29. What Cannibals? and A Necklace For the Queen

One entertaining afternoon as I sat upon the wall curiously watching all the people, a young Indian man stopped just before blocking my view.  Gesturing towards the available spot next to me he asked if he could sit there.  ‘Yes of course,’ I answered with a friendly smile.  

He parked himself and watched Marine Drive with the rest of us.  After a short while, he asked me where I was from.  I laughed a little to myself before letting him in on my thoughts.  

I answered him this way, ‘There’s a little bitty group of islands in the deep South Pacific, very near to New Zealand.  That’s the Fiji Islands.’  The puzzled look on his face said it all.  After a chuckle I said to him, ‘Do you know where Hawaii is?’  

He said yes so I continued, ‘Well it’s about 6 hours if you fly or 5-6 days if you sail from there going further south.  There are two big islands; Viti Levu being the one I was born on and the smaller of the two is Vanua Levu.’ I explained.  He seemed interested enough.

‘My island is slightly larger than Hawaii and there are several smaller ones in the group.  The smaller ones have a few coconut trees, rooted in the sand, and they’re just standing there.’  the stranger smiled.  

‘Who knows, some storms come and wash them away for a time and maybe even the whole island!’  I smiled big as he laughed loud and I ran on with my seemingly entertaining story.

‘Originally the natives were cannibals, before the Christian missionaries arrived. They ate some of them; the missionaries and their friends that is, until convinced otherwise by the remaining missionaries.’  

This is really fun I thought to myself as I kept talking.  

‘When no one visited for a while, they probably boiled the bones of dinners past and had themselves a good soup.’  I had to laugh because my wall-mate looked a little worried.  

‘Then the Indians eventually came along with some Europeans, a few neighboring islanders, and a handful of Chinese too; migrated to Fiji that is.’  

I must tell you here, this was the loose version of my island history as we knew it and told each other as kids back home.  I was done with my story for the time being.  It was his turn now.

This young man was just as fresh to India as I was.  He was born and raised in South Africa.  His parents brought him her to experience India, his blood-line.  They had an apartment home right there on the Queen’s Necklace aka Marine Drive.  That was where a good percentage of the wealthy lived, at least some of the time.  

We both realised our relation to one another was effortless as the hours passed in conversation and people watching.   My new friend and I agreed to meet up very soon and further our adventures; we made plans to buzz all over Bombay and her outlying reaches.  

We felt such a sense of adventure coming on; we’d go everywhere via double decker bus, taxi , auto rickshaw, train and most likely a lot of walking too!

C - Delhi street vending

Before I met this Jittu Singh, I had been told by a few people that I must get to the elevated hills behind all of this to witness a breathtaking view of the Queen’s Necklace in the evening hours.  They were right, it was stunning!  

Good times are rolling now and no I haven’t forgotten that I still must get to London.  All in its own time though I thought to myself.

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I laughed a little to myself from experience past, at that time not many had heard of the Fiji Islands.  I know, right?!!

Just a reminder:    Jittu Singh is the fictitious name of a real character, a wonderful addition to LBMs first adventure in India.

The point of interest here was Bombay’s Malabar Hill.  It is where It is where LBM stood to take in the view which was within the Kamala Nehru Park.  

I sure do wish LBM could find some of those photographs he had taken in India and elsewhere too, I mean, while we’re at it …wishing and all!

26. I’m Leaving On An Aeroplane ✈️

The day prior to my departure came quickly and I found myself on a bus for the 3-4 hours drive towards Nadi.  I had a relative by marriage who was a Customs Officer there in Nadi and I spent this night at his home.

The 18th of July was here at last!  My flight was scheduled for the afternoon and I knew my family would be there to see me off.  Sure enough they arrived in my brother-in-law’s bus, scores of them, the bus was full!

My wife had arrived with her family in her uncle’s taxi.  I met with everyone who came to see me off.  When she and I spoke again it was a reminder of our previous conversation on the subject.

My mother cried of course and so it began, everyone else started up.  It was like contagious or something!

Hemma said to me in final parting, “I love you always.  Hurry and get settled so you can call for me as soon as possible.”  Wouldn’t you know, just like an old movie, it was all about timing.  In these tear stained moments the announcement came for my flight’s boarding.

We hugged, we all hugged.  My wife and I held one another.  It wasn’t one of her lady bear hugs but that’s okay because I think she was being the normal coy Indian wife, what with all eyes on us and everything.  What else right?

It’s okay.  I could see through the tears in her eyes she was going to miss me.  She would miss ‘us’.  I know she really didn’t want me to leave her.

I walked out to the passenger boarding steps of the TEAL airliner, not the color.  That’s Tasman Empire Airways Limited for those of you scratching your head trying to recall.

daddy's 1st airline ticket 1956

Yes I was a bit nervous; this would be my first flight ever!  I had no idea what to expect.  I’m climbing aboard a Douglas DC-6 and heading for Sydney, Australia.  I turned to wave as I ducked into the aircraft.  I too was crying.  

Another adventure of this lifetime was beginning and those spinning propellers on the sides of the aeroplane were going to get me there well, at least part of the way there.

As I said before this was going to happen in steps.

First step, board an aeroplane, second step, fly over the ocean in that aeroplane to a country I’ve actually already been to.  This oughtta be good!

I do remember the meal that was served; it was Indian food and it was actually very good!

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12. What Do You Mean These Are Not My Cards To Play? – part 1

It wasn’t too long before I excused myself to retire.  The meal, the drinks, now the tea and conversation, oh I was done for.  Not to mention this ship worker’s early rise is just around the corner …Fiji is one of the first to be greeted by the new day you know.  The rest of the family followed suit and it was altogether dark and quiet.

No sooner was I wrapped up in a cozy little dream when the morning arrived.  It got here so fast that it awoke me with a start -perhaps a little of the forecasted excitement dancing around in my mind was involved too- and I popped up, much like a jack-in-the-box!  

Man, I gotta get to the harbor right now!  It was a good thing we arranged for a taxi the night before.  Wanting to awake everyone I called out, ‘It’s time for me to catch my ship!’

While I wasn’t late yet, there was zero time for tea and pleasantries, only wash, dress and hurried farewells to the household family members.  I grabbed my well-packed bag and three of us climbed into that waiting taxi just at the front of our house.  My mother and my brother were my escorts to see me off.

In only moments we arrived at port.  I quickly got out of the taxi and approached the docks …to my right-down disbelief I did not see the SS Lakemba where I left it; there was no bloody ship at all!  My bag dropped to the ground as my grasp of it fell away.

My heartbeat was pulsing heavy in my throat, racing up to my temples; it had already taken my heart hostage as my eyes looked out ahead to the mouth of the harbor.  There in the not-so distant distance was my ship on its way out, under the Harbormaster’s control.

What?!  I am still on time, am I not?  Why did it leave early?

I desperately looked around me for an answer and asked anyone who would respond if there was some way I could be taken out to that ship.  Much to my rapidly disintegrating once bubbling spirit, everyone had the same answer; only the Harbormaster could and he’s the one navigating the ship at present.

By the time he returns, the ship will be out in the open sea, as in too late.

Gravity won and I literally fell to my knees – a loud anguished cry escaped my 18 year-young man’s lips, “Oh my God, no!!”  As though I spent an eternity on the docks, I really felt so alone -it was like none of the people surrounding me were even there at all.

Finally coming to realize I couldn’t change what had just taken place, I picked myself up and walked to the cab which was waiting to take my brother and mother back home.  I had no desire to speak with anyone.

Through my tear-filled eyes it seemed the only thing I saw clearly was Sonia’s face and it devastated me because all I could contemplate is that she will probably think I wasn’t serious about coming back to her and maybe she’ll even start to feel that I just played her or who knows what.  How would I ever be able to tell her that’s not what happened?

Her precious image in my mind’s eye wore the look of the broken hearted.  I was convinced I saw the tears streaming down her beautiful face and then her expression turned to disbelief, then disappointment and lastly rejection.  I was punishing myself pretty royally over here.  

My brother must’ve picked up my bag from the dock before he and mother got into the taxi with me.  He placed it in the room when we got back to the house.  I expect he did not have a look inside because he never questioned the contents.  You can imagine the family’s surprise when I came back in through the door that very morning.  

I went straight into my room and laid down on my bed.  It was early still and the best thing for me at this point was shut-eye.  I awoke about lunchtime and thought of nothing else other than, I must write to her; what else could I possibly do?

Sonia, Sonia, Sonia.

You are still with me here in my heart.  I cannot do or think of anything else.  I feel heavy with grief and guilt and I see this situation is changing the course of both our futures.  The only thing I feel I am capable of doing at this time is write this letter to you.  I want to try and explain why I cannot be there by your side in a few weeks.   

Very simply this is what happened here in Fiji this very morning.  I arrived at the pier at the time I knew I should be there.  I am at the dock prepared to board my ship but there was no ship to board!  I saw it sailing through the harbor on its way back to Canada, without me, to you my dearest Sonia.

I can only blame myself because I did not know my ship would set sail half an hour early.  I overslept this morning; I missed the departure by thirty minutes; it was my fault Sonia.  

Once the ship is in Vancouver, I expect the guys with whom you saw me with at the club will hopefully go in there again, see you and confirm what I am telling you here is the truth.  They would only realize that I must not have known about the change in the schedule of departure and of course my friends have no idea of our plans to elope.

But I love you Sonia and if my love is genuine, then surely we will meet again sometime, somewhere and I hope it is in this lifetime.  I truly love you so very much.  Those four days we spent together were the happiest single moments, that I cannot recall happier days in my life.  Being near you was like heaven.’

I then took this letter to our post office and mailed it with lots of pretty stamps.  The only address I had to send it to was in care of the club and then hope for the best.

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