Opinion - Defined by a very different history

By Nathan Craig Time of article published Nov 15, 2019

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On April 29, 1994, my parents rushed down to a Durban courthouse and got married. And so, they began a new chapter in their romance, one that was now recognised in law.

The next day, they went to a little church and had a small ceremony. Nothing grandiose, as they had neither the money nor time to plan.

It was a small affair. One that involved their families although, admittedly, not all of those who were invited attended.

A few years passed and their family grew. I popped up in 1997 and my brother in 2001.

Earlier this year, on May 4, my parents renewed their vows, celebrating 25 years of marriage.

Craig's parents Maroshanee and Gregory on their wedding day.

They had chosen that date because it was Star Wars Day, a date chosen for the pun on the catchphrase, “May the Force be with you”, or “May the Fourth” be with you.

But the force was indeed with them. It came as a seed of love between a white man and an Indian woman, during the height of apartheid. And as democracy took root, it blossomed.

My parents, Maroshanee and Gregory, started dating in 1991. They had met while working at what is now eThekwini


My father was beaten by members of Eugène Terre’Blanche’s Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging. All because he was with an Indian woman.

My mother was grabbed around the throat and slammed to the pavement. She was dragged screaming. All because she was dating a white man.

The man who attacked her was a stranger. An Indian, who took her for a traitor.

Even family and friends turned their backs on them. But their love survived.

My mother is a fourth-generation Indian and the eldest of five siblings. Her great-grandfather arrived in South Africa on a ship and worked in the sugar cane plantations.

Her grandfather was a golf caddy.

That golf caddy went on to have nine children. This included a son that became a surgeon, a daughter who became a school teacher, and my grandfather who became an accountant.

My mother always speaks with pride about how her part of our family has improved with every generation.

“Son, you now have a qualification. Something to your name, which can never be taken away,” she told me after I had graduated.

Craig’s grandparents, Kanabathy and Sivagami Permal, on their wedding day.

“But remember that your grandfather was taught by writing in the sand. You are from a line of hard-working Kashmiri great-grandparents. Your grandfather worked three jobs to survive. Remember where you came from and stay humble.”

My father’s lineage is a mix of German and British blood.

During World War I, my great-grandfather was known as a Cruywagen.

He changed it. He feared that his family would be erroneously persecuted as Nazis. And so, the Craig surname began.

My grandfather matriculated at the age of 16 and became a chemical engineer. My grandmother is a Dame - the female equivalent of a knight.

The contrast between my mother and father has always been at the forefront of my identity.

So, who am I? This descendent of a European immigrant fleeing the repercussions of a war and an indentured worker who came to South Africa from India.

Over time, I have to realise that I am not quite Indian. But neither am I completely white. How then do I commemorate milestones like the arrival of Indians to South Africa in 1860?

The reality is that I don’t. It is not because I don’t appreciate the bravery of those who came in 1860 or the hardships they endured. But my link with that history is not as strong. It is a path that leads to me. But it is not the only path that defines me.

It is a reality that milestones, that were once important, become less significant

over the passage of time. New achievements are celebrated.

Today, there are other days that are more important to me. This includes April 27 - Freedom Day. I know that had it not been for the changes that came in 1994, I may not be writing this.

But I am not the only one. I have observed, rightfully or wrongfully, that those passionate about 1860 are from the older generation. I don’t see younger people as passionate or getting involved.

It begs the question: will 1860 be commemorated 50 years from now?

I believe the answer is encapsulated in the quote from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Galadriel, a member of elven royalty, said: “The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the company is true.”

My advice to those who are passionate about 1860 is to preserve this history. It is now more important than ever before.

Craig is a multimedia journalist with

the POST.


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