QUNU: On the rolling hills where a young Nelson Mandela once tended cattle, everybody is thinking about the herd boy who changed the course of South African history, but few people are talking about him.
There are no piles of flowers outside the home in Qunu of the ailing anti-apartheid hero and no wall of goodwill messages wishing him a speedy recovery.
"We are just waiting and hoping. Sometimes hope grows and sometimes it fades. But we can't talk about issues related to his death, it's not done," said villager Lazola Nqeketo.
"Sometimes I wish I was in Pretoria where he is. Here no-one tells us anything," he added.
Like others in Mandela's ancestral village, he has been relying on television and radio reports for updates on the condition of the ailing post-apartheid president.
In many African cultures, discussing a person's death is taboo until they die.
So while the world watches the failing health of the architect of South Africa's remarkable transition from white minority rule to multiracial elections, his neighbours are avoiding the subject.
"There's no right time to discuss the death of a person who's still alive," Penuel Mjongile said as he watched over cattle on a bitterly cold winter's morning.
"That is taboo. It's not done," he said, lowering his voice.
Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was hospitalised on June 8 with a recurrent lung disease.
The scene outside the Pretoria hospital where he has spent three weeks in intensive care resembles a mini-shrine, with candles and messages of goodwill piling up.
In contrast his rural homestead remains eerily calm apart from the presence of foreign media.
Few people have been seen entering the guarded compound containing the villa-style house that Mandela built in the early 1990s after his release from prison.
Sheep and cows amble past the homestead nestled among thatched-roof mud huts dotting the valley, where Mandela's parents are buried and where the Nobel Peace laureate has expressed a wish to be laid to rest.
Despite his towering influence, there are no statues of Mandela in the village, just a museum.
The peaceful scene is in stark contrast to his suburban home in Johannesburg, where residents and curious tourists have been flocking to leave flowers and goodwill messages -- an alien idea in Qunu.
"I don't know the meaning of giving flowers. We don't do it here," Mjongile said.
Motorists driving along the busy highway past Mandela's house occasionally stop to take pictures, intrigued by the presence of television crews.
"I didn't know this was Mandela's house until I saw all these cameras and decided to stop," said Jabulani Mzila, who was driving down to Cape Town, some 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) away.
Residents in the quiet village continue to go about their normal lives, thinking -- but not speaking -- of the village boy who became one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.
"It's time for us to allow the will of God and the ancestors," Nqeketo said.
"There is nothing more we can do now. As much as we still need Tata (father), it is hard to discuss his end."
Source: Times of India