Extract

I was no more than 10 when I realised that my father could not protect me and keep me safe. It was a body blow to discover that he was human — fallible — and therefore powerless against forces that, until then, were bigger than him; than us.

This view of I had of my father did not come out of nowhere. My lovely dad was a respected man, highly thought of. Revered in some circles. People came to him for advice. They asked him to mediate when there were disputes that could not be resolved. Someone once told me my father was so fair that once he had spoken, even the angriest of adversaries grudgingly walked away knowing they had been equitably dealt with.

My dad was “the wedding speaker”, his words of wisdom so sought after that people booked him months in advance; even changing wedding dates if he couldn’t make it. People in our home town looked at us, The Naidoos, with wonder and, perhaps, a little awe. We were a close-knit unit; we went everywhere together. Yes, we were a little different. Unlike our Hindu and Muslim neighbours, we were Catholic. We went to mass on Sundays and celebrated Easter and Christmas. During the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, we drove around our neighbourhood looking at the little clay lamps glinting in windows, down driveways, on people’s front porches. I wistfully wished out loud that we could light a few lamps of our own. My mother was firm. We have Christmas trees, and sing Christmas carols; and then there’s the Easter Bunny and egg hunts … those are our traditions my mother would say. It didn’t make a little girl — desperate to fit in, to belong — feel any better. But she was not given to compromis...

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