On the day Nelson Mandela was buried, South African born Swindon resident Tulsi Patel expresses her appreciation for what he did for his nation and for her as a human being.
To be honest, I know South Africans who have negative views of Mandela based on his past, but those who have positive views have seen how much he has changed as a person, leader and father of a nation who took South Africa to a new transition when he came out of prison to lead us.
I believe Mandela, like any other person who I look up to, stood above himself to leave behind hate, anger and much more to be the person we now remember him to be. He chose to be better rather than to remain bitter. We have that choice and he showed us this.
Like anyone in life, we do have a period where we are either literally or figuratively prisoned. For example, a woman completely manipulated by a man will perhaps realize one day. She might decide to stay ignorant due to her fears or actually fight and confront her fears to get her power to be free is just the same as the imprisoned Mandela.
We can fight, leave or stay depending on what’s at stake. One cannot fix anything like a person, country and the world a 100 per cent. Some in this world serve longer than others to become powerful amazing souls like Mandela for the purpose of good.
In every good there is bad; South Africa isn´t perfect but he tried, and in every bad there is good; prison changed him to become the leader that we remember him as.
Mandela has taught me, that we will never be seen as perfectly good people no matter what we do, but we should always stay focused for the purpose of good.
Tulsi has written an autobiograpical novel The Immigrant: Stargazer which is dedicated to and written for the people of South Africa.
It tells her story but told through the eyes of a young Hindu girl growing up in a segregated area outside Johannesburg during the Apartheid era. It describes many autobiographical events including the terrifying experience of being held at gun-point.
The Immigrant: Stargazer is unusually told in the second person narrative, casting the reader as the main character in the story by using ‘you’ as the way to engage them.
“I wanted to write the book in a different way and bring the reader as close as possible my experiences,” said Tulsi, who left South Africa in 2000 and wrote the book during her travels in 2009.
“The book is about my own evolution and about what makes a person leave their home country."
Tulsi’s decision was made at the age of 20 after a serious incident in a money transfer office when it was raided by a gun totting robber. She said it was the last straw as the difficulties of post-Apartheid South Africa crowded in, where she felt threatened by fear of violence and rape.
But leaving to discover the world beyond cultural taboos, social status and the traditional cultural framework she grew up in had been in her thoughts for some time.
“As a girl, and an Indian, I always had to fight for everything I wanted," said Tulsi. "When I left the country at the age of 21, not everyone supported my idea to go after my dream.
“I wanted to live freely and not to be brainwashed into an arranged marriage and living the life others thought I should live.
“I looked at the life of my mother and my sister and I knew I wanted something bigger than that.”
Tulsi had saved up enough money to pay for a temporary work permit in the UK. With a diploma in hotel operations she worked in a hotel in Marlborough and then in Swindon until her work permit ran out.
Over the last 10 years she has returned to South Africa twice but left quite quickly, first to work on cruise ships in the Caribbean, then to learn languages in Spain and travel around Europe. Now proficient in Spanish, French, some German, as well as English, Hindi and Gujarati, Tulsi has settled in Swindon with a Spanish partner and is working in a call centre.
Her Stargazer story ends in 1999, but a sequel is almost ready to bring her story up to the present day. She said: “It will help people of conservative cultures, which have a lot of taboos and not a lot of open communication within families.”