13. Meet Gary

I am now about 3 weeks into my unexpected shore leave and doing my best to adjust.  It was the not knowing …isn’t that the way of things?  Has Sonia received my letter and did the guys find the time to return to the club; did they all meet up? did she ask about me?  what did they say to her and how did she react?  Oh it was all I could do to distract myself from these haunting thoughts.

One of my family members was having a birthday and there was to be a party in our home that evening.  It wasn’t uncommon for the rest of us to invite someone we wanted to share our celebrations with.  My little sister invited one of her favorite classmates over for the evening’s affair.  Her name was **Noori and at this time, she was seventeen.

Noori’s gift to give was a delightful Indian birthday song and wow, what music came out of her!  Without any instrumental accompaniment to her clear, beautiful voice, every word rang like crystal.  I felt as though a professional singer, an excellent one at that, had graced us and I could see that everyone else was as taken as I was.

Afterwards I complimented her as others did too of course, and I asked her where she learned to sing so wonderfully.  Noori laughed and answered, “I’m a bathroom singer.  And when it’s really cold, I just sing my heart out!”

‘You know I’m a pretty good singer too.’  I told her.  I explained briefly that I sang nearly every night to my family.  As I lay in bed after we all said good night, I began to sing with all my heart.  And with my softer songs, most of them would often fall asleep.

I loved to sing, I had a good voice and I knew all the latest songs.  In the morning I was always told how much they loved listening to me sing!  Quite often I was given their requests too.  I found singing to be a good release; oh it was all great fun!  I had come a long way from ‘baa baa white sheep, have you anything for me to eat?’

Anyhow that birthday evening was really a good time for all.  It was dark and late by the time the partying had come to a close and so my brother walked Noori home.  It didn’t take me long to realize how happy I was that she had come.

Well she must’ve really enjoyed herself as well for she was back at our house the next weekend.  Noori helped my sister-in-law prepare lunch for the family.  As I was going about whatever business I had around the house I took notice that she appeared to be looking out for me, perhaps taking note of what I was doing; curious I suppose.

You see I kept looking her way too all the while trying to do it inconspicuously if that was even possible in this not-so-very-big house.  Well this was kind of fun and as the days and weeks went by I sensed her fondness of the family as well as their growing tenderness towards her.  Okay.  I took pleasure in her presence too; what can I say?  She was a delight!

I guess the time had to come when one of her younger brothers would feel obliged to make his presence known.  And what better opportunity than that being every time I walked past their home -which actually was unavoidable when one has to get to town from my spot on the island- an invitation for aggressive behavior I suppose.

Their home was a big house up on the hill, perfect with large picture windows and so they could see all the comings and goings on the main road below.  This included me walking down the street minding my own business.

But I also came to discover that if Noori was at home and she figured it was about the time I might be present, she’d look out the window for me.  This had to be the fuel for his challenge: as I knew it, their family was strict Muslim and mine of course was Hindu.  A no-go and a reason for a hot-headed adolescent male to assert his brotherly duty.

He’d yell at me from his window up there, “Leave my sister alone or I’ll come down there and beat you up!”  One day I guess he had had enough of just hollering out the window so he hid behind a tree on the main road, waited for me and as I approached he jumped out in front of me.

We exchanged a few punches, almost comical.  Then one of the older brothers who must’ve passed by one of the big open windows of the house noticed the scrimmage below and yelled out to his brother to get back home immediately!  He ran off right away.

After that day our paths crossed a few more times again and of course he tried to intimidate me and I always told him the same thing; his sister comes to my home not to see me but because she is good friends with my little sister.

For whatever is written in the stars, Noori continued to frequent my house.  It was like a second home to her I think.  I say this due to her actions; she’d go around the house helping everyone in any way she could.  Naturally this bonded her with us – her constant presence and her conduct to be counted among her beautiful qualities.

A funny thing was that she began to call me Gary.  So I had to ask, ‘Why are you calling me Gary?’  She replied, “I like that name very much.”  Noori further explained that she had read a book and the character which left a favorable impression in her mind was named Gary and so she wanted to call me Gary.

She added, “A little secret between the two of us and no one will know I am referring to you!”  I think she likes me.

Time waits for no one and now it is 1954.  Remember Hemma?  Well her family is feeling the need of pressuring my family to commit me into marriage with their daughter; this based on a previous discussion that had already taken place while I was gallivanting around the Pacific Ocean.  And they even said they thought it should happen by May of that year.

How about that for life-altering measures?  Here I go again; I was just getting into a comfortable place with Noori, what an annoying problem!

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**Noori is of course a fictitious name once again, yet for a very real person in this account of the Little Blue Masala’s life.  I’ll insert here that all the names (save for Gary, that is accurate) are fictitious but all the characters themselves are true to life.

10. Kiwis For a Queen and Aussie Burgers For Me! – part 1

It was four days journey to Wellington, our first harbor in New Zealand and its capital city.  A portion of the lumber and produce was unloaded here.  

Looking around to absorb all I could I felt as though I had arrived into another world.  What beautiful hills and a city layout that made for a stunning sight.  And windy, oh yes!  *hold onto your hats and take some deep breaths!

I was able to enjoy two days here at this marvelous location -never enough time for most of the ports I found myself in- and now that I am seeing it, even a little tempted to move here:  I had a couple of female pen pals that were from here in New Zealand and we had become fairly well-acquainted over time.  One of them even visited me in Fiji with her family.  What a grand time that was; good memories.

Edging along the Canterbury Plains is Christchurch and this was our second port to unload more lumber and Fiji produce.  These plains stretch out to the Southern Alps; yes I did say Alps!  Magnificent is just a thought and I had two days to enjoy that.  I remember seeing a lot of sheep and thinking how quaint it all appeared to be.

Onward to Dunedin to unload the last of the New Zealand cargo.  We had loads of lumber still but that was for Australia.  I got lucky with three days here in this wonderful South Island city!  

I saw a lot of beautiful old buildings, inviting residential streets and lovely green city parks interwoven throughout the city.  Nature respected.

It was about the last week in January as we were finishing with the New Zealand/Australia run and this is warm weather season below the Equator, remember.

Well what have we here?  The Gothic seems to have caught up with us!  

It was here in Dunedin when I finally laid eyes on the very beautiful, young ++Queen Elizabeth II; she was waving to her subjects of this absolutely gorgeous country with her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by her side, from the balcony of the Dunedin Town Hall (I do believe that was the building where I saw her).  

I overheard in some conversation that she was there to enjoy a royal concert that night.

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* I asked some questions to learn a little more about my current surroundings.  Most fascinating to me was the windy, intoxicating air.  Let’s see if I remember this correctly; Wellington sits on this southern point of the North Island of New Zealand, basically where the Tasman Sea meets up with the South Pacific Ocean [Cook Strait] and between these two islands, the wind comes in from the west and will squeeze its way through a gap there and this apparently causes it to pick up speed.  See?  It has cleansed the air along its way – Chicago’s match below the Equator perhaps?

++ It was just recently that I read somewhere of Queen Elizabeth II’s popularity (at least at that time) among the people of New Zealand.  It was said 4 out every 5 people came out to see her during that coronation tour.  While I certainly hadn’t planned my day around seeing her, I got lucky and happened upon the chance sighting, quite clearly too I might add.  I was glad of it too.