It's a miracle which has worked its magic for the Indian community in Mauritius (and in the curious local lexicon, 'Indian' means Hindu, as the island's Muslims, though clearly of Indian origin, deny all links with the Hindu Raj back home). Hindus make up just over half the population. And whatever their doctrinal, caste and regional differences—there are plenty—they have made common cause to keep political power firmly within their grasp. The parties in Mauritius are not divided along racial lines. All communities have always been represented in government. But there has been an informal portioning out of the spoils. The small European community dominates the private sector, Muslims and the Chinese own most of the small businesses, and Hindus have the upper hand in the civil service and the professions. A carve-up which has left the African Creoles—the 30 per cent of the population who are largely of slave descent—on the margins of power and prosperity.
Not that all Indians are wealthy. I visited a sugar-growing village in the east of the island and spent some time with an Indian family whose forebears were brought over from Bihar three or four generations ago to work in the cane fields. The women were sifting rice in preparation for a family wedding, and the men were lounging around watching them work. All the adults of the family laboured on the sugar estate, for what was, by Mauritian standards, a low wage—around 5,000 Indian rupees a month.