National Article 3: Lands of ‘Princesses’ and ‘Prostitutes’!


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Are the two worlds really that different or is there just a thin line that is separating the two?

Are these two worlds defined by the women or by the men or by both or by persons beyond the man and the woman?

I had a surreal experience yesterday.

I was on my way to an engagement party and I had my usual driver help me get to the venue which was an hour’s drive away.  My driver, in his late 30’s or early 40’s, over time has grown accustomed to using the time he has me in his car to share his concerns that he finds in his life and as a sounding board for his thoughts.  As the journey continued, the conversation turned to ‘what does a woman want from her man’?   He asked, “is it a roof over their heads or a box of chocolates from him?”  Well, I said, “while the box of chocolate may not be the same as a roof over their heads, but if she also receives a box of chocolate from him, it helps her see him as more than a provider for the family to also the lover in her life”, I said.

At soon as those words left my mouth, it felt like a cannon had suddenly been let loose within the car!  He became rattled and began by saying “such days have long gone”.  Well, I added, “you would not want her to see you as her father or brother, would we?”  He continued to disagree.  He then shares, that had I known better, I would know that “it is not unusual for the women in the country to “keep small houses by their side”.  While she may have the ‘main meal’ with her husband, she continues to enjoy ‘side dishes’ with other men”.  He adds that having come to know about that part of her life, it is making it difficult for him to relate towards her as her husband and as the only man in her life.  He then repeated several times that it is not easy for a man to give flowers and chocolate to “a prostitute”.  He for now is choosing to live a life separate from his wife, even choosing not to eat within the same house.  Deep in my heart, I knew “he was crying inside” and I ended that part of the conversation with “this may have been a chance for her to learn to turn into a woman, a chance another man may not do it for her, except you”.

Half an hour later, we arrive at the home where my hosts were hosting an engagement party for their twenty-something year old daughter.

And then, almost in an instant, it looked like I had walked from one world into another world – a world ‘fit for a princess”.  The place was teeming with men and women working side-by-side, putting together the venue for an evening of merriment and joy in celebration of exchanging and  accepting the dowry between the groom and the bride’s family an event which was held earlier in the morning.  I sat by the corner, watching and soaking in as much of the buzz of the evening and location.  It was all new to me here.  The women were washing plates and dishing food and drinks out to the guests who were arriving and laying tablecloths on the tables  The men were preparing the firewood that was going to part of the braai stands that would grill enough meat for an anticipated guests of 500 to 600 persons.  Perhaps even a 1000.  Elders were playing out their traditional roles receiving the bridal parties on both sides and observing the protocols of the day.  Meanwhile tiny tots scaled the length and breath of the venue adding colour and vibrancy to the occasion with their spanking new clothes and their chirping voices.  Nothing over the top.  Only sheer joy meandering all around in the togetherness.

Two hours later and when the venue, food and the guests were set, the bride walks in, in the arms of her fiance.  He was beaming from ear to ear eager to show his bride off to the world.  Both of them took the main stage and sat on their assigned seats (well, I actually want to mean ‘thrones’).  She sat on her side, glancing from the corner of her eyes and chatting at her fiance from time to time, while taking in the whole place and the evening and how it has been laid out in front of her.  She did not hold any airs about her but smiled sweetly knowing she was being treated like a princess from her groom to her father.

I sat at my chair within the audience enjoying how much the bride was enjoying the evening.

The next morning, that is today morning, something struck me.

How did I go from, in less than one hour and in a distance of less than 100 km apart, hearing the story of a ‘prostitute’ in the guise of a wife to seeing a princess about to become a wife?

Both assaulting my senses in the same evening.

How did the same land produce both princesses and ‘prostitutes’?  Which one is more?  Which side is growing?  And which side is seeing declining numbers?

Why does this happen?

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