How did you meet?


11 May 2018. Or not. Doing a biography of someone you’re married to is still problematic, I find. Never mind the previous post. He doesn’t want this or that in it, why am I not interested in so- and -so, why don’t I do a bit more research into what Mozambique was like in 1974, because that is important too, and I must talk to person X before I go on. In the end it comes down to whether it’s his book or mine. Will we end up fighting?

Then I have lunch with a new acquaintance, John Clarke, who writes about Xolobeni, the mining project in the Eastern Cape where a rapacious bunch of officials have sold out their community to equally rapacious mining interests. Fortunately for me, he is interested in my work, too and he smiles when I tell him it’s about Ivan. “You mean you’ll tell the story of your romance?” he asks. “That will be interesting.”

Honest to God, I hadn’t looked at it that way. I had wanted to tell Ivans story. I have written rather enough about myself. But John Clarke’s remark brings up that other question I have been asked time and time again: “How did you meet?” I had always found it a bit irritating but yes, maybe it is about that, too. How does a feminist journalist from Amsterdam end up with an old fashioned Indian comrade from Chatsworth? I say old fashioned because in the early days I found him so traditional gentleman-ly cute. I would be all like ‘women’s rights are human rights’ and he would say yes ‘women are good, we must protect them and care for them.’  I found it adorable and I think he found me interesting.

We have been together for 27 years now, half Western, half Indian-South African, half underground and half above. We have lived in Yeoville in the years of change, with a Security Police van parked nearby; spent long periods in Chatsworth with the uncles who are in the furniture business, in Amsterdam with my old communist father, in France with my freethinker artist mother and on the 12th floor in Shell house where he was doing admin and bookkeeping for the ANC, for two thousand Rands a month. Then suddenly I was ‘Madam Acting Commissioner’ for a bit, when he was, ever so briefly, a big shot at the South African Revenue Service, and he has been my loyal companion in Paris, commemorating Dulcie September. And now I write as he is accused, once again, of illegal activities by the South African police.

“Yes, that is what you must do,” says Maggie, the publisher.  “Write the story of your love.”


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