38. Heavy Rains Unburden the Soul – my landscape has been washed clean

No one save for a small handful of my family knew that I had returned to Fiji as it was all quite sudden.  The taxi pulled up in front of my most current Fiji address and I anxiously got out of the car.  My mother and brother-in-law chose to wait for me out there.

I saw Hemma’s father and the two courier pigeons (the younger brothers) building something outside as I walked up through the front yard.  I remember the look on his face as I walked by; it was as though he were staring at a ghost.

I went up the steps and into the house.  I noticed my mother-in-law also looked at me the exact same way.  Now for a moment if one thinks about it, when someone you love returns home after being away for a while, even after the initial shock, wouldn’t you go up to them and greet them lovingly?  I imagine so.

With the mother and sisters sitting upon the sofa in the living room, not a one of them making a move for anything, only jaws dropped down from a clear bombshell, I strolled past them headed straight for my bedroom.

The dining room must be passed to get to the bedroom and boy was it ever my turn for the bombshell.  The handyman was sitting at my table eating a meal.  Now ordinarily this would go either way.

Either he just so happens to be using our dining table to enjoy his lunch break or … he feels he has the right to be there because of a familiar relationship in this family?

So which is it?  

Now I am momentarily speechless.  After two ticks into my sudden shock, here comes my wife out of our bedroom and she stopped in her tracks, a holding pattern in the doorway; her turn for the ultimate shock!

But I went over to her and I hugged her.  ‘Hemma you know, I missed you so very much.’  She returned the hug and I was glad for that.  I fear she was rendered speechless by my presence.  

So I continued speaking.  ‘I wasn’t able to make it to England.  I’ll tell you all about it a little later on.  Please just go and get your things.’  Hemma looked at me in disbelief.

‘We are going to my family house.  My mother is waiting outside in the taxi.’  I further stated.  ‘And by the way what is the handyman doing inside the house?’  Hemma started to cry.  By now the rest of her family came in, to join the reunion party no doubt.  

I turned to gaze at the handyman but he had left the scene.  I returned my eyes to my wife who was now looking desperately at her family -perhaps hoping for direction- so I too turned my attention towards them.  They were whispering among themselves.  

Hemma remained next to me.  I waited a few moments and then I asked her, ‘Are you coming with me now or what?’

She left me where I stood, going to the bedroom and as she was closing the door I quickly blocked it.  I continued to ask her, ‘Why are you doing this to me, didn’t you miss me all this time I was away?’

Hemma replied at last.  “I did.  I missed you a lot.  But please understand, you must stay here with me.”  To which I replied, ‘No.  I’ll never stay with your family again!’  

I kept going, ‘Also tell me why the handyman is alone with you in this part of the house. Your parents should have been in here with him or at the very least you would’ve called to one of your brothers or sisters, don’t you think?’  

Hemma had no response.  Looking at her blank face I collected myself quickly and spat it all out.  ‘Anyway I am going home now.  I never want to speak with you or see you ever again.  Good bye Hemma.  You broke my heart so many times but no more I tell you, I want to be free of you for good.’

Hemma was quiet, she said absolutely nothing nor reacted in any way at all.  I walked through the house and straight out the door to the taxi where my brother-in-law and mother were waiting patiently for me.  

For a moment I felt a tinge of sadness that not one single member of that family said anything to me let alone try to stop me.  I was also unhappy to know that not one of them went to the taxi to see if my mother needed a cool glass of water.

I got into the taxi and took one last look at what my life had come to; no one was even at the window looking out.  Must be karmic.

We began the drive towards home and well, it began to rain.  It rained really hard – how perfectly right.  

My family members were waiting inside to welcome me back home.  After briefly meeting with everyone, I treated myself to a cool leisurely shower and taking cue from the storm, I was hoping to wash away the previous moments of this day.  

Feeling lighter and certainly refreshed I felt it was time for a cocktail and believe me, by late afternoon I was already feeling much better… in so many ways.  I unpacked my suitcases, presented gifts and was encouraged to speak of my adventures.  

I was away from the earlier scene, surrounded by people which I knew cared about me, I felt safe in my family home and I was already learning to let go.

 

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Time was when, the family honor, their respectability was of the utmost importance.  From generations before, propriety was given in all situations.  Among those rules of conduct; never was it appropriate to leave a young lady alone with any man that is not her family member; much less a young married woman whose husband was absent from the scene, wherever they were.  

Decorum simply didn’t leave room for suspicions and doubt.  This applied to the modest families looking to keep refinement.  Hindu culture as a whole (there are always those folks doing things differently …) held steadfast in these beliefs.  No judgement being passed here only making statement of many a culture’s’ way of life.

37. Does My Necktie Really Need Straightening?

You know I was so lucky to find a temporary job in a garment factory in town.  I accepted it, I was paid well and it was cash under the table as the saying goes.  The majority of workers were ladies and there was about 35 of them.  Only 4 men sewing to include myself.  

Not to boast like a proud rooster or anything but it’s the truth; I loved all the attention the female staff showered on me.  There were no complaints here!  They were always looking to buy my lunch, take their breaks with me and oh how they fussed over me, I mean my goodness!  

Many of them would walk by and tell me that my necktie needed straightening only to immediately start playing with it.  Fortunately the men on the team didn’t begrudge me while my ego was being blown-up like a hot air balloon.

While it was all well and good and my work pleased the supervisors (my previous experience shone through apparently), management had to let me go.  Within the allotted 2 weeks I was unable to provide legal documentation allowing me to be lawfully employed in Australia.  🇦🇺 

I was very happy though as I made over A£200.00 and this was enough to buy me a one-way aeroplane fare to Nadi, Fiji.  There was also a tidy sum remaining for pocket money and gift purchases for the family back home.

After separation from tailoring I remained just a few days and then took a bus to Sydney where I would catch my flight back to the Fiji Islands.  Once I arrived in Nadi, I took a commuter flight into Nausori where an airline shuttle bus then delivered me back to Suva in just under half an hour.

There my mother and brother-in-law were waiting for me with a taxi.  My mother was so happy to see me, she began to cry big tears of joy; she couldn’t believe I was really there and said as much.  I offered her my arm and said, ‘Pinch me and you’ll see I am really here!’

I told them as we began to drive that first I must go to Samabula, to the house on Moala Street where Hemma was so that I can bring her with us, back to our house.  My mother agreed wholeheartedly.  The taxi took us to where I had left my wife with her parents and siblings before heading to India.

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36. What’s For Breakfast?

I’m telling you one could hardly walk on the streets of downtown Melbourne for it being so crowded.  Everyone bumping into someone or other; of course I didn’t mind if it was a pretty girl, I mean you can’t blame me can you?

One morning I was in the breakfast room enjoying my meal when suddenly I felt as though a figure was looming near me.  I thought not much of it at first assuming it was only someone pausing to decide where to sit.  Well, that was it.  

A young man asked if he can sit at my table.  I looked up.  I nearly fainted from shock I do believe.  And here I always thought it was a big, big world!  It was Noori’s little brother, Farhan.  Yeah, the same one that always wanted to beat me up everytime I walked past their home back in Suva.

This will be good I thought and extended the welcome to sit.  He looked on at my plate for a brief moment and then said, “What you are having for breakfast looks real good, I think I will order the same.”   I must say that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Why?

Upon my breakfast plate was eggs, skillet potatoes, toast and pork sausage.  Remember this is before all the modern substitutes for pork and beef we have now; turkey, vegan, etc and  well as most everyone knows Muslim faith does not allow the eating of pork.  Farhan knew full well that he was about to indulge in pork; that is to say if he hadn’t already.

I bring this up because it’s just too funny when I think back on the reasons he fought me when we were younger; Muslim and Hindu, no go … do not come near my sister!  and all that.  Now here he sat with me enjoying pork sausage.  

I refrained from chastising him.   C’est la vie!

We exchanged pleasantries during our meal, obviously the both of us a little more matured since our last meeting.  He was going to school there in Melbourne.  With the prices of everything sky high during the Olympics, he’d caught on to the fact of breakfast at the YMCA costing only a fraction of what the restaurants all over the city were charging.  Smart.

He asked what I’d been doing and where I was off to next so I told him my agenda, that is as I saw it at the moment.  How nice a conversation can be when ego doesn’t get in the way.  From that point forward I saw him 3 or 4 times more.

Very soon after I arrived here I sent a letter to home, informing them I had left India but that I hadn’t quite made it to London.  Circumstances brought me backwards, to Melbourne.  It wasn’t long before I received a reply.  

The letter informed me of an uncomfortable situation at my house.  It said something about the inappropriate presence of a man, for sometime now, at our residence.  I was advised to return home just as soon as possible.

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