thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

All the colours of the rainbow (and the healing power of music)

My children are colour-blind.

It’s awesome.

In this still-fledgeling democracy that is South Africa today, 18 years after the country queued, and queued, and queued some more to cast its vote in the first democratic elections, my children are colour-blind.

It is a great joy to me.

They do not see black, white, pink, purple or green – only their circles of friends. And in this world of theirs, all ‘colours’ of the rainbow are equal, with the possible exception of real-life pink for Liam, who wrinkles up his nose and tells me in his little gruff voice that ‘pink is for girls mom!’.

And my boys can dance, also.

Who says white boys can’t dance?

I watched the children covertly the other night while I was in and out of the kitchen preparing dinner. Liam and Matthew were in the lounge where I’d introduced them to a Johnny Clegg CD – he who is known as ‘the white Zulu’ – and they’d loved the music instantly. They swayed, they stomped, they moved to the beat and they felt the rhythm.

I was so proud.

They’d discovered ‘Asimbonanga’ as their track of choice, and they played it over and over again. They know it practically off by heart now, including most of the isiZulu.

The song stirs up such memories for me. It was one of the anthems of my youth, when as a sheltered young adult I first learned – properly – about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the great Madiba, who was incarcerated as a political prisoner for 27 years. At the time I first got to know the song, Madiba was still some years away from his release from his island prison, Robben Island off Cape Town.

My friends and I went to quite a few concerts where Johnny Clegg played, first with Juluka and later with Savuka. He and his early-rainbow nation brothers and sisters sang and danced their hearts out, and whenever they performed ‘Asimbonanga’, the emotion in the room was always tangible and always running high – but in a good way.

There we were, crowds of young, mainly white youth in an apartheid South Africa that was not of our making, and there as Johnny sang we fell silent, swaying with one movement, arms uplifted, cigarette lighters lit in that universal music concert’s peace sign.

There we linked arms, minds and souls as we listened, united, to the haunting melody and the even more haunting words. There we remembered, through the song, fallen heroes of the struggle, black and white, male and female. There we were united in understanding and a yearning for peace, even if we couldn’t speak isiZulu. Somehow, we knew what the words meant in their very essence, deep down in our core.

There at those Johnny Clegg concerts, we were part of the fore-runner of the dream of a rainbow nation that has almost come to pass.

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Chorus….

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me?

Chorus….

Steven Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonanga
Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination) 

And as I listen again to these inspirational and haunting words, I ask myself when, indeed, will we arrive at the destination we were all looking for in those days of dreaming? The days when we voted with our hearts and our souls for a united rainbow country?

I ask myself:

When will the children be educated as they were promised?

When will the women and children be free from the scourge of rape and murder?

When will government corruption and ineptitude be punished?

When will politicians who lie, cheat and steal acknowledge their guilt and tell the nation, “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I was wrong. Yes, I will make amends. Yes, I will step down?”

When will nurses and policemen and teachers be properly paid, properly trained, properly mindful of their hugely important role in this fledgeling democracy of ours? 

When will the taxi and bus industries, which transport millions of people every day, be better regulated so that we are not outraged on a daily and weekly basis by stories of horror motor crashes that kill and maim innocent people?

When will motorists stop shooting their cars recklessly through bright scarlet traffic lights, endangering the lives of law-abiding citizens?

When will motorists start buckling up their children in car seats?

When will we adopt a culture of kindness to animals?

When will….

I must stop before I descend into mere ranting.

I must look on the bright side. I was not made to ignore the silver linings.

I must remember that the voice of the people is growing – yes, I do believe so. Think about the outrage around the e-tolling saga; think about the outrage around a R2 billion presidential jet; think about the journalists and satirists and yes, even businessmen who speak out – and out – and out some more despite legislative attempts to gag them.

Think about the good initiatives that take place in South Africa, led by business, led by the media, led by the medical industry, led by private individuals.

Think about the Madiba legacy – the magic that was his; the magic that pulled a country back from the brink of civil war; the magic that can still be if we only look for it and better yet, create it.

Think about it.

Think about the children of South Africa as they play together on playgrounds that are all the colours of the rainbow nation.

Think about it.

And then do a little spot of rainbow magic Madiba singing and dancing, by order of the great man himself.

Oh, oh, oh to have been there….

Hey wena!

Yes, you.

And me.

And you, and you, and you…

Let’s work together to arrive at our intended destination after all.

Let’s blind South Africa with all the colours and all the hope of the rainbow.

Think about it.

Then do.

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Darling Frodo…

Here is one especially for my beloved husband and sister (I hope you won’t mind me publishing our conversation here). There is a little present for ‘Pook’ at the end of this post!

Xxx

From: Pook
Sent: Tuesday, 22 June, 2010 3:56 PM
To: Seet-sah
Subject:

Hello, are you back at work?

I hope you received my sms and my emails… did you have a nice birthday?

Lxx

From: Seet-sah

Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 4:38 PM
To: ‘Pook’
Subject: i’m sorry, i have some really sad news

Hello dear sis

I was just thinking about you so we did that thought connection thing again.

I did have a nice birthday in many respects with the children and spending some time with mom yesterday, but as we have such sad news it wasn’t the best.

Darling Frodo is gone.

He died on Sunday afternoon while mom and dad were out, as near as we can work it out, just before Frank and I and the children arrived at Preller Driveabout two minutes before mom and dad got back from the shops.

We all got there about 12:15 (mom and dad two minutes later like I said) and dear Frodo was lying still on the other side of the gate.

When we realised that he wasn’t barking or saying hello we all piled through the gate.

He was lying at the gate in the sun, in a very peaceful relaxed posture like he was asleep, but just too still. Mom said that he used to wait for us all there.

He was still warm (and not at all rigid) and dad believes that he breathed his last while we were all there, patting his poor still body. I think he’s right. The neighbour heard him barking at a passerby at 12 o’clock – for some reason he looked at his watch then – and we were all there just about 15 minutes later.

We think his heart gave out while he was running up and down barking – at a passerby like I said.

He was in amazing condition aside from his hip dysplasia and he never stopped running and bounding. But he was using his back legs less and less – I noticed just the other day – and all the power was in his chest and front legs. We think in hindsight it was putting strain on his heart.

It was absolutely unexpected and our dad is devastated. Mom was also overwrought but as you know she takes great solace in the children.

We didn’t want to spoil your weekend by telling you on Sunday, and I didn’t want to email you on Sunday to give you a terrible start to Monday, so I said I would email you today, Tuesday, when I was back at work. I’m sorry I didn’t email before now today; I came back to a two-hour meeting at 9:00 and problems with my computer so have been offline for a while.

Frodo was not quite 7 years old so it really was a terrible, terrible shock.

We are trying to see the silver linings.

He had a very happy life, first with us and then with mom and dad.

He was much, much loved.

He went peacefully and it really didn’t look like he suffered at all from his posture.

Anyway, it’s still very hard to believe.

He was a marvellous friend and we all loved him so much.

So now you know.

So as I said, it wasn’t my best birthday weekend ever.

Our vets were closed for the day so Frank and I took him to the emergency vet half an hour later. Dad came with us. It was very hard.

Frodo will be cremated and we will bury his ashes in our garden, when we plant the baby tree that we got from you all those ages ago. (The sapling you gave us from your house – at the back door – that tree. We planned on planting it for a long time now and so now we really will.)

I’m so sorry to have to tell you.

(I’m crying a bit. Quietly. I know he had a great life and I know that if it wasn’t for me finding him at the SPCA that he might have been one of those little euthanased puppies, but we will miss him so much.)

XXXX

I have put off hitting the send button but I must now.

From: Pook
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 4:51 PM
To: Seet-sah

Hello…

I knew something was wrong because no-one was getting back to me..

I’m so very sad. He was so beautiful.

At least, as you say, he had a good life and he was loved.

Do you remember how he loved to sit in your lap and once he grew into a big dog he still tried to climb up?

I also miss the way he ‘crab-walked’, leaning on my legs 🙂

Plse send my love to all.

(And Pook attached this awesome photo.)

Darling Frodo…

From: Seet-sah
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 4:59 PM
To: ‘Pook’

Yes, I do remember the lap climbing and the crab walking. It was so sweet!

We also called him “Big fat silly puppy*”! as well as “Jumpy-jumpy”. And the other name was “BIG dog”.

Shame, that is what set off Frank’s tears on Sunday when he was stroking him and he said, “Oh, my big dog…”

I will never forget seeing little Frodo for the first time at the SPCA. He was such a sad, sad little puppy that day, hiding in the corner, and I pulled him out very gently and picked him up there in the cage and LOVED him, and then after about five minutes I got a wuff and a smile and a tiny little bounce.

And then he grew up with us and became such a happy bouncy dog. It’s a lovely consolation.

I guess the more nicknames your pet has the more they are loved?

[*On a lighter note, and on the other hand, Sasha, who has a f@rting problem, poor girlie, is “Big fat smelly puppy”…]

Notes from two years later:

For my dearest sister – here at last a picture of the Frodo tree so you can see how it’s grown. It’s a proper tree now. See Sasha and the boys, and Sasha and Frank, for a size reference.

Love in abundance – and here’s to our darling Frodo.

Xxxx

The boys and Sasha with the Frodo tree in the background

Frank and Sasha and now you can see how tall the Frodo tree has grown!

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