My trip to Malawi, was based off my plan to go back to Umhlanga, where I grew up. I had grown tired that of having birthdays in the cold miserable weather of the UK. My childhood birthdays (4-13) had the minimum of one of the following: an ice-cream cake, a pool party or some form of trip around the beach. It was an idyllic childhood. I was in the 1% of South African residents, living by the sea, great friends, able to play all the sports I wanted to and watching my beloved Sharks. If anyone asks where I call home: I still say Umhlanga, even if I stopped living there over a decade ago. From all my travels, it’s still the place I want to retire. It’s still the place where I want my ashes to spread (well one of them). The last time I left Umhlanga, I was off back to varsity in the UK to finish my bachelor’s.
5 hours to kill.
My trip back in SA was via Malawi, which meant that my port of entry was OR Tambo. Now, it’s no secret, that I don’t care about Jozi or have any real interest in visiting there. I got to meet the entire Transvaal when they came to Umhlanga (and the rest of KZN) during the summer. The last time I spent time outside OR Tambo was in 2010 for the World Cup and even that was just a single day to see the final. I had messaged a couple of friends about meeting up during my layover and decided that there is no reason to ever just sit around in the airport. Especially when you get free visa on arrival. I am blessed as I always claim, because my childhood friend Nimesh was free to catch up. I’ve known Nimesh since I was roughly 4 years old and it’s quite funny to look at the very old home videos and you can see Nimesh walking right in front of the camera during my fifth birthday party in the garden. He picked me up at the Gautrain station in Sandton and we headed to Nelson Mandela Square to grab a drink. Seriously, when did Tasha’s become posh? After sharing some stories and a bit of chit-chat I was back on the Gautrain, rushing back to the airport. One thing I would like to note, is that security in Africa has been so relaxed (not lax). It’s nice not being randomly selected.
Seeing Mum (well another one)
Like Auntie Saira that I met in Malawi, I came back to South Africa and headed straight to Husmitha Auntie and family for dinner. You see, growing up in Umhlanga meant that my nearest member outside of my nuclear family was in Mumbai; a place that I wouldn’t visit for another seven years once we moved to SA. What was my family? It was the close family friends we had and out neighbours. Our little community became our family and thus we became close to everyone. Husmitha Auntie might always spell my name wrong, but that’s not important. First, she can say it correctly (looking at all people who struggle with my two-syllable name). What matters her words mean, how she treats me and our trust far outweighs the spelling of my made-up name. What I have realised in my extremely short time on this planet, life fucking sucks when you don’t have anyone you can trust or speak openly with. To have more than one is fantastic. To have one that treats you as an extension to the family, that’s blessed.
Now my bags in King Shaka were a bit delayed and I had to sort out my data package, I eventually got an Uber to head home. When I got to see Husmitha Auntie again, back home…mate it was special. That feeling of comfort that make any problem insignificant. I was treated to multiple meals. I got to eat the world-renowned masala baked beans, salad (with real avocados) and another shak that escapes right now. I was able to have it with some red wine and chatted to Pareen & Naresh Uncle. Until midnight, then Husmita Auntie poured me some tequila to celebrate my birthday. With plans to be up for sunrise in the morning, Pareen gets me home and I prepare for the day ahead.
The moment had come, it’s 5am, light is creeping into my room and I must leg it to the beach to get there in time for sunrise. Now, there are two things that no place can compete with Africa. Those are African Sunset (as seen in Malawi) and an African Sunrise. It’s just spectacular. Nothing compares. My new years resolution for the 2019, was to make sure that I got back to SA for my birthday and see sunrise. I was able to do that and got to see the sun peak over the ocean and start its ascent. The one thing I noticed was the swaths of people out already. It was 5:20ish when I got to the promenade and it was busy! Loads of people walking, some running, a few fishermen and as I strolled to areas to swim: there were people swimming before the sun was up! That’s the thing about Umhlanga, people abuse the beach and thank goodness! It’s not a bunch of fitness freaks out, it’s old people, middle-aged comrade runners training, a few babies being carried and some people preparing their shops for the day. While the village sleeps relatively early on a weeknight (11ish it’s dead), the morning is alive and bustling. I dipped my feet in the water and thought the ever-lasting truth about home: it’s paradise.
I decided to have a cuppa at the Oyster Box, because I’m a fancy wanker, plus it’s my birthday. I got to enjoy a monkey jump onto my table and nick the sugar. Bloody monkeys. Well, I was unable to pay as I left my wallet at home… but this being Africa, I explained to the manager what happened and told him that I would be back later in the day. After an exchange of details, I was free to get on with my day. This probably wouldn’t have gone down well in a fancy hotel in London.
I headed home, showered and got some bags ready to go shopping. I walked back into town and bumped into Nozipo (my maid) who spotted me in the distance and decided to sit down in the shade and wait for me. I love Nozi but this was something else! We had a quick hug and I told Nozi that I was doing the shopping and what she needed for the house. I headed to the Oyster Box to settle my debt and then had a quick browse around Pick n’ Pay before going to Woolies. I have to say that I’m a sucker for local SA produce and the fact that mangoes were still in season meant that I packed my shopping full of fruit and veg, local cheeses and my favourite protein bread. I don’t know what it exactly is, but I always prefer the taste of items from SA. Be it All Gold, white vinegar (seriously, South African white vinegar is amazing to make chutneys), honey and without a doubt: avocados. What is it with Europe and avocados? Just more expensive given their minuscule size and large pip? The milk taste fresh and I was so happy to be able to buy non-homogenised milk. That Ayrshire cow marketing rubbish…well let’s just say it worked for me. I miss that rubbish. Not as good as the milk in Malawi (from the cow), but it does have a nice taste to it. I needed to go to Food Lovers for the rest of groceries, but I knew that I was going to be out a lot. Thankfully, the £ does stretch well here.
After having some fruit, I opened the front door and locked the front gate. Went to the veranda and open the door and had the sea breeze come into the house. I was chatting to Nozi when in the corner of my eye I spotted a monkey in the kitchen! I realised that I need to put the shopping away, before taking my eyes off it!
With the heat turning up I and with a lunchtime meeting. Yeah, it wasn’t even twelve at this point. I went for a quick rinse after racing back with 10 kilos of groceries of shopping in the heat for a couple of kms. The meeting was good and I didn’t mind that I had to work on birthday. I was just so happy to be home. I called a couple of friends and old neighbours and organised an impromptu birthday party. I was able to have a relaxed evening with friends and [pseudo]family. After dinner, went into the village and had few drinks with Rivaj and Pareen. I didn’t make it to the beach for sunrise the next morning, but I was up in the flat and a decent view from the couch.
Driving and Crashing Weddings
For the first time I’ve been back in Durban, I got my hands on the “holy-Mercedes” of the family. The old car, were I must remember to plug in the battery, pray that it turns on, feed that thirsty engine and then deal with all the electronics not working. The main problem I have with Durban is the total lack of public transport that’s safe to use. Note; I did take the bus as a young child with my first au pair. It wasn’t really that safe then, but we you just got on with it and I didn’t know any better. You need a car to get around. Luckily, I had access to a car and my sister had put in the old CDs that I grew up with in the deck. While I did listen to all of them, I kept my bootleg copy of the Bend it Like Beckham soundtrack running as my tunes of choice, when I didn’t want to listen to local radio. Windows down, sea to one side and driving along the deserted M4 was glorious.
The main reason I went along the M4 was to head to Zimbali to check on the house we have there…and to crash a wedding. After getting into Zimbali which was a mission and a half. Seriously got stuck because my fingers aren’t registered on the system, because they only implemented the system after the last time I left. Once inside I was able to head back to the house that I never got to live in and just imagine what life could have been. As much as I love the view and understand the safety aspect, because it’s a great place to be a young kid in. It’s just not for me. I love the village and the promenade.
Now, there is a whole separate story about this wedding I went to crash at Zimbali. It’s starts prior to Malawi. While waiting in the lounge during my transit. I sat down had some breakfast and decided to use the bathroom before my next leg. I placed my bags down near an Indian couple, asked them to look after my bags so I could relieve myself. Before they answered, I was gone. I thanked them on my return and we got into a lovely conversation. Turns out they were Gujrati and they had been on long massive break. They were off to Mauritius, then Vic Falls and then off to Durban for a wedding. Just when I was back in Durban. I had met up with them earlier in the week for an hour and this massive family group had not been to Umhlanga beach yet. They had been to the Zululand and the valley of a thousand hills. However, staying on the ridge these guys told me that they didn’t have time for the beach! I lamented at the attitude and told them visiting anywhere in Durban not going to the seaside is a travesty! The audacity! If one of my friends came to Durban and didn’t go to the beach, I probably stop speaking to them. Before I get too ranty, the family told me to come over to Zimbali where the wedding was being held there. So, I thought I would check it out. I mean, I’m Indian. In a room full of Indians, I can blend in (if it isn’t oblivious by now). These guys were not prepared for the humidity and to be honest the party was so kak that I left to head to Beach Bums in La Mercy and enjoyed the sunset. But seriously, who comes to Umhlanga and doesn’t go to see the lighthouse?
Jolling around town
I also headed into town a couple of times. Once after a meeting Durban Country Club, I headed towards Essenwood for memory sake. I grew up going to the market on Saturdays after my swimming classes in Morningside and I just wanted to go through the area. I was a bit dishearten when I drove pass that playground didn’t have major new upgrades. Not for myself, but surely twenty years is enough of a life span on some of the items. I grabbed lunch at the Market Café Restaurant, where I had some fresh pasta and some five roses tea under a tree.
Another time, I headed to Florida Road to visit Minnie in Musgrave. It was quite warm at 33C and with parking right across Scoop, I got myself a scoop of ice-cream. Went into Cecile & Boyd and wished my house was full of their items and just went for a walk around the area. Got a mocktail and Dropkick Murphy’s and watched some cricket the screens. Outside in the warmth. Life was good. With Minnie being delayed, I headed to South Beach and went for a drive along the beach front. I must admit, for swimming it’s hard to beat South Beach, no matter how much I bias I have for Umhlanga. I drove round to Addington Hospital and then headed back to Musgrave. While I am sure that my mother would not approve of my driving around town, I would do it a hundred times over. If want to strive for social integration, we are going to have to get slightly uncomfortable. Though, the beach during the day is perfectly fine. Minnie and I grabbed some coffee at the Musgrave Centre. It was great to catch up with an old acquaintance. After I went up to see her cat and stare at the stunning view of the stadium and ocean. That’s something you don’t get tied of, the beautiful ocean view.
Talking about town, I went clubbing with some old family friends from Dubai. Sameeha was down to celebrate her birthday (a couple of days prior to mine) with a couple of friends and her brother came down during the week. One night I popped over, as we are living in the same block. They were all getting ready to go out and I was in my tee and jeans, thinking of my bed. With a bit of persuasion, plus their need for a car, I decided to join them. Why the hell not? We headed into Umgeni Road area and went to a student night (as these guys are that age range) and we had a blast. The first place we went, we were the only non-black people in the club and let me say this: it did not matter and it should not matter! We had a blast dancing our hearts at the club. However, there was one downside. No real space to stand. So, we headed to another club. We couldn’t get in, due to it being a private event. That’s not an issue for the Tickleys in Durban. A couple of phone calls later, while I chatted to the bouncers we were let in and had table set up for us. It is so nice to be able to enjoy these connections, which I don’t have in London. This club, we were also the only non-black people. These guys were partying like there was no tomorrow, putting the students to shame. I was having the time of my life. I was honestly disappointed with my crowd on how tame there were, but we were still having fun. Sameer reminded me of that ever-important phrase. TIA: This Is Africa! We partied till the early hours of the morning. My fondest memories of clubbing are from my undergraduate days and my trip to Spain for Felipe’s birthday, however I don’t think that clubs had anything on what went down in Durban. It was less diverse, the music was not as good, but that vibe. Nothing comes close to that vibe. This isn’t even peak party season nor the so-called best place to club in Durban, let alone SA. Next time I have longer trip in SA, I would definitely add trips to Cape Town and Jo’burg just to check out the scene. By the way, I made my sunrise morning walk after clubbing. It was glorious!
One of the best aspects of this trip was catching up with old friends and I spent most of my time with Rivaj. Rivaj and I go a long way back to when we were in first grade together. Unfortunately, for Rivaj we became good friends and he’s stuck with me. Though I’m really glad, because he is a fantastic friend and extremely chill to hang out with. The best time with Rivaj on this trip, was our lunch in Glenwood. Essentially, I had finished work earlier than expected and as there was load shedding due, I called Rivaj and said let’s go to Glenwood for lunch. Why Glenwood? I may have just googled best lunch in Durban and picked something from the list that tickled my fancy. Surprisingly, Rivaj was okay with me driving and off to town we went, with GPS on the phone telling us where we were going. We arrived at parc. (then name of the restaurant) after driving right passed it and having to loop around, with relative ease. What transpired on the drive, was that Glenwood was also going through load shedding at the same time. Thank you, Eskom! However, food was not to be deterred. Mate. Let tell you something. The food was banging! Not only did I get a great food, add a chia bowl with fruits for starters and then a salad for lunch. What I really enjoyed was the homemade cordial. I had rooibos cordial with a fresh cream soda. Does that sound weird? Yes. Yes, it does. Did it taste good? Hell yeah! That’s what really matters. Now after having a great meal, I thought it was warm in Durban, especially with no AC or fans. So, I looked up best ice-cream parlours, crossed out the ones I have been to and found one next to the Lion matchbox factory. After a quick drive through town, we got to the road and couldn’t find anything. I decided to park the car and thought let’s just do it on foot. We found Momenti, in a repurposed warehouse and got myself a granadilla (not the same as passion fruit) cheesecake ice-cream which was made fresh that day. Sat down in a succulent garden. In the shade and kept on chattering with Rivaj, who must of thought what on earth has happen to, as he described, “to the sweet little Indian boy I grew up?”. Well, I told Rivaj the answer, if you want to know? Get in touch. When I got into the car it was 42C on the dashboard! After fiving the car guard five Rand and saying sharp sharp once I left my spot, we zipped towards La Lucia. Windows down, sea breeze, stunning views and banging tunes. Didn’t give a damn! Just living. What this says, no matter how infrequently I’m in touch with my friends: we still love each other. We might not know everything about each other, but these lot are special. Couldn’t imagine life without them.
Speaking of such sentimental rubbish, I was also able to see Kunal for the first time in god knows how long! Now, this guy is a nightmare to get hold and no one knew anything about what was going on. I even rang his fax machine, which I know like the back of my hand as we used to speak over the phone via the fax numbers when other line was busy. With a bit of persistence and help via Husmitha I was able to get in touch with very good friend. The problem of not seeing each other in ages, means there is sooo much to catch up about. We caught up in the village and spotted each other from half a kilometre away. It was a bit weird, because we’ve changed so much, but our mannerisms and tone and style and all that jazz. That shit hasn’t really changed at all. It was good to reconnect and I encourage you all to do the same with your respective old friends. Chances you are stuck indoors anyway (at time of writing). Might as well spend it on the phone catching up.
Now there a few more things I would like to say about my time in Durban. One thing I always look forward to is the shopping. I don’t get the big-name brands there, but rather I am able to get some items which are worth it. I have infatuation with Holmes Brothers and pretty much my entire t-shirt collection is becoming their catalogue. It’s a small way to help support a local business which gets as much of its material locally and made locally. I also cannot put into words on how much I love my swimming trunks with masala written all over them! You just cannot find anything close to that here in the UK.
In the village I even picked up a t-shirt with the lighthouse on it. How hipster? Very hipster. Wouldn’t trade it at all. That tee reminds me of home in the dreary weather of the UK. Plus, it’s it was R160, for something made locally. How can I say no with the exchange rates? The other thing was restocking my pyjamas, as nothing comes close to my woollies pjs. Sure, buying a top that says: “Hey good looking” and shorts covered in toucans, might be a bit much for the European market. Then again, apart from the Italians the ultra-wealthy, fashion is pretty tame in the men’s section this side of the world. It takes a lot of searching for stuff I consider cool.
My one true love
I must talk about the Sharks. I’ve mentioned this countless number of times, that cricket is my second religion and rugby is my number one sport. Why it’s my number one sport is my adoration of this rugby club and the KZN union. I’ve mentioned on my post about my love of rugby, that I didn’t miss a game for ten years when I lived in South Africa, so with a game on in Kings Park. I had to go. I knew I might drink, thus I grabbed an Uber
home to the stadium. Now, there is no doubt that some things have gone in decline at Kings Park, when it comes to services. However, there is a club in the stadium now and a waterslide (not in the grounds, but inside the stadium next to the pitch). However, compared to the new Tottenham stadium.
On the pitch, where it really matters. The Sharks are superb. If it wasn’t for this stupid corona virus, the Sharks could have won Super Rugby. We are the best team in Super Rugby. That’s regardless of my bias. We are on top of the log. Currently the best club team in the Southern Hemisphere. Whenever rugby gets back into gear, I am sure that the Sharks will be ready to go up a gear and keep pushing for our first Super Rugby title. This is a team that is over 50% non-white (the second team in South Africa) and not a single person can say it’s due to a quota system. Everyone one of these players are stars and fantastic rugby players who could all argue [on-current form] a place in the Boks squad. I have to say, that I did enjoy see Pat Lambie running around with the kicking tee, since he was such a fantastic player. It’s good to see the Sharks looking after an academy player. Watching them beat the Bulls, was fantastic. We are dynamite.
One thing that I have come to realise is the lack of photos I took in Durban. I love South Africa, but I have to recognise that the reason that I am so comfortable, is how I handle myself. No flashy watch. Drive around in what is now a banger. Also, not carrying around a DSLR and putting a target on my back. While I have my travel insurance, it’s something to remember. Why is this an issue in SA? Partly Zuma, because fuck Zuma for everything. The other is being part of the born free generation and still seeing so much economic hardship and wealth disparity. It’s not the South Africa we were promised, nor is it the South Africa we want for the future. I see talk online of people wanting to “escape”. The reality is, if you have that ability, then you’re really privileged. Yeah, the government my seem in the way, but we can build a South Africa where anything is possible. Trust me, there are opportunities, even with these terrible unemployment numbers. We don’t need a five year plan or taking away land without compensation. A country blessed with resources, industry and better infrastructure than most other
African countries. Sure, there’s load shedding, crime, fucking Zuma and his “fire pool” and constant strikes. However, talk to the people and it’s full of kindness. People wanting to become something, hustling and taking on the world. As you might tell, I want SA to be a better place.
When do I head back next? Honestly, I’m not sure when but I know I will. There is no chance that we’ll ever get rid of the flat in Umhlanga, it’s too nice. I did so much more in Umhlanga, from bunny chows at RKs, to forzen pineapple shakes at Daily Dose and catching the view along Umhlanga Rocks Drive, to name a few. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave. I love Umhlanga, Durban and the whole of KZN. It’s my home and it’s where I want to spend the last days of my life. I described Malawi as paradise lost, but Umhlanga is paradise. Why would want be anywhere else?