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.

|||


 

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!’

|||


 

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

January 1959

Thursday morning.  I got dressed with a little more spring in my step, enjoyed my breakfast and made sure to grab that bag with those documents before heading out the door.

I looked one more time into the bag, making sure I had also put the $10 American cash (which I had saved from previous American encounters) and my British passport.  I did.

I went directly to my job.  I worked for an hour and a half and then, it was tea time!  Taking advantage of this leisurely break I excused myself and went straight to the U.S. Consulate’s office.  

Theresa was there at her desk and she greeted me with an adorable smile,  “Nice to see you again.”  I put my bag upon the counter, removing all the papers and such, placing them there.

She just looked at me.  She didn’t touch them.  I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me, still Theresa is not touching them.  

“You know what?”  she asked.  ‘What?’ I replied.  I waited for her to say something else.  I am smiling and I don’t know why.  The suspense was a bubble just waiting to burst.

She finally spoke, “I am dreaming. I don’t believe it.”  Theresa tapped the papers.

‘Did I do something wrong?’  I asked her.  “There’s no way possible!”  she said.  

“I’ve never witnessed anything like this since I’ve worked with the Consulate’s office.”  Now she’s beginning to flip through the papers.  Seems to have met her approval.   

“You know Mr Masala, I have worked with this office, first in Noumea and now Suva, and I have never had a case like this where the paperwork was completed so rapidly.  Usually it’s 3-4 weeks and sometimes more!”  

Making a neat pile of it all, she took from me my passport, the American cash for the processing fee and all the paperwork back into the other office; the Office of the Consulate General.

About 10 minutes later she returned.  “Okay that’s it!  You have an appointment tomorrow morning at 10am sharp to take your oath!”  Theresa seemed excited for me, well it certainly sounded like that.  “Then you can collect your visa.”

Theresa sent me on my way with, “Such determination and great follow through Mr. Masala.  Good day!”

I could feel it, I was ready to fly!

Now I returned to work and stayed put for the rest of my shift.  But not before giving Jules another great big hug.  “Nand, come back soon and take me with you!” she told me as she hugged me back.

Passing on the celebratory cold Guinness temptation, I needed to get home right away this evening.  I was even more determined to relish in my family time.  

No developments or questions.  It was to be like any other evening at home.  I wasn’t expecting to see Noori until the weekend as that has been the normal.

|||