29. What Cannibals? and A Necklace For the Queen

One entertaining afternoon as I sat upon the wall curiously watching all the people, a young Indian man stopped just before blocking my view.  Gesturing towards the available spot next to me he asked if he could sit there.  ‘Yes of course,’ I answered with a friendly smile.  

He parked himself and watched Marine Drive with the rest of us.  After a short while, he asked me where I was from.  I laughed a little to myself before letting him in on my thoughts.  

I answered him this way, ‘There’s a little bitty group of islands in the deep South Pacific, very near to New Zealand.  That’s the Fiji Islands.’  The puzzled look on his face said it all.  After a chuckle I said to him, ‘Do you know where Hawaii is?’  

He said yes so I continued, ‘Well it’s about 6 hours if you fly or 5-6 days if you sail from there going further south.  There are two big islands; Viti Levu being the one I was born on and the smaller of the two is Vanua Levu.’ I explained.  He seemed interested enough.

‘My island is slightly larger than Hawaii and there are several smaller ones in the group.  The smaller ones have a few coconut trees, rooted in the sand, and they’re just standing there.’  the stranger smiled.  

‘Who knows, some storms come and wash them away for a time and maybe even the whole island!’  I smiled big as he laughed loud and I ran on with my seemingly entertaining story.

‘Originally the natives were cannibals, before the Christian missionaries arrived. They ate some of them; the missionaries and their friends that is, until convinced otherwise by the remaining missionaries.’  

This is really fun I thought to myself as I kept talking.  

‘When no one visited for a while, they probably boiled the bones of dinners past and had themselves a good soup.’  I had to laugh because my wall-mate looked a little worried.  

‘Then the Indians eventually came along with some Europeans, a few neighboring islanders, and a handful of Chinese too; migrated to Fiji that is.’  

I must tell you here, this was the loose version of my island history as we knew it and told each other as kids back home.  I was done with my story for the time being.  It was his turn now.

This young man was just as fresh to India as I was.  He was born and raised in South Africa.  His parents brought him her to experience India, his blood-line.  They had an apartment home right there on the Queen’s Necklace aka Marine Drive.  That was where a good percentage of the wealthy lived, at least some of the time.  

We both realised our relation to one another was effortless as the hours passed in conversation and people watching.   My new friend and I agreed to meet up very soon and further our adventures; we made plans to buzz all over Bombay and her outlying reaches.  

We felt such a sense of adventure coming on; we’d go everywhere via double decker bus, taxi , auto rickshaw, train and most likely a lot of walking too!

C - Delhi street vending

Before I met this Jittu Singh, I had been told by a few people that I must get to the elevated hills behind all of this to witness a breathtaking view of the Queen’s Necklace in the evening hours.  They were right, it was stunning!  

Good times are rolling now and no I haven’t forgotten that I still must get to London.  All in its own time though I thought to myself.

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I laughed a little to myself from experience past, at that time not many had heard of the Fiji Islands.  I know, right?!!

Just a reminder:    Jittu Singh is the fictitious name of a real character, a wonderful addition to LBMs first adventure in India.

The point of interest here was Bombay’s Malabar Hill.  It is where It is where LBM stood to take in the view which was within the Kamala Nehru Park.  

I sure do wish LBM could find some of those photographs he had taken in India and elsewhere too, I mean, while we’re at it …wishing and all!

27. ⚓️Voyage Across the Indian Ocean, And This Time I’m the Passenger; 🛳R.M.S. Strathmore –

Puri and lamb curry, yum!!  Yes, you read it right, the meal served on board the TEAL flight from Nadi to Sydney helped eased any tensions I experienced up there in that wild blue yonder!  I’m trying real hard to remember this; I think it was about a 6-7 hour flight and I’m sure I took a good long nap.

When we landed in Sydney there was a bus which took those of us who were continuing on to the P&O Liner towards Bombay and beyond (London), to a Sydney hotel for the night.  I believe it was called the Wentworth.

One of the Beautiful White Sisters by which the five sister ships became known, was awaiting our boarding the next afternoon; the R.M.S. Strathmore.  There would be four ports of call en route to Bombay.

I was set-up in a cabin which was shared with a fellow Hindu passenger from Fiji; nice guy, calm and kept mainly to himself.  He too was headed for England.

From Sydney we traveled south along the Pacific Ocean, turning right to now head west through the Bass Strait with Tasmania port-side, to dock at Victoria’s Melbourne.  We arrived the next morning.  

How exciting!  This was the first time I traveled on a luxury liner not to mention, as a free-to-relax-and-enjoy passenger and not the ship’s staff!   It completely changed the dynamics of this journey.  A different aspect and certainly not one to be missed!

We were there till nightfall and then onward in a northwest direction, passing Kangaroo Island and to the next port of South Australia’s Adelaide.  Another morning arrival for a full day’s stop.  

Once more we depart in the evening for our continued journey out on the open sea.  As we traveled west as we made our way through where the Great Australian Bight mingles with the Indian Ocean.

We went around the southern tip of Western Australia to arrive at the next port of Perth.  This would be the ship’s final continental port; it was just over an 1100 nautical mile journey from Adelaide.  Our ship docked for the full day and night.

Morning came again, as she tends to do, and we put out to sea.  This time our voyage took us clean though the Indian Ocean, crossing the Equator and looking towards Ceylon.

The air at sea to me was sensational!  It wasn’t hot or cold, it was amazing, it felt so good, so comforting and in a big way, helped to heal my soul.

At just over 3100 nautical miles this voyage was four nights at sea, setting us into the Northern Hemisphere, and on the 5th day we docked in Colombo.

This port was calling to me and so I disembarked in Ceylon to pay my respects to this ancient land and also to see and taste whatever I could in a full day’s time.  I enjoyed my visit, I did.  The seafood I sampled was absolutely delicious!  

The sights were fulfilling, the people beautiful and finally, a bunch of us took a bus up to Kandy Mountain where I experienced a real visual treat!

The following morning our ship departed for what would be my final destination via the R.M.S. Strathmore; Bombay, India.

There was plenty to do on board.  While strolling the decks was certainly my favorite, besides sampling the morning and afternoon tea spread, there was swimming, bowling, shuffleboard, poker, dancing and mechanical horse racing too.  

I probably should’ve used the gym more often but I thought being skinny was good enough.  The ship’s library looked interesting but in the end I ignored that to!

The ship took us around the southernmost tip of India and now in the Arabian Sea we passed Kerala, Goa and finally reached Bombay.  This journey, just over 800 nautical miles took nearly 3 days.  We arrived in the dark hours of the early morning.  

After breakfast it was time to leave this ocean voyage behind me and begin my adventures in India.  On  my way to London of course!  I disembarked this beauty for the final time and touched the soil of my father’s homeland for the first time.

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Strathmore and her four sister ships were given white-painted hulls and buff-coloured funnels.

http://www.pandosnco.co.uk/strathmore.html

R.M.S. Strathmore  ~  After a little research I have discovered this ship belonging to P&O Steam Navigation Co was launched by the Duchess of York  (the Empress Consort of India, wife of King George VI and of course the Queen Mother), 10 days before I was born – how about that!

25. Hope Is Still Alive Beyond the Horizon

Life was like playing hide & seek with Hemma’s family.  Of course I maintained my husbandly status but it wasn’t comfortable.  No matter which room of what I thought was our house alone, that I would go into there was always at least one of them in there;  here or there.

When we escaped to our own room more often than not, there would come a knock at the door.  Really?  I remember when we lived at my family’s home (prior to our son’s birth), the one thing which was sacred was a closed bedroom door.  Clearly it was not practiced within this family unit.

So now let’s get on to the planning of what’s next.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it was about the beginning of winter, 1956.  I had heard before from various sources, that there were many individuals heading out to England, as a life-change move.

One could migrate there easily as we [Fiji] were already a British Crown colony.  While migrating closer to say New Zealand, or Australia, a visa was still needed.  As holders of a British passport, getting into a life in England was not at all difficult, other than securing transportation.

A big push, a tempting plus was the memory of my father telling me to use my government sponsored trip to India.  The British crown was sending each one of us kids, one-way to India if we wanted it.  “Go and see your father’s homeland, if you can.”  I could still hear him telling me this.

Now I could feel the wheels turning in my head.  My brain was starting to formulate the way it would go down.  If I take the free one-way passage to India, then it should be easier to get over to England from there.  From where I am currently positioned in the South Pacific, the journey would take me north-westerly and I would hit Bombay first.

I went into town one day and made an inquiry at the Labour Department.  Could this really happen?  Of course, this was absolutely a service they could provide for me!  To open this chapter up, they supplied me with the necessary forms and the requirements.  This would be my birth certificate and expected date of departure.

Can you even imagine how this re-sparked the 🔥within me?

That evening when I returned home, I made sure to have a private conversation with my wife.  I told it to her like this:  ‘Once I get settled down in London, I’ll call for you.  I’ll have a job and a place for us to stay.  You can travel to me on your own or I will come and get you myself, whatever you need.’

Hemma said she would have to think about this very big change.  She then also said to me, “Why are you always trying to leave Fiji?”  I responded quite calmly to my surprise, ‘There is no future or happiness here for us.  The memories here are becoming to painful.’

She seemed somewhat confused.  ‘Once you go away from here you’ll see what I am saying.’  I told her with great confidence.  It took some time but Hemma finally agreed later that evening; yes you can go she told me and seemed to mean it.  I mean the part about migrating to England.

I submitted my birth certificate, my requested travel date and the filled out forms to the Labor Department the next day.  It was all rapidly processed and my airline ticket to India was booked for Wednesday, the 18th of July, 1956 – Nadi, Fiji to Bombay, India.

TEAL ticket jacket 1956

Of course you understand this had to go in steps.  Of course!

 
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