46. Saturday at 28 Mal Street

It was an ordinary Saturday morning spent washing, breakfasting and some light-hearted conversation with all those present.  My elder sister had come from her home to spend a couple of days with me, otherwise our normal comfortable routine was there.  

An occasional neighbor would stop in during the course of the day to say goodbye, expressing their regret of not being able to attend my dockside departure but certainly wanted to make known their good intentions and well-wishes.  

For the better part of this Saturday it was a do nothing day.  I had already decided to save my packing for the next morning as my sailing was in the afternoon and so I mainly rested, daydreaming mostly.  

Besides it wasn’t my day to catch the chickens for dinner so I just continued plotting my near future.  What would I do the first few days of my arrival in San Francisco, U.S.A.?, this I wondered.

I was departing Fiji with a heavy heart, one not completely happy inside because something was missing and that something was someone named Noori.  We loved one another very much.

It was about noon when I saw her for the first time that week.  My little sister must’ve told Noori the day before when she first learned of my plans.  

She spoke gently only her eyes were anything but happy.  “Gary, I am feeling shocked.  You’re really leaving us tomorrow?”  

I tried to smile in the presence of those eyes and I tenderly told her, ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without you and your loving support Noori.  I had been consumed by much anger and I feel there’s no telling what might have happened next.  It would’ve involved more pain though, I’m almost sure of that.’

I know I didn’t need to remind Noori (but I did anyway) of her compassion which, time and time again had pulled me through my darkest hours, other than that moment on the docks when I realised I couldn’t return to Sonia.  

I had to experience that one through completely on my own.  Besides I hadn’t met Noori at that time.

And then I felt it; the similarity in which this scene was beginning to play out.  I had hoped with all my being this wouldn’t be a repeat.

Our moments together had allowed our feelings to blossom yet unfortunate was our timing; still very real was the actuality of old fashioned views all too present in the form of a solid wall.

You, my seasoned readers, know all this.  My family had quickly come to stand by me where Noori was concerned; this intelligent, beautiful and dynamic Muslim girl was a part of our family already.  Our love however stood no chance to exist where her family was concerned and so ….

Still I made a promise to Noori and shared this objective with my family; I would travel back in two years time, if not possible sooner, to make Noori my wife and return with her to my home in the United States.  

After successfully achieving this goal, I could begin bringing the family there one by one.  If that’s the way I had to do it, then that’s exactly what I would do.  

I long since had memorized the delicious smells coming from the kitchen of my family home, so comforting indeed.  That night the aroma registered in my mind of a final evening meal in my place of birth, my childhood home filled with the ghosts of my youth, making it all the more intense.  

For safe keeping I felt the need to preserve it in my consciousness.  

Journeyed abroad before, I certainly had.  Only this time it was final – I was moving away, really leaving home.  

It was a difficult good night Noori and I shared, one with some serious lingering questions which really couldn’t be answered.  After dinner my brother and my sister walked Noori home.  It was the way we always had to do it.

And so it was the end of Saturday at 28 Mal Street in Suva, Fiji Islands.

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – and the remains of Friday

January 1959

“What?!”  was all that would escape my brother’s lips.  Both my uncle and brother were clearly shocked by my answer and neither said anything more.  

I can sense my brother wants to ask me why but just couldn’t.  So I offered to tell them both why I said nothing.  ‘I didn’t want to jinx my plans,’ plainly said.

My brother and uncle still wrapped in a fog of disbelief as the rest of the staff came back into the workshop to congratulate me.  I felt a little numb.

I excused myself and went to the boss’s office to inform him.  “Nand I knew you were up to something but I had no idea it was this!  When are you set to leave?”   I told Mr. W that I had to go over to the Union Steamship Company and check for sailing dates and then I’d know for sure.  

‘The sooner the better’ was all I could think.  I assured him it could be as soon as the next few days.

Mr. W offered me leave of my duties and told me he could send my final paycheck home with my brother.  ”I expect you may need some extra time to do a little shopping, spend time with the family and oh yes, pack up your suitcase.”

He shook my hand warmly, other hand on my arm, complimenting me on my work performance and character.  He wished me tons of good fortune.  I was released from my job with his good intentions.

I went immediately across the street to the travel agency -the Union Steamship Company.  I inquired as to the very next available sailing to America.

I was told a ship was due in from the south; the P. & O. Liner Orsova, sailing northeast towards North America.  He double checked his books and informed me there would be a cabin available this Sunday for the 5p sailing.  This cost me £62.

He then told me I would have to disembark in Honolulu, leaving the ship there and head for the airport.  I paid £52 for a one-way ticket on a Pan American flight destined for San Francisco.  

Now that I had obtained my passage out of Suva, I was pretty sure I had all I would need to begin this new chapter in my life.  I caught the bus going straight home.  

C - backyard nostalgia -signed

It’s Friday afternoon.

I took off my shoes, freshened up and then went into the living room.  I sat down and placed the now somewhat notorious envelope on the table and called a family meeting.  The household members gathered.

‘I am going to America.’  I announced – nobody believed me.

My mother said “Why are you saying these things?  You’re always talking of leaving, stop this nonsense!”  

By 4p the entire clan had gathered at my house to say goodbye.  It was an afternoon of mixed emotions.   There was on and off crying going through my family home, especially coming from my mother.  Then my brother came home from work.  There was definitely a sense of sadness about; quite different than the previous times I had left my home.

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Friday morning

January 1959

Friday morning at last and yes, go to work.  It would only be for an hour and a half and I absolutely wouldn’t be late for my 10a oath swearing!  This time I had asked the boss, Mr. W for the rest of the morning off.  

He must’ve figured I had some courthouse stuff to tend to.  “Go on then Nand.” he said with a casual smile.  Mr W was a genuine soul, a very good man.

I headed out for my 10 minute walk to the consulate’s office.  After Theresa acknowledged my arrival with a smile, I sat and waited for a few minutes.  She then called me to the back office for my appointment.  

In my presence the gentleman briefly looked over everything one more time and said to me, “Mr. Masala.  I see you’ve paid your fee and we’ve got your valid passport.  Along with all the proper forms and required documents, everything is in order and you’re well on your way.”  My excitement was mounting and it was time to take my oath.  

Yes and while this whole thing took place ever so long ago, I can tell you it consisted of this basic idea:  to uphold the laws of the United States of America, strive to be a model resident, and not take advantage of the system but earn the privileges.  One day I’d be able to apply for citizenship through the process of Naturalization, etc …

This gentleman then signed a couple of papers, put everything into an envelope and sealed it officially.  He reminded me to not open it.  “It must only be opened by the immigration officials in Honolulu at which time they will issue you the proper identification, granting you legal access to reside and work in America.”  

My face was a tale of delight to say the least.  I stole a quick glance Theresa’s way with a satisfied grin.  She was smiling.

The officer continued, “God bless you Mr. Masala and all the very best to you.  United States is a big country,” he spoke so sincerely.  “Good luck and be sure to make the best of what America has to offer you.”  He shook my hand firmly and honestly.  I was moved by this experience I tell you.  

I came out of the office with Theresa and into the reception area.  I was on a cloud for sure! and it was time for me to be on my way.  I wanted to say goodbye to her with a hug, I was so happy you know.

Instead, I thanked her warmly for her wonderful help.  “Good luck with all you set out to do!  I have faith in you Mr. Masala.  There’s a part of my that still cannot believe the speed with which you did this!”  Her smile was infectious.

“I’ve got to tell you, after the determination you’ve demonstrated with all of this, I know you can make it big!”  And there was my verbal hug.

C - Salinas mountains' Honeysuckle -signed (12 x 18)

What a morning!  I returned to work.  I felt all eyes on me, at least on the big envelope under my arm.

Jules knew what it was and I’m certain she quickly read the look upon my face and came right up to me with a great big hug.  “Nand I cannot tell you how happy I am for you!”  

Back in the workshop my uncle asked me what was in the envelope and I said, ‘It’s my visa to take to the United States!’

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