The Argumentative Indian
The Argumentative Indian

My parents have always told us as children that we are special, good enough and deserve the best in life. They have always told us never to forget this – no matter what happens, no matter what people say, no matter what our circumstances look like, we should always remember that we are all precious, loved and deserved all the best that life could offer.  They showed us our worth by giving us the best money could buy.  I may have had one pair of shoes growing up, but they were always good quality shoes. As these things go, one day life presented us, as a family with a challenge to test this theory, did we actually believe? This time it was us kids who had to remind our parents that they too were: precious, loved, worthy and deserved the best. Here’s the story;


Our parents announced one day, out of a clear blue sky! We had just moved to the Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal  and were slowly settling into this dry little town called Newcastle. Our move happened in the middle of the year, and we were all still adjusting to a new life, new schools, and new jobs in the middle of no-where. Newcastle was for me like the wilderness… a place which had no reference to my past, present or future. As always home was my refuge – there I had friends, family and endless entertainment all in one. So the holiday announcement brought much excitement following a rather difficult crossing from the province of Gauteng – A place of gold.

We proceeded to bombard our parents with questions as usual, where were we going to stay? How come we’re going on holiday now? How long will we stay? Will we see the beach? My father assured us that everything was taken care of; we would be staying at a hotel. A hotel? We all gasped in amazement at our good fortune. How come? My father told us that through his new job he had met this man, generous and kind  me he said. This man offered to give us a holiday out of the goodness of his heart! Our entire  family of Seven. Wow… now this was truly  was amazing. We had never been to a holiday by the beach  before – let alone a stay at a hotel, so needless to say we were all very excited by the news.  Soon the appointed day came and we packed our bags and settled ourselves in the back of my father’s Toyota Hilux van.  Our trip down was full with much talk about what Durban would look like, the hotel, the sights and smells…. We basically couldn’t wait to get there.

Our first stop was at our benefactor’s house…a mansion, double storey, luxurious home.   We were told that our benefactor, an Indian  man was very wealthy and ran a successful family business with his brothers in the construction industry. They also owned the hotel we’d be staying in, and judging by their home, we imagined the hotel to be just as amazing! My father told us that he lived in this mansion with all his family and relatives…something which we found very curious. We all imagined living separately in our own individual mansions when we grew up, besides our family history had taught us that living with ones’ extended family or relatives did not always have the best outcomes. We waited in the car outside this mans’ mansion for hours and hours  after our arrival,  for some mysterious reason he would not come out of the house –  and we were growing more and more restless, hungry and thirsty with every passing minute. Eventually the man emerged from his large mansion and led us to his hotel nearby where we’d be staying.


We arrived to this non-descript place on the outskirts of no-man’s land. The hotel was a far cry from what we had imagined in our heads. From the outside it was dirty, and was in an area of town which did not inspire the holiday spirit. It was run down, dirty and pretty dodgy for a lack of a better word. We took one look outside and I proclaimed to the troops at the back of the van: “I’m not sleeping here” they looked back at me and said “ja maybe it’s nice inside” We all looked out in dismay… it looked like one of those badly run motels/hotels  in Hillbrow where shady things happen, with prostitutes, gang-stars and everything else illicit. “Maybe this is not the place” I said trying to find a silver lining “ Maybe we just stopped here for something, and we’re still going to the hotel”, no sooner had I said that, my father arrived and opened the van door, saying “guys come out  – we’ve arrived”. We couldn’t believe that my parents were agreeing to stay here in this place, which was far from the best they told us we deserved. “You all have your own rooms” he said. I felt like punching him in the face or crying which is what I do when I’m really angry! We were all tired and hungry and were looking forward to resting in a nice hotel. “Come out” My dad said emphatically. All four of us climbed out slowly from the back of the van, intentionally leaving our bags behind to go and have a look at this wonderful hotel. From the entrance, it was dark and dingy, there was no receptionist to speak of, everything  in the room has seen better days… it was cheap, broken and dirty. The hotel owner had disappeared to find keys to our rooms.  We went into  my parents’ room   which was  already open, from the floor to the linen, the place was filthy… I couldn’t even stand being inside let alone staying the night. My mother had found a place on the bed that looked vaguely clean. “Mom, where will Immy sleep here?” I asked her looking at my younger brother who was just a few months old. I thought at the very least she could consider the baby. “Everything here is dirty” we all said in our different ways. My parents replied, its okay, the guy said he’ll bring news sheets etc. “We are not sleeping here” we told our parents, “and if you want to sleep here, we are going to sleep in the van” We told them without wavering. We went outside and laughed at the situation – us children. My parents were still inside the hotel, which stuck of sex, alcohol, mould, decay,  it was stuffy in all the unpleasant ways. We couldn’t breathe..  For the first time we all didn’t care what our parents thought, or what they would say to the nice Indian man. But we were not going to sleep at his hotel.

We stood outside and waited while our parents and their benefactor spoke and negotiated. When they came out – their faces were pleading with us. This nice man had offered us a holiday for free, let’s try and make the best of it. We said no. By night-fall they were still trying find a solution to the problem. Eventually they booked us into a self-catering hotel room overlooking the beach in Durban… which was a hundred times cleaner… nicer and much brighter!  we all laughed in  relieved victory when we arrived. We proceeded to enjoy the weekend by the sea, bought swimming costumes, ate ice-cream, fought with each other… and went back home with so much to talk about after our adventure.


I am reminded of this story because I am facing a similar situation in my life. I understand why my parents were reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth – things can be rather complex when one grows up. But we were there to remind them, that though the man meant well and gave us a much needed gift when we needed a holiday, something we could not afford at the time, the gift was too costly to take. They were expecting us to be pleased and grateful to  sleep in a place they would never sleep in themselves or expect bring their loved ones to,  a dump, for those they looked down on. for those they believed deserved less.  desperate prostitutes and drunks… with stained dirty linen, no windows, no service…. And because it was free we were supposed to smile and say thank you.

But our parents had taught us better…. And this place was not it.

Just by our refusal to even step further into the hotel, proved to our parents that we believed them when they told us that we were: precious, good enough and deserved the best that life could offer.

Sometimes one needs to show people what you are worth. Just because someone else thinks you are worth – less does not mean you should accept it.  Sometimes people accept less because they don’t believe they deserve anymore. In the past three years I have gone through times when I thought I was worth whatever anyone thought I was worth, and found that people will give you what they think you deserve and that is always much less than they would accept for themselves. I have often heard people call others “Divas” “ Arrogant” “ you think you’re “better” simply because they dared demanded to be treated with respect, fairness and would accept nothing less than the best they truly believed they deserved.  No one will give you  the best, I’ve come to learn, you have to treat yourself like the best and demand the best when people expect you to take less – all within reason of course. But people will always find a reason to hate you when you know your true worth,  they will find anything to put you down, to convince you that you are less than you think, they will say bad things about you when you demand to be treated like the best.  They hate you  because often they themselves have cheated, they’ve settled for less in some area of their lives, so they expect you  to settle for less  too because they did. They decided to accept-less for themselves for whatever reason. So in the end I understand why my parents kept telling us this over and over and over again: It was because they knew that in the world in which we were born people didn’t think we were precious, good enough, worthy and deserved the best that life could offer. We needed to know this for ourselves so that we’d accept nothing less than the very best.

Growing has been hard, and for while I forgot what my parents told me, and believed than I was less… and this is where the battle is lost.

Love yourself. Spoil yourself. Not at the expense of others. But because you deserve all the love as much as the next person.

Love IS.

I’m glad that I now know my true worth.


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