Some 124 years after Oupa Moosa fled from his village, I found myself back in Krian, the town our family supposedly derived our surname from. It is an awesome experience, but strangely enough, I feel no sense of homecoming - only a deep curiosity about the local people and their way of life which seemed almost unchanged. Rice, sugarcane, banana and bamboo plantations line the single main road that dissects the town, joining the one village to another back to back like a string of pearls. I estimate that approximately 5000 people inhabit the town and its main road is a hive of activity with make-shift pavement garages sitting next to fancy salons.
It seems a simple, laid back lifestyle with the only real excitement coming from the youths racing by on their motorcycles or the occasional tourist. Although English is virtually non-existent here, I am once again overwhelmed by the local hospitality. Their unabashed curiosity and friendly overtures makes languages unnecessary and I am surprised by how much we find to laugh, if not talk about.
Apart from an old man who recalled the disappearance of four young men who got in trouble with the Dutch authorities at the time of my great-grandfather's disappearance, I found very little to confirm that Krian is indeed the village of our origin. Even if it is not, it is enough to know that my people came from a village like this.
In the world I come from, we are far more advanced technologically than the people of Krian, but we have forgotten some of the human qualities I see here. Our fast, insular lifestyle is beginning to cost us our sense of family and community. We are so caught up in our own lives that strangers are no longer embraced the way I have experienced here.
Having seen where my ancestry came from, I am able to appreciate these qualities and take it home with me - their hospitality, clean hearted acceptance, their ability to stop and enjoy simple pleasures, finding something to laugh about, despite any hardship and making time for others. But I am also grateful for the life I have had, for the individualistic development our people have had at the Cape.
Yes, we share the same roots, but where the Indonesians have assimilated a large part of the Hindu culture into their customs, the Cape Malays have Africanised. But we not only survived to preserve our faith and culture, we also made a huge impact on our adopted country. We helped to shape the life at the Cape by contributing to the language, culture and colour of this country. "Cape Malays" of Indonesian origin we may very well be, but at heart, we are true South Africans.