You know, with the price of petrol nowadays, I am getting squeezed dry.
Up, down, up, down, up, down. . . every day I’m vying to the hospital
to check the mother-in-law, who needed a leg op. I dare not ask the vrou
to skip-a-day. You know what that will be like! Anyway, medical aid and
all, she is relaxing in Umhlanga hospital.

My family troops in, waving at connections, all heading for the same
ward. As we entered, the facial xpressions on those (white) patients
and their visitors was one of shock. “Is this an invasion?”
they must have been thinking. They only had one, maybe two, and in some
cases no visitors, but for the charou patients- there was a dozen around
each bed.

Before long (someone must have brunted us), the guard appeared at the
ward entrance: “Three visitors per patient,” he said with authority and
we meekly trekked off to the lounge area. But there was no place to sit.

Seems like this poisa (police in isiZulu) had already made his rounds in
the other wards. Every seat had a charou warming its expensive looking

“Where’s Bommie,” someone asked (not her real identity, to protect
blowing her cover).

“The three daughters stayed behind with ma in the ward, so where’s

It was later revealed, when the time came for a visitor change, that
Bommie turned around and started talking to the lonely patient in the
next bed as the poisa did his round.

So, next time you have to go visit hospitals, take a tip from Bommie and
more of you can get in. You can’t beat a charou!

Anyway, I am sure that these hospital lahnees (many of them are charou
doctors) know that we have close-knit families. Why don’t they have a
special ward for us? I know they can’t segregate by race, since it will
be against the constitution and all, but maybe they can call it a “Big
Family Ward”.

Invariably all charous will end up in this ward. Maybe we can share the
breyani and chops chutney and borrow some of the next-bed auntie’s
podina chutney. Just the other day I ended up with a bowl of “sugarcane”
herbs and rice for starters topped with “running fowl” curry.

Yah, us charous are like that. And if any connection didn’t vie and
visit the ol’ lady in hospital, the talk will be: “Uh, they only know to
come sing and cry when it’s too late.”