a time to rest and time to work hard

THE things one learns as a child are the things one will do when one becomes an adult.

THE things one learns as a child are the things one will do when one becomes an adult.

When I was growing up I never learnt the meaning of rest. I never witnessed my grandparents having a quiet time.

In fact my grandmother, in particular, despised anyone who had a tendency to "laze" around.

Her favourite adage was and still is: Ayikho inkomo yobuthongo. Loosely translated this means there's no cow that benefits anything from sleeping.

She expressed her admiration for anyone who was always seen doing something - anything from gardening and cooking to participating in sport. But she preferred those who were working all the time.

In her vocabulary people were only meant to rest during the night and everyone else was expected to conform to such a discipline.

I have been living with HIV for close to 20 years now and every time I visit my doctor for a checkup or if I am not well, which happens more frequently these days, he never misses an opportunity to encourage, rebuke or to emphasise the importance of getting sufficient rest.

I think if he had his way he would draw up a daily routine and ensure that I adhere to it.

It is not so much that I defy his orders but it is my grandmother's indoctrination that continues to haunt me.

I remember when I was discharged from the Park Lane clinic for the third time I wore an oxygen mask. Dr Pupuma nearly dropped dead when he learnt that I had visited and addressed TB patients at a hospital in Johannesburg. He had read about it in the newspapers.

I am relating this anecdote because I think there are millions of people who are no different from me.

There is a permanent guilt that remains attached to our consciences every time we spend a day or two in bed in the name of resting.

But now that my life has begun to fade I tend to appreciate this advice more than ever before.

Then, on one of my visits to my grandmother's house, I had resolved to confront her about these preachings.

You must understand that Noyishada ka Maqhoboza, my grandmother, is now well into her 80s.

I found her cooking her favourite meal in the kitchen and she offered me her sumptuous boiled cabbage, an offer I can never resist.

Needless to say, my favourite lady and I ended up talking about other issues of international nature.

In the presence of those who are known as mourners when our lifeless bodies are hidden six feet below the ground, it is only then that we are allowed to rest forever.

Actually, my grandfather, who was gentle and more considerate than his better half, concurred with her.

Every time he learnt that I was out of town on a working assignment he would sing my praises for weeks to come.

"Ithuna lendoda liseceleni kwendlela mfana wami," - a man's cemetery is on the roadside, my son - he would pronounce proudly.

The moral of the story is that there are no free hand-outs. There is no free lunch irrespective of the situation one might find yourself in.

We all have to dig deep into the wells of our souls to make a lasting difference in this life, as we know it.