This is ‘Spingo, Marms

I can’t quite recall what I was saying but the person I was talking to said, “That’s because you’re a ‘Spingo stekkie,” and strangely enough, instead of me thinking he had had a stroke, hearing him say those words cemented our friendship. There’s something to be said about shared meaning, about the ease of which that is known to both parties that makes for easy dialogue and communication but, of course, I can’t start a blog about ’Spingo and ramble on to deeper things and musings about how shared meaning comes about. No, no, I must, as with all stories, start at the beginning.

That the Durban International Airport was housed in Isipingo sort of made me feel like all roads lead to Isipingo

First some clarification for the uneducated reader. ‘Spingo is actually a town called Isipingo found in Kwa-Zulu Natal, but the only time you’d refer to it as such is if you were taking to a white person, or if you grew up somewhere fancier and were trying to act like a white person (and no, growing up in Umhlatuzana does not make you fancy). I’m pretty sure I’m making it too fancy by my reckless apostrophe before the “s” and that I’m going to lose street cred by constantly referring to it as Isipingo, but you’ll forgive me.  Right, where was I? Yes, the great town of Isipingo.  That the Durban International Airport was housed in Isipingo sort of made me feel like all roads lead to Isipingo, you could always find a road sign pointing you home. Man, were we proud of our proximity to the airport. Not only could anyone coming to Isipingo easily find us (all roads lead to ‘spingo remember?), but we also had a restaurant in the airport. Yes, one entire restaurant. Hey, don’t judge, we only went to that airport restaurant for the non-important occasions, for birthdays and dates we’d usually brave the drive to Toti to marvel at the white people. It was only testament to our wiliness and ingenuity that we used the airport not only as a means of travel, but also as a way to give direction, provide entertainment and sustenance.

According to me, there were three parts to Isipingo- they were easy to identify because they started with the word “Isipingo”- Isipingo Beach, Isipingo Rail and Isipingo Hills.  Isipingo Rail was named as such because to live there meant you “lived on the wrong side of the tracks”, trust me I spent a good few years learning how to make mud cakes and ride my pink BMX there, it was rough, proper ghetto. Not only was “The Rails” a buzzing commercial hub that warranted a KFC and later a Chicken Licken, it was also home to The Isipingo Temple. I’ve seen many temples around the world, and I can say with all honesty, that none compare to the Isipingo Temple. Every year, around Easter, Hindus from all parts of Durban would make a pilgrimage to the temple. I was always a bit of strange child with an overactive imagination, and my relationship with organised religion, is and always has been, complicated. Despite that, I enjoyed my first experience at this temple. Well at least I did, at first. It was an unusual treat to walk beside my grandfather; the ground was warm beneath my bare feet and I had the special honour of carrying the camphor, which we would pause to throw into the flames as we circled the temple. The smell of camphor in my hands and the pleasure of having my grandfather all to myself seemed too good to be true. And it was, because as we completed the last circle around the temple it would seem as though we descended into the last circle of hell. I want to say that I saw a chicken flying over the temple roof in a graceful arc, but there was nothing graceful about the mad squawking and the hysteria that ensued and that’s saying nothing about how the chicken reacted. I also want to say that I was upset because this constituted violence towards animals, but in truth, I was more savage then, and I was more concerned about a wasted opportunity to eat that chicken.  I became convinced that the “Chicken Temple” was a satanic temple and that one day I too would be captured for Voodoo magic rituals (do Satanists do Voodoo rituals?). To make it worse, everyone from all over Durban came to this temple and this is how they saw the ‘Spingo members, no wonder everyone thought we were shambies.

Isipingo Beach was a place where you could lose your life, quite literally. Being an “Indian area” during the time of The Group Areas Act, the government decided that if the brown people wanted to get in the water, then we could also brave the sharks (do sharks like spicy food?). And, if the sharks didn’t get you, there was always the notorious “Beach Boys” to deal with. To be clear, I have no idea what it meant to be a “Beach Boy”, who these boys were or how the title was even bestowed upon a worthy subject, but I was told that they were fierce and fearsome. These guys were sort of like the Loch Ness of ‘Spingo for me, there would always be claims of sightings, some people would even have grainy photographic evidence, but they would always remain elusive, creatures never to be caught in broad daylight.  Isipingo Beach was also home to “Daddy’s” Supermarket and the most epic bakery next door, many a birthday would be graced by a cake from there. It was Isipingo Beach where I first ventured into the water, where I caught my first fish (a stick floating in a polystyrene cup) and where as children, the only thing wilder than our imaginations were ourselves.

Man, did I think I was fancy living in Isipingo Hills. I grew up watching Beverly Hills 90210, and even though I didn’t understand any of it- it was screened in Afrikaans and we could get the English version if we switched on the radio while turning down the volume of our TV- I knew that those rich people lived the life. I believe it was the apartheid government’s way of making us believe Afrikaans was cool, so advanced were their methods of brainwashing that I was actually surprised and somewhat disappointed to find out Kelly, Brandon and the gang were actually Americans who spoke English. I was convinced that Isipingo Hills would be similar to Beverly Hills 90210 and the fact that our telephone numbers all started with the numbers “902” added to my confidence. When we moved to “The Hills”, I imagined that our lives would be drastically different and even though high school was sort of like a soap opera, Isipingo Hills was more Little House on the Prairie than Beverly Hills 90210. Seriously, you’d easily find a herd of cattle crossing the road or a random goat meandering around. The Hills would be the place that shaped my high school years, from walking down the street to house parties, to swimming at the public pool all year long (and trying to avoid the lifeguard’s office adorned with nudie pics), to being entertained after school at Jeena’s. Jeena’s, if it still exists, should be a historical landmark. That so many high school students met there while waiting to be fetched by their parents meant that on any given day something would happen worth talking about the next day. The remark “meet you after school at Jeena’s” could be taken in one of two ways depending on the tone. If said in anger, it’s a challenge to a fight, and probably not one you can easily escape or win. Once these words are said, in that particular way, it is usually a witness or two who will turn to their friends and say in a non-threating manner, “meet you after school at Jeena’s” as an invitation to get a ringside view of the flight. I know it sounds simple enough, but I once confused the two versions and found myself slap bang in the middle of a fight, luckily, I escaped with neither a slap nor a bang, but it was a close call.

I can hardly believe that all I’ve done is scratch the surface here. Maybe there’s a great book to be written about ‘Spingo and the members, the marms, ‘Spingo Dingos but for now, this will have to do. ‘Spingo Dingo out

Published by

Denira Varma

I am, if nothing else, a perfect example of the dichotomy that exists in every one of us. I seek adventure, yet I long the grace of long days spent reading in a quiet treed spot. I am hedonistic but pragmatic. I long to create yet I burden myself with thoughts that I am not worthy. I started this blog to share part of me, my thoughts and experiences.

53 thoughts on “This is ‘Spingo, Marms”

  1. Excellent piece. I love your writing style. Brought back many memories.
    Spingo does have its own clique and one meets many people in different parts of the country that share their roots in Spingo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent piece. I love your writing style. Brought back many memories.
    Spingo does have its own clique and one meets many people in different parts of the country that share their roots in Spingo.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brings back too many memories. As for Jeena’s is no more. Property sold and turned into a church. Uncle Jeena is also late. There is now more crime than ever. Bt boy it was the place to b back in the day.

    Like

  4. Beautifully written at least we had the opportunity of being Royals in our own way.
    Away from the hum drum.
    I loved every bit of Isipingo
    Going by train and taking Dasses bus .ha haa. The Isipingo temple and Dixon
    Amma fantastic days will never come back.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully written at least we had the opportunity of being Royals in our own way.
    Away from the hum drum.
    I loved every bit of Isipingo
    Going by train and taking Dasses bus .ha haa. The Isipingo temple and Dixon
    Amma fantastic days will never come back.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome read. Good memories made and cherished. Lived there for a short period and wow, it was truly amazing
    Visited “Spingo” a few years back and to my surprise, it certainly was not the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi well said .Isipingo was very safe area
    We could walk from Isipingo to the Beach and no one will molest you. Railway hotel dances at the Cinderella ballroom .Royal hotel and Island hotel
    Good meals and bunny chows. What about river mouth Singhs cafe run by the late Mr
    Varma

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alfonso
    Memories of isipingo. Incredible. Disco revolution at railway hotel. Brandy from vasies joint Alexander road royal hotel. Omar khayam disco safe to walk to gemini cinema on a Friday. But for some strange reason the hills Boys ‘Beach Boys and rail Boys never got on.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well said. Isipingo was in the heart of all those that stayed there. One could walk from the Hills to the Rail or to the Beach at 2am and still come home safe. Isipingo had 4 of the finest hotels in Durban. It was a place where friends and neighbors were like family. No segregation between religions as everyone lived as one family. Memories is all what it is now. Our parents put their hard sweat into what it was. So sad to see what it has become now.

    Like

  10. Absolutely brilliant piece – I was literally laughing out loud on the train home as I read this. You’re right in that you’ve only scratched the surface of some amazing memories of growing up in ‘Spingo!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Brilliant piece of writing. Well Done, had me reminisce and recall Island Hotel, Sunshine Superette (my dad’s and uncles shop) in the Rails, my school, interschool sports where I got to meet other kids all around from Isipingo, walking around the district without a worry, Isipingo temple and the queues of vehicles pulling in during Easter, meeting family and friends whenever you went shopping, braai-ING at the beach, watching the fishermen walking off the rocks, school teachers (some who resided in the area, and it’s all that make my heart feel fuzzy and warm about my childhood, teenage years and adulthood. I love this writeup so much, I will be sharing it with all the Spingo peeps I know. Thank you for being so creative. Lots of love, a Spingo stekkie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember Isipingo the way u do as I used to spend most of my school holidays at my grand parents home who lived in Isipingo Hills …Great memories! Thanks for sharing your article . Ajith Hansraj.

      Like

    2. Thank you Janita, there is still so much more to write and reminisce about 🙂 We all have such amazing stories about ‘Spingo, reading your comment makes me feel like getting started on the next one!

      Like

  12. Love this❤Thanks for conjuring up fondest moments..

    Me too …once was and always will be a ‘Spingo chick 🥰(that’s what we were called in UDW in those years)
    Landmarks and memories for me besides all that you and others mentioned…
    Reunion Temple Primary
    Primrose Primary
    ‘Spingo Heights
    Gokul Primary
    ‘Spingo Beach and most school kids from all Primary met up in ‘Spingo high
    Ally Road
    Flamboyant Drive grounds
    Chariots
    Jooma Rd Temple
    Hare Krishna tent campaign
    Dakota beach
    The fight for Prospecton and part of Unbogintwini between Toti and ‘Spingo (since my Late Dad was a Mayor.)
    The Election Campaigns…
    The creation and building of Orient Hills and Lotus Park…
    Island hotel bunnies
    ‘Spingo Beach Hall…
    The 3 beach spots (you could choose any one spot to spend the day)
    The park and pool in the hills…
    The long walk up to ‘Spingo High
    Railway hotel
    KrisJai studios
    The market and shopping centers…
    The wonderful residents👌Some still residing there…(everyone was either Aunty, Uncle, Thatha, Amma, Appah, Dadhima etc)
    Phew what a trip down memory lane leaving out many more places we could visit freely with no fear…
    Best years of my life here…
    I ❤’Spingo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I must say that I still tell people to this day that I am from Isipingo “where the airport used to be”
    It fascinates me that people in other provinces didn’t know the name of the area right next to airport.
    I have found memories of speaking to people on the phone and they would ask me “What’s that noise?” it would take me a while to realize that they where referring to the noisy hump of the plane overhead that was merely white noise for us.
    So many stories for Isipingo and so many inspirational people from Isipingo.
    This brings back so many memories
    Thanks for this Denira

    Liked by 1 person

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