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 one of two ways.

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.

6. 🤷🏽‍♂️ Tailoring My Way Off the Island – part 1

I was 17 years of age when, with the goal of getting accepted on the SS Lakemba freighter ship, I set off to get certified as a waiter in order to be considered for employment.  That was a good starting point.

I acquired employment in the personal home of one of Morris Hedstrom’s department+ store owners. The household chef was our family friend and so brought me into the fold.  The Mr. & Mrs. had a wonderful estate there in Suva and it was definitely a great place to learn the service trade.

I perfected formal service with the frequent business meetings held there in the home.  These often included luncheons, cocktail hour and many a dinner presented in precise style.  Equally important were the slightly informal meals (yet still proper to be sure) when serving their warm and wonderful family of four.

🚲 I would ride a bicycle from home everyday, talk about fit and trim!  There was no classroom environment here; it was immediate ‘hands-on’ training.  I maintained employment as a waiter in this private home for about 6 months, learning everything there is to know regarding formal dining room service.

With my father gone and my brother fully running the household, I always shared my salary with him, with the family – pounds and shillings, it was my contribution. 💷

This kind Mr. & Mrs. who employed me knew that I would be a temporary part of their household staff; I was there to be trained so I could work on the ships and yet we equally grew fond of one another, working together very well.

The family was more than happy to give this 17-year young man a chance and make certain I learned well.  With the very full business responsibilities of the Mr., the Mrs. ran the household beautifully and I could see all the employees loved working for her.

The time had come for me to move forward.  The Mr. had a beautiful document of reference drafted up for me on Morris Hedstrom’s letterhead, providing this to me upon my departure from the position; albeit with a heavy heart unquestionably on both sides.

I left the job feeling ready as ever to board my first ship as a full-time staff member.  Well laugh if you will, it’s okay because I didn’t discover right away that I also had to be eighteen years of age at the least, in order to work where travel into foreign countries was a must.   That part was sort of missed.

Here’s the way I handled things at that time; you tell me I have do that or learn the how and why of a thing or I must get this, then that’s what I would do as just another step to my advancement.  The age requirement simply hadn’t come up at that point.  Oh brother!

So to keep me employed my maternal uncle helped me get a job as a tailoring apprentice within a Gujarat family owned store called C & A Kalyan, Ladies Tailor, phone #758, while waiting to turn of legal age in order to work aboard a ship.  I actually tailored so well I found myself making dresses for the Fiji governor’s wife & daughter; point of interest!

My time with fabrics and all that fun ran about a year’s stretch; I did enjoy being able to create that way but not as content as I could be and not always patiently awaiting my break that would carry me out to sea; gotta go – I need to go!

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+  a retail organization serving the Fiji Islands since 1868

Good morning really; it’s now 2:45a – ugh! it’s been a real long night but fortunately I get my new computer (at long last) this coming week!!   So it would seem that I missed Sunday night post time (again), “Missed it by that much!” -as one of my childhood favorite secret agents, Maxwell Smart always used to say.  LOL

I want to say thank you for returning to the story and keeping the faith in the Little Blue Masala!  Have a great week ahead and the very best of the holiday season –which ever ones those may be for you– to you and yours!