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Delhi Smog

South Africa! Thank You!

by Telford Vice / 25.02.2011

The airplane sinks without trace into the cloying depths of what could easily be a vast bowl of lentil dahl. Somewhere beneath this foreboding surface, our captain tells us, Delhi lurks. We are not sure if we believe him. But gently does it, and Indira Ghandi Airport duly oozes out of the frozen fog. Disappointingly, it looks pretty much like airports everywhere.

As we taxi towards the nondescript slab of rectangular windows and their aluminium frames, a woman across the aisle – her forearms and hands covered in small, crosshatch tattoos – deftly swats aside a swathe of her sari and spits into a sickbag. A man on the other side of the aisle has a meaty hand wrapped around a newspaper. Its name is beautiful, ballsy, and breathtaking: “tabloid!” Now that’s telling it like it is. The screaming baby, the one that is on every flight anywhere every day no matter what (it must own a shitload of airmiles), finally shuts up.

Passport control comes and goes in unsmiling mechanical fashion. My, “Good morning!” is answered with “Passport.” Page… page… page… Stamp!
At the luggage carousel, a flabby Scot whose hair matches the sky outside latches onto a bony nun who slithers inside skin the shade of a teabag left to dry in a saucer on the windowsill. He wears a smile that fades closer towards anxiety at each passing trundle of the conveyor belt that does not deliver his suitcase. She hides her withered self behind a scowl so ancient and indelible she has forgotten it is there.
“And where are you coming from,” he asks her, relieved at having found a promise of the sacred in this profane wasteland.
“Uganda,” she growls, dirty gravel in her throat, and hoists a bag onto a trolley with arms that resemble nothing so much as a pair of dirty pipe cleaners. The Scot doesn’t know what to think about that, which means he also doesn’t know what to say. He is suddenly awkward and silent. A large green case rumbles towards us. The nun looks at the Scot, then at me, then at the bag, then back at me.

Indira Ghandi Airport

I do the decent thing and yank the green monster off the belt. At least, I try to. The impossibly heavy lump yanks back, and I survive a moment of wobbling weightlessness to wrestle my opponent upright onto the slick marble floor. What the hell is in this thing? The severed heads of unwed mothers?
“Thank you, my son,” she hisses, and the scowl is ever so slightly airbrushed at the edges. “God bless you.”
And she does. My bag arrives red and battered and forlorn but unscathed after running the gauntlet of OR Tambo International’s thieving baggage handlers. A trip or two previously, I was not so lucky. Three pairs of Levis and an Argentina football jersey – a replica of the very shirt Diego Maradona himself was wearing when he kicked and punched those glorious goals at the 1986 World Cup – were gone when I unzipped in Dubai.

To the foreign exchange counter, where a squat man with shiny eyes and the blackest moustache I have yet seen studies the four US$100 bills I have handed him with all the suspicion of a husband letting his wife back into the house at 4am. Eventually, and with no small reluctance, he gives me many, many rupees.

Onward to the cell phone people to establish coms. My first SMS with my Indian SIM is to The Editor: “The ostrich has landed.” But there’s a hitch. Can’t get the SIM to talk to my laptop to get online. Pretty soon the two blokes at Aircel and one of the airport wifi tiffies are poring over my problem. Note: this is not their problem. If I had downloaded the right software it wouldn’t be a problem at all. But there they are, waggling their heads and huffing and hmmmming in Hindi, and trying this and that. And everything they try is preceded by, “Please, Sir, may I…” Their gentleness is a balm for the soul, especially one that’s been awake for 30 hours.

Can you imagine the attitude you would get from the average Joburger if you had to approach them in a similar spot of bother? The sneer would knock you on your arse from 10 metres. After much scratching of heads and sincere apologies, they give up. But not before telling me where I can acquire a 2G card – “you might struggle in some parts of India with 3G” – for less than what I would have paid if they had managed to connect me.

Like the white man I undoubtedly am, I ask them about the weather. “We had snow in Kashmir two days ago, that’s why it looks like this,” one says with a nod to the dahl day sky outside. Two days on, the fog has indeed cleared to reveal the pollution soup that hangs over the Indian capital. An old man armed with a fiercely bristled chin kisses me on the cheek and says: “South Africa! Thank you!”
For what? Coming? Pleasure. We are both part of the heaving mass of humanity making its way
towards the Kotla, where Graeme Smith leads the Proteas onto the field to play the West Indies in their World Cup opener.


The national anthem cuts out halfway, but at least they played the honourable half and not that ode to fascism that’s been tacked onto the end of Nkosi Sikelel ’iAfrika. South Africa pick three spinners for the first time since… when? One of them, Imran Tahir, was born in Pakistan and grew up on cricket grounds around the world. These days he calls Durban home, and accordingly he looks like a surfer, shaggy blond hair and all.

Tahir is as edgy as Bambi on too many espressos. But he holds it together well enough to take 4/41, while AB de Villiers scores the fastest World Cup century by a South African to wrap up a seven-wicket win. The Windies are unable to produce the rogue brilliance that, despite having dwindled to mediocrity, they tend to pull out of the bag against South Africa. Darren Bravo – the new Brian Lara if you listen to those who don’t have enough imagination to describe new players properly – hits the most attractive shots of the night in his pugnacious 73. But it will take more than that to stop the Proteas this time. They regroup tidily after the game threatens to get away from them during the middle overs of the West Indian innings, and they are never in danger of losing after that.

AB de Villiers

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  1. Saffa-blur says:

    Thanks Telford, James Joyce-like stream of consciousness, but Joyce was Irish and Vice is ?
    South African ? Thank you, South African – “Can you imagine the attitude you would get from the average Joburger if you had to approach them in a similar spot of bother? The sneer would knock you on your arse from 10 metres …” ermm ? I’ve heard of Aussie hyperbole and some mock Oz as the Mouth Island but you’re a Saffa – I wonder if Barry Richards or Tony Greig get it in the neck if they make gratuitous remarks disparaging Oz ? Even in jest ? Just a thought … nice read thanks for sharing. Be safe. (PS – Beyond ye olde well beaten drum negative stereotype of Gautengers I’ve found Joburgers pretty nice – really ! – Amazing !) I guess my comment is aimed at positive feedback for your benefit regarding a sensitive question of whether or not strong opinions from Johnny-Come-Lately’s is something I like or not – I hope you’ll not feel offended.

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  2. WTF says:

    “…but at least they played the honourable half and not that ode to fascism that’s been tacked onto the end of Nkosi Sikelel ’iAfrika…”

    Fuck you too…but…maybe you just don’t speak the taal? The lyrics seem to be more of an ode to an awesome land and do not seem to be praising or gloryifying fascism. Yes…this was the anthem during the years of apartheid but…pop quiz…what anthem were the Americans using when they were practicing enforced sterilisations and racist behavour…is Star Spangled banner an ode to fascism? Whateverthefuck. I’m wasting my breath on a far left fuck like you aren’t I…

    Uit die blou van onse hemel, uit die diepte van ons see,
    Oor ons ewige gebergtes waar die kranse antwoord gee.
    Deur ons ver-verlate vlaktes met die kreun van ossewa –
    Ruis die stem van ons geliefde, van ons land Suid-Afrika.
    Ons sal antwoord op jou roepstem, ons sal offer wat jy vra:
    Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe – ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika

    In die merg van ons gebeente, in ons hart en siel en gees,
    In ons roem op ons verlede, in ons hoop of wat sal wees,
    In ons wil en werk en wandel, van ons wieg tot aan ons graf –
    Deel geen ander land ons liefde, trek geen ander trou ons af.
    Vaderland! ons sal die adel van jou naam met ere dra:
    Waar en trou as Afrikaners – kinders van Suid-Afrika.

    In die songloed van ons somer, in ons winternag se kou,
    In die lente van ons liefde, in die lanfer van ons rou,
    By die klink van huweliksklokkies, by die kluitklap op die kis –
    Streel jou stem ons nooit verniet nie, weet jy waar jou kinders is.
    Op jou roep sê ons nooit nee nie, sê ons altyd, altyd ja:
    Om te lewe, om te sterwe – ja, ons kom Suid-Afrika.

    Op U Almag vas vertrouend het ons vadere gebou:
    Skenk ook ons die krag, o Here! om te handhaaf en te hou –
    Dat die erwe van ons vad’re vir ons kinders erwe bly:
    Knegte van die Allerhoogste, teen die hele wêreld vry.
    Soos ons vadere vertrou het, leer ook ons vertrou, o Heer –
    Met ons land en met ons nasie sal dit wel wees, God regeer.

    PS yes yes It does mention Afrikaner…which we all know…is synonomous with fascist…obviously

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  3. Saffa-saver says:

    Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa – there isn’t that better now ? Wait … hang on, isn’t there some haughty snideness typical of antipodians subtly camouflaged in that ? No, wait … not from Telford Vice … South African, thank you ! Nice one bruce !

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  4. Chucky says:

    “Darren Bravo – the new Brian Lara if you listen to those who don’t have enough imagination to describe new players properly” – or if you read those who don’t have the talent to describe players properly and so try to sound superior by slagging off their colleagues.

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  5. Nathan Casey says:

    WTF’s response in maybe a bit OTT.

    Calling the journo a “far left fuck” betrays your standing as a far right fuck. You certainly have wasted your breath, and I can only imagine your hyperventilation as clammy index fingers shakily punched the inevitably glossed-over Afrikaners’ anthem – or did you cut and paste it?

    Smoke a koeksuster and calm the fuck down.

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  6. Nathan Casey says:

    More of this for Mahala, please.

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  7. Saffa-saver says:

    @ Nathan Casey ? More whinging ? Is Mahala a whine club ? Once-upon-a-time at bandcamp I heard South Africans were world famous for their stiff upper lip resolve. Getting on with it without having a hissy or a pissy … Oooo, ahhhh – lets all nancy about and have a plutz about the slightest notion that whiffs into our goldfish minds ? Lets become … Australian, oh yeah (new Texans or wannabe shiny happy halfhole arsewit metro-sexuals with delicate sensibilities and overgel lubbed coiffes – it makes me want to puke and become a redneck right winger myself, if that’s ok with you petal ?)

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  8. Anonymous says:

    saffa-saver – what a poes…

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  9. Nathan Casey says:

    Lol – I’ll trade two “wannabe shiny happy halfhole arsewit metro-sexual” whines for one pointless rant.

    I know it’s Saturday, but maybe a bit early to be drinking – especially if you’re hitting the Klippies & Coke (it makes one agressive, didn’tcha know). If you’re feeling the ‘gees’ coz of the ICC WC then great, I understand, I thought we were all gees’ed out after the Soccerball World Cup, but apparently not. Cheers.

    Die Stem does have a military (read: fascist) feel to it – like something from Cold War Russia. But maybe some people dig it, could see themselves dancing to a techno-treffer remix by Dozi, or at least get a peotic verse or two tattoo’d onto some part of their person. I don’t. Sue me. Or the cheaper option – slag me off on a comment thread.

    I’m on your side brother – obscurity is not a crime!

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  10. Saffa-saver says:

    Sorry Nathan, not really wishing to hurt your feelings – I don’t blame you, I blame the education system … let it out, let it out son. If you missed the point – I can help. The point is —> no more Telford Vice !

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  11. Nathan Casey says:

    Ah, last word freak 🙂

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  12. YsterHart says:

    Great article. More please!

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  13. WTF says:

    Nathan Casey….

    “There is no reply to the ignorant like keeping silence”

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  14. Nathan Casey says:

    “There is no reply to the ignorant like keeping silence”

    Lol – is that from the NG Kerk beginners’ handbook?

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  15. Saffa-saver says:

    @ Nathan – last laugh freak 🙁

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  16. Nathan Casey says:

    Haha 🙂

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