Vignettes of a South African Township called Mdantsane

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Somali refugees and Mdantsane, South Africa

The Somali refugee was shot dead through the steel mesh window at his spaza shop in Mdantsane. He sold even two bread pieces to starving locals. He survived Mogadishu and the Al Shabab, arriving in South Africa penniless and on an asylum status. They worked hard and started tiny grocery shops all over Mdantsane. The existing business being run by Bangladeshi shops had to close down because of fierce competition. The Somalis got involved in the spam of marrying on contract local South African girls to keep their residency status. But who killed the Somali man and who stabbed them. I had asked the Maulana accompanying them to my Emergency Medicine Department. I told him in humor, You are bringing stabbed and shot Somalis every week and I have healed them, what have you done for me. The Maulana smiled, I will offer my duas for you in the mosque. Later I found out it’s the Somalis killing other Somalis and has never been a case of Xenophobia. There is Al Shabab in South Africa and every Somali has to donate and become a member The radical islamization from where they fled has caught up with them here again. There is a turf war for the sale of Methamphetamine popularly known as the Tic. The Nigerian Mafia controls the drug trade, disguised as Pastors, they move around effortlessly. A certain elderly Nigerian whom I had treated in the Emergency Medicine Department and walks with a gold walking stick pondered and asked if I cared to join him in an impeccable English. Memories of the Nigerian Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Wole Soyinka wafts in, he had said, ‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’. I remember at Nairobi airport filled with Somali refugees and the acerbic smell of Khat chewing, postponing hunger. I was on transit for an Air Afrique flight to Niamey where I was to serve as an UNV Volunteer Orthopaedic Surgeon there. Most of them eventually died in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, running from their home to a foreign land which they wanted to call as “home” I keep a 9 mm in my car, just to have the feel of fond memories of gun toting dacoits of Gwalior Violence is only the way to Peace and loving is the only poetry encompassing life

Friday, October 8, 2021

Dhaka and Old Delhi - Memories before I start forgetting

I remember Dhaka formerly known before liberation of East Pakistan as Dacca. The liberation war left it scarred and in 1982, the Bangladesh capital was renamed as Dhaka. The seventeenth century old city was the capital of Mughal Bengal and along came with it the unique art and culture, Dhaka culinary, architecture, weaving silk and tehzeeb handed down from generations. I remember Noor E Alam Siddiqui alias Tiger Siddiqui, Abdur Qudus Makhan, Shahjahan Siraj and Mohammad Abdur Raub, at the helm of Mukti Bahini and a certain Sardar Colonel from the Indian Army who crossed over every evening to the other side wearing a lungi and without his turban. These are all unknown heroes of India and Bangladesh. The other hero, I remember clearly was an American Orthopaedic Surgeon, he continued operating in makeshift tents during the uprising. He operated without any hardware on fractures of the neck of femur, removing them and then closing the wound. Known as the Girdlestone technique, he offered a shortened limb but a painless hip joint. His popularity was overcome by jealousy of non-orthopaedic surgeons of Dhaka and was finally forced to leave. In my years as an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Niamey in Niger during the civil war of the Sahel, I followed his Girdlestone technique and gave satisfied patients high heeled shoes. The sheer beauty of Dhaka can only be compared to the Mughal Old Delhi. Mughal memories are pigeons and the silk saree that can pass through a women’s ring. The heady aroma and drooping of eyes at a certain rendezvous are only distant memories.

Fordsburg, Johannesburg and Bangladesh, something in common

Back from Johannesburg. Clearly it seems that Bangladeshis have taken over all major trade including banking in Fordsburg. Had a great time conversing with a tailor from Sylhet. There are hoardings in Bangla and English. He wouldn't talk about the horrific murder of Neel, the blogger or even of Sheikh Mujib, says he is ashamed of his own skin. I saw tears in his eyes. Dada, 'please let me make a blazer for you'. I thought of the Liberation war, the genocide, in numbers and brutality only next to the holocaust in Germany, the Razakars still moving freely, some of them might be even living incognito in South Africa and radical islamisation of Fordsburg. Next time Dada, Next time, I told, embracing him.The Jannatul Firdaus, I bought from an Itr seller, brought me back to Old Delhi, its colors insisting, streets persisting on aadab, life and living.

Sunday, November 3, 2019