16. I found a piece of my heart that was still available!

23rd May, 1954 – The week of tradition has passed and the time has come for me to bring Hemma home.  I saw her standing at the front door and when she noticed me walking up to her house, her face lit up immediately!  

Her greeting for me was one filled with warmth and acceptance as she gestured to me with an open arms greeting, inviting me into her parent’s home.  As I walked passed her into the house I sensed very strongly that she was most anxious for me to take her into our new life and this pleased me.  

We entered the living room together where I was greeted by the family.  The younger sisters and the 2 little courier pigeons aka little brothers now called me jija-ji -respectfully big sister’s husband- and the parents now called me beta (as in dear child**).

We shared pleasant conversation for a little bit and then lunch was served.  All the while we are talking, my stomach grumbled gently which I’m certain was due mainly to the delicious smells coming from the kitchen.

I knew I was in for a treat because the vegetarian phase had now passed and well, I’m not going to tell a lie, I’m not vegetarian as was my father and brother; no I couldn’t do it.  I did reveal that part of me while docked in Australia, remember?

Anyhow lunch was beautiful and the anticipation of the very next step was both Hemma’s and my dessert.  What can I say?  The time had come for the final departure from her childhood.  She would now take up the journey into her husband’s home** and her new life.

Goodbyes and all that stuff … a quick skip forward to walking down the street.

I realized this was the first time that she and I were completely alone, ever!  I took this opportunity to ask her a question.  As we walked along I solicitously asked her, ‘Did you miss me during this past week?’

We had been holding hands as we walked and at this point she looked into my eyes and said, “Very much.”  No further steps were taken and then Hemma added, “I love you and I want to spend all of my life with you so don’t ever leave me to go anywhere!”

Hemma then wrapped her arms around me and hugged me just as tight as she could.  I chuckled, quickly responding with, ‘Okay I will never go anywhere without you.’

I thought to myself at that moment, ‘I lost Sonia.  And then I lost Noori.  I will not lose you.’

We arrived at my house, now our home, to lots of huggie-buggies but not before a quick welcoming pooja* to bring in the new daughter.  Everyone was there to greet her, greet us, as the newlywed couple.

It wasn’t long before Hemma was being shown the various rooms in the house; now she would see where our bedroom is and of course the kitchen!

Speaking of which, after that delicious, filling lunch and the nice stroll home, this man was ready for his afternoon nap!  Without missing a beat, Hemma made certain no one disturbed my peaceful slumber, and I rested very well.

And so began our life as husband and wife; young and innocent!  I returned to work and Hemma slipped into her role at home perfectly.  We did all the fun things; enjoyed movies at the theatres, had picnic lunches at the beach, shopped, went for milkshakes on a perfect day and visited friends and family for tea time or meal time, whatever the time was!

You know our backyard is the heavenly Pacific Ocean and so there are lots of secluded stretches of gorgeous sandy beaches to laze around on.  Our climate being of tropical nature allowed for most any day to be a fabulous beach day!

I can tell you at this point in my life, I was very happy.  We did fall in love with each other, I am certain.  I had a loving companion to go forward with and together we dreamed and planned; everyday was fresh and exciting with the prospect of a hopeful future.

|||


*** usually used for either gender although beti is feminine

**   It is customary the wife moves into the husband’s home and becomes part of that family  going forward; the honorable role of daughter-in-law.

*     pooja – prayer

2. 🏊🏽 the Sweet Water Pool and a Marconi – part 2 (from the Cinema)

My brother-in-law had a business where they built buses on to prebuilt motorized bases (something like a big-rig cab minus the trailer) which they bought from elsewhere.  At this garage they also tended to some cargo trucks, did general auto repair work, and the city taxis would sleep there every night.

It was located in Suva near the wharf where the big ships docked which was an especially perfect location as far as I was concerned; more on that later.

Every time his company completed the building of a new bus, a celebration was in order!  This consisted of taking the entire immediate family up to a beautiful place called 17 Mile Rubber Plantation for an outing devoted to a delicious picnic and play.  🌿 Think along the lines of ribbon-cutting ceremony and gratitude given in prayers, all rolled into a jovial time for all.  Oh the fun we would have there!

💧There was a natural fresh water pool, which was fed directly by the cascading waters from the above mountaintop.  This body of refreshing water, which we lovingly referred to as the sweet water pool was conveniently located center stage of the very tall rubber trees.

These wonderful giants (to me) provided excellent shade and the dappled sunlight called forth a leisurely spent afternoon.  Another highlight for me was the proximity of this picnic spot to the ocean allowing me to continuously hear the surf crashing on to the sand.

The family all together at various intervals sitting around the pool, the younger girls and boys either hiking around the area or in the pool splashing around happily, such joyful memories!  We would enjoy cool refreshing drinks savoring the likes of guava and coconut juice and there was always an inexhaustible supply of deep red 🍒 to snack on!

I remember the ladies always brought a deck of cards to play the favorite game of trump; one could say it was a part of our tradition, this game.

Meal production time and it was most often the men who would get busy cooking our picnic meal and it went something like this:  everyone had their place on the meal prep *assembly; someone to prepare the ingredients, another is adding said ingredients to the giant pots, one is standing by as the fire & pot watcher, stirring the mix, and another is the taster and contributing whatever else needs doing.

Synchronized like clockwork but a lot more fun. The menu was usually our favorites like curried chicken and veggies, roti and rice of course, and the must have tomato chutney.

After indulgence of a once-again perfect meal, ** we’d rest in the shade for a bit before heading out for a swim or more exploring.  Several of us would climb atop the giant rocks there to jump into the cool waters.

This particular time -as I had not previously attempted this maneuver- I wanted to share in the fun the rest of my family was having so I climbed up and jumped right in.  Well I guess I should’ve taken the time to think it over.

I really wasn’t an experienced swimmer by any stretch of my imagination and so I began to take in water.  A lot of water!  I was now drowning.  I surfaced two or three times, clearly struggling.  As my stars had planned, it wasn’t my time.

Luckily there was a scouting troop at the watering hole also enjoying the beauty of the day.  And so I am told, one of the young men, a Gujarati fellow noticed me and without a second thought I’m certain, jumped right in to save me!  The water was a bit murky and as I went under again, he had to search but he then felt my flailing hand touch his leg.  I had been found …and saved.

📻 I can remember when my brother brought home a Marconi shortwave radio.  🎶 I liked the music I was hearing and not until later did I realize it was country western music.  There were nice shows everybody enjoyed listening to; ‘Voice of America’ and ‘All India Radio’ to name a couple and these programs generally came in the early morning hours starting about five.  Good way to start my day as far as I was concerned.

This radio ran on batteries along with a couple of bamboo sticks & wire for reception.  My friends and I put together an antennae consisting of what we knew to be ‘special’ wire which we strung on to said bamboo sticks.  We then hoisted these sticks up, pounding them into the ground and running one of the wire streams into the house.

Listening to the radio programs further whet my appetite for adventures waiting to be had and I felt absolutely packed to the gills with such fervor; it was alive and ready to erupt inside of me like a volcano!  I knew that part of me needed to come out and explore, at the very least.

I may be incorrect in thought here but I felt there was no one else as interested in such foreign things as I was.  A display of overwhelming curiosity was oozing from every inch of me and I just had to find the answers to all of my questions.  The family seemed to be content with the way things were but I always wanted so much more.

At one point we also acquired a phonograph player and yes we played those old 78 rpm records and yes, I was fascinated by the picture of the dog attentively listening to … His Master’s Voice and I used to watch the little dog go round and around.

There was a once-removed uncle that at some point had looked at my palm, and told my mother something like, ‘…this guy can’t be held back, he’ll always be traveling the world.’  My mother loved me so much and she desperately tried to keep me safe at home with her.  Even that love didn’t stop me from breaking my security I had on my island home.

|||


* The picnic meal was always as fresh as can be.  At the Plantation there were fire pits ready to receive sticks and wood for the cooking fire.  Today the family still does things this way at the large get-togethers and many of our homes have 2nd kitchens, even if it is out back or in a garage due to snow and rain!  At any rate our meals were –and still are- top notch!

** In taking a retrospective look, I have realized, in the very act of being outdoors in the greatness of nature, how greatly my appetite is increased, how much better I feel –even if under the weather- and how divine a nap underneath a tree can be!

These days I go to my (very comfortable) bed and sometimes it takes most of the night to fall asleep, in fact, I usually don’t get into a deep sleep till the wee hours of the morning.  Yet camped on the beach or in the woods, sleep comes so easy and so soundly.

Nature – the way we were meant to be!