44. Mr. Masala is Free! sort of…

Since my first appearance before the judge, I paid my court ordered alimony payments and always on time.  

And not that I’m making any choices based on this; I also happened to discover that my hopefully soon-to-be ex-wife was actually in a relationship with the previously mentioned handyman.

How about that, my suspicions seemed to now been justified.  Or they just fell into place, either way.  I’ll do you one better, he’s living in the house with them.  

Oh, touché.  Looks like we both found plaster for a broken marriage.  

Feeling rather done for a few reasons, I flat out refused to pay November’s payment to Hemma or anymore for all that matters.

Prior to this decision I had made request for appointment to see Judge Sandy to appeal my case and it had now been granted.  I also made up my mind to represent myself; I felt I was my own best lawyer after having counsel with 2 other members of the bar.

On that day in court I declared I would no longer pay.  ‘Send me to jail if you have to but no more.’  I was brief in my statement and in that I made sure to mention Hemma moving that man into their family home.  ‘What is the point your honor in my financially supporting that?’

With a look on his face I loosely translated as him finding humor in my plea, he announced he’ll take his pause to review the case file.  After a few restless -on my part- moments, he asked me to rise for his decision.  

“Mr Masala, I‘ve decided to free you from the payments to Mrs. Masala.  However in order for that to happen you must first bring the payments up-to-date.”  

And there you go.  I ended up having to pay that November payment which I earlier defied to do.

Judge Sandy finished with  “And I’m granting you the legal separation.  Divorce is still not an option at this time.  As I mentioned before about the waiting period, that is still in effect.”  

I felt happy and sunk at the same time.  

“Other than that, now you can go, you are a free man Mr. Masala.  You can even leave Fiji if you so desire.”  Gavel banged on the judgement desk, I’m semi-free.

Okay yes, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders as I stepped out of the courthouse that morning.  It was as though I was 18 again and no longer a stressed out adult, at least not on that front.  

Hey, I’ll take it!

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41. Grey Cloud Hovering Overhead … Blue Skies Visible Beyond

Noori came over that weekend as was now the normal for us and upon hearing the news about the letter, she jumped up in excitement with the biggest smile across her face and said, “Gary, after everyone has gone to bed in my house, I have been praying to Allah every night.”

Her face softened.  “I pray that He will help you and guide you.  And I ask Him to have mercy and free you from that evil family for good.”  Well that is what she said.

She was talking with a spirited high and continued in her sweet voice, “I realize now that I love you even more and I would do anything to make you happy and nurse you when you’re not healthy.  I am with you always, my dearest Gary.”

We spent as much time together as possible.  She was still in school and I would be at work, but to be sure we’d manage to see one another at some point during the week.  Weekends and holidays we definitely were able to spend more time together.  

I will tell you the truth about this young lady (haven’t I already?).  I was falling deeper in love with Noori every day.  We knew we couldn’t marry right away as besides the obvious, the religious differences wouldn’t permit; she was too young (even though she was 18) to fight her parents and brothers about it.  

The Hemma war was on its way out and the culture-clash war was immediately at hand.  Noori’s family was well known around Suva and her brothers on their motorcycles riding all over town, we’d be too easily spotted.  Our love had to stay inside my family home …still.

On the date of the court hearing, I met up 1st with my legal counsel in the courthouse and he reminded me the judge may not grant me what I want.  My case was heard by a bearded Australian judge not that it matters, it’s just what I remember about him.  Hemma’s legal representation was present, she was not.  

Here we go!  My lawyer presented my case, main arguments being that I wanted a divorce because of her parents’ influence.  “Your honor, my client cannot live a normal married life with his wife due to constant interference from her parents.  There has been no privacy in their relationship and this has become a constant hurdle.”  

My counsel continued, “My client was away it’s true.  Mr. and Mrs. Masala had a mutual agreement between the themselves about trip.  He was out seeking to make a fresh start for the two of them in London, free from distractions.”

And finally my lawyer said, “My client returns from overseas to find a man in his dining room, the handyman to be exact.  Mrs. Masala was unable to explain his presence.”

The oppositions turn to respond.  Hemma’s counsel claims these are false statements.  He’s doing his best of course to make it look as though I just abandoned my wife to go galavanting around the world.

So now I am called upon to tell my side of the story.  Her lawyer naturally protested again, and said his client claims her husband is always going away leaving her alone, so she’s taken up with her family.

Looks like she’s forgotten the part where we lost our son and she didn’t stay with me for a moment … and yet I still tried to work things out with her.

The judge called the lawyers to approach the bench and they briefly spoke.  Then the judge took a pause without leaving the room to look over the files and think over the verbal statements before making a decision.

At last he looks up from his seat at the grand desk and returning his attention to us says:  “Mr. Masala, I will not grant you a divorce at this time.  Also I cannot grant you a legal separation either.”  I’m listening to this feeling a bit bowled over.  

He explains, “I give you a year to see if there can be a reconciliation between the two of you.  And yes, you cannot leave Fiji.  You must stay away from each other [rather contradictory] as in, no harassment!  

“And one more thing Mr. Masala, in the meantime you will be paying Mrs. Masala her maintenance; half your monthly salary, every month.”  

The judge then closed the case.  Well then.  

My lawyer said he was sorry the separation couldn’t be made legal and we had to discuss the maintenance expense.  I explained to my lawyer that half of my salary always went into the family’s expenses; I gave it my brother to help pay for everything as he was the sole provider.

So he told me that, of the remaining half Hemma will get ½ of that.  That was the way it would to be and I would be paying it through his office.

I went into work for the remainder of the day.  By the time evening rolled around I was ready to go home and lie down.  I was feeling a bit done for but real glad the ball was now rolling in the right direction.

 

39. Karma & Love

A few days after I had sank into a comfortable spot, I was going through all of my things when I came across the parcel Noori’s brother had given to me for her, back in Melbourne.  Opportunity to see her!  

I made my way up to her house and bravely presented Noori with the package.  The family was present and she motioned to me not to speak candidly.  They offered me a cool drink and then the best thing for me to do was return back down the hill.

A little more time passed when Noori began to come around again, to see the family yes, to be of whatever help she could for my mother and sister-in-law, to see me for sure.  I’m most glad she did.  I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if my little angel hadn’t come back and saved me.

She was especially interested to hear about my overseas adventures in Bombay and Melbourne.  News of her brother in Melbourne from someone who saw him in person made her very happy.  And no I didn’t tell on her brother …that he ate pork sausages at breakfast!

You know Noori and I had been the best of friends for a long time now, especially she was there before I even met Hemma and then through the middle of all the Hemma and family problems.  

Noori always made a point (and always without a row) to step aside and let my life take its course.  She consistently assured me she would always be there for me, all the way.  And she was; she did just that.

With the lighter load of my mind and in my heart, I was free to feel myself again.  I dare say, we were falling in love.  Boy oh boy, in reflection does it ever feel as though the space in my young life that was taken up with Hemma time was definitely karmic.  

Experiencing the loss of a child and a heart that played a constant flip-flop; a lonely, almost desperate void. Yeah, I think so.

Noori came in and she loved me wholeheartedly, she took care of me and this allowed me to feel completely at ease and be able to be there for her equally.  I believe this is how it should be.  Sadly I couldn’t be there for her openly in her family’s presence as the Hindu-Muslim thing was still very much in force.  

My family however was very happy with Noori as well.  They noticed the absolute light return to my eyes.  I know this relationship saved my heart, my all, my sanity for what that was worth.

A little time had passed and it was definitely time to speak with a lawyer.  Someone in our circle recommended a well-known attorney in Suva and I immediately set up an appointment to discuss my situation.  I knew I’d best get some good legal advice.  Although sad is the reason, still at least there wouldn’t be a custody battle in all this.  

I arrived alone at 9a sharp the morning of my appointment.  I was invited into his office and met with the lawyer and his paralegal.  They seemed warm and friendly contrary to a lawyer’s most often preceding reputation.  Would it have anything to do with him being a relation by way of marriage?  Who knew, it’s all good, right?

He told me after I sat down, “The floor is yours.  Open up and tell me everything.”

So I began with the beginning; that fateful evening when I was first introduced to Hemma … and her family.  

I told him all I could remember and how it went in my mind.  After they listened to everything, there was a very brief space of silence, a breath or two’s worth and then he said, “Divorce at this time is not possible.  Not right away.  I will file for a legal separation.  And you cannot leave Fiji during the year.”

‘What do you mean, exactly?’ I asked, just a bit taken aback by that remark.  I was still young what did I know?  He went on to explain there had to be time in between just in case there’s a chance of reconciliation.  I already had tried all I would and I knew for certain that wouldn’t happen.   “And we’ll take it from there.”  he finished.