Port of Suva arrived and naturally my family was there, waiting for me. And as the time before, I stayed 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 packed 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.
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.
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?