It is time to return home now. I have stayed in South Africa for over forty days. Some thoughts and some feelings coming out of my experience:
– Like whenever I travel abroad, so far I had been to over thirty countries, I feel that their Society cares for the elders and disabled. You see special arrangements for them, which they need, wherever you go. And that this aspect is so glaringly ignored by our government while providing facilities. A wheel chair, for example, can not move easily on Mumbai foot paths. Or move in a bus.
– Like my South African friend was surprised that the Bangalore Airport which was built recently also suffers from this deficiency. She said that she had great difficulty, and embarrassment, when she tried to enter the wash room for disabled on her wheel chair. The wash room’s door was too narrow to allow entrance on wheel chair.
– Like it was interesting to find Hindu girls wearing a ‘bindi’ while dressed in jeans and a top in South Africa. They do it in Fiji too though not to that extent in Trinidad. In India, however, the girls consider the combination [of wearing jeans and bindi] a ‘No-No’.
– Like there are countless followers of Sai Baba and Satya Sri Sai Baba in these three countries, South Africa, Fiji and Trinidad, which have Indian Diaspora. And I have always found it interesting, or perhaps surprising, because Indians went there in the nineteenth century. The two Sai Babas are of recent times.
– Like I was shocked to read that 28% of the 1100+ men interviewed in SA said that they had committed rape; some said that they had done it twice!
– Like the doctors in Durban went on strike. The Government sacked 300 doctors who got their jobs back as a part of the settlement. The doctors grudgingly accepted the pay hike. And now in Mumbai doctors have gone on strike and 3100 doctors have been dismissed. What next? The script of the drama is same, I am sure!
– Like the ‘Cress theory of Colour Confrontation’ put forth by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing is interesting. She postulates that white people are genetically defective descendants of ‘albino’ mutants who had been forcibly expelled from Africa. What happened to browns? I must find out.
– Like President Zuma faced a trial for rape and was acquitted. The common man here is not much concerned. And back home in India we have MPs and MLAs with criminal convictions. The common man is indifferent there too.
– Like this makes me believe that morality and virtuosity are debates and concerns of only the intellectuals and of the middle class people, oblivious of the world ignoring them.
– Like the issues before the SA and Indian people have so much in common that it will be a great idea to arrange a dialogue. Some social activists in SA have recognised this already.
– Like I was pleasantly surprised when I met at least two white persons who denounced apartheid and said that they held Nelson Mandela in high esteem. One of them was an activist against apartheid. And this helps me retain my hope for triumph of good.
– And Finally: I saw Nelson Mandela’s house in JoBurg. It is palatial and well guarded with TV cameras, Infra Red beams etc. I felt that he remains a prisoner, in a different sense, within that house; he is not free like us. One must look up his horoscope which may hold some explanation!