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Friday, June 13th, 2003

Durban, South Africa.

Downtown Durban

The good, the bad, and the ugly

After breakfast, Jiva Ananda Prabhu and Shanta Prabhu and I take a drive to downtown Durban, my old stomping ground; it is practically unrecognizable. After being away for twenty years, I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle: a man out of time, bewildered by all the changes in the environment.

West Street and Grey Street (the main streets in the former White and Indian areas of the city) are practically unrecognizable; the sidewalks are cluttered with "informal traders" plying their wares from impromptu stalls. The whole city has a Third World look and feel (if you know what I mean).

But the post-apartheid changes are great: the parks no longer have "Whites only — No dogs and Non Whites allowed" signs. Blacks can walk into the main entrance of the ornate Victorian main post office. There are no longer any segregated red buses for Whites and green buses for Blacks.

And, surprisingly, the world has not ended!

How could the citizens have tolerated apartheid for so long? To quote Steve Biko: "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

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