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2nd Lockdown – Day Fourteen – It all Starts with Curry-Burry


Yesterday I made the cheapest, bestest recipe: curry-burry. Soak dal overnight, drain, spin through blender, add salt and onion shoots, parsley, chili from garden, all finely chopped, and deep fry in little balls, then put aside. Then cook a lightly-curried dal, with bringels picked from the garden and curry leaves also picked from garden, then place the fried dumplings in the curried dal. Add kefir, otherwise known as Greek yogurt, from the kitchen cupboard, to taste.

Talking about kefir. When I put on my mask earlier yesterday to go give an initiation-to-kefir to my neighbours Parvedee and Moonira – they were also masked up properly – we kept social distance in their open-air kitchen, and we vowed to wash our hands afterwards for the time it takes to sing two happy birthdays. Such is life, these days. Anyway, I had arrived bearing the jar I’d prepared for them over 24-hours, separate from our own kefir jar, and a spare jar of milk for top-up after the straining of the grains or pearls to keep as base. Parvedee and Moonira produced a plastic bowl, plastic strainer and plastic spoon, as promised. And we were off, straining the Yoghurt and me explaining, as though I’d been doing this from time immemorial. Truth is I’ve only been doing it for three months to a day, since Begum gave me my first pearls of kefir. But, truth be told, my mother used to make a similar thing – a kind of sour milk – in a calabash in South Africa, when I was a child. Anyway, Parvedee and Moonira look to be experts soon. Of course, this show-and-tell in Ragoo Lane was all illegal. What with me going to the neighbours’ house. That’s illegal. Strictly speaking. The police could have acted with alacrity and enforced the law.

Talking about being illegal. When Ram and I fell in love, it was illegal in South Africa where I came from for us to marry, or even, for that matter, to have any sexual intercourse, as the law put it. Strictly speaking. There, too, the police could have acted with alacrity and climbed up trees to peep through windows. But, they would have had to classify Ram first. Strictly speaking. We have to get them on the technicalities like that. The South African state in 1994 ended all that illegality. It was, in any case, already a crime against humanity to enforce Apartheid. It still is.

And talking about a crime against humanity, even Pravind Jugnauth accused the British recently of this over Chagos. And yet, when we held the street demonstrations – Chagossian and LALIT women together – for three days in a row in Port Louis around a 1981 women’s hunger strike, to get the military base on Diego Garcia closed down, to get the Chagos re-united with the rest of the country, and to ensure the right for Chagossians to return, that was also illegal. It was so illegal that eight of us got arrested and tried under the Public Order Act. The other seven, including Kisna, who is translating this into Kreol, were kept in Police Cells with no roof above between them and the stars. Just barbed wire. So illegal was it for us to demonstrate. After my arrest, I had meanwhile escaped from the police van. That was illegal, too, but they didn’t charge me with this. Presumably they would lose face. Letting some woman escape from police custody. I had then run barefoot across the broken bottles of Vichy water, with which police had been attacked by innocent bystanders, shocked at the police manhandling women this way in broad daylight. Them throwing bottles was also illegal. But, the police didn’t know who they were. One, I learnt later from him, was a law-abiding man from Ste Croix, who looked out of the window from the then Rogers’ offices, where he was employed to wash dishes, and began throwing crockery out of the window down on the police. That was also illegal. He had never done anything illegal before, nor since. But, there were big photographs of me in the Press the next day. So, I had to be re-arrested. And then, one day, some months later, I was not present when the Court Usher called the names of the eight accused – I had gone to buy dal purees thinking the Court would, as usual, keep us waiting for hours on end under the pye badamye, but not that day – and that omission, not being there when my name was called, was illegal, too. If the Le Mauricien photographer Ismael Bhugaloo had not jumped on his mobylette and gone looking for me and then taken me back as pillion-passenger, I would have got locked up on the spot for that, too. It’s seriously illegal. Our lawyer, the late Kader Bhayat, had a field day with the police officers in Court. They could neither say that they had beaten up women, nor that women had beaten them up. Both of which are illegal. And that was the whole story. But, that was not what they charged us with. They said we had disturbed traffic under the Public Order Act. Illegal. And, history is proving us right to have been illegal. The judgment in the ITLOS tribunal – binding and all – in January 2021 has said that the occupation by Britain, and thus by its illegal tenant the USA, is illegal.

I was often illegal. When the school authorities in South Africa found that a band of us Form II girls in the boarding school section had cut up, burnt and buried the national flag – so you will notice from this that I have been a proud anti-nationalist for a long time – and that such an action was so illegal, we could have got hanged for it. No joke. Strung up by the neck until we died. The school authorities preferred avoiding such a scandal and covered the whole incident up. They didn’t even tell our parents. My report at the end of the term said, “Lindsey had boils this term.” My father, being a Magistrate, had a nose for that kind of devious phraseology, and asked what naughty thing I had could have gone and done to make that be the Head of Hostel’s report. I said, “Nothing.” Imagine having been threatened at age thirteen with the death penalty. Just for destroying a bit of cloth. Such is the symbol of the nation state.

And talking about hanging, when I was at Wits University, we one day distributed leaflets, other students and me, against Apartheid in tertiary education. For that, they arrested 21 of us and locked us up in John Forster Square. I was with women adult so-called white prisoners. Others were with male adult so-called Non-White prisoners. Others were classified with juveniles prisoners, who, I can’t recall being colour-coded or sex-coded or not. The police and DPP looked for something illegal in that leaflet distribution. They found the following: we didn’t have a permit to distribute literature on the Johannesburg central train station property. Talk about scraping the barrel. But, the leaflets were attacking the Apartheid State – that was not just what they did but it was, in fact, their aim – and if anyone broke any other law, however minor, in the course of attacking the Apartheid State, then that person could, after having being found guilty of this minor offense, be charged under the Suppression of Communism Act or the Anti-Terrorism Act. Both these laws carried the death penalty. So, how’s that for me being potentially illegal. Again being threatened with the death penalty. The 21 of us had to take a top lawyer, as well as our usual political lawyers. He was Sidney Kentridge, now 98. And he would later live in the UK, become a “Sir” there, and be the Chagossian’s lawyer and win the key 2000 case, giving them the right to return. Sidney Kentridge eventually got us all off the hook for the leaflets, too. It took quite a while. We had to have the case – for nothing more than distributing literature without a permit from the Johannesburg Municipality – amalgamated first. Some of us had our names called first in the Juvenile Courts, some in the Courts for Non-White Adults and some in the courts for White Adults. You would think the State had better things to do with its time than threaten death on people who distribute leaflets against crimes against humanity.

And look what fate Kaya had. He did no more than say he had smoked a joint three or four days previously. What happened was the Press had went on-and-on about people acting “illegally” and the police doing nothing. So, the police did something. They went to see four people. Three said they didn’t smoke anything. Kaya said he did. He was honest. But, the police had no forensic evidence, and Kaya may have been mistaken, who knows, and could anyway never have been found guilty. But, he was kept in police custody at Alcatraz. Four days later he was found dead in his cell. With 33 new injuries on his body. The photographs of his body that were produced in the Court case that we, in LALIT, followed have remained imprinted indelibly in my memory. And the truth about how he was killed – because killed he was – has still not been investigated properly. His death breaks my heart. And others close to him even more. And must never be forgotten.

Anyway, such is the relativity of illegality. And of honesty, in Kaya’s case.

What is the State if not the enabler, taken as a whole, of capitalist exploitation? 

The stories all perhaps go to show the constant political struggle that needs to be maintained, collectively, against the State’s control over our lives. 

Even in an epidemic. We are the ones who need to control the epidemic’s spread. Not the state. Only in the final analysis should the state be involved. And all those repressive clauses in the Covid laws – like making strikes illegal in the docks and airport and hospitals – must be lifted the minute this epidemic is contained. The more we show that we can all do this – control the epidemic’s spread, ourselves – the less the police have an excuse to watch who is on the roads, in case I’m going to a neighbour’s house to hand over the ancient knowledge about keeping kefir pearls alive. Trouble is, the rule of the capitalist class and its greed-ideology as driving factor, via its Jugnauth state apparatus, makes a big proportion amongst us develop selfish ideas that make collective self-discipline in an epidemic difficult to maintain – difficult, but not impossible. Through sharing and co-operation, we nurture the capacity to organize ourselves collectively. Even in small things, like kefir.

And, in case those of you who read my blog only in the English version, Kisna’s recipe for Kefir which, as translator she added, can be referenced in DAY TEN’s Kreol version. If you want it in English, just shout by e-mail. And anyone who wants kefir pearls can contact me after the end of the lockdown. The end of the lockdown will eventually come!

Lindsey Collen