Luck comes before hard work “My tale of two lives”

August 13, 2013 § 31 Comments


*this is where I was born. Literally. I was not born in a hospital or clinic. I grew up here for the first 10 years of my life. The caption on the picture may seem to contradict what I have written, but I think it captures the point I’m making about hard work after the luck.

How can two people who started off in life from the same place, same village and school end up leading such completely different life styles? It is not always our brilliance that takes us out of poverty. Good luck and parents who saw further than others – only then does hard work come in to play.

In December of 2012, I went to my birthplace in Dutyini, just outside Mount Ayliff, in Transkei. December in Dutyini is a hot month, with crisp clear air in the mornings. In the nights, one can see all the stars one never gets to see when living in a big city like Johannesburg. The beautiful and imposing mountain of Ntsizwa stands proudly an hour’s walk to the base of the mountain, and another four hours to walk up to the top. I know this because I used to have to walk up that mountain when I was younger looking after my grandfather’s cattle.

I was standing outside my late uncle’s mud hut, which I had slept in. I was standing next to the door to catch the early morning sun; it was something I used to do as a young boy in the village. A young man walked past and greeted and I greeted back. He stopped suddenly in his tracks and said, “Khayalethu?” I knew he knew me because he said my full name. I also realized that he was probably someone I grew up with if he also said my full name. Sadly, I could not even fake recognizing him. I replied and I said yes I am Khayalethu. He was wearing black gumboots to protect his feet from the early morning dew, which tended to gather itself around the long summer grass which was just below knee high. His jacket was the overall-blue-coloured kind. He had been walking with purpose before he stopped in his tracks after recognizing me.

He said that he recognized me by my hairline because, as he said, I’d always had a distinct one. I believed him. Then he pointed to a silver German luxury brand parked up front of the house and asked if it was mine. I nodded and said yes. I was embarrassed when I realized that I had no idea where to place him even though it was clear he knew who I was. He talked about how we were in class together in standard three in the village, he also remembered that I had been two years younger than anyone else in the class. Something I have to admit had nothing to do with my intelligence, it’s just that my mother sent me to school when I was really young.

I remembered as we spoke that his name was Mongezi. He congratulated me on how well I was doing. I suppose he made that judgment call based on the car, as some people are prone to judge people by the material possessions they hide behind. Sometimes I feel that the more we feel like moral failures the more material possessions we adorn ourselves with. Yes, me included.

We spoke for a while. He told me that he has a wife. I do not. He told me that he has two children. I do not have any. Then he told me that I had been lucky to live in a home that understood the importance of education. I thought about what he said as he was saying it. He was right, I was lucky. Lucky to have left the village to go study in a good school, Little Flower Junior Secondary School, supposedly the best school in the Transkei at the time. A school my mother could scarcely afford. When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, I went to a white school the following year, a school my mother could barely afford.

The white schools I went to had libraries and swimming pools and all sorts of things that I didn’t know schools could have. The village school I’d gone to didn’t have a library. In fact, I don’t think the town of Mount Ayliff had one. The school had no running water and no electricity.

I remember going to the village during my school holidays as I often did with my sister. By then, we were both going to white schools. We got on a bus in the village to town (stop it), Mount Ayliff. My former standard three teacher in the village, whom we had all feared, got on the bus. She sat in front of us. Then my sister and I spoke English in the bus. We were children and we knew that it would impress the villagers. Of course, looking back, it was a childish act. There was a great deal of fascination, two black children speaking English. For the first time in my life, I realized that even though I was only 15 at the time, I spoke more and better English than the woman who had taught me in standard three. She spoke to us in English, it was not very good. That made me sad.

That thought made realize that that was one of the reasons Mongezi led the life he was leading – that all he could do was to make passing and deep insights about my life instead of being equipped to live the life he had hoped for as a child. His parents had told him to drop out of school and told him start working after standard six. They never saw the value of an education, all they wanted was the benefit of his work now, not later. Worse, the standard of teacher he had in the village was not great either.

When I left the village to go to better schools, he was left with ill-equipped teachers anyway. No wonder his life never turned out any better than that of his parents. Even though Mongezi wanted to have a better life, the odds were against him, plus, he didn’t have what he called, “your luck” of being born into a family that knew the value of an education, even in apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately, my village is still the same way it was when I left. The kids will have no better opportunities than Mongezi, but we can help one child at a time.

The luck Mongezi spoke of rings true. When I was nine-years-old, I had been smoking weed. It grew all over the place. I was bunking school with the older boys and smoking with them. Had it not been my mother’s intervention, my life would have turned out to be exactly like Mongezi’s. I would have been walking with him wearing my own black gumboots, probably forgotten a lot of the English I had learnt in school too. Mongezi is right, I am a very lucky human being.

Even though some may look at where I was born and where I grew up as the perfect ingredients for bad luck – I was very lucky to come from the family I came from. They gave me the opportunities and skills to succeed in life, there after, luck followed hard work. I’ve had to work hard to be lucky.  The luck of my birth had a lot to do with how things turned out for me. This is why I can never blame the poor for their poverty. Only those who have never known it, seen it and experienced it can blame them.

§ 31 Responses to Luck comes before hard work “My tale of two lives”

  • Dipuo says:

    This is very touching and true,it takes me back to where I come from. Most of my friends think I’m blessed more than them but like Mongezi they’re also blessed in a different way though,their luck is different to mine.They’re married with kids but at the end of each day I have no one to go to.Every christmas I’m hard at work while they enjoy with their families. We should all be comfortable in our own different luck I say.Thanks Khaya this is Beautiful

    • gorgeous says:

      I feel you My childhood friends might envy the material things I have but they are lucky in their own way. Sometimes it kills me having to go home to a dark empty house. It is worse when I am home alone and sick. But I will forever be grateful for having a mom who valued education above aLl else

  • Nolufefe says:

    Beautiful message Khaya…

  • Angel says:

    I’m in awe. I connect with this article very much. Every sentence actually, except I’m still in my early 20s fighting towards being the best fashion designer I can be. I was fortunate aswell to go to a ‘white school’. I’ve been convicted by this article to continue to fight not only my battles but those of creative little boys and girls in the rural areas whose talents will never be nurtured.

  • Johny Molekoa says:

    Khayalethu thank you for Sharing this. It has really challenged me to work hard and never give up on my dreams, You inspire me a lot. Thank you

  • sandra says:

    Inspiring!! Perfect…

  • Olga says:

    Wow Khaya, this is so real. Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am. Am really touched.

  • Mo says:

    Thank you for this. You inspire me so damn much, my mentor from a far. Your life is a testimony of Gods wonderful love.
    Enkosi But’Khaya.

  • Luvuyo says:

    Your story is my story, bar the luxury german sedan *wink*. We must talk Khaya, and exhange ideas to turn the tide for those we can.

  • Theo says:

    If I may, this is going to be framed on a wall in our little library in Qolora, where it will be seen by many, as it should be. Thank you Khaya

  • Solly says:

    I differ a lot with this article, bcs even some comments below make it as if “white schools” are solution to this country, I didn’t go to any but I still made in life, all depents on individual altitude n attitude. Some families value education but spoiled brats are still there working in resturants, model cs are mostly populated in resturants. Its not about the good school you attended but how u percieve life, the article is good and reminds me of were I come from n all those exp, but how I made was God’s grace, my family didn’t afford school but one saint just came and assisted me. It is God’s work and Grace nothing else.

    • Khaya Dlanga says:

      I hear you Solly, but some people are not as religious as you are. Secondly, I didn’t say white schools are a solution, the school I went to, Little Flower, was not a white school, it was the best one in Transkei. Secondly, you don’t just develop a good attitude, certain things in life teach you to have one, then it is up to you to decide to have one or not. Of course there are people who had a good education and good start to life but squandered the opportunities presented to them, but a good beginning is everything, everything after that is up to you.

    • Velile Zondo says:

      I agree my friend. Nothing beats God’s Grace

    • Khanya says:

      Hey Solly, a lot of what you are saying also contributes significantly to what Khaya is saying. Had he deliberated and written from every possible angle or many a point of view. But he did start of by telling that the story may read differently to a eye. Yes there are different situations, and the black child is unfortunately favored by a poor facilities albeit education, hospitals etc etc. and this today because of a lack of funding from it’s department etc. The ‘model c’ school is funded by a much richer governing body and majority rich with management skills of corporate membership. Such are then equipped with better facilities for the gain of their children vs the village and location school where there are generally no associations to fund these features. He, nor I, are not looking down on our alma matta in the villages and locations as we have gained from the experience in those schools. Now, it is time we gave back, not necessarily with money, but to support the school’s initiatives and form alumni associations for them. Contribute in SGB etc. maybe teachers who find no motivation from government may be motivated by our will. Maybe we call all do something from this forum??? Thanks

  • Khaya, this piece hits home for me. I can relate with it in every way as I share the same path.

  • Sindi says:

    Great article Khaya, so true and touching…Its the heart wrenching pain I feel everytime I go home to the Eastern Cape and see how different my life is from some of my childhood friends.It never gives a feeling of pride for my sucessess but sadness for the ones who didnt get the opportunities I did.

  • nokuthula says:

    Very true KD

  • Dorothy Mogane says:

    I grew up in a similiar household and rural setting, my peers that I went to school with drop out of school. I am very lucky to have been reared in a family that values education + hardwork. It saddens me that people I grew up with do not have parents or a support system we received while growing up. It is our duty to assist in some form or way. Thank you for the enlighting blog post

  • Aviwe says:

    Touched , after reading this article I could literally kick myself for my recent complaints , I know first hand the yearning for proper education of many that are stuck in rural areas and the look in their eyes when they see what they deem as success in someone they know, thank you so much for writing this

  • Carice-lee Wardle says:

    Well I was drawn to read this article as someone posted it on Facebook. My take is, poverty is a state of mind and this is merely you’re opinion on your deemed successes. Your childhood friend as you write never mentioned that he was unhappy, he too had his successes; a wife and children, none that you had. I say he mentioned it because that was his happiness. We can dream of material things, comment about them and wish we had them, but that does not translate into disappointment or failure for what we have achieved. I agree that perhaps luck comes before hard work but wouldn’t you also agree that with hard work come opportunities. life never revolves around luck I believe it to be destiny. We are all predetermined and your path has led you thus far. So enjoy your German machine daily as you drive through the cluster of cars and pollution in Johannesburg, Your childhood friend will endure the crisp air, morning sun and the dewy mud grass you so relished. His children wake to this atmosphere daily and they form part of a pure society that perhaps has a different understanding of what happiness and success is.

    As young ‘city people’ we measure other peoples achievements by our own margins. Poverty ! define poverty. I will tell you it is the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount .With my instrument I measure that the people of the Transkei are blessed. They live low risk lives and have a wisdom we have yet to learn , they reside closest to God and they know secrets of life that can only be reaped from the soils of their homelands. A woman with no real qualification wakes and leaves her babes to teach other mothers children, English a language she doesn’t even dream in. A sacrifice that no one truly understands. She might get paid for her efforts but her longing for her own people to reach their potential is far greater…on her way home she takes the local bus and behind her are seated a young man she recognises and someone that resembles him. She hears them speak….English…she turns around in pure fulfilment and addresses them in English. GOOD DAY

  • Khululwa Seyisi-Tom says:

    This invoked complex emotions and thoughts within me. I relate to being born into a family that understood the importance of education, it is my grandmother’s legacy uMamgcina, who’d never been to school and had no regrets about it inspite of dire poverty she lived in, but she vowed that her children will get an education come what may. My German silver piece bears her clan name in salute of her efforts and I’ve since taken her clan name as mine because I’m always inspired by how she viewed life. I never went to white schools and I’m grateful for it, I’d hate it if my granny’s hardwork and lessons were clouded by whiteness or if the latter were to take credit for all the sacrifices my family made. I have a university degree and am proud of the fact that throughout my primary schooling I never had a pair of shoe but I endured, I went to school on an empty stomach most days but came tops in class. My luck therefore starts and ends with my family’s insight. Carice Wardle, what you wrote is so profound perhaps on a spiritual/emotional lane. However, even as I woke up with crisp pure air those many years ago, as braved the morning cold everyday to go to school, I knew I was poor, warm clothes and shoes would have been nice, and it was not in comparison. Poverty is only glamorous to the privileged, to the poor poverty is painful.

  • Donald says:

    It is very hard to come from poverty and be deemed a success because you have a flashy car and have acquired material possessions along the path. Although such a feat deserves rewarding I think even people that come from disadvantaged backgrounds are easily swallowed up by the pursuit of wealth and they forget where they come from. You hit it on the nail when you made that speech – The paradox of South African youth. Guess the only question we should be asking – What are we fighting for?

  • Zamile KaNgubo says:

    Thanks for sharing this my brother, i relate very much to this story, very touched!

  • […] wrote a column recently about where I was born and how I was fortunate enough to have a better education than the kids in my neighbourhood in the village I grew up in. This week, I write about how where I […]

  • gugu says:

    Wow! This is so true, thank u so much for the inspiration

  • Helen says:

    “I suppose he made that judgment call based on the car, as some people are prone to judge people by the material possessions they hide behind. Sometimes I feel that the more we feel like moral failures the more material possessions we adorn ourselves with. Yes, me included.” Beautifully said: every word a bullet to the heart…

  • […] “Sometimes I feel that the more we feel like moral failures the more material possessions we adorn ourselves with. Yes, me included.” Khaya Dlanga […]

  • It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be
    happy. I’ve reead this post and if I could I wish to suggest
    you some interesting things or tips. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to read more things about it!

  • Lapaka K says:

    ‘Luck follows hard work’ my father always tells me I am the lucky one in the family because I was once offered a scholarship by a stranger in a copy shop after he saw by Grade 12 results on the table. So luck really did follow my hard work. Great article 🙂

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