I’ve been looking for an excuse to hang out at the sprawling outdoor market in Fordsburg — Joburg’s “Little India” — on a Saturday night. The market, called “the Square,” is where Fordsburg residents go to see and be seen on Saturdays. It’s also a great place to buy clothes, DVDs, spices, jewelry, and tasty Indian and Pakistani street food.
The stars aligned yesterday: Not only was it a Saturday, but the Cricket World Cup Final between India and Sri Lanka was happening in Mumbai. (Side note: Despite high hopes for this year’s team, South Africa lost to New Zealand in the quarter-finals. Chokers.)
Cricket is a religion among Indians, as well as among South Africans of Indian descent. So Joe and I headed to the Square to soak in some South Asian culture and hopefully shoot a few pictures of cricket madness.
The market was fairly quiet when we arrived late in the afternoon. There was a massive satellite TV set up at the entrance to the market, with just a handful of solemn spectators. India was batting and off to a bit of a slow start. And there is very little alcohol to be had in Fordsburg, which makes for very well-behaved sports fans. I think the hard-core fans were watching at home.
We took advantage of the down time to wander through the market stalls.
I decided to sample the fruits of Elliot’s labor. The juice is pure sugarcane with a squeeze of lemon to cut the sweetness. Still a little sweet for my taste, but fun to try and it only cost R8 — just over $1. Photo courtesy of Joe.
Ismail Joon runs the Al-Ameen Chicken Tikka Centre, an open-air stall on a side street in the market. He moved here from Pakistan three years ago and is trying to save enough money to bring his mother to South Africa. I bought the smallest tikka platter available — a quarter chicken fresh off the coals, huge piece of naan, salad with sour milk dressing, and a pile of fresh chips (fries). It cost R25 (about $3.50).
By 6:30, it was starting to look like India had the match in hand. The crowd around the big TV was swelling. But Joe and I had to go home — Joe had to file some rugby photos from earlier in the day. I got my tikka platter packed up for take-away, a little sadly, and we drove back to Melville.
An hour or so after we got home, I started seeing tweets about massive celebrations in Fordsburg. India had won the Cricket World Cup for the first time in almost 30 years. Joe was finished filing so we jumped into the Landrover and sped back.
The street was jammed and we couldn’t get near the market. We drove around the perimeter with the windows open, enjoying the smell of grilled meat, the sound of Indian music and vuvuzelas, and the sight of a few people dancing in the streets.
We decided to drive home. We turned a corner and out of nowhere, we were engulfed by flashing lights, horns, and people chanting and cheering. A caravan of vehicles was driving the slowly the other way — bakkies (pickup trucks) with dozens of people piled on top, sedans with small children hanging out the windows, and young men draped in Indian flags running in and out among the cars. They even had a police escort.
Joe stopped abruptly, grabbed a camera, and started shooting. I couldn’t get any pictures — the madness was on Joe’s side of the car and he was the one shooting for the news, anyway. I just sat back and took in the craziness.