38. Heavy Rains Unburden the Soul – my landscape has been washed clean

No one save for a small handful of my family knew that I had returned to Fiji as it was all quite sudden.  The taxi pulled up in front of my most current Fiji address and I anxiously got out of the car.  My mother and brother-in-law chose to wait for me out there.

I saw Hemma’s father and the two courier pigeons (the younger brothers) building something outside as I walked up through the front yard.  I remember the look on his face as I walked by; it was as though he were staring at a ghost.

I went up the steps and into the house.  I noticed my mother-in-law also looked at me the exact same way.  Now for a moment if one thinks about it, when someone you love returns home after being away for a while, even after the initial shock, wouldn’t you go up to them and greet them lovingly?  I imagine so.

With the mother and sisters sitting upon the sofa in the living room, not a one of them making a move for anything, only jaws dropped down from a clear bombshell, I strolled past them headed straight for my bedroom.

The dining room must be passed to get to the bedroom and boy was it ever my turn for the bombshell.  The handyman was sitting at my table eating a meal.  Now ordinarily this would go one of two ways.

Either he just so happens to be using our dining table to enjoy his lunch break or … he feels he has the right to be there because of a familiar relationship in this family?

So which is it?  

Now I am momentarily speechless.  After two ticks into my sudden shock, here comes my wife out of our bedroom and she stopped in her tracks, a holding pattern in the doorway; her turn for the ultimate shock!

But I went over to her and I hugged her.  ‘Hemma you know, I missed you so very much.’  She returned the hug and I was glad for that.  I fear she was rendered speechless by my presence.  

So I continued speaking.  ‘I wasn’t able to make it to England.  I’ll tell you all about it a little later on.  Please just go and get your things.’  Hemma looked at me in disbelief.

‘We are going to my family house.  My mother is waiting outside in the taxi.’  I further stated.  ‘And by the way what is the handyman doing inside the house?’  Hemma started to cry.  By now the rest of her family came in, to join the reunion party no doubt.  

I turned to gaze at the handyman but he had left the scene.  I returned my eyes to my wife who was now looking desperately at her family -perhaps hoping for direction- so I too turned my attention towards them.  They were whispering among themselves.  

Hemma remained next to me.  I waited a few moments and then I asked her, ‘Are you coming with me now or what?’

She left me where I stood, going to the bedroom and as she was closing the door I quickly blocked it.  I continued to ask her, ‘Why are you doing this to me, didn’t you miss me all this time I was away?’

Hemma replied at last.  “I did.  I missed you a lot.  But please understand, you must stay here with me.”  To which I replied, ‘No.  I’ll never stay with your family again!’  

I kept going, ‘Also tell me why the handyman is alone with you in this part of the house. Your parents should have been in here with him or at the very least you would’ve called to one of your brothers or sisters, don’t you think?’  

Hemma had no response.  Looking at her blank face I collected myself quickly and spat it all out.  ‘Anyway I am going home now.  I never want to speak with you or see you ever again.  Good bye Hemma.  You broke my heart so many times but no more I tell you, I want to be free of you for good.’

Hemma was quiet, she said absolutely nothing nor reacted in any way at all.  I walked through the house and straight out the door to the taxi where my brother-in-law and mother were waiting patiently for me.  

For a moment I felt a tinge of sadness that not one single member of that family said anything to me let alone try to stop me.  I was also unhappy to know that not one of them went to the taxi to see if my mother needed a cool glass of water.

I got into the taxi and took one last look at what my life had come to; no one was even at the window looking out.  Must be karmic.

We began the drive towards home and well, it began to rain.  It rained really hard – how perfectly right.  

My family members were waiting inside to welcome me back home.  After briefly meeting with everyone, I treated myself to a cool leisurely shower and taking cue from the storm, I was hoping to wash away the previous moments of this day.  

Feeling lighter and certainly refreshed I felt it was time for a cocktail and believe me, by late afternoon I was already feeling much better… in so many ways.  I unpacked my suitcases, presented gifts and was encouraged to speak of my adventures.  

I was away from the earlier scene, surrounded by people which I knew cared about me, I felt safe in my family home and I was already learning to let go.

 

|||


Time was when, the family honor, their respectability was of the utmost importance.  From generations before, propriety was given in all situations.  Among those rules of conduct; never was it appropriate to leave a young lady alone with any man that is not her family member; much less a young married woman whose husband was absent from the scene, wherever they were.  

Decorum simply didn’t leave room for suspicions and doubt.  This applied to the modest families looking to keep refinement.  Hindu culture as a whole (there are always those folks doing things differently …) held steadfast in these beliefs.  No judgement being passed here only making statement of many a culture’s’ way of life.

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 2

There was still time before lunch duty and so we relaxed on deck –yes, away from the passengers- and watched the ocean go by.  Regardless of how I was doing it, I was thoroughly enjoying my new adventures at sea.  I’d catch full views of whales occasionally and other fish swimming around too, it was fun!

It’s the 7th day and our ship is approaching Honolulu Harbor, it is still the dark hours of the morning. The ship has slowed its pace as it enters the waters of Hawaii, the Harbor Master must board, enter the Bridge and take over, bringing the boat into the port.

I am awake and find myself at the railing on deck to bare witness something I never even dreamed of; the lights of the city. Twinkling from the homes along the mountains were thousands of tiny lights; it was like someone tossed millions of diamonds on to hills of black velvet and I remember saying to myself, “Oh God this must be heaven.”

The experience of a different place; it is now twilight and as if lost in a dream yet feeling the state of wakefulness, I watch the sunrise happening over Honolulu. It was something completely new to me.

It wasn’t at all dark like Fiji as in the level of lights there; just as you cannot count the stars in the sky, it’s how the sight of those lights affected me at that moment. I am looking on at Waikiki.

Back to the kitchen for breakfast service with a definite air of excitement!  We’ve stopped here for supplies such as fresh water, fresh foods, mail and laundry exchange as well.  The length of our ship’s stay in port is 12 hours; our shore leave would be about 4-6 hours.

A group of us hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to a great place where we could shop and check out a little of the local scene, which we could enjoy in a short period of time.  He took us to a big mall complex (which a few years ago I returned to, it was still there) and I ate pineapple of course!  And for another enjoyable treat I had a watermelon shake for the first time in my life, it was delicious!  I bought some Hawaiian shirts too.

Back to the ship and we are heading towards Vancouver, Canada and another 7 days at sea. Our ship is bringing sugar in from the plantations of Fiji for delivery into B.C., Canada. British Columbia was extending a wet welcome – it was soooo cold especially due to the fact I come from a southern tropical climate. I was used to warmer rains!  This rain was freezing and it was my first experience in cold rainy weather.

There was a warming period however – I met and fell in love (or so I thought) with a lovely French – Punjabi girl.  Sonia was 18 and one of many daughters of a sawmill big shot in Canada.  We first met at local nightclub, dancing and having a drink or three.  Hold on, I got just a little ahead of myself, so I’ll detail it out for you just a bit.

A friendly passerby on the street directed my friends and me to this particular club as we walked along the streets of Vancouver one early evening.  He too was an Indian national. We fell into a mutual hello as our eyes met, we all began conversing.

It started off with our ‘what to do around here’ answered with his suggestions of shopping, restaurants and a great club that was a good place where a younger crowd meets.  He told us that he too went there sometimes.

We found it and went in. It was a nice dance club, no hard liquor, only beer and soft drinks; that’s a good thing as younger people were welcome there too.  We grabbed a few seats and about 3 or 4 tables away sat a group of young girls.  I couldn’t see exactly their faces but naturally that assemblage received my attention.   Ah, eighteen and still so innocent.

At first it was difficult to catch a full glance of her face but as the girls began going off to the dance floor, I got a clearer vision.  And I’m so glad I did.  She and I definitely began to notice one another; it was that subtle eye flirtation and shy quickly looking away yet a corner smile would form as the head turned.

And every time I looked her way I noticed she too was looking my way.  All the while I’m going through fifty ways in my head as to my approach and if I did, what should I say?  This went on all evening.  I felt we were surely on to something and I wanted to know what that might be. I felt she may be thinking the same things, I hoped.

Well that night, we didn’t meet, the guys and I just hung out for maybe two and a half hours but not once did this young lady and I verbally communicate.  The guys and I had to return to the ship for an early morning start for breakfast, so we left and that was that.

|||

_______________________________________________________________

Sonia is of course a fictitious name but trust me, the young Canadian gal was very real  🙂

 

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 1

At this time Honolulu was protected by United States but still independent from America.

This first experience I had on this job was a seven-day journey from Fiji to Hawaii; this was just the first leg.  My shipboard position placed me in the pantry, which is where we prepared the foods that were just cooked in the kitchen for the waiters to serve the passengers in the dinning room.

Even though this was a cargo ship, there would be passengers on board.  These people paid good money to be on a cargo ship instead of a cruise ship mainly because the stops in port were for longer periods of time.  Plus it’s not as crowded.

While on the ship we worked every day but we also had several long breaks in between meal times.  The routine is easy to follow and it works flawlessly.  My new friends, workmates and I would always listen to music, we’d play cards a lot and enjoy a beer or two along with lots of great conversations; life-stories and what have you.

I did my best to take my time off responsibly as call of duty was 6am regardless, there were no excuses and no exceptions; passengers were my duty, that’s it!

I will tell you some thoughts I initially had while out at sea on this very first adventure of mine. I missed my mother terribly, my sister-in-law’s cooking and my close family members and friends.

I was not scared about anything; I loved the ocean so very much.  I felt its beauty as I saw its power and in its calm and rough faces I knew I made the right choice.  I have to admit here, I did experience seasickness at a point for a couple of days, and then it was over and thankfully didn’t occur while I was at my post.

And just so you have a little idea of how the mornings went along, I share this:  after breakfast service was over, we’d clean the dining room and set up for lunch service.

Then we could order from the chef anything we wanted to eat and it was our turn to enjoy a very nice breakfast. I do recall the chef definitely took pride in his meal preparations for anyone that would be eating his food and a bonus; he was a very nice man.

After breakfast it was time for us to get into the passengers’ rooms and tidy them up.  We were multi-taskers as this ship was not staffed the same as a luxury liner would be.

The captain’s boy who had originally set me up for this position on board the SS Lakemba kept me at his side and we’d handle the skipper’s quarters.  Once all the rooms were done, we had to get our own cabins cleaned up.

|||


Once again I thank you for checking back with us.  I hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday season in one form or another.  The Little Blue Masala has finally set sail, tasting the open sea and different climates too!  Well, at some point we all have to get our feet wet don’t we?