Durban - Inspired by his love for his hometown, a former Chatsworth resident now living in Sweden, released a book on the Durban township and the experiences encountered in the close-knit community of Montford.
Pravasan Pillay, 40, who lives in Stockholm, completed the book titled Chatsworth in 2014 but only had it published recently.
“It comprises 11 short stories. I wrote more but ended up cutting a lot of the stories because they did not quite match the tone I was aiming for,” said Pillay, a freelance editor.
“Once the manuscript was ready, I put it in my bottom drawer for a few years. I wanted to get some distance from the stories before I edited them.”
Pillay, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and English literature and an Honours degree in philosophy from the former University of Durban-Westville, said the people of Chatsworth inspired him to pen his second book.
“I have always had a deep love and fascination for my hometown of Chatsworth. I feel it has never really been properly captured in prose, especially the complex, nimble and nuanced South African Indian-English that is spoken there.
"I just wanted to give my take on this community and its language.
“But my stories are not by any means a sociological overview of Chatsworth. They are about individuals who are often outsiders.
"I wanted to depict the people I saw around me in an honest but respectful manner.”
The stories, which are set in the sprawling township, are populated mostly by working class characters who all, in one way or the other, he said, found themselves on the margins of their community.
There is an elderly mother and her dependent obese daughter who must fend for themselves, an angst-filled 12-year-old girl who secretly chain smokes at night and a tearful man who is incapable of passing his driving test.
Among other characters, there is an albino girl who attains a fragile popularity in high school, a young woman who goes against her father’s wishes and falls in love with an immigrant, a seemingly placid pensioner who hides a shockingly violent side and a pair of girls who bond over a love letter and hair bleach, among others.
“The book is not a reflection of my life, though I may borrow a name or an incident here and there, but instead it is about growing up and being different. It is also about failing at adulthood, which many may feel that they can relate to.”
Having relocated to Sweden in 2010, Pillay, who is married to children’s book publisher Jenny, and has a 5-year-old son, Vidar, said he visited “home” regularly.
“I visited Chatsworth early last year and will visit again in a few months’ time. My mother and brother still live there, not to mention a huge network of aunts, uncles and cousins.
“Some of my fondest memories are of visiting the Bangladesh Market on a Saturday morning and enjoying the sights and aromas there. I also liked that when I was younger there was always a cricket game going on that you could join in on.”
Pillay, who has also co-written comedic short stories titled Shaggy is working on a third book of short stories, also set in Chatsworth.
“I hope that people who read the books will like it and perhaps we will begin to see more stories about Chatsworth being written.”
Pillay, who has a passion for Durban-Indian food, writes columns and articles about the different foods and culture surrounding it.
His book is available at the Nelson Mandela Chatsworth Youth Centre or from publisher Dye Hard Press.
“The book has been selling steadily in Chatsworth and around South Africa and has been generally well received. It will be available for sale in Sweden later this year.”