City Life – FIFA Soccer World Cup, Jo’burg & Jor Bagh

City Life - FIFA Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg & Jor Bagh

A home away from home.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Evening. June 11, 2010. The Jor Bagh resident is in her living room, in front of the television. She is waiting for the inaugural ceremony of the FIFA Soccer World Cup to begin in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is all excitement.

“It’s the first time that the world cup is happening in Africa,” she says. “It’s a special day for my country.” The woman is from South Africa and has been living in Delhi for a year. Since she is very shy, The Delhi Walla decided not to share her name with the readers.

“But why didn’t you fly to South Africa to watch the cup?” I ask.

She puts a finger on her lip, signaling me to be quiet. The giant screen in the Soccer City stadium is playing the final countdown: 6 5 4 3 2 1 0.

“Yay,” the woman shouts and starts clapping. Suddenly she gets up, quickly runs into her bedroom and appears a minute later, wearing a hat with bold geometric designs woven into it. “This is a Zulu bridal hat,” she says. “Traditionally they are made of mud and the hair is molded into the mud. But this one is made of woven grass and fabric.” There is also a shawl-like thing draped round her shoulders. “It’s called shwe-shwe,” the woman says. It has images of South Africa’s iconic leader Nelson Mandela printed on it. “My sister made it for me.”

The ceremony, beaming live on the television, is showing a giant dung beetle pushing the football, instead of a ball of dung, on the stadium ground. “It’s called uqongqothwane,” the woman says. “There is a famous song about this beetle called ‘the click song’ because it is sung in Xhosa, a language with lots of click sounds. It was made famous by the singer and activist Miriam Makeba.”

The camera shifts to the audience and then to the South African Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu. He is dancing. The woman exclaims. “Ah, what a nice man. He is like the father of the nation…”

Then who is Mandela?

“… But Mandela couldn’t come…” she says. Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-grand daughter, Zenani, had died the day before in a car accident but the woman does not go into that sad detail at this happy moment. A portrait of Mandela is hanging on her living room wall, next to the writing table.

The woman does not know any other South African living in Delhi. Does she miss her countrymen? Does she feel lonely? “South Africa has a strong Indian connection. In many ways, I feel at home here.”

The woman was born in Pietermaritzburg, the town where the young Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of the first-class compartment of a train in 1893 because he was not white. “We have a large statue of Gandhi now,” the Jor Bagh resident says. “My mother still lives there.” She then again hushes me to be silent, not wishing to distract herself away from the television. Leave her alone.

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City Life - FIFA Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg & Jor Bagh

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City Life - FIFA Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg & Jor Bagh

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City Life - FIFA Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg & Jor Bagh

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City Life - FIFA Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg & Jor Bagh