78. Naval Clearance & Not-so Scary Neighbors

Day to day life is running normally, anyway as normal as one’s idea is of that.  My children are growing into their own sense of self and Diana and I are getting to know one another on yet another different level.

Somewhere in the telling of this year 1965, a cousin of mine came over from Fiji, their ship stopping in Los Angeles en route to Great Britain.  She brought her son with her as they were moving to London.  The ship arrived at eight in the morning and would leave at five in the evening sharp.  The very same as in Fiji; remember reading about that?

I went to the docks at San Pedro and picked them up and brought them home to meet my family.  Of course I made them a nice Indian lunch too.  It was a wonderful visit and getting news of the family directly from a close member made it all the more special.  Diana really enjoyed meeting someone from my side.  In the late afternoon we took them back to their ship.

Not too long after seeing my cousin my eldest niece (my brother’s daughter) who was also traveling to London to marry and start her life, stopped here in California and we did the very same with her.  

More current news of home, a loving embrace from a dear one and another one to meet my family; my nieces and nephews were just like little siblings and the smaller ones, like kids to me.

And now to a deeper degree I’m realizing the depth of my longing for the bond of my family back home, especially after those visits.  I began contemplating how I would get back to Fiji for a long overdue visit; how could I do this?

To undertake this journey would involve a good chunk of change and that would be a bit harder to come by now that I’m raising a family.  Then I remembered how my working on the ships got me around well, why not do it that way?

I shared this thought with Diana and she agreed, it was a smashing idea.  Ah but how would I do it from here in America … probably not the same as when I applied in Fiji.  Diana showed her enthusiasm by reaching out on my behalf for information.

She found out it would be necessary to first contact the US NAVY for clearance followed by applying for a union card.  And the union end of things would have to happen up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Subsequently I’d have to find a ship which would hire me and take me sailing … or some such water adventure!

One day we left our kids with Susan (who was visiting us every weekend anyway) and the two of us drove south to the Naval station in Long Beach.  It would be the Merchant Marines with whom I’d be making application.

In the process I was given paperwork, information and instructions and I was directed to return as soon as possible with a photograph to be used on the US Navy clearance identification card, should I be accepted.  

At home we discussed this option further; what all would it entail and make solid the decision once and for all if it really was a step I should take.

In agreement on the subject we returned to Long Beach with forms filled out and a bit of underlying excitement to go with.  We waited patiently in the reception area.  They called me up.  I was informed I’d receive my security clearance to board any US ship and was handed my United States Naval clearance ID card.  

Wow! with a little extra adrenaline pumping and feeling pretty special, we left there happy and hungry.  We decided to stop for lunch before returning to Santa Monica and our kids.  

C - stawberries & coffee

With that part out of the way, I relaxed and returned to the daily normal routine, that being still going to work at the Santa Ynez Inn up PCH and playing daddy, husband and son-in-law.

A few weeks later we found out our neighbors would be moving out.  An opportune vacancy at the Euclid apartments and right next door in fact at that, the only other apartment.  

It was a spacious 1 bedroom unit.  Diana and I both thought right away to tell Susan about it.  My wife’s little sister Lisa had been wanting to move out to California (she had been recently divorced and was now doing the single mom thing) and so in this convenient and happy news, her mother absolutely wanted it!

I discussed this possibility with the landlady and after a brief moment of thought, she said it was actually a very wonderful idea; she liked the thought of family close and being there for one another.  Delighted we all were.  The landlady told us she’d need 3-4 weeks to prep it after the current tenants moved out.

Everything was quiet on the ship subject but to be sure I was waiting to hear about one going to Fiji especially now that I had the sense of security that would come with Susan living next door.  

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I would be taking this journey to Fiji alone.  For this being the only feasible way to get there, the rest of the family couldn’t go.  Diana really seemed to be quite all right with it all.  She knew how much I missed my family, especially my mother.

And so the days went by as they tend to do; we made sure to take the kids to the park and beach and much as possible and usually followed by ice cream.  If I was at work, the ladies still took the four children to the park . You know just busy enjoying the lovely southern California weather.

The living arrangement with Susan and Lisa next-door worked real well, an added sense of security if you like, especially on those late nights at work that kept me over night at the Inn.  You may recall reading in a previous post that I had access there to a room at the graciousness of the owners.

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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.

 

36. What’s For Breakfast?

I’m telling you one could hardly walk on the streets of downtown Melbourne for it being so crowded.  Everyone bumping into someone or other; of course I didn’t mind if it was a pretty girl, I mean you can’t blame me can you?

One morning I was in the breakfast room enjoying my meal when suddenly I felt as though a figure was looming near me.  I thought not much of it at first assuming it was only someone pausing to decide where to sit.  Well, that was it.  

A young man asked if he can sit at my table.  I looked up.  I nearly fainted from shock I do believe.  And here I always thought it was a big, big world!  It was Noori’s little brother, Farhan.  Yeah, the same one that always wanted to beat me up everytime I walked past their home back in Suva.

This will be good I thought and extended the welcome to sit.  He looked on at my plate for a brief moment and then said, “What you are having for breakfast looks real good, I think I will order the same.”   I must say that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Why?

Upon my breakfast plate was eggs, skillet potatoes, toast and pork sausage.  Remember this is before all the modern substitutes for pork and beef we have now; turkey, vegan, etc and  well as most everyone knows Muslim faith does not allow the eating of pork.  Farhan knew full well that he was about to indulge in pork; that is to say if he hadn’t already.

I bring this up because it’s just too funny when I think back on the reasons he fought me when we were younger; Muslim and Hindu, no go … do not come near my sister!  and all that.  Now here he sat with me enjoying pork sausage.  

I refrained from chastising him.   C’est la vie!

We exchanged pleasantries during our meal, obviously the both of us a little more matured since our last meeting.  He was going to school there in Melbourne.  With the prices of everything sky high during the Olympics, he’d caught on to the fact of breakfast at the YMCA costing only a fraction of what the restaurants all over the city were charging.  Smart.

He asked what I’d been doing and where I was off to next so I told him my agenda, that is as I saw it at the moment.  How nice a conversation can be when ego doesn’t get in the way.  From that point forward I saw him 3 or 4 times more.

Very soon after I arrived here I sent a letter to home, informing them I had left India but that I hadn’t quite made it to London.  Circumstances brought me backwards, to Melbourne.  It wasn’t long before I received a reply.  

The letter informed me of an uncomfortable situation at my house.  It said something about the inappropriate presence of a man, for sometime now, at our residence.  I was advised to return home just as soon as possible.

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