Durban - Most people his age have long slowed down their activities, but Juggie Pather is no ordinary octogenarian.
His passion for documenting and preserving Indian history is keeping this 82-year-old busy. And he’s enjoying every minute of it.
Pather, a founder and trustee of the 1860 Heritage Centre, which is seeking to position itself as the organisation that best showcases the rich heritage of Indian South Africans, is also an adviser to the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Having produced a documentary on the history of Indians for the National Film Library and written a book on Clairwood in 2015, he is working on his next book, Children of Kala Pani: The Black Water.
“The book is a comparative study of all the countries the Indian indentured labourers settled in and highlights their contributions and challenges.”
Pather lives in a spacious Berea flat overlooking Moses Mabhida Stadium and the busy streets of Durban.
He grew up in Clairwood, and after getting married to Mahalutchmi, now deceased, the couple relocated to Mobeni Heights, where they raised four children.
When their children grew up and moved out, the couple decided to downsize their home and toyed with the idea of a place at the Durban beachfront.
Practicality, however, won the day.
“We instead settled for Berea as it was centrally located and accessible to hospitals.”
Also an artist and photo- grapher, some of his work adorns the walls of his home.
Elsewhere, knick-knacks from his travels to various countries stand proudly, including a candle stand given to him in Austria.
In terms of comfort, it’s a palace compared to his childhood home in Clairwood.
“We were poor growing up."
"I was born in 1935 and lived in a wood and iron home, which stood on wooden stilts on Houghton Road near a mosquito-infested swamp,” he said.
“I shared the home with my parents, Kanakasabathy and Neelatchie, four brothers and six sisters. Although we were poor, we were happy.”
His father worked as a goldsmith making women’s wedding thali chains while his mother took care of the family and households needs.
“There were about 40 000 people living in the community and we treated one another like family."
"You did not need an invitation to a wedding or birthday party. Everyone and anyone could attend,” he said laughing.
“There were no restrictions, unlike today.”
Pather described the community as caring and self-sufficient, lamenting the fact that the city had neglected the area.
“The municipality did nothing for us, but despite the challenges, we rose above the odds and, as a closely knit community, built our own places of worship and schools.”
Pather attended Mobeni Primary School, then Clairwood Boys High, before receiving a bursary to pursue high school at Sastri College.
He matriculated in 1954 and went straight into teaching.
“We did not have the finances to study and, due to there being a shortage of teachers at Mobeni Primary School, I was accepted as a teacher. Today, some of my pupils are doctors and lawyers,” Pather said proudly.
While teaching, he formed the Clairwood Youth Club for adults who did not complete school, and held classes for them.
“We started in a church hall, then a garage and eventually we were given a dump site by the municipality to build the school."
"With the financial help of business people, a team and I managed to clear and level the dump site, where we built a school with three classrooms.”
He was also involved in social work and joined Child Welfare in the 1950s.
Pather helped single mothers to get grants from the government and started a football club, called Clydes Football, for drug addicts.
In the 1970s he became a lecturer at Springfield College of Education, and two years later, he enrolled to study teaching development at the University of Natal.
In order to pay for his studies, Pather worked as a stringer for POST, taking pictures, and also wrote for the Graphic newspaper.
“Back then I had an old Rolleiflex camera, which had the loudest shutter sound."
"I had to shoot a picture of golfer Papwa Sewgolum during a tournament,” he said.
“I remember the air being very tense and silent as everyone waited in anticipation for him to hit the golf ball and just as he came in to hit the ball, I clicked my camera and the sound of the shutter made Papwa lose concentration.
“But, being the good man he was, he just smiled and repositioned his club to hit the ball again.”
Pather has several qualifications, including a doctorate, and loves reading, writing, painting and taking photographs.
He has travelled widely, including to Germany, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, the Czech Republic and Spain.