Johannesburg: South Africa might have had an Indian-origin First Lady if Amina Cachalia had agreed to a proposal of marriage from the country's first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela. Mandela proposed to Amina, the widow of veteran ANC activist Yusuf Cachalia, after his 27 years of imprisonment and his marriage to Winnie Mandela ended. But, she dismissed his declarations of love, she wrote in her biography 'When Hope and History Rhyme'.
Amina, who died last month aged 83, revealed an intimate and affectionate side to the relationship between her and lifelong family friend Mandela in the book released after her death. Her children, Ghaleb and Coco Cachalia both confirmed that their mother had confided in them about Mandela's marriage offer. Mandela, 94, is currently in a Pretoria hospital being treated for a lung infection. He was elected the first black President of the rainbow nation in 1994.
Amina and Yusuf Cachalia spent many years in India, where he headed the desk of the African National Congress (ANC) in exile. In her book, Cachalia gives vivid descriptions of private visits to her apartment by Mandela and her visits to his office and residence.
"On one of these visits I must have been looking rather flustered as I bustled about doing my chores," Amina wrote. "(Mandela) sat me down on the two-seater couch in the living room and kissed me passionately. Running his fingers through my hair he said: "Do you know that you are an exceptionally beautiful, vivacious and enticing young lady?" I hollered at him. He looked very worried and wanted to know what was so wrong with what he had said. I replied gently: I'm not a young lady; I am a middle-aged woman."
"He looked relieved and said: "Okay let's begin again." Then he repeated the string of adjectives, substituting 'old' for 'young' lady. I screamed again and said that I was not an old lady either," she revealed.