Joeseph & Trinesha
There's nothing quite like summer in Durban.
The sun shining brightly, the humidity caressing your skin. Food
and sea smells intermingling and assaiing one's senses. People riding
colourful rickshaws, shrieks of laughter as young and old greet
each cool wave.
Trinesha stares into the sea from her vantage
point of the wall that borders the sand from the paved area. She
has opened her sandals and her feet are making elaborate designs
on the sea sand. She is recollecting when she was five years old
and swimming in the children's pool with only white children in
it. A lanky, stern white man in a uniform with a big ugly mustache
is shouting unintelligible words at her. The sun is warm on her
face and the water is deliciously cool. She had been there for about
fifteen minutes before he had noticed her, so she had a small victory.
No one explained why we could not play in the water with the white
children, but we knew that we could not, she thought.
Just a mere two years ago she was not allowed
to put her feet on the sand as she is doing right now. There were
security guards with batons and maybe even guns. She remembered,
as a child, looking longingly at sun-kissed bodies laying on the
beach, outstretched, little children building sandcastles. One day
I will do that too, she thought.
Who have thought that today, 15 years later,
a dream, a longing in the heart, had become a reality. It is not
really different to the beaches that we went to, the Indian beaches,
except that this is close to town and close to shops, at the fun
fair and paved as well. What angered the adults was that even if
they wanted to go there, it was not a choice, that beach was out
A bald voice interrupts her reverie. "Give
me some money." It is a young African boy, maybe eight years
old. Only one of the many children who have run away from home in
the townships and live on the streets of Durban.
I'm a student, I don't have any money, but
I can share my lunch with you. The boy looks thoughtfully at the
outstretched hand, "As long as it is not curry."
Trinesha makes like she is cross, "What a bloody cheek you
have, suits me fine." The boy, "Just jokin an' ol' man."
He tries to mimic an Indian accent. Trinesha
gives him a slice of bread, which he ravenously eats. She looks
out at the ocean agaln, but is quite curious about this very bold
and funny little boy. "Where are you from?"
"Kwamashu" the boy replies.
"And what are you doing here all by yourself?"
While dusting the last breadcrumbs from his mouth he mutters, "I
came to swim in the sea."
He looks intensely at Trinesha, it is his
turn to interrogate her, "What is that in your mouth, is it
"No it is railway tracks," she retorts.
"Can you kiss with it," he asks saucily.
"No, it is to guard against men and naughty boys!" She
flashes them close to his face, and he recoils from that much steel
"You speak very good English for a boy
from the townships", says Trinesha, who has not bought his
line about swimming in the sea. She wonders if he can even swim
in the first place. She smiles at this.
Joeseph shifts uncomfortably, "I
it from friends."
"Do they live on the street here in town,
or do they also come into town for a swim? Where are your parents?"
At this Joeseph is thrown. "None of your
business", he whispers softly under his breath. Trinesha expects
him to leave. Gently she says, "My name is Trinesha, Ubani
igamalaku?" He laughs at her pronunciation. "Joeseph,"
he says. "I like you, Miss India."
They sit together watching the ocean now and Trinesha tells Joeseph
about her childhood and her run-ins with the security. Joeseph can
not keep up the story of living in the township. Trinesha discovers
he has been living on the streets for the past two years and learns
about his adventures. They part firm friends.
Since Trinesha is staying in town for the
weekend as opposed to going back to Phoenix, where she comes from
-- the all Indian Township, riddled with gangsterism, and the constant
threat of invasion from the squatter settlement, growing rapidly
in its midst --she goes back to the 3-star hotel she is staying
Rita, Trinesha's roommate, has learned all
about Joeseph. She is riveted while Trinesha recounts some of Joeseph's
adventures. They decide to go and watch "Fisher King",
which is playing at The Wheel shopping mall, on Point Rd, known
for its "ladies of the night" and its vibrancy.
They step out boldly, commenting on how much
the streets of Durban have changed since the eighties. Immersed
in their conversation as they are, they don't see the four big Afrikaners,
their big stomachs hanging grossly in front of them, who are standing
on four corners of the street ahead of them. Three of them have
sjamboks (whips with rubber, long, snake like and phallic), one
has a shotgun. As Trinesha and her friend Rita pass through, one
of the men puts the tip of his sjambok between Trinesha's legs.
While he does this he speaks in Afrikaans.
He seems to be the leader of the pack. He
wears ammunition across his broad chest, decorated with the Nazi
flag on one shoulder and the old South African flag on the other.
He is also the largest of the four. He says, "Hey Coolie, die
weer is lekker vanaand. Wat doen a mooi coolie miesie soos jy uit
Still pushing the sjambok between her legs
and following them. The other big-belly Boere low and loud, like
hyenas or demons, their eyes glowing with excitement.
Trinesha and her friend, who are holding hands,
tighten their grip and start to walk faster. Silently reassuring
and conveying the need not to incense these hate-filled men. Having
seen the shotgun and being two young Indian women alone, they realise
that their best bet is to get out of the situation as fast as
Trinesha turns around to face them. "Excuse
me," she says as politely and neutrally as possible, whilst
she takes the ship from between her legs and throws it away from
her. In her head and eyes however, "You bastard, we are going
to get you one day! We'll see who'll be laughing then!" They
are still laughing. Rita has started to cry.
One of the Boere say, "Ag shame moenie
huil nie, jy is better as 'n kaffir, coolie miesie."
Joseph, undetected, has witnessed this whole
scene. It makes him angry that these monsters have attacked his
new friend. Not too far away, around a little fire, are six other
boys sitting and talking. He runs to them, his posse, and plans
their revenge. Soon they are armed with sharp instruments. They
identify the car belonging to the Boere by the bumper sticker, which
proudly states "WHITE RULE FOREVER." It seems this is
the sport the Boere have planned for the evening. A black family
passes by, a man, a woman and two children. One Boere quotes from
the bible in Afrikaans. Another Boere grabs the man and wraps a
whip around his neck. " Kaffir, lick my boots!" he booms,
pushing the man's head to his dirty, smelly boots. The woman's eyes
are dull and expressionless. The man's family stands very still.
It's like they have been here before and wait for it to pass so
that they can continue on their way. This gives the armed boys even
more incentive to attack. Quietly, they rip the tyres, letting the
air of all of them.
The girls, who made their escape earlier,
are now at The Wheel, out of breath since they had run all the way,
till they were certain that they were out of range. Rita is panicking
and close to hysteria, " Let's call the police.
"To tell them what?" asks Trinesha.
Rita calms herself. "You're right, maybe they're cousins or
Trinesha takes a deep breath, "I can't wait for the elections,
then this bullshit won't happen."
They walk to the ice cream parlor. Suddenly Joeseph runs up to them.
"We...we took the air out, and ripped..." He is laughing,
telling of their act of revenge. "Silly bunch of potatoes,"
says Trinesha, "now they won't be able to leave and they'll
play their sick games all night long. Were you following me?"
Joeseph looks shyly at his feet and then looks at her with a naughty
smile. "See you tomorrow, thanks for the ice cream," he
says and runs out.
"Joeseph...!" Trinesha calls out, then laughs and orders
another ice cream.
The next day, Joeseph is nowhere to be found.
It is lunchtime and Trinesha stands outside the hotel basking in
the December sunlight. From a distance there is music approaching
and cymbals going. In the corner of her eye, she sees a colourful
procession. It's the circus passing out of town. The streets are
now filled with onlookers, waving and cheering the acts.
A little boy catches her eye. It's Joeseph
with a clown's nose on, holding balloons and poking the clown in
his stomach. The crowd cheers. He does not see her, but waves as
he passes by into his future.
Maganthrie Pillay has been writing since
childhood. She works as an independent film and TV producer and
is presently working on De-Railed, her feature film debut.