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Family Ties: no greater love than that of a mom

Mother’s Day is every day, even when she’s gone, writes Edwin Naidu going down memory lane on Family Ties, a zany recollection of the past with his inspirational mom Ruby.

Out of the blue, in a sleepy haze, it suddenly dawned on me that there’s no love more significant than that of a mom. The love of one’s life will always be unique. But when it comes to a mom’s love, it’s selfless and stuck on one.

After all, she gave birth to me. Ruby (Neelavathi) Naidu passed on 8 June 2008. We got news of her passing landing in Denmark with Aldrin Naidu, my brother, the journalist and playwright, who made his journey to Heaven on 25 April 2018. His last meal at my house was the last bits of my wife Brenda’s chicken breyani. He loved it. I went to Cape Town for work. He went to Sunninghill and never returned.

The BIG 5: Siblings: Buddy, Aldrin, Morgan, Cheryl and Edwin at their home in Phoenix.

He was famous before the social media explosion. His play ‘Mandrax Munniamma and the Suitcase Carrier with Geetha Mala‘ was a huge hit. Ruby was his greatest supporter. He took her with several plays to Grahamstown and even did a fantastic voter education play, ‘YOU ANC Nothing Yet‘, without funding, getting the Mandela stamp of approval too.

He had written a play about the bunny chow before he left us and shared it with me, urging Prashirwin or Oliver to one day put it on stage. He lived 100 metres down the road and regularly visited with the adorable LaMia Ruby in tow. She is growing into a bright, intelligent young girl and is a beautiful reminder of Aldrin. Perhaps, she will do bunny chow?

Proud Parents: Ruby and Morgan with Edwin in Crescent Street, Overport.

Then there was Morgan, gone too soon at 38. The love between Mary and him was selfless; she would do anything for him. If there was anyone who put her money where her Morgan was, it was Mary; of course, I meant money where her mouth was. Their love was fast and furious – and their passing was also quick. But it was unique, one must concede, and a blessing. They lived, loved and left us on Earth with gorgeous Oliver and Layla.

Mary’s life-long friends, Yvonne and Giacomo, are a tremendous blessing to aspiring broadcaster Olli and drama queen Layla, whom I once had visions of taking Bollywood by storm. She must pursue her dreams, lil wonder. Ruby used to cook for motoring pals, like the late City Press journalist Steve Dlamini, at Morgan’s house.

In my view, a mother’s love transcends all. Ours was genuine and sacrificial. When I was born in 1967, my mom gave up work to stay at home to look after me. I cannot imagine she had any rest. Two years later, Aldrin, then Cheryl and Morgan, and Buddy 1975 arrived rapidly.

Ruby and Morgan with golden boy Brenwin, the first grandchild in the family.

Thank God for television that year. When ‘Dallas‘ came a few years later, my mom probably thought enough of this, no more children. She also had an elder son at 19. A relative stole him from the hospital in Marianhill, Durban. She longed to see him with many a wild goose chase. The family had amnesia. The last person living with the secret died recently.

He was born on 23 February 1959 – the day rock singer Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. We used to call him Buddy. They say he is/was known as Luckyboy. At 18, he won a car and did well in life. The dead aunt asked my mom if she wanted his “wealth”.

My mom loved her children and did not care about material things. She wanted to meet her real eldest. Along with Uncle Benny, Aldrin and I would accompany her on many trips to see him. Other family members too. Once, we drove in the brown Volkswagen Beetle, I won.

As a coincidence, at 18, while in Grove-End, Phoenix, I also won not one but two VW Beetles in a competition in December 1985. I was the special one before Jose.

Happy days: With newborn Cheryl, the rose among the thorns, Aldrin and Edwin at Japanese Gardens, Durban.
Ruby Naidu, with journalist and playwright son Aldrin, she championed all his projects fervently.

My parents never showed favouritism, but the bond with my mom was unique, although she championed Aldrin and urged everyone to be the best. Thanks to my wheezing, I got a fair bit of attention. On days like today, with a tight chest, I would inhale the black tea she made in our one-bedroom flat in Aslam Heights, Sydenham. As I used to sit inhaling the steam, allowing it to fuse with my tablets, she would rub my back with Vicks. She would never stop. This tiny woman, with great strength in her hands, would not stop until I felt better.

One day, Mom left early to go to the market; I was wheezing severely. Without Mom near, I remember her resourcefulness, being solutions driven, and always making a plan. However, he may have been less sprightly unless he had a good few drinks to cheer Dad up. He was always hopeful and always had faith that tomorrow would be better. He would lead the singing at Phoenix Bible Baptist Church when we met at the school behind Dr Chetty’s surgery. Several months before I won the cars, he purchased a rear-view mirror on sale at Game in West Street. He said that we would use it when the vehicle came.

In a relationship spanning almost five decades, he was in sync with my mom regarding belief in the future. Theirs is a story on its own, two cousins defying the family to find love and make a life with each other.

But we were never short of food and always had good Woolworths-purchased clothes. One day on a bus on Sparks Road, my dad was robbed of his watch and wallet when a guy put a knife at my throat. My dad was stylishly dressed, as always, handed the items over.

  Test of time: Ruby and Morgan.

We would also get stunning hand-me-downs from loving elder brother Bobby Anna (aka Mahavishnu), who lived in Clairwood, sometimes Greytown, according to Radhamma. However, we learnt later that it was an off-ramp away in Merebank where another essential part of him lay. BobbyAnna was a talented dramatist and singer who lived and loved, and like Sinatra, he did it his way.

That morning with Mom gone into town, I looked for solutions in our flat at 122 Aslam Heights (another place of special memories and people) to help my shortness of breath. In the cupboard under the sink was a nip of brandy she soaked with thyme to relieve asthma, providing you have a teaspoon or two to help. She took too long that day.

My mom would take the bus to the market, get whatever she needed and ensure we were all happy. By the time she returned, I had finished nip. My chest was still tight. She did her Vicks massage and tea and promptly took me to the late Dr Govin, whose smile as he injected the veins in my right hand I will never forget. The air smelled good.

Ruby and Brenda bonding in the kitchen in Berea.

We lived in Mountbatten Drive, Reservoir Hills; she used to carry me on her back and walk me to Dr Jithoo on my lousy air days. My mom loved all her children equally. She loved Cheryl but always told me that she never wanted a daughter to be poorly treated in this world. This happened after some people’s nasty side came out, reminding my mom of her arduous growth as an orphan with Uncle Benny and Uncle Mike and sister Baby, her strongest allies.

But I gave her the most stress from a health perspective. Buddy will disagree and always believe that he got the most love a mom could provide: the joy of breast milk, which he enjoyed until he was five. However, my relationship with her was exceptional; we shared her tough times when trying to find solutions to my dad’s weekend binge drinking. She would tell me not to tell the others some of her solutions as they would not understand. The resilient Ruby tried. Our secrets remain.

Bonding: When family outings meant a walk during construction to what now is a busy N3 highway in Durban. From left: Uncle Benny, Buddy, Aldrin, Brenda, Edwin, Morgan Naidu, with Mary Naidu, front left, holding Brenwin, next to Ruby Naidu, Morgan Junior and Cheryl.

At her funeral on 14 June 2008, my Uncle Vicky, thank God he, along with Vis or Whitey or Elvis as we grew up with him, are still here, said Ruby Naidu was “consistently consistent”.

Fifteen years after her death, the lineage of her siblings is over, with adorable Uncle Mike the last to go in 2019. But so many nephews and nieces to this day talk fondly about her. She kept many secrets and was the one they could trust. Auntie Vijay and Uncle Brian spent much time with my mom in her last days, and she remains extremely special to them and the family. Sershen, their eldest, is the “sixth” Naidu brother, always at home, a pillar despite the distance.

Phoenix memories: Uncle Benny, Buddy, Aldrin, Brenda, Edwin and Morgan Senior with Mary, front, Brenwin, Ruby, Morgan Junior and Cheryl.

Despite giving her heart to Jesus, thanks to sister Auntie Baby and the amazing Arumugam family in Detroit Street, Bayview, my mom remembered former customs. She would teach Auntie Vijay the traditional prayer she needed while grieving. Being there was something real to Ruby. And if any of her siblings or their spouses gave her a hard time, she would be the first to pick up the phone or visit long before Uber made life easy.

Somehow, that sense of family and genuine care went with her. My mother would not ignore you or visit someone and not pop in if you were in the area. That was Ruby, the architect of love and sacrifice. She tried. My dad did the same when he felt it necessary. One Christmas, he was treated shabbily by a sibling and spouse. He still went bearing gifts. It proved to be his last Christmas. He died on 14 January 2010. That spirit went with him too.

Sibling love: forever United Auntie Baby, Uncle Benny, Uncle Michael and Ruby at 317 Grove. End, a place of memories in Phoenix.

Effervescent Brijlall Ramguthee, the former Post Editor, started me off in journalism with the approval of the then Harvard-bound editor Dennis Pather with “The Edwin Naidu Pop Column” in October 1987. Reporter Logan Govender published stories about the futile search for LuckBoy. When Arsenal fan Pather engaged me at the Sunday Tribune two years later, Aldrin took over. He was a better writer. I was far too serious and once convinced Brijlall to have Morrissey as our teen poster because “Every Day Is Like Sunday”. It did little for sales, but at least, along with the genial, always helpful Ronnie Borain, who passed on in Japan of a heart attack at 64 in 2015, there were smiles all around. They taught me well. I used to get “fan” letters those days.

On Saturday, when the lights went off, I wrote this memory while awaiting power to return so I could nebulise. I yearned for that black tea and the Vicks rub. The birth spice chicken did the trick, however. Thanks, Brenda, for being the “white Sparks” for 31 years. I cannot imagine that 15 years on, my mom isn’t here. Her home was always open and entertaining to family, friends and church brothers and sisters. One always left eating a meal. But I daily fail to live up to Ruby or Morgan’s humility, sacrifice and selflessness. Love on Earth is current. A mom’s love transcends life.

Edwin Naidu
Edwin Naidu
Jack-of-all-trades journalist Edwin Naidu talks about cars on Capricorn FM during the urban lunch adventure with King Bash on Friday.
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