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.

 

|||


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.

|||

35. Broome, Talk About Outback!

Singapore to Broome is just shy of 1600 nautical miles.

I’m still trying to remember the name of the cargo/passenger ship which I boarded in Singapore for my journey south by southeast, back to Australia.  At some point I’ll remember it, I think.   

With limited room for passengers -similar setup to the first ship I worked on, the Lakemba- there was four of us to a cabin.  I bunked down, relaxing for the next 2 or 3 days.  And so began the continuing journey into my unknown future.  

Relaxing on the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia is Broome, over a thousand miles north of Perth.  Once the ship docked late morning at Broome I disembarked.  The weather was on the warmer side of things but I knew I couldn’t spend time sightseeing in this very different place, I had a bus to catch.

Although Broome is a coastal town, as I headed away from the sea, it was like being in a desert which really I didn’t know anything about (my comparison today would be like Palm Springs with sparse comforts), but I’d watched enough westerns to have an idea and I was starting to feel rather hot.  

Remember my last strong impression of Australia was all the big cities like Sydney, Adelaide & Perth and it was all a bit of a blow for me, I must say.  It wasn’t bad mind you but from what I was seeing, I was reminded of a John Wayne cowboy film and I guess I left that gun-slinging adventure back in my boyhood.  

Suddenly it didn’t seem so appealing to me anymore at least not in the same context.  Now as a young adult I think I was just wanting more bustle and bounce in my world at that time.  Of course I was certainly amused at what I was seeing; instead of cars, I saw horses.  

I remember thinking to myself silly comments as I watched the locals come in on horseback to the town for groceries, dinner or what have you and I watched curiously as they’d tie them up to hitching posts; wow they really do that.  Smile.

Yeah maybe the cowboy world wasn’t in the cards for this island boy after all.  I felt parched and dusty just watching these scenes unfold before my eyes, a mind game perhaps because I felt like it was blistering hot; true to a good western!

It was evening when I boarded my train that would carry me to Melbourne.  Here’s another, I can’t remember the name of the city where I caught that train from; good thing I wasn’t walking!  I was thankful that I had sleeper accommodations, even though the space was shared, it was comfortable, semi private and roomy enough for sleeping purposes.

It seemed that whenever I pulled up the shades to view the passing scenery I saw red rocks, little ones, big ones and sometimes very big ones.  Then there were the kangaroos who were jumping around all over the place, mostly in groups.  Anything smaller was a bit difficult for me to pin down as we were moving much too fast.

It was 1½ days on the train by the time we arrived in Alice Springs which turns out to be approximately mid point in the journey.  For some reason that stuck in my mind.  After 1900 miles traveling in a southeast direction from my beginning point and 3 days later, Melbourne greeted me at last.

Ready to really stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh air, I quickly sought out an information counter.  The lady attending to the booth was very friendly and helpful.

Crikey! The whole world is here.” she exclaimed.  She told me I would be quite fortunate if I was to find any accommodations at all, what with the 1956 Summer Olympics here and all.  

And then as though to let me in on a little secret, she suggested I look into the Melbourne YMCA.  She continued, “Listen mate, it’s only bed and breakfast; that’s only if you do get lucky enough.  You’d be smart to grab a taxi and do go straightaway.  Best of luck.”

I was able to catch a taxi and arrived not long after into the heart of the city.  I think the driver said something about being on City Road, knowing I was a foreigner.  Perhaps he thought I should be properly oriented in my directions.  I was hoping for at least the night’s rest at this point; a few more nights being a bonus.

The city was jam-packed with people unlike the sparse locales I had recently experienced.  Big city yes of course but more so crowded now, what with the games and all.

I was very fortunate to have found accommodations at the recommended YMCA.  I was set-up to share a room with a young student.  My bed and breakfast cost me A£3 per week, paid in advance and this YMCA became my home for the next 17 or so days.  

Yes I did try to see some of the games but I quickly learned that I should have purchased tickets ages ago.  I was fortunate enough to catch some of the games and especially the Hockey win by 🇮🇳 over 🇵🇰 when they took the Gold.

I caught these in a local pub on a television set.  That was pretty exciting all the same, knowing I was actually right there … only not there.

In between I had some time to think things over and I figured I would station myself here and then call for Hemma.  Australia.  England.  Either way I would make a go of it.  

And it would still mean I was out of Fiji and we would live our life together, away from interference.

 

|||


*Had LBM stayed till the 31st of October, he very well may have seen the Duke of Edinburgh arriving that day on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Stopping off first in Singapore, he too was on his way to Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, to open the Olympic Games of 1956