Many of them looked dishevelled and untidy.
Not at all how proper shoppers should look, according to our standards, back in Namibia. The smell of some of them screamed for water and soap. The armpit smells made a vicious attack on my frail stomach so much that I wished for a cold with a blocked nose to escape it. Here we are, my wife and I, washed and polished and dressed fit for a modelling contest, in total contrast to our fellow shoppers.
When we grew up back in the day in our locations and little towns, we were there in our confined spaces provided by the Apartheid system, ‘for you and your kind’. There we did everything like going to school, church, the clinic, a play, a dance, a fight and we practised sports.
Yes, your whole life happened in the location. Back then all of us were poor. Our parents worked in town or in the white areas which was a no go for most us, so we hung on our parents lips when they told us stories about their bosses and the town. Dreamed about this mythical place everyone called town and going there.
In our house we had a tradition where one of the children could go to town with our mother at the end of the month. We were six children so each one had two town visits per year plus the bonus visit at the end of the year, when our entire family would go to town to buy Christmas clothes. That was the only time my father would go to town for shopping. So to go to town and get out of the location was like leaving the country.
Many a time you would try to buy a town visit from one of your siblings, by offering them your Sunday meat or offering to do their chores. Needless to say, this was to no avail. That privilege did not have a price-tag.
The day before the excursion, you would polish your church shoes and lay out your best clothes. My sisters would do their hair and style it and sleep with a swirl kous on their heads, so that they could look their best. You could even take a bath, a privilege reserved only for church. You’d go to bed early but you wouldn’t actually sleep because of all the excitement. You prayed for the sun to rise so that your bi-annual journey could start.
We’re going to town! Before you left the house, your mother would give you a death promise; “I brought you into this world, so I can take you out. You better behave.” And you believed her.
We took the bus to town and crossed over to another world. In that bus the sweet smell of soap filled the air because when you went to town you’d be clean and properly dressed.
On those town visits, we sinned and enjoyed every minute of sinning – desire. You wished for everything that your eyes saw and promised yourself, one day...
Now do you understand why I get upset with dirty, smelly and untidy shoppers? To go to town is a privilege and the appreciation of that privilege should be reflected in one’s appearance. Our freedom fighters fought hard and paid with their lives to free us from our locations – making town visits a daily occurrence.
It is important for my generation to look our best when we go to town although some will play it down and call our neatness a symptom of our Apartheid babalaas.