South Africa

Is it possible to be in country for holidays, feel sad and at the end of the day sleep peacefully? Holidays, that was what I was in South Africa for, in a place called Johannesburg which I have lovingly archived in my mind as Jo’berg. With my family with whom every year I venture out to a new country. As part of this holiday, the idea was to learn more, see new places and gather as many as experiences possible. After all I had to be happy by the end of the trip.

Holidays is meant to be happy, see, explore and in the middle of all of this, if allowed feel emotions. I was not really sure if intense was one of the words I was looking forward to, when the trip started but the more I engaged with the country, the more I felt intensely about.

That’s exactly what happened in South Africa. I was there, I felt, explore, saw and was happy. In 5 days I spent there, everyday was heaven loaded with emotions, I had diverse range of ideas and different ways to express. There was time, when I felt nothing. I longed to read Nadine Gordimer, someone I remembered from my childhood . My sister and I spent hours talking about our childhood. Happiness took its own sweet time to reach me. If happiness meant sleeping soundly every night and getting everyday exactly by 6 am in the morning, I was doing pretty great.

I have never been to this place. Appa was furious that I had not yet read anything about history.My only little understanding of that place was Nelson Mandela. A man who spent a big chunk of his life in jail and yes Gandhi did loom in the background. I had not acknowledged the apartheid word yet, and somehow never imagined I would encounter it ever.

Privilege.  I could erase it from my memory or not have a memory of it all.

So there was history to walk through and there was evolution to walk through. How far was this holiday allowed to be stretched? We wandered through origins of our humankind and felt so utterly stupid about our arrogance, what exactly had we achieved that we were so arrogant. I knew nothing about the billions of people around me and thousands of species around.

While evolution made me wonder, history made me squirm. I was aware, but I was also scared that I might cry. I did cry watching documentary about the Rivonia trial. Young men put  behind bars forever and coming out and still forgiving the offenders and seeking for future. It was not easy for me. A young country with such tragic history and rainbow of hope, and witnessing the extremes of poverty. This was the country where I was roaming around. 


I was there with family every day learning so much, consuming so much information and coming back to our hotel, switching on our TVs and struggling with the fact that there were no stupid American shows to dumb my sense down. How was I supposed to take all that sadness and feel good.  For some weird reason, I was okay. I was reminded of Nadine Gordimer. I longed for short stories. I had longer conversations with Appa. Amma and I lesser fights. We had more moments of silence together.



Can a territory be divided the way the species understand it? We have the animal kingdom staring at the world and going ahead with their day to day survival and then we have the homo Sapiens who never have the time to stare at the world, cos they are worried about their future survival. How can a territory be inhabited by both such species.

Johannsberg invoked a similar feeling for me. I was walking around in a city which was tormented by its past, its history, and the present. A city which still had spans of green area to look towards, a city which still had engagement with animal kingdom. A territory which was inhabited by so many species from the animal kingdom including homo sapiens.

I never realised how much was I devoid of animal interaction until I spent some good 4 hours staring at giraffe at the neck and deck cafe in Lion and Rhino park. I had forgotten that there were species around me who did not walk on 2 limbs but on four or not everyone had the ability to walk, some flew. I was constantly reminded of my street dog ( with love we call her patakha) and how calmer she would make me feel. These animals around me made me feel the same. I have never really liked animals and yet the more I stared at them the more I felt at ease.

Nature in its utmost fury and utmost silence was shouting and screaming at me. I was again and again reminded of how much I detested Kerala’s green mountains. The silence would have killed me by now. But I was okay.

There is so much to write, so much to hope, so much to unlearn.

I loved this last pic of ours. I loved that girl of hope who happily stared at Mandela. I loved the fact that Appa kept his enthusiasm throughout and I loved the fact that tragedy made me emote again.

Maybe I did want to have a memory. Maybe I did hear the stories. Maybe I did cry a bit.

and it healed me a bit

I did sleep.


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