An old blueprint of our house in Ridgeway, Johannesburg South.(Saaleha Bamjee-Mayet)

After tears: Mandela’s middle-class legacy

One of our neighbours had an after-tears function at their home on Sunday. It’s when people get together after the funeral of a loved one in vibrant (and often raucous) acknowledgement of life and the person who has passed on.

I’ve only known the sombre solemnity of the aftermath of Muslim funerals, so to hear vibey gospel music and the chatter of relatives on lawn chairs filter through our bedroom curtains was something of a novelty.

Our neighbour was considerate enough to ask us beforehand if her guests could park on the area just outside our house.

Of course, it’s the neighbourly thing to do. We pardon the inconveniences.

Quid pro quo.

I also live across the road from a recently built mosque in a neighbourhood that, during apartheid, was classified as a whites-only suburb.

With the growing number of Muslims in the area, every Friday, cars choke both sides of our street for the Jumuah prayer.

One of the other neighbours has short driveway pillars placed along the grassy embankment outside his fence.

Whether his decision was motivated by a Stonehenge design aesthetic or a desire to not have people park outside of his house, we can’t say for sure.

If he ever required the use of our space for extra parking, that would be okay too.

While we aren’t the type of neighbours who gossip and philosophise with each other over the boundary wall, it’s a convivial non-complicated relationship. Like nice, friendly Muslims, we send over small gifts at Eid, wave and nod at each other, are polite to their dogs and go about living as quietly and non-disruptively as possible.

Our neighbourhood is mild, middle-class and multiracial.

An impossible scenario 30 years ago, when the house we now live in was built (complete with an outside Bantu toilet in its blueprints).

An old blueprint of our house in Ridgeway, Johannesburg South.(Saaleha Bamjee-Mayet)
An old blueprint of our house in Ridgeway, Johannesburg South. (Saaleha Idrees Bamjee)

And while I can’t speak for those less fortunate or the well-monied, where the balances are still so severely skewed, the middle is where it’s at.

It’s where me and my black and white neighbours are at.

In the middle, all together.

Saaleha Idrees Bamjee is a freelance wordworker/IdeaGirl who also dabbles in writing, rhyming/speaking words, crafting, upcycling, cooking, and peak-time-traffic karaoke. This post was first published on her blog Electric Spaghetti. Connect with her on Twitter

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