63. Life Begins in the Village

Early this morning I had decided to explore the downtown Los Angeles area.  Dave had given me some ideas and I was looking forward to discovering more about my surroundings and especially on my own.

It was what I thought to be a hot morning and I just knew it would be a perfect day.  I walked through the Village on my way to a bus stop on Wilshire Boulevard.  I knew to go east as west would land me at the beach!  Not a bad choice either but today was for concrete.

I boarded the downtown Los Angeles bus and chose a window seat towards the rear.  After a couple of stops an attractive young lady boarded the bus.  

I noticed her taking a quick observation of the scene and as there wasn’t a whole crowd of faces to sift through, she spotted me, I know she did.  At first she walked past me and then turned around and stopped where I was sitting.

“Would you mind if I sat here?” she asked me as she held onto the back of the aisle seat now that the bus was rolling again.  ‘Not at all,’ I replied looking up at her.  

She took the seat and we sat silently for about another minute.  

“Are you from around here?” she asked me, breaking the silence.

‘No actually I only moved into the Village a few days ago.’  And then I boldly carried on.  ‘Before that, for a few days I was in a motel room not too far from here and I had come directly there from San Francisco.  Now I’m living on Gayley.’   

“Oh I live on Gayley too!”  we both smiled and she went on, “Where did you come from?” and before I would answer,  “Are you from India?”

‘No, I am not from India,’ I plainly countered.

She appeared a little surprised and then stated the question, “You are Indian, yes?”

‘Yes I am. Full-blood Indian.’  And now she was clearly more intrigued.

“Well then, if not San Francisco and not India, where are you from?” she questioned me.  

‘I came from Fiji Islands landing first in San Francisco.’  I explained, ‘I lived and worked there for nearly a year.  I then decided to come to Los Angeles and find an old friend of mine.’

“How do you come to have this friend here in Los Angeles?”  still another question from her; I think I am now being interviewed.

‘He is a pen pal from long ago.’   I told her in response.

She listened very intently and I amusedly thought to myself, this girl is computing all this information into some formula or another.

“Fiji Islands?” she asked me thoughtfully.

‘Yes.  Do you know where that is?’  I asked her.  She said to me that she believed it was in the south Pacific Ocean.  I smiled with delight and then added, ‘That’s right and so you have a better idea, the closest large land to us is New Zealand.’  

It was once again quiet but for only a few moments, both of us absorbing information perhaps.  A little more conversation transpired in the next moments.  She then took out a little notepad and began scribbling in it.  I of course thought nothing of it.  

This young lady then tore the page out from the book, folded it and handed it to me.  I opened it up to look at it and there was her telephone number and address.  

She appeared over the moon with our dialogue and said, “Here’s my address and telephone number in case you’d like to have coffee with me some time – we could continue this conversation.”

I asked her for another sheet of paper and taking out my pen from my shirt pocket, I scribbled my contact information and handed it to her.  I could tell this gesture pleased her.  

My randomly chosen bus stop somewhere in the middle of the city had arrived, I excused myself and we said our goodbyes.  Clearly we were both tickled pink for the sudden spark of dialogue and the thought of where it might possibly lead.  

I walked around without aim for about half an hour and then my nose caught a delicious smell.  I thought to keep walking but after about half a block this aroma got the better of me and I did an about face.

First I looked into the giant pane glass window of the obvious restaurant and noticed the crowd.  Then I spotted the buffet laid out in what seemed to be the middle of a large dining room.  

I had the feeling this was something like one of my favorites in San Francisco, Cliftons.  I entered without further resistance.  I paid the cashier $2.38 -the sum keeps coming up strong in my mind so I believe that is accurate.  

Wow what a spread, so many salads, soups and delectable hot items.  All kinds of most everything I would hope for; various beef, chicken and fish preparations, rice, potatoes, breads (the great American diet, right?), things I couldn’t identify, desserts and drink choices too.

I spent a leisurely near two hours there, taking my time, tasting everything and getting a good dose of people watching as well.  I believed I was witnessing many an American family up close and in the course of their mealtime normalcy.

When at last I knew I was done for, it was time to get some fresh air.  I walked around observing the city of Los Angeles’ life around me, window shopping and taking notice of all the lovely old buildings of downtown.  

This took me another hour and half into my day’s adventure.  And now I was feeling tired so I resigned to call it a day.  I caught the westbound bus along Wilshire back to Westwood Boulevard.  That’s where I got off to walk to my place in the Village.

No sooner I got into the door and my phone rang.  “I was trying to reach you all morning,” the voice said on the other end.  I didn’t offer much information of my whereabouts but offered my ‘how can I help?’  It was the woman who employed me.  

She called to tell me about a certain tenant whom she wanted me to keep a closer eye on.  “They’re a rowdy sort and I want you to tell me if there’s any trouble.”  I assured her I would of course.  All this would figure into my daily life in the village, Westwood Village.

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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!

9. Fog in My Pocket With an American Touch 🇺🇸 part 2

Another clear memory I have was the fog being so thick this one particular night.  I felt as though I could reach out, grab a handful of the stuff and keep it in my pocket!

Almost funny is the next day when it was perfectly clear, I looked out to see where I thought I had been the night before and then realized; had I taken one more step, I’d have dropped straight into the icy waters of the ocean!

I remember watching too that day, as our ship was receiving the last of the load, how it had sunk half way under the water due to the additional weight!  But this also meant a better night’s sleep!  😴  How so you might ask?

We’d benefit with a smoother sail, there would be less shake from the vibration of the heavy propellers, the ship simply rolled better.  Everything up to and including food service and walking was easier to do and objects didn’t fly off the shelves as easily.

Another seven days at sea en route to Honolulu.  More of the same in that we’d get fresh water, exchange mail and whatever necessary supplies are needed.  Although the ship was docked here for 8 hours, we’d be allowed a couple of hours shore leave for souvenir shopping or whatever.

I picked up some Hawaiian shirts for the guys, candies and such for the young ones and muumuus for the gals.  Of course I just had to indulge my taste buds with a watermelon shake again and I remembered exactly where to go and get it!

⚓️  Anchor up!  Another seven days and we have arrived back in Suva.  🤗  My family is there waiting at the docks, it’s a happy reunion.  We take a cab home.  I have a full week to spend with my family.  I’d sleep at home in the night instead of on the ship and have my dinners with the family.

Of course I still had to report for breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts on the ship; there are still passengers on board who would like to have a bite to eat every now again, in case they hadn’t gone ashore!

Laboring hands would come from all over the island to load and unload the ship.  Fiji received its share of lumber and mail.  In addition to the existing load of lumber, our ship took up fresh cargo of sugar, banana and coconut and the always present mail bags for delivery to New Zealand, our next port.

And it is time again for the teardrops to roll as we say our goodbyes once again, especially my mother.

I am on board the SS Lakemba and we are once more sailing out from Suva.  As we gently ply the waters, another ship was entering the harbor; nothing uncommon but for this one, the skipper’s voice came over the intercom announcing the incoming ship as the Royal Yacht, the Gothic and it was carrying HRM Queen Elizabeth II and her Prince.  I believe they were on a portion of her  👑 coronation 🌎 tour.

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As this new year unfolds, we should all encourage one another to pursue our heart-felt dreams, don’t you agree?  Thank you once again for stopping by and sitting in on another little bit of Little Blue Masala’s beginning adventures.  Lots more to come!