Monday, January 12, 2009

an organisation called ikageng

an acronym for SOuth-WEstern TOwnships, soweto is nothing like i expected it to be. after all i'd heard about it, i was anticipating a "dharavi-like" spread of kachcha slums, no roads, insane filth and acute poverty.

but what did i find? a sprawling maze of roads that is actually better than many of the main roads in mumbai. a network of pukka homes, which are small but decent, with concrete walls and brick/concrete roofs. a few patches of slums that resemble the blue-plastic -covered dwellings in mumbai, but these are few and far between. many many cars. and, hold your breath, the largest mall (yes, mall) in the country.

the people do not appear impoverished or under-nourished. children are not quite the naked, bloated-belly and snot-nosed variety often depicted on TV. the youth are fashionable, even.

after my initial surprise and confusion, i realised i felt a sense of indignation. people here sympathise with THIS, when the poverty in india, especially mumbai, is so much more abject? i'm supposed to feel moved or affected by this, when i'm amazed that the main roads here provide for a bump-free and spacious drive, a luxury in bombay. no, i didn't. no, i don't.

and yet, what really moved me was the spirit of the people i met. a lady called 'mum carol', who has taken under her wing 2000 HIV orphans and is tirelessly providing them with more than the bare necessities. having started out with 6, her organisation has grown remarkably, and one can see why. who would not donate generously to a woman of such unwavering dedication, continual commitment and steely nerves? HIV orphans are growing at a shocking pace in this part of the world, and to think that mum carol simply decided that enough was enough, the kids need help, and did remarkable stuff with them. she got them enrolled in schools, got them their daily bread, paid for the funerals that happen very often in their extended families and most importantly, gave them a sense of belonging.

and some of the kids themselves are simply amazing . r, especially. you called me a dynamite, but it is you who is far more deserving of admiration. i'm coaching these children, but they are the ones who have opened up windows in my mind.

thank you ikageng for giving me the opportunity to share your lives and partake of your inspiration.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

for the ghost who talks

it's time to write, GOTJ said
so here i am, trying to get around my head
these old streets with new names
smilingly thinking of all that was read
right here, 2 years ago.
as i struggle
with my rusted knack
for the random rhyme
i feel lame and slack,

but who knows what the year will bring
and the pretty songs that our hearts may sing.

PS: to all the old-timers: hope all is well in your worlds.