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Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Edgewood Campus (Edminson Library)


                                                                 By Desmond Beharilal

                     The above structure is in the park at the entrance to Edgewood Campus.

My first day of deployment to the Edgewood Campus in April 2014 resulted in a scenic drive from Durban to Pietermaritzburg as I missed the onramp to Richmond Road from the N3 freeway. Since then, my daily drive to the Edminson Library (Edgewood Campus) is very often full of surprises. The approximately 34 km drive was never something I had admired or enjoyed over the past years as my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of my previous routes to work, especially the Westville Campus Library where I was employed for about 27 years.

Most library staff, especially at the Circulation Desk, are asked at least once in their career for directions to the library they work in. Edgewood Campus is located just off the N3 freeway, which makes it one of the most easily accessible campuses amongst the five UKZN Campuses. While the N3 freeway is noted for traffic congestion and speeding drivers, my little car chugs along n the slow lane  so to simply enjoy my drive to work. I do enjoy the different and changing daily sights like expensive vehicles broken down on the side of the road, large abnormal loads being transported, and I also enjoy the scent of my journey to work, such as the smell of burning tyres coming off large trucks, the smell of oil from smoky car engines and the scent of various industries, especially the bakery near the Edgewood Campus. Most days when there is a slight breeze, the library is filled with the scent of freshly baked vanilla flavoured biscuits or cakes.

Unfortunately, the parking area is a distance from the library and very inconvenient, especially if one needs to deliver or collect goods, but the walk to the library is equally as exciting as the drive. Bubbly students expressing themselves about various issues including their journeys to campus, couples snuggling in some places, and oh that delicious smell from the nearby bakery.

Amongst all these experiences, there is still a sense of peace and quietness. I was once in the middle of a student protest whereby security personnel and various police officers were having violent interactions with some protesting students. To ensure my safety, I walked towards a plantation of trees only to realise that I was entering a little park that resembles the famous Japanese Gardens in Durban.

I sat on a rock in the park and faced a structure that I had seen for the first time in the five years of being employed in the Edminson Library. My initial thought was to avoid the violence and seek refuge near this structure, which was constructed by fine arts students many years ago in conjunction with a NGO to promote peace amongst all students and staff at Edgewood Campus.

Over the years of working in the library, I was very skeptical about reading stories of people having weird experiences after they are afraid or stressed or even just listening to descriptive nightmares. As I sat waiting for calmness to prevail, my thoughts also wondered weirdly, what will the buildings look like if they were burnt, what injuries would anyone suffer, either broken legs or hands, etc. I was very focused on the structure in front of me yet at the same time hoping that I would not be seen in this park. The protest situation was taking rather a long time to calm down as the students, security, or policemen ran from one spot to the next. I thought about flying insects like butterflies and locusts, etc.

 After about an hour of waiting, I sensed some calmness around so I decided to return to the library. As I got off the rock, I saw a group of security personnel heading towards me so I decided to lie on the ground to avoid being seen. I placed my hands at the edge of the structure as though I was praying or worshipping God, raised my head to get a better view of the group of security staff and then a sudden thought crossed my mind as they looked in my direction, the chorus of a  song I remembered when I was much younger,” It’s just an illusion…funk…it up”.

 As I looked at the structure, (in the picture above), I realized that my thoughts were synchronized with the image of the structure which resembled a battlefield with buildings destroyed and injured people with missing limbs lying around, a voice in the distance calling for peace and unity. I stood up at the structure and felt like a Superhero who survived a brutal war as I looked down upon my soldiers who lay wounded on the battlefield and thought that those cowards who escaped will never be as strong again. As reality began to set in, I asked myself how much more time do I have left, as the battle rages I need more defense, so I needed to hurry back to the library. Before the illusion faded, I decided to take a photo of my place of refuge or illusion-creating sanctuary and return to work.

There is a collection of books in the Edminson library that are available for students to prepare lessons for Junior phase teacher training. Some of these books make one recall one’s childhood days when educators read books to us or forced us to read books so that we could enjoy stretching our imaginations to explore places and characters in such stories. Some of us progressed with such imaginations, either excelling in the technical or academic fields of our choice while others remain in their imaginative worlds waiting for a return ticket to reality. Those educators were some of my Superheroes.Thirty-four kilometres may not seem far with some modern vehicles as compared to the older slower vehicles which make such a trip seems to take a lifetime of driving to such destinationsay you all enjoy the journey to your destinations to work , home or just a place of peace.


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