Thursday, December 08, 2011

Durban Diary, Entry 3: Findng India Everywhere!

Mother India. I have seen too many sisters of yours in Durban

Courtesy a huge Indian community in Durban, no matter which way you go, you can't miss seeing Indian faces everywhere around you.

I am staying in Hotel Gateway which is next to Durban's biggest shopping complex,also called  the Gateway. Most of the shops there are run by people of Indian origin. In the hotel, every other day there is a wedding party where you see dozens of Indian men and women adding jazz to the posh hotel's air. At the transport hub near the climate summit venue, a number of young volunteers helping the visitors with getting the right bus. Half of them are Indians.

But my story goes a little beyond the obvious. I am finding India where its barely there: in the clothes people wear, the styling of their hair, the way they dress or talk or raise an issue.

My colleague, and another CCMP fellow Armsfree - a handsome Nigerian - wears a beautiful suit which looks a lot like our good old Kurta Pajama. When I tell this to Armsfree, he isn't very amused. Maybe he thinks I am messing with his unique identity :)

But just a few hours later, I meet a woman wearing a lovely dress in the summit venue. I stop her and ask about her dress. She is from Bissau - a country in the west of Africa. When I told her that her dress reminds me of my people in north east of India, she is delighted and asks me to share a coffee!

Another time I meet a group of Bolivians who are carrying a brightly colorful piece of cloth. It looks very close to our shawls in the North east India. Both are handwoven and naturally dyed.

We go out for a little field trip. One of my colleagues Indi - a journalist from Jamaica, has this lovely braided hair which I can't stop staring at. Today Indi is tying her hair with a rubber band that has a flower. Its not a real flower, but it takes me back to India where women can't resist adding a little floral element to their flowers.

I speak to Chrisjan - a  TV journalist and a CCMP fellow who's been a good friend. Chrisjan is from Namibia. I want to know about his country, his life back there. In the course of our conversation he tells me, he loves the food his mom prepares. Its the best food in the world. Now, 'Ma ka haath ka khana'- isn't that a legend in India?

There are so many such instances, but I will end with this one: I travel by a bus for 40 minutes everyday to the summit venue. On my way I see houses lined with Yellow, bell-shaped flowers. It reminds me of India where my mom goes out everyday to collect those flowers for her daily worship. Every second day she comes back looking sad and tells me that she saw someone cut down a tree.' It was a mother tree - full of flowers. How can people cut down a tree without feeling bad or fearing god?" she asks me.

In the climate summit, that is the very question on everyone's mind, Ma.

And I am sorry, I do not have an answer for you yet. But I  hope more and more people will think twice before cutting a tree.


Jayanta Roy Chowdhury said...

Liked it, about African clothing resembling ours, I have a therory -our traders have done a lot of business with horn of africa/ east africa in textiles for centuries, in some cases even milleniums. Some influence would be natural, na?:)

stella's musings said...

@Jayanta Roy Chowdhury: Yes, you are right. Our traders did go - and continue to do so - far and wide, creating connecting factors. In this particular case (Bissau), the woman is from a tribal group and at some level all the indigenous groups across the world do have a lot of similarities regarding their faith, food habits and behavior. Thanks again for reading!