By Ksheka Singh
Arriving for a book launch at the Sci-Bono centre, I felt somewhat being inducted into some kind of secret society. There were no sign posts, posters or any kind of livery lest someone catch wind of the ensuing events. The ambience on entering the building, which may or may not have been deliberate, resonated with what I imagine activist gatherings may have been like pre the apartheid era. Car guards whispering directions like, “Just go down there, you will see,” my friend and I stole our way into the Sci-Bono centre with quick and determined steps. A lone door watchman greeted us with a register and pointed to a steeply ascending flight of concrete steps. We could already hear the slight murmurs as we made our way up, anticipating what we would find at our destination. The large prints adorning the walls, black and white distant memories of caregivers, educators, warriors – Indian women in South Africa – dating back from the arrival of Indians in the country to their active and relentless participation in the peoples war. The book, Women – South Africans of Indian Origin, is written by award-winning academic and columnist Devi Moodley Rajab with historical photographs by veteran photojournalist, Ranjith Kally.
As we settled into the auditorium, glasses of water in hand (we took the “just because it’s free does not mean you should have ten glasses” high road when it came to the wine) the soothing sounds of traditional flute accompanied by the tabla permeated the enclosed area. In between some light but witty banter from the Indian Consulate as well as the author’s sister, an engaging presentation of the book’s contents rolled off the large screen. My attention was safely captivated by the images of unsung heroines and their stories, and began to wander only when the attention turned to current women of influence in society and the world over. Don’t get me wrong, I am not undermining the incredible achievements of our fellow Desi sisters, mothers and friends. It is still the mischievous independence and testament of courage and strength in spite of gender and cultural oppression of great women like Prof Fatima Meer, Amina Cachalia, Shanti Naidoo and Dr. Goonam that I find worthy of continued inspection and absolute admiration. I have my own copy of the book to pore over, pages of glossy reminders that Indian women hone and lead greatness without having to stand at the front of the queue.
Women – South Africans of Indian Origin, is written by award-winning academic and columnist Devi Moodley Rajab with veteran photojournalist, Ranjith Kally was launched in Gauteng on the 28th March 2011. Publishing House: Jacana Media