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Message from Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie for Satish’s Memorial Service, 5 December 2020

A photograph of my entry into this world has Satish peering lovingly over the new arrival, a sister twenty months younger than him. Three years later we were joined by our younger sister and our now famed photograph which we have replicated several times as adults has the two of us holding her hand as we walk in Grey Street. These photographs epitomise the relationship the three of us have had for over six decades of our lives together, Satish has always looked gently and lovingly over me. Being so close in age meant Satish and I did everything together as children and teenagers. We set off for weekends with my grandmother at Phoenix Settlement and fought over who should sleep next to her. You were noted for carrying a bunch of keys with you – what they opened no one knew – but soon you had little Kidar following you with a set of his own keys.

Kirti and I would watch you set your scaletrix on the floor of our Durban flat and watch you race your cars over the tracks and we would gather to watch on the cupboard door in our bedroom the images of the small 8 mm movie clips or the slides you had shot.

Satish and I finished high school together (I remember you borrowing my biology notes on the night of the matric exam when you decided you needed to study. And you passed Satish). You once arranged for a friend of yours to pick me up outside school on his motorcycle so I could impress my friends and no we did not tell mum and dad. We went on a memorable Europe holiday together as teenagers. We travelled together daily for three years to university and graduated together. You showed me tricks about how to parallel park a car, how to manage gears and you let me drive your beloved Alfetta to the Pietermaritzburg archives no doubt waiting in anxiety for its safe return.

I saw a new side to you when you became a teacher. In charge of physical education, you became a keen volley ball enthusiast practising with your learners at beaches and taking part in competitions. You showed hundreds of young minds that accountancy, indeed school, can be fun.

Photography and videography was always your passion and you turned professional acquiring a Betamax to produce some excellent documentaries for TV, one of them being about farming life in Umkomaas with my brother in law Vijay. How I enjoyed listening to your first consults with prospective couples as you took them through the wedding proceedings and what was required. How I wish you had documented this aspect of your career for your stories of covering our transition to democracy and especially your inside knowledge of the wedding scene was unparalleled.  You patiently listened to customers who wanted marks on their faces erased from photos or a not so favourite relative excised from a photograph. You became a predictor of successful marriages and a keen reader of human relationships. This wasn’t just a business – you got to know families through generations as you covered births, birthdays and marriages. And your stories about weddings changed to stories about death, cremation and funeral rites as you took your work on the board of the Clare Estate Crematorium seriously. You and I had such a good laugh just this last month at the changed focus in your life.

Our family and childhood home was a rental apartment in the Grey Street complex. Aziz Hassim has captured life in Grey Street for us in his The Lotus People – unfortunately Satish’s anecdotes about Grey Street have now gone with him and they would have been as colourful as Aziz’s. When our mum died our flat was no longer ours. On my visits to Durban from Cape Town. Satish’s house in Sherwood became my soul comfort.

I learnt a lot about this brother of mine, now in the peak of his life. The story of how Satish evolved as a person over the decades is a story of inspiration. Food hampers lay in his living room for distribution to the poor. The phone rang all day to what was like a Satish Helpdesk - queries from directions to a place, to help with animals or to outpourings of personal problems. He never said he is too busy to talk. He knew all those who hung around the traffic lights and where they slept, their names and their life stories. He opened his window to hand out change and food parcels which he kept at ready.

Satish took pamphlets and sales ads from those at traffic light corners saying to me that was their job for the day and we must give them respect.  Everywhere we went we stopped to talk endlessly to people. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Durban was Satish for me, indeed, for all of us family. Without complaint he would drive me to libraries, conferences and the archives and pick me up.

Satish, Durban will never be the same. You were Durban.  Our family will never be the same. We will have to find new ways of being but you taught us well of how to hold things together. Kirti and I will hold hands and try and balance ourselves without you as our anchor. We will always be there for Misha, Shashika and Kabir and Bella will be taken care of. What a wonderful father you were to them – there are so many examples one could give that would make a good guide to parenthood – giving them advice but letting them make their own way. I see mum and dad welcoming your soul and saying son we are so proud of how you turned out.

I  will miss talking to you about my work for you had become a keen history buff at the end quite determined as you were to make sure that the younger generation did not forget the sacrifices made by the older generations. I will miss you doing a quick edit of a photograph I needed for publication. I will miss your smile and cheery demeanour.  

Whilst we live in the abyss of your absence, I am reminded of Anthony Doerr’s poetic words for those who have lost loved ones. It may be useful to believe, he wrote: `that great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible  … They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs and pass through the other side, the air a library and a record of every life lived, every sentence spoken …’ I missed your funeral, I missed the immersion of your ashes and I know you would have understood. As I breathe each day Satish you are in my air whirling about me with your bright loving personality.