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Indian Expats Join Mandela's Memorial Services

Many expatriate Indians working here and others who have made South Africa their new home were among thousands of people who flocked to Nelson Mandela's residence today to pay tribute to the anti-apartheid icon.

"This is the most incredible experience," said Jeetu Patel, formerly from Gujarat and now settled here.

"When I was very young, my father took me along to watch a funeral procession for the late Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi. This is so different. Everyone there was wearing white, but this mourning of Mandela is so colourful and people appear to be more happy than sad. It's quite incredible!" he said.

Kirti Menon recalled her first meeting with Mandela.

"Someone introduced me as Gandhi's great-granddaughter and he stopped, turned around and gave me a massive hug," Menon told PTI.

"Right throughout my life, he was in imprisonment, and he remained a beacon, a light, a vision of hope for us," Menon added before she entered the venue at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory here for a memorial service.

"I am due to return home to Kerala on Friday as my contract with an IT company here has ended, but I am going to try to delay for a few days so I can watch the full funeral on television as this entire experience is one of a lifetime," said Dilip Krishnan.

Six members across three generations of the Pillai family from Chennai started a two-week holiday of South Africa last week and will return home on Friday, a day before the funeral.

"We had just returned to our hotel in Cape town on Thursday evening when there was a huge hubbub in the foyer and the receptionist informed us that Mandela had passed away," said Karthie Pillai.

Mandela, 95, died on Thursday night after a prolonged illness.

"We reached Johannesburg yesterday and tried to go on the Soweto tour, but the guide told us that it was very chaotic there at the moment, so we did not go but went to the Apartheid Museum instead."

"There was a huge display on Mandela's life which really moved us. We hope to still see those historic Mandela sites before we leave, but came here today to find this amazing scene," she said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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