You need only check the date of this post and the previous one to realize my lax upkeep of this blog. There are a few excuses that I have for this fact. They vary in legitimacy. One week I had a cold. Then I changed jobs. Then I visited the USA for a few weeks. Then I started a new job. In between somewhere there was a second cold. I’m still not sure if I’ve had H1N1 yet, but it is something of which I persist in perpetual fear.

It would be ridiculous to try to catch up on all blog-worthy thoughts (yes, I know that the bar is rather low on this count) and all the stories I had published by The Times. Before I resume regular posting in the here and now I figured I would highlight a couple choice stories that I enjoyed working on and perhaps you might enjoy perusing as well.

I posted previously about a competition of la sape that I witnessed in the Yeoville neighborhood in Johannesburg. I ended up going back there to speak with organizers and the eventual winner of the competition. In all honesty, it was one of the most fun stories I have ever worked on. My hope was that this showed through in the audio slideshow that I produced about the event.

Well, the whole fiasco about the Gandhi house came to a close, though the seller, Nancy Ball, never ended up divulging the details about who bought it. It appears none of the people fingered as the final bidders actually bought the property. In the meantime, I wrote a piece about Gandhi’s not-so-simple legacy in South Africa.

Especially in his early days in South Africa, Gandhi’s activism was much more parochial than the universal non-racialism of the ANC. In attempting to secure fair land rights for Indians in the new, bustling Johannesburg, he protested in 1905 that “kaffirs” (a term he used often in his early writings) were being allowed to live in what was then known as a “coolie location”, theoretically reserved for Indians.

The 1906 incident in the train portrayed in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 biopic film Gandhi is also troublesome. Gandhi was advocating that just upper-caste Indians be allowed to use the train, not people of all races.

His views did appear to evolve over time and it is hard to deny his inspirational fight against British colonialism in India.

In South Africa, his influence as a freedom fighter persists. Annual marches in KwaZulu-Natal celebrating his legacy attest to this.

Still, no South African besides Gandhi’s granddaughter, Kirti Menon, came forward with an offer for The Kraal compelling enough for the Ball family in terms of both money and historical preservation. According to Nancy Ball, the final three bidders were Menon, Malaysian e-commerce tycoon Vijay Eswaran, and a late entry by the Indian government.

Eswaran told The Times that if he buys the house he plans to create a museum that would “remind this South African nation of the great legacy indeed that they have”.

Menon echoed this sentiment. “Gandhi’s period in Johannesburg is of particular importance in his own development,” she said.

Gandhi’s time in Johannesburg was clearly influential. But its “legacy”, as Eswaran calls it, is a complicated one. His philosophy inspired, but his activism, limited in its universality, echoed throughout later Indian-black relations during the struggle against apartheid and discrimination. Mid-20th century riots in Durban are examples of violent tension between Indians and blacks. Some chafed against the ANC’s insistence on non-racialism and tying the Indian cause to the greater anti-apartheid one. Even now, it is an issue that hits a raw nerve.

On Monday, The Times published my story about a somewhat famous house in Johannesburg where Mohandas Gandhi once lived (the accompanying video can be viewed here). The owner of the house, Nancy Ball, has been struggling to find a buyer with an interest in preserving the house’s historical legacy.

Hidden away on a quiet street in Orchards, north of central Johannesburg, the house was designed by Gandhi confidant, architect Hermann Kallenbach.Its distinct thatched roofs and rondavel style give the house its informal name “The Kraal”.

Gandhi lived at the house with Kallenbach for three years, beginning in 1908.

Ball told The Times: “He left a lot of his peace here. It’s a very special place.”

She tried to find a way of selling the house to someone with a historical interest in the property and enlisted Stephen Gelb, founding director of the Centre of Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand, on a voluntary basis, to try to find a suitable buyer.

Gelb tried to solicit the interest of prominent Indians in South Africa and even explored the possibility of Wits acquiring the property for use as a residence for visiting professors.

Little interest among the Indian community has surfaced, and Wits was similarly uninterested, Gelb said.

The story has been picked up by a number of international news sources, including BBC, and a number of Indian newspapers. But one Indian article, in the Deccan Times, caught me by surprise with its aggressive slant to the story.

Invoking Gandhi’s name to earn a fast buck does not seem to have worked wonders.

Unlike the London auction, there aren’t much takers for the house, where the icon of non-violence began his experiments with Satyagraha. Even the Indian-origin community members have shown scant interest in buying the property.

Based on the inquiries I myself have received, in addition to what I’ve heard from the other relevant parties, there’s been a great upsurge in interest since the article’s publication. Somehow, I think such “wonders” could still be forthcoming. To be continued…