Chili Powder and Controversy

by Lola Whiteley | IndeterminateBlog Team

I woke up in Durban this morning. On purpose, worry not.
I got out of bed, and threw open the curtains to bask in the morning sun.
It was raining.
Have you ever wondered which evil, canine-hating person coined the saying "raining cats and dogs"? Cats land on their feet. They're fine. But dogs?
RIP, Bruno.
Soon after, I stood behind the sink, engaged in the mental monologue I tend to have as I mechanically maintain my dental pearly-whiteness.
As I pre-rinsed my toothbrush, I remembered something a friend had said.
The Durban water is of poor quality. It's been giving unsuspecting Durbanites diarrhoea.
It's an evil conspiracy if I ever heard one.
So, naturally, I hesitated.
Then I remembered that we've been drinking the same water since birth. There's no water shrub that constantly synthesizes the liquid. So why, now, all of a sudden, is the water of poorer quality? Is there a problem with the purification process? Or are these people underestimating the toxicity of our excrement?
WHAT? YOU KNOW HOW MUCH CHILI POWDER YOUR MOTHER PUT IN LAST NIGHT'S CURRY.
We're all adults here. Let's be open about the embarrassing things. What do you think's going to happen when you get married, huh?
You can't hold it that long, Son.
After much time, I arrive at Howard Campus. Jumping out of the car without tripping over, I one-shoulder, and oh-so-coolly slide on my shades, because this is Durban and all of a sudden it's 30 damned degrees.
Here, Mother Nature gives you a chance to dry off before soaking you again.
I nod curtly at the security guard that resembles Terrence Howard, and make my way to Science. I must have walked just a few feet before I heard that fateful call.




"Aweh, Stekkie!"
Who is this tall man? What language is this?
I look up. Oh, what a sight.
The way his large fake diamond earring contrasted with his skin on only one ear. The way his white shoes shone brighter than that expensive golden smile.
He pushed himself off the wall and took a step towards me.
Oh, how he walked.
With each emphasized, uneven step, that obviously winning smile on his tilted face grew ever wider.
LOOK AT THAT EARRING. It's no wonder he can't keep his head straight.
As he got nearer, I considered how lucky I was to be wearing shades. Between his golden teeth, those bright shoes and his thick silver chains?
Man, I stood no chance.
Right in front of me, he looks down and pulls what I think is supposed to be his most gangster face.
"What kind?"
What does this mean? Who knows? Not me.
I must deal with this delicately.
Waiting, he repeats less kindly.
"What kind, 'ey?"
Appearing panic-stricken, I frantically rip off my shades, look over my shoulder, peer around trees and search behind the nearest dustbin. With fear in my eyes I grab his Man United t-shirt collar and jerk him closer. My body shudders, and my voice is shaken.
"WHO SENT YOU!? WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THESE QUESTIONS!?"
He shan't disturb my morning walk again.
D'ya know what some call people like that? Thumbies. Why that word? Do you know? Yeah, neither do I. At the very least, I can tell you what a Thumbie is.
Now, before you Tamilians get all up in arms, let me just say that we know 'thumbie' means little brother.
WE KNOW.
Saw - has seen; tool. Green - colour; weed. Gay - homosexual; happy.
You can moan about the double-meaning all you want, Son. It will still be there.
So, what is a Thumbie? Most often used as an adjective, it is an an insulting term to describe one whom is usually Indian with has a strong Indian accent. I'm talking not pronouncing the 'h', elongating the enunciation of the 'a', missing out the word 'are', and the whole nine yards. Another aspect is their dressing and 'swag'.
Refer to incident with Scarred-For-Life Guy.
That's all defined and what not, but why am I saying this?
Let me shed some light before the rain comes back.
There's a psychological observation that suggests every quality we dislike in other people is actually a quality we have that we simply haven't come to terms with yet. Sounds preposterous, doesn't it? But is it really? Consider who calls people Thumbie the most.
Indians. SURPRISE!
So, why do Indians feel the need to distinguish themselves from other Indians due to simple things like attire, conduct and accent? Little indication of an identity crisis, isn't it? Do you not like that you're Indian because you don't want to be associated with Indians that are ridiculed for being "Thumbies"?
If we're following the line of that psychological observation, yes.
If you're Indian, think about your grandmother. She probably speaks like that. How many times has she told you to bring something and come? How many times has she asked you for one tumbler tap wahteh or min'ral? Is your elderly, respected grandmother Thumbie?
My gran speaks like that. You dare call her Thumbie, I will throw her precious rolling pin at you.
If you're of another race though, and you go around labelling folks as Thumbies, but insist you're not racist because you have Indian friends that you say are not 'Indian-Indian'. Man, you're ruddy racist.
Is it controversial? Of course it is.
Will you agree? Most likely not.
None of us are quick to admit fault. Heck, I just stopped calling people Thumbies last week.
Man, I'm so enlightened.
It takes maturity to overcome all this prolonged racist garbage. I often wish maturity would spread like a disease. Perhaps an STD, because no matter what, you know those will spread.
Times have changed, y'know. In primary school ABC meant Apple, Banana and Cranberry. In highschool you discover it means Abstinence, Be faithful and Condomize, leaving you to deal with the better part of your life being a complete lie.
Every day is a new betrayal.
Education, huh? What are parents for? Didn't you get 'the talk'? Mine was awkward as ever.
"DAD, EWW! I'M JUST 12!"

These days, however...

Zuma isn't very educated, y'know? This is our nation's leader - the man who believed taking a shower after unprotected sex will prevent the transmission of HIV.
I take a shower twice a day. I must be goddamn immune by now.
This is the man we ought to look up to - a man who faced both rape and corruption charges, and blamed Apartheid for our crappy internet.
I wonder what England's like this time of year.