45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – and the remains of Friday

January 1959

“What?!”  was all that would escape my brother’s lips.  Both my uncle and brother were clearly shocked by my answer and neither said anything more.  

I can sense my brother wants to ask me why but just couldn’t.  So I offered to tell them both why I said nothing.  ‘I didn’t want to jinx my plans,’ plainly said.

My brother and uncle still wrapped in a fog of disbelief as the rest of the staff came back into the workshop to congratulate me.  I felt a little numb.

I excused myself and went to the boss’s office to inform him.  “Nand I knew you were up to something but I had no idea it was this!  When are you set to leave?”   I told Mr. W that I had to go over to the Union Steamship Company and check for sailing dates and then I’d know for sure.  

‘The sooner the better’ was all I could think.  I assured him it could be as soon as the next few days.

Mr. W offered me leave of my duties and told me he could send my final paycheck home with my brother.  ”I expect you may need some extra time to do a little shopping, spend time with the family and oh yes, pack up your suitcase.”

He shook my hand warmly, other hand on my arm, complimenting me on my work performance and character.  He wished me tons of good fortune.  I was released from my job with his good intentions.

I went immediately across the street to the travel agency -the Union Steamship Company.  I inquired as to the very next available sailing to America.

I was told a ship was due in from the south; the P. & O. Liner Orsova, sailing northeast towards North America.  He double checked his books and informed me there would be a cabin available this Sunday for the 5p sailing.  This cost me £62.

He then told me I would have to disembark in Honolulu, leaving the ship there and head for the airport.  I paid £52 for a one-way ticket on a Pan American flight destined for San Francisco.  

Now that I had obtained my passage out of Suva, I was pretty sure I had all I would need to begin this new chapter in my life.  I caught the bus going straight home.  

C - backyard nostalgia -signed

It’s Friday afternoon.

I took off my shoes, freshened up and then went into the living room.  I sat down and placed the now somewhat notorious envelope on the table and called a family meeting.  The household members gathered.

‘I am going to America.’  I announced – nobody believed me.

My mother said “Why are you saying these things?  You’re always talking of leaving, stop this nonsense!”  

By 4p the entire clan had gathered at my house to say goodbye.  It was an afternoon of mixed emotions.   There was on and off crying going through my family home, especially coming from my mother.  Then my brother came home from work.  There was definitely a sense of sadness about; quite different than the previous times I had left my home.

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45. At Last I’ve Been Dealt the Perfect Hand – Thursday

January 1959

Thursday morning.  I got dressed with a little more spring in my step, enjoyed my breakfast and made sure to grab that bag with those documents before heading out the door.

I looked one more time into the bag, making sure I had also put the $10 American cash (which I had saved from previous American encounters) and my British passport.  I did.

I went directly to my job.  I worked for an hour and a half and then, it was tea time!  Taking advantage of this leisurely break I excused myself and went straight to the U.S. Consulate’s office.  

Theresa was there at her desk and she greeted me with an adorable smile,  “Nice to see you again.”  I put my bag upon the counter, removing all the papers and such, placing them there.

She just looked at me.  She didn’t touch them.  I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me, still Theresa is not touching them.  

“You know what?”  she asked.  ‘What?’ I replied.  I waited for her to say something else.  I am smiling and I don’t know why.  The suspense was a bubble just waiting to burst.

She finally spoke, “I am dreaming. I don’t believe it.”  Theresa tapped the papers.

‘Did I do something wrong?’  I asked her.  “There’s no way possible!”  she said.  

“I’ve never witnessed anything like this since I’ve worked with the Consulate’s office.”  Now she’s beginning to flip through the papers.  Seems to have met her approval.   

“You know Mr Masala, I have worked with this office, first in Noumea and now Suva, and I have never had a case like this where the paperwork was completed so rapidly.  Usually it’s 3-4 weeks and sometimes more!”  

Making a neat pile of it all, she took from me my passport, the American cash for the processing fee and all the paperwork back into the other office; the Office of the Consulate General.

About 10 minutes later she returned.  “Okay that’s it!  You have an appointment tomorrow morning at 10am sharp to take your oath!”  Theresa seemed excited for me, well it certainly sounded like that.  “Then you can collect your visa.”

Theresa sent me on my way with, “Such determination and great follow through Mr. Masala.  Good day!”

I could feel it, I was ready to fly!

Now I returned to work and stayed put for the rest of my shift.  But not before giving Jules another great big hug.  “Nand, come back soon and take me with you!” she told me as she hugged me back.

Passing on the celebratory cold Guinness temptation, I needed to get home right away this evening.  I was even more determined to relish in my family time.  

No developments or questions.  It was to be like any other evening at home.  I wasn’t expecting to see Noori until the weekend as that has been the normal.

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39. Karma & Love

A few days after I had sank into a comfortable spot, I was going through all of my things when I came across the parcel Noori’s brother had given to me for her, back in Melbourne.  Opportunity to see her!  

I made my way up to her house and bravely presented Noori with the package.  The family was present and she motioned to me not to speak candidly.  They offered me a cool drink and then the best thing for me to do was return back down the hill.

A little more time passed when Noori began to come around again, to see the family yes, to be of whatever help she could for my mother and sister-in-law, to see me for sure.  I’m most glad she did.  I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if my little angel hadn’t come back and saved me.

She was especially interested to hear about my overseas adventures in Bombay and Melbourne.  News of her brother in Melbourne from someone who saw him in person made her very happy.  And no I didn’t tell on her brother …that he ate pork sausages at breakfast!

You know Noori and I had been the best of friends for a long time now, especially she was there before I even met Hemma and then through the middle of all the Hemma and family problems.  

Noori always made a point (and always without a row) to step aside and let my life take its course.  She consistently assured me she would always be there for me, all the way.  And she was; she did just that.

With the lighter load of my mind and in my heart, I was free to feel myself again.  I dare say, we were falling in love.  Boy oh boy, in reflection does it ever feel as though the space in my young life that was taken up with Hemma time was definitely karmic.  

Experiencing the loss of a child and a heart that played a constant flip-flop; a lonely, almost desperate void. Yeah, I think so.

Noori came in and she loved me wholeheartedly, she took care of me and this allowed me to feel completely at ease and be able to be there for her equally.  I believe this is how it should be.  Sadly I couldn’t be there for her openly in her family’s presence as the Hindu-Muslim thing was still very much in force.  

My family however was very happy with Noori as well.  They noticed the absolute light return to my eyes.  I know this relationship saved my heart, my all, my sanity for what that was worth.

A little time had passed and it was definitely time to speak with a lawyer.  Someone in our circle recommended a well-known attorney in Suva and I immediately set up an appointment to discuss my situation.  I knew I’d best get some good legal advice.  Although sad is the reason, still at least there wouldn’t be a custody battle in all this.  

I arrived alone at 9a sharp the morning of my appointment.  I was invited into his office and met with the lawyer and his paralegal.  They seemed warm and friendly contrary to a lawyer’s most often preceding reputation.  Would it have anything to do with him being a relation by way of marriage?  Who knew, it’s all good, right?

He told me after I sat down, “The floor is yours.  Open up and tell me everything.”

So I began with the beginning; that fateful evening when I was first introduced to Hemma … and her family.  

I told him all I could remember and how it went in my mind.  After they listened to everything, there was a very brief space of silence, a breath or two’s worth and then he said, “Divorce at this time is not possible.  Not right away.  I will file for a legal separation.  And you cannot leave Fiji during the year.”

‘What do you mean, exactly?’ I asked, just a bit taken aback by that remark.  I was still young what did I know?  He went on to explain there had to be time in between just in case there’s a chance of reconciliation.  I already had tried all I would and I knew for certain that wouldn’t happen.   “And we’ll take it from there.”  he finished.