14. Could I Side-Step This Marriage?

So what to do?  Cold and hard to accept fact time; the marriage proposal was on the table and we had to talk about it now.  I pleaded with my brother that I didn’t want to get married yet, it was too soon.

‘I don’t know her well enough!’ was the best petition I could make and because a simple ‘I don’t want to!’  was not cutting it.

It’s not only respect for family doing what your elders deem is right for maintaining the family’s honor but “…it’s been this way for hundreds of years, what do you want to go and change things for now?”  Not forward thinking I felt; tradition takes precedence.

Somehow they just knew that when the SS Lakemba returned from Canada into Suva, I would certainly be on that ship, right off the island I’d go.  Hmm maybe my brother did peek into my bag at some point.

It appeared that all who had a say in this household wanted me to marry Hemma but what about me?  No, no, that didn’t matter, their minds were made up and that was that.  My brother being the head of the household since our father passed, announced to me, “You will marry Hemma and that’s final.”

I am certain the pressing uneasiness also was that my family would be the ones who failed to keep their promise, certainly not honorable, if I didn’t make good on their word of this marriage.  Personally I don’t think that promise should’ve been made in the first place!

Feeling that this pronouncement had to be accepted I just had to distract myself for the time being before entering into this marriage which had to be.  Staying around the house everyday this predicament surely would cause me to blow a circuit or two; I desired no participation in the details if I could help it.

Simply put, this is not how I thought my life should go.

Well, it was a new year and so it was also time to move forward I guess.  I went over to C & A Kalyan, Ladies Tailor shop hoping they’d take me in.  I was accepted and they made it known to me they were happy to have me back; well that was nice!

For those of you who have read post 6Tailoring My Way Off the Island, you’ll remember this is where I worked before heading out to sea.

I knew I’d enjoy what I was doing and it would keep me out of the center of things at home.  I was blessed to work at least 40 hours a week and half a day on Saturdays which was also payday so I definitely showed up!

Well, the month of May just had to come around didn’t it?  The preparations were being made at my house and believe me there’s beyond a lot to be done for these Hindu weddings.  There’s construction of the celebration accommodations such as tents for sitting and eating areas, etc., to spices and menus being prepared, clothing and jewelry bought and well you get the idea and everyone goes the way of the vegetarian for the preceding week.

The town electrician came to string up the lights and generally the neighbors all jumped in to help; it’s really a big to-do!  We also fed everyone, everyday!   And I’ve only told you about the goings-on at the groom’s household.

The festivities always begin a week ahead of the marriage day and can continue for up to a week afterwards.  It’s really quite a sight …and much work, but normally everything is good and everyone involved is very happy.

Noori had been in and out of my house all this time, helping everyone she possibly could with their work, also known as my wedding preparations.  We had a private moment when she told me that she would always be there for me.

Her heart was breaking yet in spite of that she told me she understood why I was going in this direction and even I should go forward with her blessing.  Noori said she thought me even more respectable that I was honoring my family’s wishes; that she declared was worth so much more in her eyes.

All over the place there’s lights galore, dancing, laughter, eating and singing everyday.  And talk about a rainbow of deep rich colours, colours everywhere!

Sooner or later I knew they’d catch me!  I was now off duty from work for a week or so and the preparations on me began.  All week long I wore only white clothing.

Every evening I sat outside on a chair in the place which was prepared for daily prayer.  Before every ceremonial duty to be performed which was wedding related, a prayer is conducted.  This is how we do it.  That’s why I sat there.

Anyhow focus.  All the females of the family and some female family friends would paste me up with Haldi.  So as the week progressed I became a golden child!

In our Indian tradition it is favorable to do this because, for the couple about to begin their new life together, it gives a spiritual cleansing as well as representation of prosperity.  And there’s another reason why Haldi is used in this instance and that is to rid the new couple of Buri Nazar.

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Haldi  made from golden turmeric, water, sometimes rose water and sandalwood powder & it looks like our Little Blue Masala has turned gold!

Buri Nazar  the Sanskrit term for evil eye.

12. What Do You Mean These Are Not My Cards To Play? – part 2

I said nothing and the next couple of days I spoke to no one.  I came out of the room just to wash and eat only when the stomach growled loud enough.

It was about the third or fourth day when I felt the need for a little human connection once more albeit quietly.  I never told anyone about Sonia, never revealed my intentions.

Nearly two weeks had come to pass and somewhere in that time, Hemma caught wind of my devastating experience.  She began sending notes to me with her little courier pigeons – I mean, her little brothers.

These little boys would come over to my house, I remember the first time, saying they just wanted to visit me.  Then the little one, he hands me a slip of paper and I looked at it curiously.  So I asked, ‘What is this?’

The other replied, “It’s a note for you from Hemma *didi!” they giggled.  They also explained that they were to wait for my scribbled reply, or not return home at all.  Maybe it was all in the name of chocolate or tasty ice blocks in return for the duty.

She wrote sympathetically and with apology for my sadness of heart though she never truly would know why.  Hemma wrote these little notes in Hindi, I replied in English -don’t know why I just did.  My ache was still so fresh upon my heart and in my mind.

It seemed her focus at that time was to encourage me to have lunch with her at her home and keep a line of communications open I expect.  What’s more, these notes began to show up every other day, by way of giggling pigeons of course.

It was about 8 or 10 days, I don’t remember exactly, before I agreed to come by for lunch with her …and it turns out that included her family members as well.  Ah well it makes sense right?  She’s still only fifteen.

The notes continued to flow and perhaps out of no other way to express her feelings, consisted often of lyrics from Hindi film songs.  Yes most of them are mushy so at this point, would it be safe to say, I suspect I am being romanced by this young girl?

And I have no doubt our families are mixed up in all of this.  I believe what I see of their intentions are crystal clear; they would have me married as soon as possible so that I do not ‘run-off’ again.

I didn’t take any of it seriously; Hemma never outright said she liked me or …whatever.  Very well, these little notes were just a passing of time although admittedly so, somewhat flattering.

I didn’t have important feelings for her as my heart was still preoccupied with a certain young lady in Canada whom I could only hope would forgive me.

Anyway I was looking to get myself back on that ship next time it returned to port; I knew it would, it always does!  I still didn’t know what happened at the docks that morning but I was willing to approach the skipper or whoever I had to, to find out and make things right.

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*didi – older sister (as Hindu respect for the elders, there are titles much like auntie or brother-in-law, for example: however a parent will call his daughter-in-law, say, by her title as such even though she is younger than the parent-in-law).

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Thanks so much for returning once again!  Still looking out for those comments, followers and likes.  And if he hasn’t already, Little Blue Masala can and will grow on you, just wait and see.  Stay tuned!

We’ve been getting buckets of rain here in most of California, how about you?  Happy Winter’s January!

11. Think Happy Thoughts!!

Port of Suva arrival and naturally my family is there waiting for me.  And as the time before, I stay at home only to report to the ship as duty calls.  The cargo of flour had to be unloaded and the ship cleaned before more Fiji sugar can be taken on for the next port in Canada.  This means I have a good four or five days in port, possibly more and this was always dependent upon available labor.

Friends and family filled my evenings as work filled my days.  It was the 2nd day at home when I began to discreetly collect my most important personal belongings and pack them into my travel bag; the things I felt I would need to start my life anew up in Canada, with Sonia.  

The evening prior to the ship’s departure had arrived.  My mother and my brother announced to me their plans of taking me along to a dinner gathering at their friend’s home.  I asked if I knew this family and I was told I had not yet made their acquaintance.

Although I was deeply preoccupied with thoughts and preparations of seeing sweet Sonia again, I didn’t wish to upset my mother or brother so I agreed and certainly I never minded meeting new people.

They lived just about a mile from our home, near the main street of Waimanu Road.  We arrived to happy hosts and they received us warmly.  Sitting comfortably on a sofa in their living room and having been served a drink, the introductions began for me as everyone else knew one another already.

I met the adults aka the parents and their six children; two sons and four daughters.  Of the two eldest children, one of the daughters parked herself next to me on the sofa and began a conversation with, “What countries have you been to so far?” in Hindi of course. 

Her name was Hemma and I replied to her, ‘Hawaii, Vancouver, Canada, Washington and Oregon in the United States and when we came back this way, I went on to see parts of New Zealand and Australia …’ Hemma was smiling.  I finished with, ‘…and tomorrow I am going back up to Hawaii and Vancouver!’

Our conversation continued and I asked her what her birthdate was; instead of giving me a date, she said, “I am fifteen.”  So much for beating around the bush.  I told her my birthdate and stated that I was eighteen.

My mother came by after a few moments and gently touching my arm, she softly told me this girl was one she especially wanted me to meet.  Dinner was served and we all joined together at the table.  A delicious Indian meal had been prepared and it was delightful to me.

This very young and pretty girl was doting over me perhaps a little too much for a first meet but then who am I to say anything about first meetings?  As Hemma filled my plate with lots of food she told me I should enjoy these dishes and eat up because I would not get this taste in my mouth again while overseas.

Well then!

Dinner was finally over and the conversation going around the room that evening was all pleasant enough.  However it was getting late and well, this young man had a working schedule to keep!  I suggested to my brother that we depart by 10p as I was feeling tired.  I was after all a couple of drinks into the night and with a full tummy to round off that relaxed state, I wanted to go …lingering thoughts and all.

For the lovely hospitality, dinner and drinks, we said our goodbyes, many a thank you and good nights.  It only took moments to reach our house and after we got settled in, cups of my sister-in-law’s perfect spiced tea for all, we conversed a little about the night.

I was asked how I enjoyed the evening and, did I like the young girl they introduced me to?  We could tell she really liked you, they said.  Now as they’re trying to speak lightly, suspicious thoughts are entering my mind.  It’s becoming apparent to me that my mother, brother and the other members of the family had been talking while I was away and decided it was time for a bride for the Little Blue Masala; and they picked Hemma!

They knew I would be sailing away again.  I knew my mother -God rest her soul- was doing everything she could to keep me at home.  My brother -God rest his soul- wasted no time introducing me to her and guess what?  Although panic momentarily set in, I realized I had nothing to worry about!

My life-changing bag was packed and with it I would be leaving first thing in the morning.  They didn’t know about the little plan I had hiding up my sleeve.  The one where I arrive in Vancouver, jump ship and elope with my Sonia …forever.

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Hemma is a created name for a very real person in this part of LBM’s saga.

We’re both glad you have decided to climb on board Little Blue Masala’s ship of tales.  Thanks for riding the unpredictable waves with us; after all that is what makes life interesting isn’t it?