5.   🙈 A Jungle Symphony Especially For Me 

I can remember a time when I was about 14-15 years of age; I was still fascinated by the big screen.  In this instance I refer to the Indian movies that played only on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The reel-to-reel films arrived from India or England either by ship or aeroplane and these were the selected nights of showing.  Clearly we had to wait awhile for the new release to get to our little corner of the South Pacific.  Once they arrived at the cinema house, the advertising could then go up for the next week or so and I’d make my plans to attend!

I was hell-bent on going to the cinema no matter the consequences!  In this case the consequence always came afterwards, when it was time to go home.  Yes I would have to face the squishy unpaved, shadowy and extremely long path which -if I survived- would lead me home.

I’d take this dark path, the only way leading home in fact and 9 out of 10 times I was walking it alone.  A simple fact one could count on most every night was at the very least, a solid rainstorm with or without a good wind accompanying it.

I knew full well I’d have to face this night path every time I went to the cinema yet I remained a stubborn lad who faithfully followed his heart’s current desires.

In the evenings the movie always started at 8 o’clock and would end between 10:45 and 11 at night.  You could probably set your watch by the night’s rain, which started as the show was letting out.  After all when you’re sitting in the warm theatre, captivated by the big screen you don’t fret about what comes next when it’s all over and the time has come to go home.

We’d take the last bus of the night aptly named the Hospital Bus due to its routing which serviced the hospital along the way.  Mine was nearly the last stop in the residential area.  I got off near the ditch at the bush illuminated by a street lamp on the roadside.  This was it!

As the bus drove off into the dark night, I was left standing with my umbrella somewhat protecting me ☔️ and I’d quickly glance at the finely built house with its electric porch light on the other side of the street: hmmm I could be  🏡  already.  Oh never mind.

I quickly turn my attention to the muddy path over here knowing this was my way and proceed to roll up my trousers to knee length, removing my sandals before entering the field that lay before me.  I switch on my torch with its dimmed light, it was still faithful.

I was only a few moments into the dark walk when my hearing was assaulted by thousands of cricket bugs, a choir of croaking 🐸 and the sobering moos of the cows in the field.

Picture if you will, a cow is sitting down in some random pasture location minding her own business just chewing away at the cud and I unknowingly approach her position.  She suddenly stands up – equally startled as me I think- and the brush that’s touching her manages to crackle, even as it is wet with rain.  Although I cannot see the cow, as it’s so dark, I do see shadowy figures that I’d rather not see.

Add to that the sound of my own bare feet squishing through the mud, the feel of my heart pounding in my chest and then the occasional frog decides to leap across my path, sometimes ending up either on or under my bare feet… aaagh!   Squish!

This wasn’t at all helpful especially when my senses were already heightened by the thick raindrops and *flying shadows and I thought for sure this was it; the ghosts were coming for me! ^^

I dare not direct my torch light away from the path in front of me because there was no telling what I might see surrounding me; I really didn’t want to know what else was out there.  My steps increased in speed.  And while there were just a few other homes around the area (very few and far between), their house lights were off as they were already in bed or gone out; this wasn’t useful to me here at all!

I remember these fairly large trees in that field -we called them ivy trees but I’m not certain what they’re known by in English- and sitting in those trees were the **oolooos, the watchful onlookers 🦉 who couldn’t help but to hoot incessantly after darkness arrived.

Oh this was all just too much for my youthful imagination and I could hear them asking me, “Whoooo goes there?”  Of course the wind seemed to pick up and the cricket bugs were going at it.

I thought I was hearing the whoosh of flapping wings, the jungle sounds surrounded me and my steps were becoming more slippery with the deluge of rain beating the already mudded earth!  It was time for this boy to run like hell and just as fast as I could towards the safety I knew I’d find at home.

Whew!  Finally that comfort comes -once more and thankfully I might add- when I’ve reached the end of that nearly one mile stretch and I can see my mother standing at the window with the lantern in her hand, as though she were watching out.  My heart knows she definitely was waiting for me.

She opened the door as soon as she caught sight of me and as I arrive at the front of the house, she reminds me to wash and dry my feet.  There’s an outside tap next to the porch, so I wash and dry as I’m catching my breath.  I go up the porch and as I go through the door I cautiously look behind me to be certain I’ve not been followed!

“Change into warm clothes and I’ll get some hot food for you.”  These words she lovingly repeated to me every time I put myself into this situation.  She also never failed to tell me, “I told you so!”

I am proud to say that I know how much my parents loved me.  I always felt it, I always knew it.

It was around the summer 1951 when my father passed away.

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*    flying shadows – 🦇

^^ Quite common in the Indian homes (speaking of the ones here in Fiji of course) are tales of spirits; ghost stories and a lot of them. Oft times these stem from tragedies, sad, scary and experienced sometimes by those known as well as unfamiliar to anyone kind of stories.

** oolooos – owls

1. Imagination & Beyond! part 1

By now one of my uncles and his wife had given us two cousins (though we always referred to one another as brother and sister).  Living in the same house has a tendency to secure these bonds.

Imagination is a wonderful friend!

I must have been about 5 when I began paying extra attention to the early morning rooster.  Their wake up call, “Coo Coo Roo Coo” would wake me up at the crack of every dawn.  I would tell my family about the conversations that went on:  ‘Did you hear them?’  I’d ask.

Some were near and some faint and far.  I remember thinking that they must be conversing with one another.  “Hey!  Are you guys up over there?  It’s time to wake everybody!”  one would say, calling all the way from England to the one in America or maybe even Australia was talking to the one down the road, though I wasn’t really sure where these places were; past the ocean is all I could understand.

We were a very happy family, living in a nice wood-built house with a very big yard.  We kids played hide & seek, rounder (your baseball) and soccer just to name a few of our daily activities.

There’s plenty of trees in my childhood; guava, mango, breadfruit, banana, lemon and coconut.  There were vegetable garden patches which included cabbage, butter beans, eggplant, tomatoes, long beans, carrots, chilies, basil and cucumber.   These were our daily food staples, nothing for sale here.

Our house was away from the main street of Waimanu Road and the way to it -as well as some neighboring homes- was covered in heavy brush.  This brush had to be trimmed back in path form regularly.

There was rain nearly every single day and so you can imagine the rate of growth!  The local residents would get together every 2 or 3 weekends with their machetes to manicure that path.  This was to ensure we could walk safely and not get our clothes dirty.

We’d walk through this semi-cleared path, laden with heavy brush on either side to the main road to either catch a bus into town or walk down the road a ways to visit friends or relative’s homes.  But let me not forget to tell you about the overflow from the creeks which ran in various places throughout the field.

These were daily renewed by the guaranteed short cloud bursts and frequent tropical storms which regularly visited the islands.  It would seem that Suva was at the prime location to be hit first.  Our path was often dimpled and quite soggy.

We’d walk barefoot down the path carrying our umbrellas, keeping sandals and a clean towel in a waterproof bag.  We’d then stop at one of the creeks at the end of the path to wash the mud away from our feet.  Now for the clean towel and dry, un-muddied sandals!

 Did I mention it rained just about every day?

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a Little Blue Masala From the Pacific CHILDHOOD ~ pilot episode

A new century, a foreign island to call home and two young lives.  And out of this union sprang many new lives, bringing forth a few fantastic adventures …

🇮🇳 My father was born a Hindu native of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India in 1884.  Twenty-one years later, as an *indentured servant of the British Empire, he sailed out of Calcutta on an English steamer towards a southern Pacific paradise.

While on board the ship coming to Fiji Tappoo from India, as one might imagine, a lot of time was spent on the open sea.   Relationships were forged and in some cases an acquaintance became a friend.  Some of those friends became like family and ofttimes trust accompanied these new relations, especially after disembarking in a new land; most likely these are the only friends one has to start over with.

Coordinates: 18.1416°S 178.4419°E

It was 1905 when he first arrived in the Fiji Islands, then a Crown colony and seated deep in the South Pacific on the International Dateline.  My Hindu mother was born in 1903 into a very loving home, there in Fiji.   ♥   My parents married in 1920.

After my father’s indentured service to the Crown was up, and as a good means of support, my father began to purchase tobacco leaves wholesale from the farmers in the Vunidawa district of Viti Levu, Fiji.  The land there being especially fertile supported dairy farms as well.

When my father sold the tobacco leaves it was in either the bulk or rope form.  In the latter instance he’d cut off and sell just what the customer wanted.  This lucrative business brought to my father one of the main distributorships of tobacco in all of Suva.

This is how he made his small fortune and began raising his family.  My father had purchased land in Toorak, which is approximately a 15-20 minute drive just southwest out of Suva proper.

There came a point in time when some of these shipmates who traveled from India with my father, convinced him to sign some documents (a thumbprint sufficed as a legal signature) which caused the forfeit of his property straight into their hands.  Lacking in proper education, my father didn’t quite understand business dealings and such; he was a decent, kind-hearted and simple man.

My father was told that in return they’d be able to produce better profits for him than what his land was worth currently.  This of course was not their true intention, an un-truth was told; he was being tricked out of his property ownership.  They filled his head with exaggerated tales of profits for all to share in, if they were to bring in developers.

While this reality is a truth in doing, there was only selfish motivation; they knew they were taking his property legally if not most certain, unfairly.  Over a course of time my father had prepared to build a nice big family home on his land.  What neither of my parents realized is this land was no longer theirs.

My father had always given my mother his earnings cash every night because well, she was the bank!  And he loved her very much.  She ran all management of the household; the family finances and he wanted her to have whatever she desired.

Naturally that created quite a stash of cash.  It didn’t take long before my mother’s kind and generous nature was common knowledge outside the household.  She was eventually taken great advantage of as well.

Mainly the people doing the taking were some of the household helpers already employed by my mother.  The workers would at first ask only for a shilling or two for their labors -and my mother always gave each one a little extra- then gradually build up to great wage expectancies, insisting on much more when finished.

They spoke of school fees that couldn’t be paid, or there was not enough food in the house or their children needed clothes and such.  Others in the house felt it was a play upon her sympathies.  She gave to them nonetheless.  It became obvious over a period of time, there were those simply taking advantage of her kindness.  I’m thinking some of these people are legitimately in need -but at every turn?

🦋

I was born on an Easter Sunday morning.  It was the 14th of April in 1935.

C - A Little Blue Masala (cover page)

The location of my home was known as 1 mile, Suva, as it was exactly one mile from Suva’s town center. Previously it was known as Old Golf Link due to its former incarnation as a golf course established by the ruling British of the times.

My mother’s father aka my nana, migrated to Fiji from Surinam, a Dutch Colony on the northeastern coast of South America; he was just a little boy when he arrived with his family.  His father came to Surinam from North India in the latter part of the 19th century.

My nana built this house and with his 2nd wife, resided there as well.  We had other family members living in this home; my mother’s two brothers and their wives but no cousins yet.  In fact most of the family was born there, ending in 1951.  Families were quite united in the days of old.

By the time of my arrival into this family’s life, my parents had already a son and daughter.  My elder brother was born in 1922 and my elder sister was born in 1928 -both were born on the same day- how does one do that?!

I recall being told that my nana and his wife lovingly nicknamed me meethaiLal (sweet [as in candy] red).  As my daughter tells me now, “Oh dad, if they only knew you would grow up to be garamLal! (red-hot!)”

Speaking of red it reminds me of this little boy’s treasure.  My nana had given to me a little red ball about the size of my head, for Christmas.  I absolutely loved that ball more than any other plaything I had.  I played with it all the time; I felt it was my very good friend.  You know it really made me happy.

Then one fateful day as I was playing with my ball it made its way into our fresh water supply of the local well.  It’s the kind of well that you’d see in old movies.  Oh how I cried, realizing I couldn’t get it out.  💔 I thought my best friend was lost forever.

great Nana's picI felt so sad, I couldn’t stop crying and I wouldn’t even eat my dinner that evening.  Finally I just went to sleep.  My nana came home and asked for me.  He was told that I didn’t eat and I wouldn’t stop crying.  No one knew why I was so sad and I didn’t want to tell on myself.

My nana came to me and waking me gently, asked me what was wrong.  I hesitated to tell him because I was scared that I’d get into trouble.  After he assured me it was all right to tell him, I sadly described as best I could how my ball had gone down into that hole in the ground, out in the yard.

I’m sure he was amused by the slight smile on his face and he offered me his hand, inviting me to go outside with him.  We were going to reassess the situation.  He was definitely amused!  He laughed a hearty laugh as he sent the water bucket down into the well to fish out my ball.

My world was perfect once again!  And not only that, a point was made to cover up the well.  Only the adults could now remove this cover as needed.  Thank God it wasn’t due to a child having fallen into the well to get the right thing done.

I was either 4 or 5 years of age when my nana passed away.  There was an empty spot in the house, in my heart.  I missed him very, very much.

 

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* indenture  [noun historical]  a contract by which a person agreed to work for a set period for a landowner in a British colony in exchange for passage to the colony.  > See FREE Oxford Dictionary of English -app  ++ On the Crown’s ticket, my siblings and I (at a future date) were granted free passage to visit our father’s homeland.


I do hope you have enjoyed the launch into this very interesting saga based on true events.  It is a continuing adventure brought forth by some very precious memories of a beloved, now senior, gentleman.  I pray for his continued participation which has been filled with much laughter and a few tears for balance: always a fresh recollection as though it were only yesterday.

Thank you for your indulgence.  Do return next week, Sunday evening about 8P pst for a fresh infusion of some Blue Masala!