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  • Ginny, in Ben's story reminds me of my own protector when I was seven or eight, going to school barefoot, with practically no pocket money.

    Two houses away lived one of the richest Muslim families in Port-Louis, and the poor little boy that I was, felt ever so proud to be friends with them, in the hope, perhaps that some of their wealth or glamour would rub off on me.

    The lady of the house was a very loving and generous person, and made me feel very welcome whenever I dropped in, encouraging me to do so; I was friends of two boys of my own age, going to the Medersa with them, and looked upon the older ones as my friends too.

    Now, Bibi, was their older sister, perhaps five or six years older than me. In those days, Muslim girls went to the Medersa to pick a few notions about religion, and to “Ecole Française” until the end of the primary level. Bibi was stunningly beautiful and my secret hope was that she could fall in love with my older brother. She was now confined in the home and was not allowed to go out, except with the family, to weddings and similar functions. She would spend the whole day reading the Koran, sewing, knitting or cooking. Normally she would not be allowed to be friends with boys, but I was much smaller in both size and age.

    I was an avid film fan, and was allowed to go about once every month; Bibi was not, so I would tell her the story of the films, and would even imitate the singing, the dancing and the antics, which had her in stitches. I don’t think her brothers approved, but no one said anything.

    One day Bibi proposed a game which went like this: One of us would choose a colour, and when we saw each other, we would challenge: Red, or whatever. The other would then produce any red item in his or her possession, a piece of cloth or wool. The forfeit was 2 cents. Obviously, whenever I visited, I would make sure I had the appropriate colour, and would almost always catch my friend unawares; she would go in all states, fumble her pockets and finally admit defeat, when she would pay the forfeit. She was obviously never allowed to visit us and I don’t remember ever losing.

    Bibi married, had children but became ill at an early stage; I was so happy that my own surgeon brother operated upon her and treated her for a while, but she died early.

    I realised years later that our game was her way of putting some much desired cash my way.
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