Dr Ramgoolam’s Promises.

Photo_good_Srr_small.jpg (6589 bytes) On his return in September 1935, Dr Ramgoolam found that the country had not changed much. But he had already made up a list of changes he wanted to bring about, a copy of which he had sent to his Irish friend, O'connor, who was to remind him later in a letter where he had ticked off all the promises Ramgoolam had made earlier.

In 1935, during the celebration of the centenary of Indian Immigration at the Arya Bhawon in Port Louis, Dr Ramgoolam launched his political career. He also announced the promise of a new age in his highly prophetic article in R. K. Boodhun’s "Indian Centenary Book" in which he expressed his determination to fight the old system: "There is no shadow of doubt that the Governor should approach without further delay the Imperial Government in London with a view to the revision of the present constitution on a more equitable basis. It is high time that the workers of this colony were given a wider franchise so that instead of being compelled to perish in passive acquiescence they might have a say in the government of this country. Every merit must be measured by an appropriate yardstick.

There must be a great mass movement, but in this mass movement we must not be cheated into giving fictitious importance to what is false, dead and buried. It is our duty to enunciate a clear and defined principle of farsightedness for our people and make up our minds to put an end to the social cruelties rampant in our society, and conceive of life as something not out own but a trust dedicated to the good of our community. Birth, procreation and death are not the end of man. Man is an animal that can make prophetic endeavours.

We must first decide what is needful and appropriate for our people, and not bury our heads in the sand. We must cultivate the spirit of service, brotherhood, love and unity. Our leaders must lose sight of themselves in the cause they are championing, and go to it with thirst, earnestness and humility. They must learn to serve the people before they can pretend to lead them.

It is only by the subordination of self and by selfless sacrifices and endeavours that this great community of Indo-Mauritians will be saved from being a burden unto itself, and it is through these that will come unity, strength and the hope of a happy community capable of great achievements like those of our forefathers in India."

In another article in the Indian Cultural Review, in July 1938, Dr Ramgoolam, himself an intellectual product of the East and the West, and who, like Nehru, firmly believed in blending the knowledge and culture of the East and the West, believed that Mauritius could be the melting pot of a universal culture drawn from Europe and Asia, of which he was the clear exponent. This simple, pragmatic philosophy of constructing a new civilization in Mauritius would evolve into his forward-looking and liberal cultural policy whereby the values of the East and the West would find hospitality in Mauritus within a broad multi-cultural perspective, including the protection, preservation and enrichment of existing European and Asiatic cultures, traditions and languages. Later he founded the Mahatma Gandhi Institute precisely to promote the study of Asian, African and Mauritian studies-cultures and civilizations.

Inspired by Lallah Lajpat Rai, the great Arya Samaj leader and by the reformist movement of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr S.Ramgoolam joined the Arya Samaj movement, then engaged in reforming Hindu society and ridding it of its burden of superstitions, social cruelties like caste system, dowry, exploitation of women and the obscurantism of the priestly class. He went round from village to village, meeting the people through the Arya Samaj organization and also preached the value of education and social reforms. He met a considerable number of people, talked and inspired them and gradually made a number of friends and built up his popularity by slow patient steps. Since those years, he made it a point to keep in close touch with the rural people, meeting them and sharing in their needs and expectations, attending social functions, weddings, funerals, school anniversaries most of the time and he always kept talking to the people and conquered their hearts. He preferred to meet people both individually and in groups, establish personal rapport, talking in Bhojpuri at times rather than addressing them from a distance in mass meetings.

tea_small.jpg (9497 bytes) Dr Ramgoolam had a remarkable ability to make friends and mix with people from all stations of life so that when he set up his practice at 87, Desforges Street and went out to serve the poor and the sick as a doctor, he became immensely popular and his consulting room was always crowded with people coming from all corners of the island. His approach as a doctor differed from the aloof, disdainful attitude of the Franco-Mauritian doctors of his days, puffed up by their own race prejudices and who never dared to touch the patients and would rather humiliate them instead.

But Dr Ramgoolam would welcome his patients, sometimes with a cup of tea, talk to them in a soft, persuasive voice, listen to their complaints, and would look them all over and would always assure them. His natural kindness and generosity of heart won the hearts of the people. After consultation, in people’s houses, he would take tea and talk to them in friendly manners in a way to make them feel better and happier. In return, people came to love and respect him as he always spread the message of hope and worked ceaselessly and selflessly for the welfare of others, men, women, young and old, from all ethnic groups without distinction.

By Anand Mulloo 15.9.98