Tandia is a sequel to The Power of One and people would often say, "it's a nice book, Bryce, but it lacks the enchantment of The Power of One." But then something strange started to happen, "Loved The Power of One," a letter from a reader would say, "but Tandia is my all time favourite!" While it hasn't sold as many as my first book (probably because it was never published in America), it has sold enormously well and ten years later is still going strong, so much so that I receive hundreds of letters every year asking me to write the sequel to Tandia. Personally it's one of my favourites and, because it was my second book and The Power of One had been such a hit, it was real scary to write. I thought readers might discover that I was no good and that my first book was a fluke. Fortunately they don't seem to think so. If you love books on Africa, I think you'll probably like this one.
Bryce gives an overview of the book:
On the morning she was raped Tandia had risen just before dawn and come back to the graveside to pay her proper respects to Patel. Someone had been there before her. She looked at the grass around the grave but only her own footprints showed on its wet, dew-frosted surface. They must have come last night.
Tandia had been the last to leave the funeral on the previous evening, just a little after sunset when the cicadas in the dusty mimosa trees around the cemetery had suddenly shut down. She'd watched the two black gravediggers working to fill the hole. As they sliced their long-handled shovels into the red clay they chanted a soft urgent rhythm. When they'd heaped the soil high enough and patted it down and rounded it properly, one of them, using the back of his shovel, drove a crude wooden cross into the comfortable looking mound of soil. They departed still singing softly, shovels across their sweat-wet shoulders, their diminishing shapes outlined against the red sun.
Tandia had arranged all the wreaths over the bare mound of earth. Directly under the wooden cross she'd placed a large bunch of Easter lilies wrapped in cellophane. The card, pinned to the broad satin ribbon, read: 'REST IN PEACE, PATEL. POLICE BOYS' BOXING CLUB.'
Now, someone had moved the Easter lilies to the side to make a place at the foot of the cross for a small Indian oil lamp with a bright blue flame that burned perfectly still, as though frozen in the pewter light. Beside it stood a tiny brass vase from which burned four sticks of incense, and around the cross hung a bright garland of miniature orange and yellow marigolds.
Tandia watched as tiny puffs of grey smoke broke away from the sticks. The incense made a warm smell in the dawn air, a little bit of home comfort for Natkin Patel, South Africa's best-known Indian boxing referee, who had been born a Hindu and who died a Christian.
Tandia wondered about the appearance of the Indian stuff on Patel's grave. Was Patel already a Christian when he had put his curry sausage into her black mother? Or did it happen only after she was born? Which God was going to punish him for bringing a bastard mixed-race child into the world? Do you suppose the Gods keep score? When you turn your back on one God and choose another, does the old God demand vengeance? Or would the Lord Krishna, Patel's old God, be satisfied with a garland of miniature marigolds, four sticks of incense burning in a cheap brass vase and a lighted oil lamp? A careful person like Patel would not have wanted to take any chances. For damn sure, he would have decided it couldn't hurt to leave both gates to paradise a little open. That was Patel all right. He'd always liked to make arrangements a long way ahead.
Patel would have liked the funeral. Quite a lot of white people came. Also, of course, important leaders of the Durban Indian community. Because he was Church of England, which is a pretty rare thing to be when you are a South African Indian, and because he was well respected by the police, they had given permission for his lying-in to take place at Kruger's Funeral Parlour.
Kruger said he was prepared to make this concession for a boxing referee and coach who, even if he was an Indian, was greatly respected and a good type of man. Nevertheless, allowing a dead Indian to be laid out for inspection in a whites-only funeral parlour was a very brave and honourable thing for him to do. To show their appreciation, Mrs Patel and the two boys, Teddy and Billy, had asked Kruger, along with Captain Vermaak, president of the Police Boys' Boxing Club, to be pall bearers.
Lying in the small funeral parlour in his expensive stinkwood coffin, arms crossed, eyes closed, his curry-coloured skin with its tiny indented smallpox scars losing its sheen, Patel looked different. It was his hair; it was no longer parted the way he always wore it, pasted down with Brylcreem so that the roadway down the centre of the scalp was precise, not a single hair trespassing to the other side. Kruger, who should have known better, had parted Patel's hair with a side parting. Patel looked like a stranger.
Patel was Tandia's only loved one. If you could call him that. He hadn't even touched her since she was six years old. She knew that as a baby he'd loved her, she knew that for sure. Now, before he was dead that is, she didn't think so. Maybe he just felt guilty. Although guilty was perhaps the wrong word. More like ashamed. Ashamed that a person like him had sunk so low as to do it to a kaffir woman. She loved him anyway.
I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo Mountains. I wrote my first book, The Power of One, when I was 55.
I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of...