Still waters on the East Coast.
This had been, without question, among the most chaotic personal periods I had experienced, so when given the opportunity to take a moment to step out of my context I must admit I was relieved.
Perhaps Durban was not yet a space where I could feel at ease.
This year Black consciousness has been on my mind, on my lips and on my reading lists incessantly. I had long since known those theories themselves could not be silver bullets but I was not prepared for re-emergence of the discomfort that brought me to seek haven in Black Affirmation.
Holds present family and over a hundred and fifty years of my maternal history, this I cannot deny. My mother, evidently through her marriage to a Ugandan in the final days of Apartheid, was far from the stereotypical culturally conservative ideal she had been faced with as an Indian woman in this city. Coming here with my father, without her, felt odd once I had arrived. I did not immediately realise why..
In all honesty there was little I understood about this place and yet I felt that should have. There were more Indian-looking people here than I had seen anywhere else. I was beginning to remember the anxieties of my youth, long before I had ever needed to be so acute in my reaction to the “White World” the battle reconciling my relationship with “Indianness” had been one that had occupied my mind.. from time to time.
In these spaces, in this city, the vortex of race, class and culture whirl quickly around each other in a way that was so broad and hard to pin down – yet somehow immediately distinguishable.
Slang. Accents and eccentricities commonly associated with the Indian Identity in this region created a barrier between us that gave me the sense that while we understood each other, we spoke entirely different languages.
When I am here, it is never more clear the apparent “Englishness” of the way that I speak. How it gives me currency; how it affects the perceptions of my race and class positions almost arbitrarily.
When my father and I are together it must be a sight..
For those who are brave enough to ask, and they are by no means few and far between, we entertain a flurry of questions of curiosity that I don’t necessarily receive with animosity.
“Ethopia?”, “Somalia?” ..
It’s like a Bingo!
These markers of difference in this ordinarily segregated South African city are so etched into the fabric of this society that it becomes necessary to “place” one in order to know how to “treat” one.
It would be a lie to say that this did not impact my psychology.
I hadn’t realised that in the process of all the Black Affirmation language I had neglected an understanding of how to negotiate – let alone embrace – the Indian aspects of my identity.
This has always proven to be difficult as the closer I get to touching, tasting and seeing aspects of this identity that resonate with me.. there is the unmistakable air of anti-blackness which I recognise bitterly and I remain at a loss with what to do with it.
My father does not quite see the world as I do, to put it politely.. however I admire the almost jovial manner in which he waltzes through scenarios that leave me scowling from start to finish.
That is something to some extent I aspire to.
I recall sitting in a restaurant we had managed to track down that was known for it’s curry. My father loves curry. He would strike up conversations with the waiters about the food in an attempt to coax out their best recommendation, all the while I attempt to contort in my chair and burn holes through the menu with my vision that desperately averted anyone’s gaze unless absolutely necessary.
There he was, a “blacker” man than I’d ever be – aesthetically.
Fine and enjoying himself, while I sat working through whatever it was.
Something was clearly not right about my understanding of identity politics and how I had arranged their use in my mind. What had worked in Cape Town made much less sense for me here.
While I stood by my suspicions of anti-blackness – among other things – I slowly began to recognise what I had been told many many times.
That the peace and ease I’m looking for can only be found,
The discord, pain and self degradation while having external sources could only be resolved inside.
If anything was clear it was that whether it be Cape Town or Durban.
East Coast or West.
I’m going to need to find a way to be happy with this body mine, only then in peace shall I rest.
at a distance.
Heavy currents rip and rage,
Out at sea.
Graying rocks along the coastline,
greet waves calmly.
Jagged and ragged as they are,
once sinking mighty ships.
round and whole.
Fixed upon the Sky,
for moments at a time.
Whirling and spinning,
Around the Earth.
Controlling the tides.
the still seas at a distance –
And the rough ocean currents.
the calm rocks greeting friendly waves,
And I can sink mighty ships.
The moon in the sky,
And I control the tides.