Living in Ontario, Canada, where he works as a professor and researcher at Laurentian University in the field of microorganisms, his center of interest being the study of microbes, Vasu Appanna published a book in 2023 entitled “Tales From Dodoland”. In it, he tells the story of a generation of Indians from Andhra Pradesh who came to settle in a locality in the north of Mauritius. We met him in Poudre-d'Or, his native village where he regularly spends holidays with his wife Sharin, of Trinidadian origin whom he met in Canada.

Vasu Appanna is first and foremost an example of a destiny that may seem exceptional, but which he himself is keen to qualify: “Any individual who has the will to learn according to his skills achieves it when he has the conditions that favour his goal. I was also lucky to have parents who wanted their six children to succeed in their school career,” explains the man who did not go through the so-called “royalist” route in secondary school, but through a college that he has no reason to be ashamed of, the Islamic College. “My parents enrolled me there because there was a bus stop near this college,” says the eldest of the Appanna family. For the rest, it will be a smooth educational journey, which first takes him to the Indian Institute of Science in Mumbai where he obtains his degree in science. Back in Mauritius, he joins secondary education before heading to Cardiff, Scotland where he obtains a master's degree in chemistry. A year later, he went to the University of Waterloo in Canada to complete his biochemistry thesis on bacteria. “I have always been fascinated by living species and I have always wanted to understand their evolution. In the study of bacteria, we now know that out of a hundred or so that exist, 95% are not pathogenic. Living species require the same energies as living things. Insects, for example, also consume glucose,” he notes.

University of Waterloo

At the University of Waterloo, funded mainly by the state, Vasu Appanna leads a team of researchers who benefit from private funding. “We are currently working on probiotics which have a key role in many functions of our body, on the emanation of methane coming from cattle and which is also one of the greenhouse gases and a plastic depollution project and finally the study of the microbiota. Obviously, the State and the private sector are potential clients for the results of our research. This is how it also works at major American universities like MIT Stanford or Harvard. It is a form of collaboration that makes it possible to finance major research that the State could not support alone. The quality of this research allows us to establish the level of these universities and consolidates their prestige,” he indicates. But, our interlocutor specifies in the same breath that the management of these funds also involves real rigor and transparency. “To obtain the trust of donors, we must prepare coherent, reliable and sustainable projects,” he says.

Forty years in Canada

Having been living in Canada for about forty years, he says he understands the appeal of such a country to Mauritians. “At all levels of life in Canada, meritocracy and transparency, respect and tolerance, security and respect for institutions prevail. It is almost ideal and these are the conditions that allowed me, one of my brothers and one of my sisters to take up residence in this country, my other sister having decided to pursue a career in the civil service in Mauritius, which was not so bad,” he relates.

Thanks to his daughter who practices chiropractic in New York and his two brothers living one in California and the other in New Jersey, he refutes the clichés conveyed about violence in the United States. “It’s an image that is conveyed by cinema, and the United States is the country that allows individuals from all over the world to realize themselves. If you are smart, the United States is the place to be,” he argues.

“Tales From Dodoland”: a book to remember the native village

If Vasu Appana temporarily abandoned scientific writing for publication purposes, it was to respond to a wish of his relatives in the United States and Canada. “For years, at every dinner, birthday and other meeting, I was asked to write down in black and white the memories of my childhood that I shared with them. So I set about this task,” he confides. He therefore began to collect documentation both from London on the British colonial period relating to the arrival of Indian workers in Mauritius and at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, in Moka, during his stay in Mauritius in 2023 The book published by the American company Genesis Publishing was published last year, providing a living testimony of life in a small town in the North, which is reminiscent of Vasu Appanna's native Gold Dust. “These stories have always been with me, even if some of the characters and participants, fictional or not, have long since disappeared,” says the author. It spans almost a century and is set at the height of British colonization and the subsequent emergence of new independent nations. It recounts the tribulations, trials, triumphs and joys of a family arriving in a new country. But it is also the story of all those who, willingly or unwillingly, sought a better life in a new place. The challenge and joy inherent in putting down roots in an unfamiliar environment is narrated by the main protagonist, a boy named Babu. The daily life and events of Regala, a small emerging town whose inhabitants are newly arrived immigrants, are revealed. These individuals with diverse cultural and linguistic origins settle in a virtually virgin land, without history, without culture and without human population. »

The tribulations of these kids from one of the hundreds of rural towns of Mauritius are not without the moving images of “World of Apu”, the magnificent part of the black and white trilogy by Satyajit Ray, like these little simple stories, sometimes sad or happy which punctuated these thousands of localities all over the world before the appearance of light, running water and tarmac streets. In Mauritius, it was the time when people were treated with medicinal plants grown in the courtyards, when the kids willingly bowed to the authority and respect inspired by teachers, parents and old “. “Since then, good neighborliness, solidarity and mutual aid have come up against the walls erected between houses. Everyone lives for themselves, owns their own car and no longer seems to worry too much about their neighbor. But the rural world has still managed to preserve some of its traditions,” observes Vasu Appanna, who hopes that the Minister of Education will include his book in the school circuit as a reference document on the daily life of a couple. Indian immigrants to Mauritius during the British colonial era.

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