​a true story …




my mother used tell me this with tears in her eyes.



my mother left South Africa in the 1960’s to join my father who was in political exile at the time in Tanzania. 



in 1970 my father was deployed by the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) to India to be its Chief-Representative there.


I was born in New Delhi a couple of years later in ’72.



my mother and father spent two years in Mumbai (then Bombay).



one afternoon my father fell and broke his leg.



my mother knocked on their neighbour’s door of the apartment complex where they lived. 



the neighbour was an elderly Punjabi lady.



my mother asked the elderly lady for assistance in calling a doctor to see to my injured father. 



a Zoroastrian (Parsi) ‘bone-setter’ was promptly summoned.



my mother and the elderly neighbour got to talking and the lady asked my mother where they were from, as their accents were clearly not local.



my mother told the elderly Punjabi lady that my father worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had been forced into exile to continue to struggle to raise awareness internationally about the appalling situation in Apartheid South Africa.



my mother also mentioned that they had to leave their two young children (my siblings, whom I met only later in life) behind in South Africa, in the care of grandparents, and that they were now essentially political refugees.



the elderly lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.



she told my mother that she too had to leave their home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on their back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and when Pakistan was torn from India and formed, due to narrow religious and sectarian reasons, whose repercussions are felt to this day.



this was also a time when religious violence wreaked havoc, and untold suffering and death for millions of human beings.



the elderly lady then asked my mother what her name was.



‘Zubeida’, but you can call me ‘Zubie’.



the Punjabi woman hugged Zubeida some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, by religion and all the things that seek to divide humanity,  wept, for they could understand the pain and trauma of a shared experience.



the elderly Punjabi lady told my mother that she was her ‘sister’ from that day on, and that she too felt the pain of exile after being forced to become refugees, and what being a refugee felt like.



Zubie and her husband Mosie (my father) and the family next door became the closest of friends.



then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress (ANC) office was to be officially opened.



the elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes.



a year or two later, the elderly lady’s daughter Lata married Ravi Sethi and the couple moved to Delhi.



the elderly lady telephoned Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live there, and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a ‘sister’ in Delhi, and that she should not feel alone.



Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi in the mid-1970’s.



Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, till the both my mother passed away in 2008. 



my father and I still feel a close bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi, and vice versa. 



a bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two countries of South Africa and of India, shattering the barriers of creed and of time.



a bond strong and resilient, forged by the pain and trauma of a shared experience.



that is why I shall never stop believing that hope shines still, for with so much religious bigotry almost consuming our world today, there will always be a woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the ‘other’ in as a sister, and as a fellow human being.



and that is why, I believe, that there will always be hope.



hope in the midst of unbearable pain and hope in the midst of loss and of unspeakable suffering.



hope.
for we can never give up hope for a better world.


never.








(for aunty Lata’s late-mother, my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi, India)

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