Determined to dedicate myself to writing after I retired from teaching in 2000, my first thought was to capture the history of Marabastad (The Asiatic Bazaar), the location in which I had lived as a child. I immediately set about interviewing people who had lived in the location. During my interviews with Sinthumbi Naidoo, he made me aware of his concern that Tamil religious practices were losing their meaning for Tamil South Africans and suggested that I work with his son, Ronnie, a poosari, to put together a manual that explained the meaning of the rites. That is what we did and A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals was published in October 2004. In between interviews for my book on Marabastad, I began recording my experiences as a teacher in Limpopo Province and day-to-day happenings, my friendships, my hijacking, a wedding in the family, among other things and compiled a book of short stories, Jail Birds and Others , which was published in December 2004. Soon afterwards, I completed Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar and it was published in 2007.
In 1994, South Africa became a democratic country but the racism into which we had been socialised did not disappear at the stroke of a pen and writers continue to reflect experiences gained through racial and cultural balkanisation. Consequently, varying racial, ethnic and cultural experiences, do not find affinity across the board. And publishers, concerned only with markets, are unwilling to takes risks with unknown writers. They told me time and again that there was no market for my work so I decided to go into publishing. I have published A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals, Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar, Monkey Business by my sister, Seetha Ray, and am working on a book of children’s plays by my brother Seeni Naidoo, a short story that he has written, more short stories, a novel and three novellas and children’s stories that I have written.
I spent the years 1977 to 1983, involved in Anti-SAIC and UDF campaigns, which inspired me to write a number of plays: We 3 Kings, a farce about ‘Indian’ elections, Ikhayalethu, about dispossession, Masks, the search for African identity. One of my revues, The Masterplan, a comic interpretation of separate development and the Tricameral Parliament, was banned in September 1983. My last play Flight from the Mahabarath, written sometime in the 1990s, is a feminist critique of the epic.
All my plays have now been published under the title WIP Theatre Plays. (WIP = Work-in-Progress)
Going through my papers, I discovered a number of articles written over the years so I revised them and put them all together with new articles. They include reflections on drama, reactions to apartheid, reflections on writing, my joy at discovering Milan Kundera and my attempt to understand the functions of religion and democracy in a society.
Democracy is an idealistic theory and as soon as it is put into practice one immediately realizes its impracticability because it is based on the premise that all human beings are trustworthy.
But when one looks at the constitution and laws of a country one realises that no one is regarded as trustworthy; even something as private as marriage has to be registered in order to prevent all kinds of fraud.
Government is a form of control; so no government can be democratic, not even governments that are elected by the people.
Human beings are opportunists and we all take advantage of circumstances and other people. When we elect a government, we put people in a powerful position to take advantage of us all.
The only way to keep a government somewhat honest, i.e., concerned about the welfare of citizens, is to keep it off-balance. Once a government becomes entrenched it has no need to be democratic; there is no challenge to its power. A government that seeks to obtain a two-thirds majority is acknowledging a need for power rather than a concern for the welfare of citizens.
The only way to keep a government off-balance is to keep it uncertain of its ability to maintain power. If it really needs our votes, it will make some effort to improve our conditions of living.
In South Africa, we can never have a government that really cares about poverty eradication because we have a government that is entrenched; it has the votes of the majority. And its life is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
The opposition, which is very small and in the multi-party system fragmented into miniscule bits and pieces, has no chance in a system where people do not demand good government; where voters continue to vote along racial and ethnic lines.
So what we have is an Affirmative Action government rather than one that is willing to commit itself to improving the lives of the very people who vote for it.