Remembering the time when ladies in saris fought for a cause

Early PM'Burg: c1908 a glimpse of daily activity in CHURCH STREET (note the business names and other detail, etc.) Picture: Brian Van Dyk (Facebook)

Shan PillayWell, well, well, I am pleased that lots of people like the walk down memory lane with me. We did make a u- turn last week so let’s start walking from Yacoob’s barber shop this week. I remember the Beni family lived next door, then at the back was the famous referee and die-hard Young Colonials man Solly Moosa. Remember his brothers – teacher Moosa who now lives in Allandale, the other Moosa from Cosmos Hardware and Ebbie Moosa who was production manager at Eddels Shoe Factory. Then there was the Coomara Padayachee family – Sathie, Prega and Thumby, who are now all involved at the Sri Siva Soobramoniar and Marriammen temples. Their mother was Meenatchee, a stalwart during the hey days of the Passive Resistance Movement when Indian wore their saris and took up the fight against apartheid in their quest for liberation. Their cue was taken from the 16-year-old Valliama who was jailed here in Pietermaritzburg. If you find some time, go to the Old Prison in Burger Street and you will see her prison cell. Kasturba Gandhi, the wife of Mahatma Gandhi was also jailed there as well as the father of our rainbow nation Nelson Mandela and other activists like Dr Chota Motala, Dr DV Chetty, AS Chetty, Harry Gwala, Moses Mabhida, Archie Gumede, Comrade Ramdeen, SB Mungal and many others.
Later on the Coomara Padayachee home made way for Vegetable House owned by Essa snr, the father of Metro Babu Essa and then later I think a lady known as Vimla opened her hairdressing salon there. Well-known tourism personality Bunny Bhoola then took over the building and now Ranitha Phillips runs her French Hair Salon there. Bunny, off course, made great strides with her travel agency and is now a force to be reckoned with, with her African Link Travel business.
Then I remembered Arumugum Pather lived next door and alongside him was Budree’s jewellers. At the back was Natson Moodley from the Kaiser brother’s family in East Street and also Sokalingum Pather whose daughters were the Pather maams. Then there was the Pandither’s barbershop. Pandither lived in Ginman Lane and his son Vis later took over the shop. I remember his other son, Logie, who schooled with me at Methodist and his sister Gnayambal.
Walking on, was the OA Soni jewellery workshop and then the famous condiment shop of Bookhans at the corner of Knipe and Church Street. Remember Bookhan and his brother Mohan, the father of Dr Rekha Mohan. Mohan later opened the Shenai Stores after China Bazaar was demolished and Narrandes, the father of newspaper photographer Nash Narrandes opened a studio there.
Following on from Bookhans Bazaar, you had the City Modern Café at the corner .The shop was first run by the Naidoo family – in fact I think it was Chinna Naidoo?. Later, Cobra’s father, who was from India, took over until it changed hands several times. The Bhamjees eventually took over and turned it into a hardware store. Then there was the Empire watchmakers, run by SN “Bobby” Naidoo who, although well past his 80’s, still dressed immaculately and was physically active as ever.
Then there was a pokey old shop that stocked sports goods and equipment. Man, has Poobie Naidoo grown in leaps and bounds from that little shop to owning one of the largest sport’s warehouses around.
After that was Kara’s boot repair shop, then the famous Enoch fruiters – remember that shop? It is where Alpha Pharmacy is now situated. Boy, that was a hub for the Chinese game of fafi.
This game was played by guessing a number for a tickey bet and if the Chinaman picked your number, you got paid six shillings and six pence. The famous runners who come to mind are Kajan and Kista, who used to walk the rounds from barracks to barracks, and collected the bets, while keeping their eyes peeled for the cops.
We shall spend some time here with the Chinaman before going on our walk again next week.
Correction: Hey! Sorry about the last column, gremlin got into the copy and said Mungal stayed in Ockert’s Kraal. No, it was Baba Harry Gwala who stayed there. SB Mungal stayed at the bottom end of Berg Street. Remember he was married to Benny Pillay’s daughter.

It is here that I leave you for the week. Since so many of you meet and talk to me about my column, why not drop a line to Public Eye with old photos and your memory of  pioneering  Pietermaritzburg families. Has your family been mentioned in any of my columns? If so, why don’t you send us some pictures of them and perhaps the area in those years. Email [email protected] or drop off at 7 Stranack Street, Pietermaritzburg.

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