Monday, April 12, 2010

An AIE Experience: The Fingerless Gardener

I’ve experienced these tingles for years now, since I was a child. One experience I can remember quite fondly was when I was about seven or eight.

I was in primary school, in about grade 2 (or standard B as it was known back then), and it was a sunny afternoon, as I sat in the porch steps in the garden, just above the pool.

We had a gardener, an aged African, Xhosa speaking man whom we called Oom Bali, who came around to do the gardening on Saturdays. There was a tragic tale behind this man: he’d lost all of his fingers on one hand in an accident years before involving a large industrial fan or something. And ironically he was such a good worker when it came to the garden, despite this handicap.

These were the last dying days of apartheid, and the beginning of democracy in South Africa, and before I even knew what racism was. He was a good friend of mine. Young, and naive – those were good days.

Anyway, Oom Bali would no doubt go around the garden and use his gardening tools to tidy the place up. I remember one particular activity, and that was when he would trim the hedges around the pool, and he would also whistle while he did it. but it wasn’t a sharp, irritating whistle – it was a muffled whistle, difficult to describe in writing. It was as if he didn’t purse his lips like you’d think. It was more like he opened his mouth and it just hissed out, instead of forcing it.

Anyway, sitting in the sun, listening to the trimming noises of the hedge clippers and the soft whistles made for some of the most intense AIE experiences I can remember.

Oom Bali unfortunately passed away some years back, and before that he was fired by my dad, if you can call it that, ironically for trimming the pool hedge too much. A man claiming to be a relative of his took over for a while, but we haven’t seen him for years now. Nowadays we have a rag tag bunch of “gardeners”.

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