I finally found Yusuf again …
This sweet little old man, a Cape Malay, on his bicycle, eighty-seven years old and cycling off to do garden work.
I had spotted him by accident, days ago, leaning over his bike, peering at some slip.
On the back of his bicycle, somehow, he had erected the equivalent of a bakkie (that is what we call a pickup in South Africa), using plastic red Coca Cola shipment crates, the kind that would carry say a couple of dozen or so Cokes.
Out of this contraption rose rakes and spades and other things!
When I saw him again a few days later he was bent into the South Easter, working his way from Retreat or Steenberg or Lavender Hills to Fish Hoek where he had a part time job as a gardener.
Lakeside is about eight kilometers from Fish Hoek and Retreat another two at least!
My father is ninety-three and if it was not for his eyesight he would be scaling mountains still, so Yusuf was not going to escape my attention with his sprightly outlook!
I had asked him to stop by at our offices on his next way through but when I saw him I turned the car around, drove past Lakeside Fire Station and all the cars that were parked delivering support for the amazing firefighters who put out this Late Summer of 2015 Fire.
People in Cape Town bought out all the eye drops available from pharmacies to supply to the firefighters … as always the best in us often comes out in the worst of times.
Yusuf is Spirit, and so too all those who rallied around the firefighters.
That is what is fantastic … you see Spirit cycling, bent over in the wind as an octogenarian full of Life and Spirit manifesting in a previously myriad invisible forms when there is a natural disaster!
The fires have burnt us out … yet Spirit prevailed, firefighters performed miracles, the communities rose out of their slumbers and rallied around them, and Yusuf carries on cycling, with his rake and his spade and other paraphernalia in that contraption of his.
As I said he is surely a Cape Malay, a descendant of exiles from territories held by the Dutch East India Company.
Van Riebeek himself, who founded the Dutch East India Colony here in Cape Town way back in 1652 if my history is correct, seems to have been of Indonesian extract himself.
I could be wrong, and maybe there is a specific rock where the oceans split in two at Cape Point.
What I know for sure is that Cape Malay cuisine is spicy but compared to the Indian curries in Durbs (Durban) and surrounds it is mild!
South Africa is culturally diverse so I am going to meander off into some of this … back in Durbs, the home of the bunnychow, curry is red hot, like the fires that have raged this past week in Cape Town.
I once had to overnight at a beach front hotel as BA had overbooked the flight.
Actually I had also cancelled an SAA flight inadvertently because I had double booked, as if I could occupy two separate flights at slightly different times.
Half my body on the SAA that I cancelled, and half my body on the BA flight that was overbooked.
My clients and my friends know me well by now, even the clients urge me to get going off their sites before I miss yet another plane.
Anyway, there I was in a major Durbs hotel, and one of their flagship restaurants was an Indian restaurant.
What would I like, the Indian waiter asked?
Madras fish curry, I said.
They watched me as I went about tackling the fish curry.
As I slowed down well before I had reached halfway they approached and asked if everything was all right.
Yes, yes, I lied.
We have the ‘medicine’ if it is too hot, they said.
You mean water, milk, beer? I asked trying to hide my increasing desperation.
No, no, the only solution … yoghurt!
I tried to be brave, after all had I not grown up with Indian neighbours in Umkomaas?
Had I not seen a fire walk so hot that my knees were burning metres away from the pit?
Had I not eaten fiery bunnychow at the café in Ridge Road as a student after a night out swirling Lion lager?
I do not think I got to the two thirds mark and the waiters rescued me with blessed yoghurt, cool blessed yoghurt, far better than mother’s milk, more soothing than the coldest patch of ice in Antarctica or the Arctic.
Now if Yusuf eats madras fish curry instead of mild Cape Malay, the South Easter in his way had better beware!
See Cape Malays
Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti