Yesterday I saw a humble patient in the clinic. He has been with me since the beginning of the year. He has been unable to return to heavy work in the factory after I operated on both his shoulders, but is positive that by next year he will be back. He always jumps up from the chair when I call him, gives a slow imperceptible bow and walks briskly in his old, smartly pressed clothes. He always greets me as uBaba, and holds my hand with both his hands when I extend my hand to greet him. He is not much older than me.

Yesterday I noticed his second name. It was Khulumani. After I had completed the examination and we were talking, I asked him what it meant.

“uBaba, the one who talks a lot.”

“And do you?”

“Yes, even as a child I was the one who spoke a lot.”

He is not loquacious with me, but he does speak well. And positively.

It reminded me of a Christmas a few years ago when my father and father-in-law had us in stitches. My father-in-law speaks Zulu fluently and he was having a conversation with my father who he had baptised Khulumani, because my father spoke a lot. My father was answering him in gibberish, with the odd Zulu, English, Greek or Afrikaans word interspersed to add flavour. They went on for a long time, and when they stopped the children begged them to talk “Khulumani” again. For once the children were spellbound by my father’s conversation, as the adults were when he spoke normally or made a speech.

My father had four sartorial setups. Sartorial is not a word I use to impress. It was drummed into me by one of my father’s prefects who later was my English teacher at high school. If we were not dressed properly in jacket and tie for school the teacher would question our sartorial elegance.

My father used to wear a white shirt and tie with flannel pants to work originally. He would add the suit jacket for business meetings. This formal attire included the use of his monkey suit, or tuxedo. As he got older he wore ordinary lounge shirts and flannels. He wore shorts when he went swimming and a tracksuit when he went walking. Otherwise, like the time he was Khulumani, he was well dressed in flannels and a lounge shirt. He used to wear smarter shoes when he was younger and traded these in for comfortable shoes when he developed arthritis in his feet. There was another kit he used to wear, his golf outfit. This belonged to Pandenaughties Golfing Promotions, so I have not described it here, although Pandenaughty was indeed at one with Khulumani.

My father and Khulumani both spoke well. They both could hold a conversation with anyone about any topic. And they could make us laugh.

One thought on “Conversations with Khulumani

  1. Delightful! Reminiscing about those times fills me with nostalgia….I remember the tears of mirth rolling down everyone’s eyes


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