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FAMILY TIES: Sweet Dreams are made of bunny chows in heaven

Edwin Naidu remembers his brother, remarkable journalist and playwright Aldrin Naidu.

My adorable, zany brother Aldrin Naidu would have been celebrating a birthday on 15 May.

Two years younger than me, he would have blown out 55 candles. Out of the blue, more than five years since his passing, I woke up in tears the other day. I dreamt of Aldrin.

After mooching around a busy mall, we were walking along a bridge. He was far more energetic than the slow shuffle I remember as he walked down the road, gently picked up the garage door, and strolled to our home.

Suddenly, we were underneath the bridge. He was in front, but then he was not there. I looked. And suddenly, I felt a huge push and heard a laugh. My prankster brother pushed me into the water. I laughed as well.

A cough disturbed my tiny, beautiful dream. I had fallen asleep an hour before. I thanked God for letting me see Aldrin in a dream. Of course, it felt sad, but it was special. He looked good, was jovial, and had that mischievous smile. There was no anger at having been pushed. In the dream, I smiled.

Risque rockstar: In 1989, Aldrin’s raunchy recipe won him a trip to the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. He took elder brother Edwin Naidu (right) along for company.

In real life, we also got along very well. But as boys, we fought now and then. Once, in our little abode at 122 Aslam Heights, he flung an ashtray at me. Of course, being the angel I am, I can’t remember what I did wrong. My right thumbnail had to be removed. To this day, the new nail reminds me of my whacky brother. We fought. We laughed. We loved. In his younger days, he was a bull. My Dad and he had many spats. My mom would always side with Aldrin. Most of the time, he was right, though. But sometimes, one wished he kept quiet.

Knowing that I could not call my late Auntie Mullie to ask her impressions on the dream, I accepted it as a blessing to see a vision of my brother gone in a flash. He was just 48. Our younger brother Morgan left us even earlier at 38. He would have been 50 last September.

I consoled myself that Aldrin, the little boy who read his Bible, was affectionately Pastor John, and prayed for people, was in a good heavenly space. We both memorised John 3:16 together and enjoyed reading Psalms 23.

Morgan once told us that salvation cannot be reversed once a believer has accepted it.

Made in Phoenix: Puroshini Moodley, Cheryl holding Brenwin, Golf Playaz head Vernon Naidoo, Aldrin, with Buddy Naidu and Eugene Moodley

Aldrin dabbled in Hinduism when he had a Hindu girlfriend. He once described a Christian female he fancied in a magazine article as his psychologist whom he could not stop talking to. By the time the article was published in Cosmopolitan, they stopped. Eventually, he married according to Islamic rites. But the night before, haldi was performed on Aldrin in a symbolic cleansing ritual. I was glad my mom was not alive to witness her hard work in raising us going awry. Although I guess it was a form of face painting by Cheryl, the only rose among us thorns, who loved drawing on our eighty’s poster collection when angry. But as Lionel Richie sang, Love Conquers All. If you make it down from the ceiling, I guess.

Aldrin was a fantastic brother and tolerant of people who were different to him or held views contrary to the norm. “I think it’s perhaps because so many people throughout his life were intolerant of his peculiarities. He truly was beautifully flawed,” remembers Sershen Naidoo, our brother from another awesome mom who worked with Aldrin on many of his plays – and dreams.

The push in the river and the laugh in my dream were typical of Aldrin, who would walk to my house from his abode five minutes away almost every day, have a nibble or two, stand on our patio, and chat or chuckle. Our last meal together was Brenda’s leftover chicken breyani. He enjoyed it thoroughly.

Dreadlock Al’iday: He was in his element on stage, here with the multi-talented Sershen Naidoo, who worked zealously on many of Aldrin’s productions.

On that day, before he headed to the hospital, he was phoning around looking for venues to stage his plays. In tandem with Geeta Mala, Aldrin enjoyed one of the biggest successes in Indian theatre with the song-and-dance spectacular Mandrax Muniamma and the Suitcase Carriers. The play was about the mother of an activist who was accused of being a drug mule in India. Moodevi’s Muti was another seen by hundreds and featured a cameo by the late politician Amichand Rajbansi, whose one-person party was the Minority Front.

Aldrin was brilliant, sometimes crazy, but a loveable human being. As a young boy earning pocket money, Aldrin used to deliver papers. I helped him. Sometimes, we would spend the money. One day, Mr GB Davids, the schoolteacher who managed the paper boys, called my mom over to discuss the non-payment. Aldrin was in hot water, but he survived. Our mother, Ruby, saved our bacon many a time.

Last Christmas: Aldrin, a loving and devoted father, was often seen with his beloved daughter, La’Mia Ruby Naidu. This photo captures a precious moment from their last Christmas together in Buccleuch in 2017.

He would always be losing things. In Phoenix, a simple walk to the shop to get bread could take hours because he would lose the money. He was also most famous for eating on the run. Boiled eggs and socks were always in his bag.

At Stanmore Secondary School, he wowed the school during youth leadership elections, singing – and dressing up as Boy George, the lead singer of the eighties pop band Culture Club. They fondly remember him as “Georgie” at Stanmore. He was a legend there. His skill in using a hairpin to open the phone enabled me to enter a competition and win a Volkswagen Beetle in December 1985. Aldrin was bizarrely creative, not just onstage.

Calmer Chameleon: Aldrin’s leadership win at Stanmore Secondary in Grove End, Phoenix, in the 1980s was a testament to his unique approach. His campaign, which involved singing Boy George’s Karma Chameleon, left a lasting impression on the community.

At Stanmore Secondary School, he wowed the school during youth leadership elections, singing – and dressing up as Boy George, the lead singer of the eighties pop band Culture Club. They fondly remember him as “Georgie” at Stanmore. He was a legend there. His skill in using a hairpin to open the phone enabled me to enter a competition and win a Volkswagen Beetle in December 1985. Aldrin was bizarrely creative, not just onstage.

He once won a recipe competition by offering some ridiculous concoction involving fluorescent condoms (if such a thing exists). He was always ahead of his time. Our family friend Sunil once shared a story about how Aldrin once spent a whole night in Grove End Drive after my Dad had gone to sleep trying to retrieve a videotape stuck in the player. He would have gotten the idea for the recipe competition from a naughty movie stuck in the VCR. Of course, I did not complain.

Eternal Stargazers : Edwin, Aldrin and late photographer Rob Greaves with American Grammy Award-winning singer Al Jarreau in Umhlanga.

Creatives must be free to express themselves. Until a point in his life, there was no free soul like Aldrin. The reward for the creative recipe was a trip to the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, and someone responsible needed to accompany him. I got the nod. We had a blast. However, I almost became a vegetarian on this trip. We were walking around the Macarena Stadium the night before the carnival. Rudi, our guide, got us meat skewers from the roadside vendor. It was piping hot. We nibbled on the edges. By the time I got to the middle, there was a funny stench.

On reflection, it may have needed ginger and garlic. However, to my horror, when I asked Rudi what we had eaten his response shocked me.

“Meat,” he remarked. What meat? I asked. “Oh, cat meat,” he quipped. Aargh!

I had the salads at breakfast as we visited record shops the next day. We purchased several albums by The Smiths. Aldrin got a Playboy magazine, which customs confiscated because he did not share it with his brother. Call that karma. Or just our messed-up customs?

Aldrin was always brimful of ideas. I remember him once giving a speech about flying cars in 2000. Visionary? It doesn’t exactly fly, but self-driving cars are a thing in some parts of the world. I once delivered the same speech, but it was nowhere as exciting as Aldrin’s.

Hambe kahle: Aldrin Naidu is still sorely missed after leaving us in April 2018.

Immortalised in song, he wrote “Pour Some Whisky in My Glass” for the play Babalas, which Ramesh Hassan popularised. I still hear it played a lot. Wonder who gets the royalties? Before his death, Aldrin tried to pass the bunny chow er the baton by encouraging nephews Oliver Che Morgan and Prashirwin to take on his one-person play about the bunny chow. They both have yet to bite – and take on the bunny.

Perhaps his lovely little angel, La’Mia Ruby Naidu, who has grown into an intelligent, beautiful teen, would one day take up the bunny, hopefully not only in my dreams. Watch this space!

© Higher Education Media


*This article, exclusively written for NOWinSA, forms part of the ‘Family Ties’ series related to veteran journalist Edwin Naidu as he transports readers into the ever vibrant and groovy Naidu’s family.

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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