avaient vendu et avaient empoché l'argent qu'ils avaient assurément utilisé pour payer leurs billets. Le soir, alors que nous étions couchés dans une clairière et qu'un feu de bivouac était allumé pour effrayer les animaux, je réussis à me sauver. Je me cachais dans la brousse et poursuivais ma route dans les bois. Après plusieurs jours de marche épuisante je m’engageais dans un sentier qui débouchait sur la route principale. Tôt le matin, un camion citerne qui allait distribuer l’eau dans les environs de mon village me permettait de gagner ma maison sans problème. Je pleurais pendant longtemps le vilain tour que mes frères m’avaient joué. J’ai toujours chercher d’effacer de ma mémoire cet épisode de ma vie qui m’a beaucoup marqué. Je me résignais à l’accepter me disant que le Seigneur avait voulu que ce soit ainsi. Je demeurais à la maison, sans travail. Comme moi des milliers de chômeurs attendaient un travail, bien sû avec une patience qui n’avait pas de bornes. Je ne considérais pas mon cas comme particulier, sachant que la vie des chômeurs est généralement identique. Mais je dois toutefois avouer que j’avais besoin d’avoir une bonne morale pour trouver mon équilibre dans la vie courante. Je ne connaissais pas de fatigue, n’avais aucune responsabilité à assumer, me réveillais sans pouvoir déterminer de quelle manière j’allais pouvoir passer ma journée. Imaginez un peu ce que je pouvais représenter avec mes parents, mes frères et mes sœurs, nous étions dix en tout, dans la banlieue, entassés dans deux minuscules pièces au fond d’une cité en dépravation, une région qui n’avait rien d’attrayante. Est-il nécessaire que je vous parle de la vie désagréable qu’une famille se trouvant au bord de la famine menait dans ce petit coin retiré ? Vous n’entendrez que des histoires de souffrances, de misères et d’interminables conflits. Je n’ai pas grand-chose à raconter des premières années de mon adolescence. Je me souviens très bien que je n’aimais pas aller à l’école et que j’ai une éducation médiocre. Je suis le quatrième de la famille ; mes trois frères sont partis sans plus jamais donner de leurs nouvelles. Les six qui me précèdent n’ont pu que suivre mon exemple. Ils ont fait de l'école buissonnière comme moi d'ailleurs et sont aussi ignorants que je le suis.

En été quand nous nous regroupions dehors dans la chaleur accablante de la nuit, nous ressemblions à une tribu d'Afrique. Nos visages luisaient sous la lueur d'un feu de bivouac que nous avions fait pour chasser les moustiques. Les voisins venaient nous rejoindre et nous tenir compagnie jusqu'à fort tard. Les enfants jouaient et faisaient des tintamarres. Les grandes personnes parlaient de tous les potins de la ville. Je dormais à la belle étoile sur ma paillasse. Je me perdais des fois dans une profonde réflexion. Je voyais mon avenir sombre. Je n'avais pas d'éducation et ne savais pas faire grand chose.

J'étais encore bien jeune et pouvais avoir encore seize ans quand, en rentrant à la maison un après-midi je trouvais ma mère qui pleurait. Je voulais savoir ce qui l'avait mis dans un tel état. Elle m'apprit que mon père avait été renversé par un autobus et était gravement blessé. Il perdit dans cet accident non seulement sa jambe mais aussi son maigre salaire de fin de semaine qu'une personne sans scrupule et malhonnête avait assurément volé.

Nous demeurions deux jours sans manger. Cela avait laissé sur mon état d'esprit une étrange impression qui m'accompagne tout le long de ma vie. Mes frères et mes sœurs pleuraient et poussaient de cris parce qu'ils avaient faim. C'était pénible pour moi de supporter tout cela. Je résolus de quitter la maison ce jour là pour ne retourner qu'avec les mains pleines de nourritures. Je me   présentais devant toutes les portes et passais dans toutes les rues pour chercher du travail. Personne ne voulait de moi. Ma déception fut grande. J'étais exténué quand la nuit tombait. J'implorais le Seigneur de m'aider et d'épargner ma famille de souffrances. Je m'appuyais contre le poteau d'électricité avant de reprendre la route en titubant. J'avançais dans le chemin défoncé, passant des fois sous les réverbères où des gens s'étaient regroupés pour parler. Je longeais les routes des boulevards, rasais les murs des grands bâtiments en pensant à mes frères et sœurs qui attendaient mon retour certainement.

Quand je passais dans un quartier mal éclairé j'entendis quelques poules caqueter et j'eus l'effroyable pensée de les voler et les apporter à la maison. D'un seul bond je me trouvais de l'autre côté du mur. Je tenais dans mes mains deux poules bien grasses en parcourant les rues. Je trouvais le parcours long et entendis même dans le lointain des voix m'accusant de voleur. Mon imagination me jouait des tours. Mes escapades nocturnes me donnaient l'occasion de commettre d'autres délits. Je cambriolais des boutiques et volais des gens riches en pénétrant par effraction chez eux pendant leur absence.

« Le bien mal acquis ne prospère jamais. » Le malheur était venu me frapper trois années de cela. Je me trouvais dans un lointain quartier quand un mauvais temps se déclarait. Le vent avait commencé à souffler si fort qu'il n'y avait aucun moyen de rentrer à la maison. C'était un cyclone qui durait pendant toute la nuit et toute la journée. Le pays avait subi à des grands dégâts. Les routes étaient coupées, les radiers submergés, les ponts emportés, des centaines de maisons détruites et de nombreuses personnes mortes ou disparues. Mes parents, toute ma famille étaient victimes de ce fléau. Je demeurais tout seul dans la douleur. Ma tante était venue me trouver une semaine plus tard dans un centre d'hébergement". Joseph s'était juré de ne plus jamais faire un travail malhonnête même s'il fallait qu'il crève de faim. Prakash l'avait rencontré une fois dans la ville alors qu'il poursuivait trois moribonds qui lui avaient volé son sac. Ils étaient devenus dès lors des bons amis.

Depuis qu'il était venu habiter chez sa tante Joseph se sentait gêne. Il voulait apporter sa contribution pour les dépenses de la maison. Son oncle occupait une place importante dans l'administration. Les soutiens qu'il avait apportés à Mahatma Gandhi avant la proclamation de l'indépendance lui avaient valu de grands mérites qui lui avaient permis d'accéder à des hautes fonctions qu'il assumait d'ailleurs avec componction et habilité. Il occupait une superbe maison coloniale délaissée par les anglais lors de la révolte des cipayes.

Bien qu'il était aimé et considéré par sa tante Irène et son oncle Daram Joseph préférait fuir le confort, la sécurité, l'assurance que lui offrait cette grande demeure. Il se rendait dans de lointain quartier pour contempler du haut d'un promontoire le paysage vaste et immense qui s'étendait devant lui. Il admirait bien souvent les touristes qui partaient à l'intérieur du pays sur les dos d'éléphants. C'était là que lui venait l'idée de se mettre au service des visiteurs qui avaient les poches remplies d'argent. Il pouvait facilement gagner sa vie étant donné qu'il connaissait bien la région pour l'avoir parcourue en plusieurs occasions. Il se rendait donc souvent à l'aéroport pour approcher les étrangers afin de proposer ses services. Il avait acquis la réputation d'être parmi les meilleurs guides par sa façon d'aborder les multiples aventures qui l'attendaient à chaque fois qu'un accord était conclu entres ses clients et lui­ même. Il entraînait ses nouveaux compagnons dans des lieux les plus sordides jusqu'aux palais les plus fantastiques. Les aventures qu'il les fit vivre les émerveillaient de telle manière qu'en se séparant de lui ils lui remplirent des cadeaux et lui donnaient beaucoup d'argent.

Son imagination lui faisait découvrir l'existence d'un monde différent et meilleur de ce qu'il avait connu. Ses contacts constants avec les étrangers lui permirent d'augmenter ses connaissances et d'inciter sa curiosité. Il connaissait lui même très peu son pays. Une seule fois il avait effectué un voyage jusqu'à Calcutta pour accompagner sa tante à un enterrement. Ce voyage par le train bondé des passagers lui avait laissé des souvenirs qu'il ne pouvait oublier.

Joseph avait des problèmes plus importants. Dans la maison où il vivait ses cousins étaient jaloux de lui. Il occupait une chambre personnelle et bénéficiait des égards de sa tante et de son oncle. Pour ne pas avoir besoin de supporter des affronts que lui faisaient ses cousins il préférait demeurer longtemps en dehors de la maison. Il rentrait très tard le soir. Sa tante faisait du souci pour lui. Elle craignait qu'il ne lui arrivât malheur. Son oncle était trop absorbé dans ses affaires pour remarquer cela. Joseph avait de la reconnaissance et des gratitudes envers son oncle, sa tante qui se donnait de la peine pour son bien être. Il ne voulait pas les déplaire ni les blesser dans les sentiments. Mais il avait compris que sa présence gâchait l'harmonie qui devait normalement régner dans la maison. Il ne désirait pas mettre en épreuve les sentiments qui unissaient une mère et ses fils. Il savait qu'il était de trop.

Un jour il décida d'aller habiter une vieille cabane abandonnée à l'extrémité du village. L'ancien locataire, un vieux prêtre musulman, y avait trouvé la mort dans des conditions effroyables. Personne ne désirait l'habiter. Joseph n'avait peur de rien, n'était pas superstitieux et était en bon terme avec tous les gens. Il avait pourtant entendu dire que des mauvais esprits habitaient la cabane. Les voisins venaient lui raconter des histoires à faire dresser les cheveux.

Joseph avait l'habitude d'interférer dans des disputes entre musulmans et hindous sans jamais prendre les faits et causes des uns et des autres. Il se rangeait toujours du côté des plus faibles pour les défendre. Il était respecté par son sens de justice et pour ses adresses dans le combat corps à corps. Une fois il luttait tout seul contre cinq malfaiteurs notoires qui terrorisaient les villageois. Il avait appris l'art de combattre par un vieux maître chinois qui habitait dans la montagne.

Prakash était content de nous voir ainsi entamer conversation. J'étais moi même fière d'avoir pu trouver quelqu'un à qui parler. Nous traversions plusieurs rues étroites et bondées avant d'atteindre notre destination. Devika avait laissé un message à un vieux pandit. Je devais me rendre à Door-Desh, un village perdu dans le cœur de l'Inde et difficile à atteindre.

 

 

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A love of youth Chapter 11

14 Juin 2013 , Rédigé par Kader Rawat

A love of youth 
 

 

It was at the beginning of 1977, a year that started well for me. After an unforgettable Christmas with friends and a year’s party in joy and fun, Akbar and I boarded on a Boeing which landed thirteen hours later on the new airport in Gillot. Akbar was not informed of the real goal of this journey. I had spoken very little of my parents to him. But I had told him that we were going to visit my native island. He asked me lots of questions about myself. I was happy to answer to him and explain things in details.

I wondered about the transformations that I noted on the infrastructure of the island. The city of Saint-Denis that I left ten years ago had changed a lot. The housing estates that had been built everywhere in the free spaces had absorbed many families who lived in shanty towns. The streets were crammed of brand new vehicles from various origins. The stores were renovated and full of luxury goods. Numerous old buildings were rebuilt, fronts were refreshed, and walls painted. People wore dresses made by famous international dressmakers.

The city smelled like wealth and opulence. The taxi drove along Rue Maréchal Leclerc to allow me to admire the City. The streets were clean and the traffic was regulated by traffic lights. However, the heat was oppressive.We had left snowflakes in Paris and we were now under the ardent rays of the sun.

The taxi dropped us off in front of The Meridian hotel before midday.I took a shower, ate a very copious lunch, a typically Creole dish and spent the afternoon resting in my room. A strange sensation invaded me. Around five hours, when the sun began to decline behind Place of the Barachois, I sat next to the window to contemplate the sea that spread in front of me. Exhausted by the long journey, Akbar woke up a little later; I was ready. I changed his clothes and we left to go for a walk in the streets of the city. We went to Rue de Paris. We walked slowly on the sidewalk where we could take advantage of the shadow of the buildings that bordered the street. People went to the cathedral. The students left the academic center.We headed to the war memorial. Akbar brushed his fingers against the grids that surrounded the garden next to the Prefecture. While walking up this street in the direction of the State Garden, I planned to go along the home I left ten years ago in Rue Monseigneur de Beaumont. Some cars were waiting at the traffic lights. The motors were running in order to demonstrate the anxiety of the drivers to go back at home after a day at work. A lot of women were driving their car.Taxis were rare. There were not bicycles that blocked the circulation. On the other hand, some motorcycles often passed with infernal noises. As it was midway, the bell of the cathedral rang. Akbar was thirsty. There was no shop around. We went along the museum Léon Dierx. The long shadows of the buildings and the big trees announced the arrival of the night. We crossed the Rue de Paris and we took Rue Monseigneur de Beaumont. Many memories crossed my mind while I walked on the sidewalk, holding Akbar by the hand. I told him about some of my thoughts that reminded me marvelous moments I spent in this place. He listened to me and asked me questions I was pleased to answer.

My heart was beating faster when I approached the house of my parents. The old portal made of wood was replaced by another made of iron and gray sheet metal. The street was deserted. Some cars were parked on the left side. We stopped at the corner of Rue Jules Auber and waited for some instants. I hesitated before going to knock at the door of my parents. Akbar didn’t understand the situation. He wanted to cross the street. I saw a metropolitan youngster who left by the portal. He was coming in my direction. I seized the opportunity to ask him if he knew the owner of the house he just left. He was the son of the owner. His parents had bought the house from an Arabian family eight years ago as he was in high school.He knew nothing else and could not provide more information. He proposed me to meet his father if I wanted to know more. I accepted and thanked him infinitely. His father was an old man who received me in his living room. He was very talkative and put me at ease. He wanted to know what kind of relationship I had with Mr. Issopjee. I didn’t want to tell him the truth. I tell him that I was a remotely related niece and that when I was young, I had spent some days in the house. As I was a few days on the island, I wanted to say hello to the parents before leaving for France. He believed me and spoke to me about Mr. Issopjee. When he taught me that Mr. Issopjee had sold the house because he had lost his wife, I was shocked. I did not say a word anymore and went back to my hotel like a zombie. I cried all night long.

I decided to go to see my father in his workplace.I went to his office the following day early in the morning. When I presented in front of him, he could not believe his eyes. He was moved. He shed tears of joys while hugging me. I saw his deep pain. I could read it on his face. He picked Akbar up and took him in his arms.I shed tears because of the deep emotions that touched my heart. He insisted that I come home. While taking me home with my son, he told me that he had married another woman and wanted to introduce her to me. I met her a little bit later and found that she was pleasant. My father wanted me to come and settle home. There was some place for me and my son.The house was big. I would have the first floor and would not be disturbed. He could not accept the idea to see me staying in a hotel whereas his house had so many rooms. I didn't want to hurt him and accepted to go to live at home.

My father hid nothing of what happened since I had left.He informed me of the distress that had taken him and explain why he found no consolation after my mother's death. He had very few people to confide in and he had nobody to that to share his pains, and find relief. The comfort he received from friends was not sufficient to help him to overcome his sadness. For him it was the punishment he could never forget and he needed a lot of courage to fight in such a hard moment of his life. After losing me, the only person who remained, disappeared in an atrocious and brutal way, without he could use his power, nor his influences, nor fortune to solve the situation.

His relationship was limited to his professional activities. He never invited people at home and never received them when someone came to knock at his door. He became withdrawn and sedentary who had lost the joy of life. He looked at the existence with a total indifference. The fortune would not mean anything anymore for him and the popularity was the least thing of which he aspired.The deep pains caused by his wife's atrocious death were sensible during several months during which he took refuge in religion.

My intention was not to stay in Reunion for a long time.It was for this reason that I didn’t want to hide anything to my father. One Sunday afternoon, when we were at Plaine des Palmistes in a superb house my father had recently bought, I took my courage, and while being alone with him, I told him the story of my life.The summer is especially rainy in La Plaine. I liked the tropical climate a lot.It is what I missed in France. I liked the vagary of the weather and the shades of the nature. I was used to the cold weather and had experienced rough and hard climatic conditions. I felt an attraction and admiration for the cyclonic weather. It is very possible that the whistling of the wind and the raging of the nature had on me a certain fascination but I can stay a long time looking through the window at this strange phenomenon. I feared the damages caused by the passage of a violent cyclone; maybe it reminded me some bad memories. My father became attached to me; his behavior caused the jealousy in the heart of my stepmother who was cold with me. I could also hear the irritation in her voice and exasperation in her gestures. But I had not taken all this into consideration thinking that I may be imagining it.

My father was very thoughtful and listened to me with a certain admiration that made me understand that he really loved me. I was convinced that I probably reminded him my mother and that he saw in me the features of characters he didn't want to forget. He searched for my company as soon as he came back home.

I had the intention to spend on the island a month vacation to take advantage of the beach and rest if possible. But my father's presence changed all my projects in a way. I was certain I brought a lot of joy in his heart. Akbar was spoiled by the number of gifts he received during the few days he was on the island. I wanted to settle things with my father.I went to his office the day I had to travel. We talked for a long time during which he informed me of his business. He wished me to come back to live in Reunion. He promised me a furnished house and I would work as a sales manager in his company if I wanted to work. I explained him that I loved staying with him, that his proposition was really kind but that I had to go back to France. He made me promise to return as soon as possible. Now that he had met me again, he didn't want to be separated from me for a long time. He was afraid to lose me a second time.

My father and my stepmother dropped me in Gillot. When I said goodbye, he gave me an envelope he asked me to open later. I guessed that it was money. I didn’t wait a long time to open it. I was embarrassed and didn't want to accept this gift. He insisted, saying to me that I would need it to buy me what I wanted. I thanked him wholeheartedly while separating me from him, the eyes full of tears.

While returning to Paris, I received a telegram from Devika. She asked me to come to join her as soon as possible. She had serious problems. The address of the telegram didn't correspond to the one I usually sent my letters. I was concerned and all sorts of ideas went through my mind.I had not had news from her for several months. Her last letter dated at least six months before and had left no doubt on the happy life she led with her husband.What happened in the meantime? She was not informed of my journey to Réunion. I packed my luggage immediately and asked for a visa for India.

 

 

Because of the start of the school year for which Akbar had to get ready, I could not take him with me. I needed a lot of courage to accept to separate me so suddenly from him. I knew the ordeals that were waiting for me in India. I didn't want to put my child in danger in a succession of adventures that may not be pleasant for him. Akbar knew that I had a friend who was called Devika who lived in India. I used to speak of her and showed him the photos I sometimes received in my letters. I explained him that Devika had helped me a lot when I just arrived in the area and now that she was in trouble, it was my turn to help her. He was sad that he could not accompany me. I succeeded in making him understand that it would be an exhausting journey. He accepted the idea of being separated from me and promised to be good during my absence. It was important for me to be sure he had understood the situation and agreed. Otherwise my conscience would not be calm.I decided to leave him in my neighbor’s care who knew him well and who accepted to take care of him when I asked her. She had two children of the same age than Akbar and they all got along well. I left him on a Sunday evening, the eyes full of tears.

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