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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33. Stalemate – a New Game is in Order

One day and much to my surprise, my mausa (maternal uncle) showed up and yes, right here in Bombay!  He came in from Fiji with an associate of his and was just wanting to visit … hmmm.  I couldn’t help but to wonder if my brother had something to do with this.

We spent just about every day together.  We weren’t perfectly alone as this associate (tagalong rather) was always with him.  Jittu would go off and do other things with his family while mausa and I did whatever it was we did, going around here and there, eating this and that and basically sightseeing.  

This associate of his I felt very strongly about.  Though it wasn’t my place to voice my opinion of this person I was not at all pleased with his attendance.  I felt sure he was along for a free ride; not once ever did he offer to pay for anything.  

There was just a certain air about him.  But I never asked my mausa about him because who knows, maybe it was some sort of payback or … well that’s why I won’t assume.  I still didn’t like it.

One day mausa came to my hostel to pick me up as was the usual and we went for lunch.  Afterwards we enjoyed a nice drive, not looking to see anything in particular.  He then told me he did not like Bombay.  He was ready to head towards home going first through Singapore and then Australia.

He said I should go with him as his guest.  I was very happy for that gracious invitation of course but I did not wish to return to Fiji.  I’m supposed to be on my way to London.  I gratefully thanked him for his most generous offer and reminded him that I must make my way to England.

He did understand and just before he left, he pocketed me some money and yes I will admit it was a big help to be sure.  Then he was gone.  

Imagine this: neither myself nor Jittu were locals for one and the population of Bombay, never mind the rest of the Indian subcontinent was already astronomical.  Looking for work, the percentage of competition for any one position was completely overwhelming, Why do you think Jittu and I sold movie tickets?   

After my mausa’s departure, Jittu and I returned to doing whatever it was that we were doing … hanging out in Bombay and ultimately closing our season of friendship.  We went on for a few more weeks.  Jittu gave me his contact information for back home in Africa.  

I had no way of knowing how much longer the Suez Canal would be closed and when would I really be able to afford a flight to London.  These flights’ price tag remained well, sky-high as this was really the only way to England at that time.  I had to make a move though and I knew I must leave India and my bond with Jittu behind.

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With the Suez Canal not reopening until March of 1957, which of course I didn’t know at the time, I would’ve been in India for a few months more and most likely homeless and hungry, not knowing how much longer I could continue selling movie tickets.  I had to make a move.