Evening. June 11. Marina Bang, a designer, is in her Jor Bagh 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.” Bang is from South Africa and has been living in Delhi for a year.
“But why didn’t you fly to Jo’burg to watch the cup?” HT City asks. She puts a finger on her lip, signalling us to be quiet. The giant screen in Jo’burg’s Soccer City stadium is playing the final countdown: 6 5 4 3 2 1 0. “Yay,” Bang 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. “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,” she says.
The ceremony, beamed live on the television, is showing a giant dung beetle pushing the football, instead of a ball of dung, on the stadium ground. “This is called uqongqothwane,” she 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. Bang exclaims. “Ah, 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 Bang does not go into that detail at this happy moment. A portrait of Mandela is hanging on her room wall.
The Jor Bagh resident doesn’t know any other South African living in Delhi. Does she miss her countrymen? “South Africa has a strong Indian connection. In many ways, I feel at home here.”
Bang 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,” she says. “My mother still lives there.” She then again hushes us to be silent, not wishing to distract herself away from the television. Leave her alone.