Kasi living can drive one to drink; be damned if we don’t

2015-11-19 06:00
laughing with lunga adam

laughing with lunga adam

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We have townships. Then we have informal settlements. Not so?

Now, informal settlements can be found anywhere around our townships. They sprung up, and continue to do so, as a result of our people’s desperate need for houses. A roof over their heads. Something to call their abode. These squatter camps are very unique in the way that life is lived or business is conducted there. One such example is that an old man may all of a sudden find himself being neighbours with a young boy. He may have all the reservations about this, but the bottom line is that this is his neighbour and someone who will always have his back. His first port of call when there is a problem needing immediate attention. So he has to show him respect and take him seriously at all times. I leave it up to you to imagine the dynamics of such an existence.

Unity is paramount in such surroundings. Going past these informal settlements, you will notice the sight of women basking in the sun and sharing the latest umgosi. This while the men fill up the local shebeens to quench their thirst, taunt each other about their favourite teams’ latest exploits and reminisce about days before they started singing In My Time. In this way, residents of these spaces get to know each other better; to know ‘who is who in the (proverbial) zoo’ that is their slum. To illustrate this point, last December I had been on my way to see a friend in Marikana informal settlement. It being a period of festivities, I noticed some folks dancing to loud traditional music outside one household. I then decided to join them for a moment and, needless to say, never felt out of place.

The other side of informal settlement life is that one’s tolerance levels are tested to the limit. The shacks are situated very close to one another, that I wouldn’t be surprised if your neighbour gets to hear your every heartbeat. If your neighbour has cooked meat on a Friday evening, there’s no way you’re going to miss the attendant aroma, which will lead you to paying them a visit. Just in time! Also, when one of your neighbours decides to play music in full blast, at whatever time of day, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it... except maybe to sing along.

Oh, how this seems to remind me of an ex-neighbour who would bombard us all with loud Gospel music on a Sunday morning. It got so bad, that I eventually figured the permanent solution to this was to kick my blankets and make my way to the nearest watering hole to finish where I had left off the previous night. How thankful I was when he bid the neighbourhood farewell!

Still on this, another normality in informal settlement life is the occasion of couples deciding to have a go at it anytime they feel like. Tormenting stuff. I tell you, the impassioned screams would leave you in a state of trance, to the point that you’d think the woman is auditioning for Idols or some such competition. Men are also known to say stuff when reaching the big O, ranging from promises to buy her a train, to asking for the name of her dad, etc. Man, I wish I was making all this up.

As you know, in informal settlements it is rare to find streets like you would in a township setting. This is mainly because people build their structures wherever and however they feel like. So it happened that one time I was walking in one such densely populated slum and kept on taking these ‘off-ramps’, hoping to gain an exit. I made a couple of turns, and next thing I know, I’m inside some lady’s kitchen!

Haha, it could have been worse. Imagine, I could have easily found myself inside a 72-year-old gogo’s bathroom while she was bathing preparing for her monthly visit to Sassa. Now that would have been some sight, mtshana...

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