Monday, 18 November 2013
A friend of my daughter's is getting married, aged just 13. We get invited to the wedding, in the beautiful manicured grounds of a Japanese temple, and I meet her mother Ti (pronounced Tai), who is Malaysian or Burmese or something - a soft-spoken, fiercely intellectual, Aung San Suu Kyi type - and a portly, mustachioed Indian man whom I take to be her father. Part of the ceremony involves the bride in a sort of ritualized wrestling with her bridesmaids, who are dark, heavyset girls. When the groom, a smart, bookish-looking boy no older than the bride, is finally produced, I am surprised that he is white. But later at the reception I discover in conversation that the bride's father died when she was very young, and that her stepfather, with whom she has lived for years, is also white. He couldn't be there for some reason; the Indian man whom I had taken for her father is in fact the mother's lawyer, a family friend.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
I wake to the sound of a ringing phone and discover I am in a tiny, shabby, sparsely furnished apartment. I answer the ancient bakelite phone and a guy asks to speak to Chini, wants to know whether he can come round and hang out, make some tunes. An African dude, apparently Chini, appears and grabs the phone, starts talking to the other guy. I look out the window to blazing sunlight. It is immediately apparent from my surroundings that I'm not in Kansas any more. Where the hell am I, and how did I get here? Chini is ready to go to work, so I follow him downstairs and we exit through a small closet door into the department store where he works. He tells me to come back later for lunch, then disappears. After wandering about the store for a bit, I go outside and, strolling around a street market, I discover from road signs that I am in Durban, South Africa. I spend the morning walking about town before going back to the apartment building, but it's not how I remember it - the department store has disappeared and seems to have been replaced by a series of luxury apartments and offices. I wander around asking for Chini, but no-one knows when he will be back. From the way they talk about him, it sounds as though he is a person of some importance, rather than a lowly department store clerk. When I finally find him, he takes me back to his apartment, which has turned into a preposterously plush mansion complete with fountains and views over a sort of hanging gardens of Babylon. He tells me he's going to get changed for dinner, then proceeds to remove his trousers right then and there. I don't know where to look.