53. A Farming I Will Go …and Freeze My Butt Off!

I agreed to go out and around with them the next day.  We went in their car to meet up with some of their friends -the rest of the Indian gang lol- we went all around the city.  

We ended up at another hotel where I saw many more young Indian fellows -I hadn’t really realized there was a good number of Indians already living here in California.  It was a nice sociable second day and I was beginning to feel more comfortable with my surroundings.

Third day.  Three young men, friends of Shekhar and Ramesh, came out from Marysville and from Yuba City to join us.  What better way to get acquainted than over a nice meal and so we went to have an early lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  

Now that my new acquaintances were up to speed on my situation, they invited me to go out for the week and earn some money with them.  One of them offered, “You come with us and we’ll help you get a job where we work.  At the very least you’ll have an income.”

Another agreeably stated, “Yes do come out to the fruit farms and work with us.  We tend to the trees there.”  Okay I thought, why not?  I was a gambler of sorts anyhow and always was willing to take a chance.  

Besides I liked the idea of an income almost immediately after landing in California and along with it, try out a new experience.  The third chap said, “Yes and do keep your room here in the city, we’ll be back of course.”

The next morning came awfully early as it always seems to do.  I packed a few items and left my key with Lalit at the front desk.  Four of us piled into their car and began the drive out of the city, well beyond the outskirts of San Francisco by at least a couple of hours.  

I remember looking out the window a lot and whatever I saw seemed to be sparse and boundless.

We arrived in the early afternoon at a peach farm.  From what I could see it appeared the majority of the farm hands were Indians and I quickly learned that most of them were from Fiji.  

These guys were hard workers I was told; already familiar with their duties having come from farming backgrounds in the islands.  It looked like they all worked well together.  

One of the guys in the car told me, as new men from Fiji arrived into this part of California, somehow they’d find each other and make their way out here.  These are the guys who weren’t well educated enough to come here and land big-time careers yet here we were all given the chance to get a little cash flow.  

Perhaps there were 2-300 workers all around the area.  Here’s where I take a chance and try something new.  I was assured by one of the guys, “Don’t worry Blue, you’ll be shown by the foreman exactly what to do and we’ll most likely be nearby you anyway.”  

Everything there was set up as a permanent camp of sorts.  To be sure the workers wouldn’t feel deprived of life’s daily needs, a sort of mobile bank, postal services, personal necessities vendor and girls, yes that too, came into the camp on various days of the week.  There was always medical attention on-staff too.  

Well there’s no time like the present to get earning that paycheck.  Of course I was hired on the spot and then shown around the camp briefly, starting with the off-duty accommodations.   

Within each camp or barrack there were about 10 single beds with an individual night table beside it for personal storage.  There were fresh pillows and blankets laid upon each one and thankfully these rooms were kept very warm.  

The pay offered was $1.00 per hour and days were basically 12 hour days, seven days a week.  I noticed there was quite a few Punjabi Indians there working alongside the handful of assorted other Indians and a small number of other nationalities.  

Next morning is my full day; there’s white frost on the ground everywhere, it’s just inside dawn and bitterly cold.  We wear beanies on our heads.  Big ladders are leaning up against the large trees.  

After being instructed one-time by the foreman as to how they wanted us new guys to prune the peach tree, I’m off to work on my own.  I stayed close to the guys I had come there with just incase I had questions or needed help.  

Though I thought it would never come, noontime finally arrived and with it came the very welcomed meal truck sounding his horn.  We stop to rest a little and eat some hot lunch; the menu consisted of roti, pumpkin curry and hot tea.  Thank goodness!

But you know, the same curry meal after meal got old very fast and a few of us guys together decided something had to be done.  I am not sure how we actually succeeded but we managed to drum-out the cook, replacing him with a non-Punjabi Indian cook; one from my Suva no less.  

Understand this, the Punjabi cook was an all right fellow mind you, great tea and the pumpkin curry was nice, the 1st time, but the same old thing every meal? and the rotis were just too thick to be enjoyed.  I know they wanted to fill our stomachs but come on!

Excellent choice on the changing of the guard I tell you.  This different fellow turned out the very best masala pork curry and the softest, thinner and most perfect rotis, with chutneys and delectable dahl.  Now we felt like we were really eating and every meal was a near feast to be sure.

I would say the days and weeks went by but in this case, the truth is the hours of each day passed in bitter cold and well, I worked for 3 days and realized I just couldn’t do this anymore.  

I wasn’t cut out to trim trees in the cold I guess.  My shoulder swelled in great pain.  The wet cold was too much for this guy.  I feel I really tried, I did –but this adventure had to close … it was a no-go Joe.  

 
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42. 1958 Hanging About the Place

This life went along as usual and certainly not aware of the extreme changes that lie ahead.  I went to work all week, had one ice cold 🍺 Guinness two or three times a week after work, caught the bus home and that was the day.  Evenings were for home with my family, amazing cooking and playing with my nieces and nephew usually.  

Most weekends Noori came down from her home to spend time at my house.  We still had to conceal our relationship outside my home.  But for all that my family was most comfortable with her presence, not only for the light she brought into the house and the smile to my face but also in her nature that made her absolutely wonderful.  

Noori did more for me than my soon-to-be ex-wife ever did.  That relationship was not of my choosing and be that as it may, we were much too young, not really knowing what to do in a world that was changing rapidly.  

With hindsight I can truly say, I really don’t blame Hemma or for that matter, myself.  Our marriage was just a bad mix of ingredients.

This adventure now with Noori was whole heartedly of our own choosing.  Such a dear, precious heart with the patience of a saint!  And we certainly were enjoying our time.  

Whenever Noori was at our house, we felt almost like a married couple; she jumped right in to do the things a wife (at least of that time) did for her husband.  ☕️ She made tea for me!  

C - Dreamy Blossoms (sq) -signed

She cleaned up my room as in making my bed and straightening out and she insisted on washing my clothes even though I used to take them out to be laundered, she really wanted to do this for me.  

To be helpful for my mother and sister-in-law, she saw whatever else needing doing in the house and just did it, and always with cheerful disposition and a smile.  It’s as though doing these things somehow comforted her.

We would have our lunch together.  Noori and I were able to entertain one another quite well, including lots of heart to heart talking and planning for the days when we would live our lives together, free and out in the open.

She still had to be at her own home in the evenings as to not provoke suspicion of any kind.  Up to this time no one knew I was her Gary.  I mean in my house everyone knew because that’s the only way she addressed me.  

At her home though the family heard her occasionally speak of someone named Gary, never suspecting that he was a Hindu man, much less me but I’m pretty sure her little sister knew.  And her sister-in-law who was actually Hindu knew as well.

Noori and I even sang to one another.  🎶 Ah come on, you knew we both loved to sing!

Sounds a little like a Bollywood film, doesn’t it?  Well, I don’t know about that, what with the singing and all, we won’t even discuss the dancing!

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I’m not saying arranged marriages never work, I’m only saying what I felt was right or in this case, not right for me.  Goodness knows I gave in, let Sonia go and tried to make Hemma and me work.

Sister-in-law – yeah isn’t it interesting that the men in the family could marry a Hindu woman; the ‘no & no’ rule applying only to the daughter.  She could marry a caucasian man (the younger sister eventually did just that) but no marrying a Hindu man.

23. A Mosquito Net and an Ice Cold Beer

At first as one can imagine, this was most awkward but we were able to push through that stage fairly quickly.  We both seem to want the same thing, to make it work.    

There was a lot of talk which is a good thing.   There were times when only a whole lot of beating around the bush on most topics took place.  

Eventually I was able to confirm at least in my own mind, the past actions of my wife were for the most part, the actions of her parents.  Only sixteen at the time, remember?  She was doing as they were ‘guiding’ her to do.  

Our new home was nice, it was spacious, it was in the right neighborhood and it looks like the place came with its own handyman because he was there regularly, painting this and repairing that.  

It took us a few days to be rightly settled in; groceries, bedding & linens, pots & pans, like that.  Oh yes, most important, must have the mosquito net!  That’s just as important as groceries!

And do you know what?  For the first time since the wedding, we felt married!  We did everything together; shopping for groceries? that was such a joy!  Lucky for me Hemma was a very good cook.  And she seemed more relaxed.  

We were starting to look just like what I thought in my mind a couple ought to be like.  What fun these two young people were having!

When I came home in the early evenings, she prepared fresh hot tea for me and after we had enjoyed our tea together, we’d go into the kitchen.  We worked together to prepare our evening meal.  She would stop for a moment to pour an ice cold glass of beer and we shared that.

After our meal we would settle back in the living room, almost always side by side and listen to an hour or so of the Indian programme on Radio Fiji.  This is how we both wanted our life together to be.  

Right from the beginning when we had those quiet, private little talks; to be together doing only what we wanted with no one placing their expectations upon us.  As husband and wife left to make our own choices, that’s how we both wanted it.

And yes for those of you wondering, we did talk about the loss of our son.  I asked many questions and understandably she mostly cried.  Well, at least there was some closure on that between this father and mother of a child taken away much too soon.    

We began to make plans once again for our future.

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About telling Noori of this new development; she was my dear friend after all and as before, she stepped back over to the side-line.  She knew I wasn’t really available to be with her.