I wonder what people think about when they look at me. Perhaps they see just another ‘Indian’ and unconsciously wrap the string of stereotypes that come along with that descriptor around my neck.
Yet when I look in the mirror, I see ‘South African’.
I don’t know what the rest of the Indian population (yes the largest outside of India) in this country are thinking and feeling right at this minute. I can only speak for myself. And this speaking, this articulating, this daring to let my voice be heard, this rising up of courage… has been many years in the making.
I’m not sure whether it was something I gave up, something that was taken away from me or something I never took ownership in the first place.
Partly the reason for the self-censorship of my voice has been that I too have been a victim of the ‘old oppressive system.’ And no we can’t just ‘stop talking about apartheid’ because if we forget where we came from, then we will forget just where it is that we want this country to go to.
And yes I too want to see the national socio-political discourse shift towards a more progressive, action orientated agenda. But maybe we are stuck in a moment of national intransigence because all of its citizens are not leaning on the same side of the ship. Maybe all the voices haven’t been heard yet, so we don’t quite know how to take the next step of progress.
So now that I am finally letting my voice be heard, I am determined that it will not just be another angry shout that adds to the pervading negativity. Instead, I hope that my voice will be a heralding call to action to stop making war with our words and rather to be brave enough to open our lives to personify love in action.
Yes I know many will dismiss my voice as being naïve and overly optimistic, but it is a voice calling out to ‘true South Africans’ nonetheless.
A true South African?
Since this is the first time that I am articulating my South African voice, there is a probability that it will be lost in translation. I am trying to make you understand that maybe, just maybe, we need to reform our understanding of what it means to be South African.
No one has ever bothered to ask me what it feels like to be a South African. I may not be able to give you a succinct definition, but I can tell you how being a South African makes me feel.
I may not have been one of those who took to the streets to protest unjust laws. Neither am I tormented with memories of loved ones who placed their lives on the line for my political freedom.
But when I visit the apartheid museum, I don’t have to be black to feel the anger of righteous indignation. I don’t have to be black to read Solomon Mahlangu’s last words and feel the indelible weight of responsibility fall on my shoulders.
I don’t have to be white to feel the confusion, false guilt and loss of place that dominates everyday conversations. I don’t have to be brown to feel frustrated at the defeatist attitude prevailing in aforementioned minority groups.
In fact, I don’t have to be a colour at all.
My identity as a true South African is not tied to my colour – it is tied to my character.
My fellow South Africans are people, and stripped away of all the political codes, they are individuals who are just like me, trying to find a way to find their place in this country, trying to find a way to move past all of the pain and injustice, all of the burdens and the pressures of what we are facing.
A true South African dares to hope, dares to dream, and it is not problems that are tied to our country but if we can find a way to learn to see each other as South Africans in the core of our identities… then maybe, as we make an attempt to chart a different course, we will be able to teach the countries of the world, about reconciliation that comes from forming real and true relationship.
A true South African is a mosaic of beauty, culture, love, integrity, freedom, hope and joy.
And I wouldn’t want to change that for the world.
This is my country too.