Jugnath

2010-05-01 00:00

DON’T bother to visit the Point in Durbs if you don’t have a lot of money. In fact, I wouldn’t advise you to visit it at all, even if you have a hell of a lot of money. In the name of upliftment it has become just another swanky waterfront rip-off, as in Cape Town, Boston Mass, Seednee Oz or Hong bloody Kong, name a few of your own. Most ratepayers in Durban can’t even afford to take the kids for a look at the fish in the aquarium.

When the street-renaming hubbub was on a few years ago KwaZulu- Natal­ Indian opinion was outraged at Point Road becoming Mahatma Ghandi­ Road, outraged because of all the whores infesting the place, also footpads, cutthroats, cutpurses, pickpockets, peepaday boys, murtherers and dealers in dagga of great delight known as Durban Poison, grown just other side the harbour mouth on the Bluff so that there was little risk to the supply line and the price was reasonable. Asian deck-hands felt at home here. I had my home there, sometimes I played softball with Japanese seamen on a vacant piece of land twixt the cathouses and the Alexandra Hotel­, where afterwards we’d get a big dish of cheapcheap fiery hotel curry­ for lunch with a free mug of beer. But mainly I lived there for the fishing, I’d be up at mossiepoep and off to the North Pier and fetch a nice shad for breakfast, and when broke in between jobs I’d live on shad, avoes and brown bread, nothing healthier. Gone, gone, gone! Tarts, Japs, cannabis, everything gone! The fishing too; fishermen are low class and their bait attracts flies and rats. Gone? Of course it’s gone, it had to go, but what vulgarity has taken its place? The vulgarity­ of wealth, that’s what: what boring people, what mediocre architecture, what repetitious luxury. No flies, no rats, this is a posh intensive care ward.

But anyway. I remember being 13 or so in Maritzburg, and one day trying to catch barbel in the Duzi near the cricket oval when the old groundsman name of Mr Jugnath came up to me and said Sonny, said he, you waste your times, man, you catching fishes for cat’s food. Ask your father if you can come and I will show you sea fishing, said he. Well I didn’t have a father but my ma said okay and Mr Jugnath took me to the middle of the cricket field with a shad rod, a simple centrepin wooden reel and a white-metal lure called a spoon. He placed his hat upon the ground and we walked away about 50 paces. You must aim that fish, said Mr Jugnath, and dropped the spoon a metre or two left of the hat. Shads swim up the coast, said he, so they will see that spoon and think it is a small fish and rrrush at it then you strrrike them.

Three months later I’d mastered the technique. Sort of. First day of the shad season there were two cars, one full of compressed bodies like students squeezing into a telephone booth and shutting the door for a Guinness record. Smoking fags, suffocating all the way to Umgababa. A wild beach in those days, the dune bushes dense and dark, with leafy caves here and there, shelter from the sand-blasting wind and searing sun. Ladies of every age plus one old man emerge from car #2 like toothpaste from a tube. They restore their circulation with rubbing and disappear into a leaf cave with the entire contents of somebody’s kitchen­: great pots, tiny pans, gas stoves, bags and boxes of food, blankets­ and a huge canvas floor. Matches. Everything.

We anglers unload rods from roofracks and make shelters of wild strelitzia leaves on the beach to squat behind until a shoal of shad comes by; these blokes can see single fish in the white water, it’s quite uncanny, and after­ a couple of energetic hours Mr Jugnath says to me, Smell that strong smell? To drrrive away the mambas, that smell. Ar come on, say I, it’s breyani. He puts his hand on my shoulder and grins. My uncle, that, says he. One time curry chef at the Royal Hotel, now he’s going to cook our shad while their eyes are still shiny.

So we’re off to the heavenly cave and its divine food. Eat, sleep in the bush, fish early and late, loaf about in between for three days. We’re back in Maritzburg laden with fish, all curried­, breyanied, pickled in the Robinson Crusoe kitchen, the freshest-caught fish in all the land.

Well it’s something like that I had in mind for the Point development. I thought of calling it Jugnath Park. Don’t be silly, that’s not development, development is about making profit. Making people happy and healthy isn’t what profit’s about, profit is what businessmen are about. Ordinary unbusinesspeople­ have soccer and stuff for happiness and health. Ja, I suppose so, but ... er ... um ... seems a pity that ordinary people can’t afford tickets  for  the   World  Cup   either, hey?

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