Aside from his sickle, his main tool remains his language ability that is well sharpened. Mohammed Chummun, coconut merchant, is fluent in Greek, German, Japanese, Hungarian, Russian, Italian, Spanish and the list goes on. Not to mention French.
“Il faut parler la langue de Molière correctement ou sinon koz kreol morisien. On ne peut pas mélanger les deux. Fransé mem fel ar mwa,” he said.
Under the awning, installed at the entrance of the Pamplemousses Garden, just like he’s in his own garden and never misses an opportunity to attract the attention of visitors. “Mo enn bater lakol, profesionel en plis.”
As soon as he sees a potential client, he interrupts our conversation with him to “bat lakol” with tourists. “Ich spreche gut deutsch.” Translation: I speak good German.
The business has been picked 20 years ago, says Mohammed. “Lekol, mo ti enn bef.” So at 17 years old, before selling coconuts, he started out working in a pastry shop, “Je suis également un pâtissier professionnel.”
But he was then struck by love that led him to “emigrate” in Pamplemousses. “J’étais pauvre, je n’avais rien. J’habitais donc chez la dame en question.” Mohammed is now separated from his wife.
That did not stop him to meet other women. How many? “Sink madam li ena..,” yells a friend behind him. But Mohammed prefer to keep the mystery about it. What is certain is that his loves were successful; five more precisely. His children are 25, 22, 18, 13 and 6 years old.
However, this does not assure the future of the business. “Pou fer sa travayla, bizin pasyans. Personn pa oulé vinn kwi dan soley depi 9 er ziska 3 zer.” There was a momentary interruption of service because of “bat Lakol” again but this time, in Hindi. “Nariyal paani piyo 100 saal Jiyo.” In other words, drink coconut water and live 100 years.
This lead to the question: how, when, where he learned all these languages? “Mon professeur, c’est la vie. Et puis, Dieu m’a donné une bonne mémoire !” He has memorized the words when in contact with customers over the years. Momentary interruption of service because of “bat Lakol” and this time, in Italian. “Venire a godere il mio cocco.”
How much the business of Mohammed makes monthly? “Bah, je me fais entre Rs 8 000 et Rs 9 000. Il faut enlever Rs 1 500 pour la location de l’emplacement.” He wants to send a message to listeners. “Pa get zozo par so plim. Il y a des gens qui ont des préjugés en regardant vos vêtements ou en vous jugeant sur le métier que vous faites. Mé mo ena savwar-viv mwa.” Momentary interruption of service because of “bat lakol” in French. “Ah ! Madame, il n’y a pas de pulpe à l’intérieur de celle-ci, que d’la flotte. Je vous offre une autre noix ?”
With his talent, has he ever considered doing anything else, as a guide? No. “Mo kontan lib, travay pou momem, pena presyon.” Maintenance aborted due to “bat Lakol” in Japanese. “Kite, watashi no kokonattsu o tanoshimimasu.”
The final word ? “In what language please?,” he said with a smile.
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