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.

 

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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.

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!