Honouring a great man

Ravi Shastri... the foremr Indian all-rounder is always ready with an anecdote.-

The demise of Nelson Mandela has triggered a huge amount of nostalgia and a bronze statue of the late leader was unveiled in Pretoria. By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

South African Tourism Department may state on hoardings across the globe — It’s possible, but beyond the lovely beaches, wildlife reserves and urban sprawls with a throbbing nightlife, there is another nation with its attendant worries. “Pain-free abortion in 30 minutes,” were the words displayed on pamphlets stuck on walls inside bustling market areas in Johannesburg. It was a loud hint to unwanted pregnancies caused by an aversion to use contraceptives. The other fallout of this is the spectre of AIDS that casts a huge shadow across the country. Awareness campaigns to care for children of HIV-infected mothers are on the rise and that is a cause for hope.

The Indian touch

With the Indian Ocean lapping its shores, Durban has always had a strong connection to the sub-continent. Indentured labour from India landed here more than 150 years ago and has contributed immensely to the city’s development. Nihal, the cab-driver, who picks up a bunch of Indian cricket writers from the airport, is a fourth-generation settler. “Taxi drivers have no breaks, we got to create our own breaks and that is if another driver relieves us,” Nihal says while zipping on the highway towards the city’s heart. “This is Mahatma Gandhi Road,” he points out while the car veers towards the dockland, close to the port. There is an Indian curry joint and a Multan car sales outlet on the iconic road. The diaspora from undivided British India, has carved a niche for itself out here. “You should try Oriental for Indian food,” Nihal says and leaves.

Alternate reality

The demise of Nelson Mandela has triggered a huge amount of nostalgia for the great man across South Africa and there has been a push for having his memorial statues everywhere just like how it happens in India. A bronze statue of the late leader was unveiled in Pretoria and a reader Rick Raubenheimer wrote in The Star newspaper: “Mandela took care not to place himself above others. Would he have wanted a five-times life-size statue of himself? According to newspaper reports, the statue costs eight million rand. Could this money not have been used better for a living memorial to Madiba? One that would embody and grow his ideals the way that dead steel and bronze cannot? A school, an award, or a bursary fund, perhaps?”

The tongue-in-cheek sledge

Ravi Shastri is always ready with an anecdote. “I was struck below in a match in the West Indies. Courtney Walsh was the bowler. I was lying on the ground, the pain was terrible and Desmond Haynes, fielding at short-leg, whispered to me: ‘Hey Ravi, pass me the phone number of the friend you are meeting tonight for dinner!’ I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Haynes was a rascal. Well, I recovered, scored a hundred and the phone number stayed with me,” Shastri says.

Another time, substitute Mike Whitney has a verbal spat with Shastri and was riling the all-rounder with comments like — ‘I will knock your head down with my throw.’ “I just told him: ‘If your bowling is as good as your throw, you wouldn’t be a 12th man for Australia, mate!’ After that he just shut up and the Aussies kept quiet,” Shastri says and laughs.

Bunny Chow

A loaf of scooped-out bread stuffed with Indian curries — vegetables, chicken or mutton. That is Bunny Chow, an iconic fusion food that marries oriental cuisine to a western garb and like a Durban Indian pointed out: “It is local outside and Indian at heart!”

There are many stories to the way Bunny Chow emerged as an intrinsic part to Durban cuisine. The first is that indentured Indian labourers in the sugarcane plantations found it cumbersome to carry rotis and vegetables and they found that a scooped-out bread topped with curries was ideal as a take-away food. The second theory is that during Apartheid when Indians had limited access to restaurants and cafes, the hotel authorities found it easier to sell Bunny Chows through their back-windows! Whatever be the nature of its origin, the Bunny Chow is here to stay.

Basil Palan, a fourth-generation Indian of Tamil descent, says: “A few of my cousins have migrated to places like Johannesburg and Cape Town but when they get back, even before they head home for a taste of their mother’s curry, they need to have a bite of Bunny Chow. The other day a cousin landed and he called: ‘Hey man.’ He said nothing more, I went to his place, picked him up. He didn’t have to tell me anything, I just took him to Oriental Hotel and we ate Bunny Chow. And off-course we love our Brai (barbecue) too with a few beers and that is a South African tradition.”