Monday, April 16, 2018

Freedom Square: where golden memories are laid buried

I used to share sleeping quarters with my elder brother, who, due to the vicssitudes of this unforgiving life , is no longer with us. May his funny soul rest in mirthful slumber of eternal peace. Mlungisi (the one who corrects things) was a comedian par excellence in noticing things absurd. We baptised our room " The Freedom Square". Now , Freedom Square was full of laughter, rancoteur and and all stupid things. It was here that I learned about human absurdities and the fact that moost people actually have nothing between their ears. From girlfriends' deformities to our uncle's penchant to buy us oversized undewears as if his mission was to spite us. Were were of a slender, lightweight built (of which I'm still that way) and my brother went to his own death much as slender as a match stick as your truly. Wearing those underwears testing fate to say the least. Cringingly humiliating as it could possibly the event were one of us to faint and had to be stripped down to our undies in full glare of shool yard full of mean kids as a means to give fresh air. We shuddered when we thought of such eventualities. Anyway, we would strip down to our underwear during sleep times and parade around our little room and think of every imaginable awkward situation that could expose to the world how little freaks we were. Mlungisi will look at this unnderside and quip , "Jesus, I look like the underside of a hen that had seen better days laying eggs in Farmer Brown's chiken run". I'd look at mine and see just the elastic band that just merely held at my waist and see my underside stretching way, way, way below my testicles and think of a hen that hand spent its life jusht roosting. To say that I'd cringe will be an understatement that would make stories about the presence Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq irrefutable truth. "What will happen If my trousers were to be pullled down by one of the rascals who popuated our school?" . I would think this thoughts as pictures of laughing boys and girls fill my brain. We'd exchange hilarious yet cringeworthy scenarios and made a commitment to stay away from sugary substances and keep ours selves in shades of trees and buildings to mininise such unwanted eventualities that can be brought by fainting due to unforgiving heatwave of the South African Summer heat and stupid games. The hilarious exchanges did not end there. They streched up to the well-trodden route of girlfriends as well. I had the unfortunaate incident of falling in love with a girl who had crooked arms that were like cricket bats. Everytime we went to see her she would stand by the door of her parents' house with one of her crooked, deformed arm balancing on a door frame as she spoke to us. I wondered why she liked doing that. I guess it got a lot to do with her being comfortable in our company. Mind you, her elder brother was a renown descliplinarian who behaviour was made worse by enlisting in the army. So this explains our meeting her by the door and not going inside the house. That way we could exctricate ourselves from any diffcult situation from the totalitarian brother of her in the event he pounces on us. That we were showing respect by not going into the house . My brother will look stealthily at her arm and then at me . I always managed to keep a straight face. After this meetings all the deposition will be done in the Freedom Square that night. Lying on our backs in our respective beds and smoking cigarettes the questins will start. "Did you see that arm man?", Mlu would start. "Oh yes. My eyes would not stay away from that arm and I was afraid to look at you lest we burst out laughing and you know that will not have been a good thing man...but that arm...that arm", I will respond. Let it be said we were not mean in that way of making another human being feel bad about her deformities straight in her face. We had our absudities as well like our oversized undies. The affair with the girl arms that can put Chris Gayle(the West Indies Batsman) right into the Guinness Book of Records were he to get on the crease using them was short lived . Her friend saw me one day smoking sme joint with a few friends of mine and that's was the end of the affair....but sweet memories of the time lay buried within the walls Freedom Square.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


It came to pass that me and my friends planned to steal some juicy - looking peaches from the local rich man's garden. That was a while our pre-teen years. Ooh my God, those peaches! Appetising...enticing and generally made you want to commit the cardial sin ... of taking what was not ours without permission, of course. What with the forbidden fruit being the most juciest? You know the drill. We were a group of five to six boys in number when we planned this heist. Seated on one of those man-made dams that are made of bricks and mortar and had windmill pumping water into them. You know, the one that dots most of rural South African farmland. Quietly there we sat , ogling the juicy - looking peaches in their reddish-yellow splendour. In the distance rain clouds were gathering. our bet was to use the coming thunder as our cover. Clever, isn'it? Now in our little community rain used to be preceeded by a significant amount of dust and howling wind before it could actually rain down. Perfect cover! This natural phenomenon was helped greatly by the loose soil from the surrounding ploughing fields nearby. As the wind gained momentum and picked up enough red dust that's when we'd have our daring conquest in to these garden of Eden. As the wind came howling down before the actual rainstorm cried down tearsof blessings on this farming community we'd just nip quickly and help ourselves to the forbidden fruit, that's was our master plan. As the rain will come falling down to make the mealie fields greener , the animals fatter and calves run around in pure health and joy ; and the peaches will become much more appetising with their sweet aroma after it had rained. The pure joy of summer in rural South Africa. As I've said our plan was pretty simple. We would rush into the farmer'sgarden just at the right time under the cover of the dust storm and help ourselves to some of this forbidden fruit. How do you like it?! As the wind started to blow stronger that's when we will kick our plan into action. That was our only chance for we realised that's when everyone will be running indoors and nobody will see us. So we thought. The elders will mostly be indoors and close the curtains waiting the coming rainstorm. The old geezers will mostly be out of the way for they were the most stumbling block to our great heist. The fear of lighting wich will make them close the curtains when it rained. Our plan was fool proof, so we thought. At just the right moment when we thought the elements were working in our favour we jumped in to the forbidden garden of Eden. As my hand was picking the second juiciest peach which was the size of tennis ball we just heared the spine-chilling call. "Hey, hey, hey boys come here. What are you doing there?". Caught in the act just like that. Nobody uttered a word because we knew we were nowin danger. Uppermost in our minds was what the punishment's gonna be? We followed our captor ( the Richman's eldest and meanest son, whose nickmane was, funnily enough, Juice. We followed Juice like sheep being led to a slaughterhouse . In we went to the outer room that was slightly apart to the main house. Juice let us stand like school boy we were in apartheid days reciting poems to a towering teacher glaring us like an Afrikaner racist farmer who is amazed at this Kaffirs who refuse to be called such. One by one he went , " and you what are you doing in the garden?". Followed by a hot klap. It must point out that I grew up with a terrible stutter, which got even worse everytime I got scared. "and you" , he faced me "what are you doing in the garden?" "I, I , I ....hee...hee...I..heee.....I...I ...I". Zilch my speech. I mean nada. My speech impediment became worse due to the fact of the warm klaps (slapping) my adversaries were receiving. Now what made me survive such onslaught was my timidness. Thank God for that. I was saved humiliation . Our captor had common decency to slap me once for he was aware I was very scared by then. Knowwing full well that I was influenced by the much older boys who should have know better and went to ask for peaches rather than stealing them. After dealing with me he faced the eldest boy in the group who had aface like Mike Tyson. You know , that face that hardly smiles and looks as if it's concrete or granite. " And you, what were you doing in there?, continued Juice in that fashion. Thwaaa!!! he smacked .Without making it sound like a cliche' , Juice 's open hand landed on Olihile 's face like it was landing on asphalt. To cut the long story short, we got out of there rolling with laughter. When we looked at the serious face of Olihile with the Tyson face and the sound that came out when he was slapped and the resultant hand prints on his face due tio his light complexion tears of laughter were rollling down oour faces instead of tears of being given a hiding. Even to this do not remind Olihile of that incident. I hear that these days he makes his living out of driving taxis. You know where that's gonna leave us ....given the short fuse of South African taxi drivers. As I am writing this hisgranite , emotionless face looms large in my mind....

Monday, February 19, 2018

Teacher don't teach me nonsense

There was this woman teacher in my formative years who occupies a special place in my heart as the letter-day ice queen. I would say I was somewhere in grade 7 or 8. The said teacher opened my eyes to everything about human failure. You know, as a young child your teacher occupies the position of an idol. That's a special place to occupy in anyone's life, and I guess it warrants grace, care and love to be accorded such a privileged place in young people's lives. Shaping young minds, that is...but, alas, it was not to be. I would even venture to say that the said teacher was hating on most of know, us ugly ducklings who where neither popular nor smart enough to attain such a special place afforded to the chosen few amongst us. To know that the said teacher was a born again Christian is like rubbing salt into a bleeding wound. I am sure many contemporaries of mine who fell into the unpopular category felt hard- done - by. Her coldness made many of us atheists, for how can you profess Jesus and love and be particular when giving the very thing that every child needed. Like love, attention and encouragement. Those of us who were not given in the looks department used to stand back and look as those who where chosen were showered with attention. You know, the squeaky clean among us. Who looked healthy enough than the rest of us, wore better clothes than the rest of us, and were crème dela crème working at the school library. It mattered not that many of us the ugly ducklings hankered after such interesting positions the fact remained, we just didn't make the grade. It created some sort of social hierarchy amongst us the students. My best friend was one of the chosen few. I used to harbor feelings of jealousy when I saw those chosen few being selected for the best plays in school dramas, being chosen for interesting games like scrabble and generally having a good time. Mind you, this also built their confidence a great deal. We persona non - gratas were relegated to picking up litter and debris in the school yard. It was a foregone conclusion in our esteemed teacher's eyes...that we're good for nothing and will not amount to much after our schooling days. So much so for education. I remember one day when I aced a test in Religious education and had beaten the best among the chosen few in our class. Instead of enjoying my moment in the sun this woman teacher said "Joe, why don't you become a Priest?". Alas, who said I harbored intentions of being one. Nothing of the sort. What irked me is the manner in which it was said. That it was the only thing that I can think of becoming. No, no, don't get me wrong . The is nothing wrong with becoming a man of cloth. It is just that proselytizing is not in my alley. What made her think I was harbouring Papal tendencies. It guess it just showed that the said teacher lacked people's skills. Had she took trouble to have interests in us those who were not pleasing to the eye she could have realized I covered my books with cartoons from Zapiro and was taking pleasure in his humorous drawings of the then political elites. That I always carried newspaper even though I was eleven years of age and that my primary interests was in literature rather than spreading the gospel. Thinking back to those years I feel like I can meet her up and tell her the piece of my mind. That most of us hungered for love, recognition and acceptance. Not the cold , distant treatment we got. I bet most of my temporizes could have turned out for the best after all. Those formative years stunted our growth big time and I put most of the blame right in front of her door. Call it sour grapes or anything I do not give a fiddler's fart!

Blessed are those who can see right through the amoured cloak of fakeness

I once had a close friend who was a God's gift to friendship, even if I say so myself. For, you see I wake up this morning feeling a little bit nostalgic, a little bit narcisstic. Due to the requirements to amass we don't normally see much of each other these days. Damn, I miss that bloke....terribly. He had the knack of cutting through Sh**t. I remember the time when we were still in Varsity and were into girls (well, in my case I was into them from a safe distance....being scruffy and whatnot, and generally unable to rub two pennies together and generally unappealing. I guess that tells you a lot about my background. Yes, I am working class as they come and had made peace with that. Now back to the actual aim of this blog post. Now my charming friend was into hot girls . Let me make mention of the fact that his name will be withheld to avoid embarrassing him. My dear friend let me in on a secret that I still hold dear even today ...ten years after academia. He once told me that beauty and brains do not normally go together, especially when it comes to the fairer sex. As we sat during one lunch break at our favourite eating establishment ( it was far-flung, hidden away from the pretentious eating joints frequented by many), we bisected his latest hot chick. I was hanging at his every word. You see his latest chick used to make me feel that I am a persona non grata. I could feel the undercurrents of her seizing me up every time we hang out. Mind you, I've got my own special gift. One being able to pick out when the next person is thinking he or is way much better than me without actually saying it. The tone of the voice, the body language, etc. can give you clues . I have learned a lot. My friend told me that actually her girlfriend had nothing between the ears to write home about. That she actually was a bit insecure and a downright bore. Let me hasten to say that I am not in anyway misogynistic or anything. I have a number of close friends who are of the opposite sex and we get on fine. My friend continued to say that I seem to adore her girlfriend and should not be fooled by that. He went on to point out that by the mere fact that she (the girlfriend) was also in love with a guy from medical school said a lot about her morals and surely I should know better to be fooled by her intoxicating beauty. That she was taking money form the Med School guy and giving it to her. Now that got me thinking. I am more attracted to the inner beauty and mental astuteness than by anything. A woman who fails to intellectually stimulate me is a turn off in as far as I am concerned. Back to my philandering friend of mine. He again told me he can tell a girl is condescending from a afar. I did not ask what he meant by that but I guess it has lot to do with having two faces. Now that's pretty dangerous if you ask me. There is nothing that is refreshing for me as the woman who is grounded, principled and fun to be with. Mind you, my friend is now married to a totally different woman who is ordinary by the way of looks and they have a small family going on....

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The politics of Living.....

I sounds like a cliché' but it is very, very sad ....especially when it include people that were once close to me. What happened to the good old days of camaraderie? We seem to be usurped by the insatiable need to be relevant? to be in the moment? to be a success? Our morbid fascination to be a "success" seem to be a cancer that is eating at the fiber of our being. A while back I stopped talking to one of my best friend for precisely this reason. Mind you, I describe him as my former close friend because we were that close...until the need to accumulate took precedence of our lives. My said friend was working for a certain State-owned enterprise the last time I spoke to him and was busy trying to climb up the slippery pole of success. It happened thus that he gave me his free number , for , you see , he was in the telecommunications industry. One of the perks that came with his job was to make calls for free. As you can imagine, South Africa is a third world country with very, very expensive telephones calls. I was more than happy to receive such a friendly gesture from him ....that I will be able to call him every time at no cost at all. I was very thankful for that and our friendship continued like before (We had separated some few years earlier after high school due to the dictates of life). Our friendship continued like house on fire upon touching base once again. It felt as if we never separated...until one day when my said friend asked me what did I do with my life since the last time we temporarily separated. Alas, that was a bombshell. Being naïve and taking things literally that " A friend in need is a friend indeed" I was unfazed to tell the guy that things had never been rosy since we parted. My life had the saying goes. Well as you know we humans and our decency, the platitudes were coming thick and fast that "don't worry Joe things will work out at the end, blah, blah". I took everything well....not that I was having trouble with the direction my life was taking anyway, but still... You see, my said friend had been to university and was having a job that was paying him fairly well. Had a house, a wife and a kid....the works!! As for me I was still counting days and chasing shadows with nothing to show for it but nonetheless our friendship continued for a time being. I called him at his work for free like I used to do. Six months down the line there was a significant change in our conversation. My jokes were no longer met with the usual humor like before. I had to justify myself most of the time. It came to pass one particular day he dropped a major bombshell....that "Joe, you should understand that I am living a totally different life now and I'm very busy man .You should understand that". Duh! It made me as if I was always pestering the guy. Even though it will seem narcissistic, I am the most sensible guy you can find in this small part of South Africa. Common sense is my middle name. I got the message loud and clear and never called him again . His carefully constructed words spelt the first rift in our friendship. Three years later I started at University which ended with a Masters degree course, of which I dropped out if due to largely boredom and the inability to continue to pay my fees. Not that this piece of information is earth-shattering. Nothing of the sort. It just shows that I'm able to go with the general flow of life. Mine was just to explore and stretch my mind a little bit. Nothing much. Upon that period I happen to meet my friend. Word has gone round that Joe was up to something . We met one afternoon at Braamfontein train station. I was coming from a grueling interview at the Department of Foreign Affair (Of which I failed I must add). After sharing pleasantries with my friend he proceeded to look into my file. In there I had a copy of my CV, copies of my certificates and the other general personal detritus. He went "ughh, Masters In International know most people take Masters degree to mean something when in fact is nothing". You see I am a very laid back- king - of guy. Instead of coming back with my own wise crack retort I sit there taking it in . What was of interest to me was to look the general nature of us humans. Here was a typical example of how much we have lost ourselves in the pursuit of success right in front of me. A vindictive example at that... Let it be noted that I have cut the ties with the pompous airhead once and for all. He had no right to be in my life. I don't roll like that. My friend is still my friend even though our life stages might go through radical changes. What brought us together was something bigger than ourselves....if that tie breaks we've got no business to be in each other's lives. I have numerous examples of which the space afforded by this platform cannot make it possible to mention them. The other day I was with my childhood friend. We had a lot to talk about as it was long time since we last seen each other. What is word? As we were reminiscing about the past over some few beers he pointed to something covered in canvass...."that's my car over there man", he announced proudly. "O yeah, good luck man, let me see it", that was me. Instead of showing me his babe he let it slip that ever since it stopped over some piece of mechanical work. As I was taking all this I noted the said car was on top of bricks and everything else, and it will be some time it returns back on our roads. My two cents of thought went into "why waste your money on a piece of scrap metal if you could have renovated your house considering the fact that you had a small family to raise? or maybe you could have bought some shares with the money. Right now you could maybe showing me a share certificate that could cover your kids in the event of your death?". I mean that was just me but I couldn't voice my thoughts. You know, social graces graces....

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The sinister girl who used to put me through torture

This happened last January in the scorching heat of Cape Town. After having negotiated with the sometimes non co-operative white farmers on the Cape Wine route we often went on to Camps Bay Beach to distress. Mind you, the role of talking to these often anal-retentive lot fell squarely on me because I'm well versed in Afrikaans, the lingua franca in these parts . I had to ask these farmers permission to gain access to their work force so that we can interview them for the Social cohesion study we were undertaking. So, we were sent there in Cape Town as Field researchers to get into the headspace of what made communities in this area tick. So you can understand what tensions this was causing to those farmers who are often known to ill-treat their workforce. As a spokesperson it was particularly stressful to me. So the lure of the beach after work was often a welcomed relief to my frayed nerves. Upon reaching the beach we will take our clothes off and enjoyed the cooling effects of the water on our bodies. In my team there was this particular girl who used to torture me. I guess she enjoyed it. I suppose there was a sinister plan behind all her actions. Man, she will be in her bikini and come straight for me..."T, can you take photos of me please ?" she would ask as she handed me her Samsung Tablet. With waves lapping against the rocks and the scenic Camps Bay Beach on the background she would pose as I took the shots. Click, clicks the camera will roll. I guess the whole exercise was meant too gain bragging rights against her friends back home in Johannesburg. With flavor of the moment being Facebook and Instagram my guess was she would post some of the photos on this hated platforms. Her friends will envy her posing there in her bikini like that airhead, Kim Kardashian. Man, I am not in anyway dirty or a degenerative cave man. I am as civilized as they come, but hey a combination of a sandy beach, the waves, rocks and a perfume emanating from her body towards my direction as she posed this way and that was becoming a toxic cocktail that made me light-headed. I acted civil and nonchalant regardless of this but hey man it was total torture! Right there I understood the meaning of "getting hot under the collar" with crystal clarity To paint a picture for you. Man I felt like Jacob Zuma invited at the annual Zulu reed dance with Isilwane sa Mabandla, Goodwill Zwelithini glaring at him and going something like..."hey, hey, hey, unga linge! (Hey you must never think about it). You get the picture? No? Well, let me bring you up to speed by painting this scenario. I felt like Comrade Cyril Matomela Ramaphosa sleeping and dreaming about his own Nkandla teeming with Buffalos, Zebras and alligators roaming around as his personal pets only to wake up and realized it was just a mere dream. That he is not yet a president of a country so that he can start with his own plundering the riches of South Africa. O Yeah, you now get the picture. I can see the light going on in your head. Ahhh, at least you're not that slow. Yeah man, that girl tortured me and I hope wherever she is a mischievous smile flashes across her mouth and thinks "Ja, I got him where I wanted, he is like a caged animal. Look at him" NB, the identity of the girl will be withheld for obvious reason. Cheerio!