11 April, 2021

Nelson’s Friends

It was a world-historical moment. The only way to breach the iron curtain back in 1990, during Mandela’s release, was to go through his old network of comrades.

AFP (From Outlook 08 July 2013)
Nelson’s Friends

It was the Prime Minister’s banquet in honour of Nelson Mandela in March 1997, at New Delhi’s grand Hyderabad House. He had come to sign the Red Fort Declaration on a Strategic Partnership between the two countries. The Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, was escorting Mandela along the row of Indian guests, introducing each one to the South African President. When he reached me, he mumbled something, as if half-asleep. “He was in your country recently,” or words to that effect.

After shaking my hand, Mandela moved onto the next guest. He then paused. He seemed to have recognised my face only after the Prime Minister’s indistinct introduction registered with him.

He then took a step back and made eye contact with me, direct and strong. “You know, Yusuf is no longer with us.” He did not say “Yusuf passed away” or that “Yusuf is no more”. There was that typical Mandela sing-song about the sentence. The “Yusuf” Mandela was referring to was Yusuf Cachalia, younger brother of Molvi Cachalia, who...

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