I was once invited to a party at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Floreal. On the way, I was held up in a traffic jam and when I arrived, the party was in full swing. As I expected, the cream of our society was there: ministers, directors, advisers and “experts” from all walks of life. But having drunk a Scotch, I mustered enough Dutch courage to approach an ex-school mate, then a dabbler in politics (who, may I add, once went out of his way to shake my hands at the end of a political rally).
I breathed a sigh of relief. So, I was not among complete strangers, after all. Here was a “honourable” friend with whom I could have a bit of a chat. But when I drew level with him, he just stared at me coldly. His lips curled down in contempt and not a flicker of recognition showed on his face. But I tried to keep my composure, and slowly edged towards a group where I had noticed an ex-colleague. Unfortunately, it was not my lucky hour. His glance just shot through me, as if I was transparent. Well, how could he see me, engrossed as he was, to capture the attention of the minister, a few steps away!
Clearly, I had come to the wrong party. And, believe me, had it not been for the High Commissioner’s wife, I would have gone home right away. But the lady was the perfect hostess. Nothing could miss her eye, and she must have witnessed my discomfiture. Briefly introducing herself, she inquired who I was, and started to draw me out. She did it so well that I forgot I was talking to a stranger. How long did we talk, I cannot tell. But then, an amazing thing happened. Those very people who had completed ignored me came to join us. As if by magic, they had regained their memory and I was once more among “friends”… Well, to be more precise, they were just eager to be seen in the company of a white lady.
This is not a story. It really happened, and I often wonder why some Mauritians are so drawn towards a white stranger – just like black ants are drawn on white sugar!