36. What’s For Breakfast?

I’m telling you one could hardly walk on the streets of downtown Melbourne for it being so crowded.  Everyone bumping into someone or other; of course I didn’t mind if it was a pretty girl, I mean you can’t blame me can you?

One morning I was in the breakfast room enjoying my meal when suddenly I felt as though a figure was looming near me.  I thought not much of it at first assuming it was only someone pausing to decide where to sit.  Well, that was it.  

A young man asked if he can sit at my table.  I looked up.  I nearly fainted from shock I do believe.  And here I always thought it was a big, big world!  It was Noori’s little brother, Farhan.  Yeah, the same one that always wanted to beat me up everytime I walked past their home back in Suva.

This will be good I thought and extended the welcome to sit.  He looked on at my plate for a brief moment and then said, “What you are having for breakfast looks real good, I think I will order the same.”   I must say that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Why?

Upon my breakfast plate was eggs, skillet potatoes, toast and pork sausage.  Remember this is before all the modern substitutes for pork and beef we have now; turkey, vegan, etc and  well as most everyone knows Muslim faith does not allow the eating of pork.  Farhan knew full well that he was about to indulge in pork; that is to say if he hadn’t already.

I bring this up because it’s just too funny when I think back on the reasons he fought me when we were younger; Muslim and Hindu, no go … do not come near my sister!  and all that.  Now here he sat with me enjoying pork sausage.  

I refrained from chastising him.   C’est la vie!

We exchanged pleasantries during our meal, obviously the both of us a little more matured since our last meeting.  He was going to school there in Melbourne.  With the prices of everything sky high during the Olympics, he’d caught on to the fact of breakfast at the YMCA costing only a fraction of what the restaurants all over the city were charging.  Smart.

He asked what I’d been doing and where I was off to next so I told him my agenda, that is as I saw it at the moment.  How nice a conversation can be when ego doesn’t get in the way.  From that point forward I saw him 3 or 4 times more.

Very soon after I arrived here I sent a letter to home, informing them I had left India but that I hadn’t quite made it to London.  Circumstances brought me backwards, to Melbourne.  It wasn’t long before I received a reply.  

The letter informed me of an uncomfortable situation at my house.  It said something about the inappropriate presence of a man, for sometime now, at our residence.  I was advised to return home just as soon as possible.

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35. Broome, Talk About Outback!

Singapore to Broome is just shy of 1600 nautical miles.

I’m still trying to remember the name of the cargo/passenger ship which I boarded in Singapore for my journey south by southeast, back to Australia.  At some point I’ll remember it, I think.   

With limited room for passengers -similar setup to the first ship I worked on, the Lakemba- there was four of us to a cabin.  I bunked down, relaxing for the next 2 or 3 days.  And so began the continuing journey into my unknown future.  

Relaxing on the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia is Broome, over a thousand miles north of Perth.  Once the ship docked late morning at Broome I disembarked.  The weather was on the warmer side of things but I knew I couldn’t spend time sightseeing in this very different place, I had a bus to catch.

Although Broome is a coastal town, as I headed away from the sea, it was like being in a desert which really I didn’t know anything about (my comparison today would be like Palm Springs with sparse comforts), but I’d watched enough westerns to have an idea and I was starting to feel rather hot.  

Remember my last strong impression of Australia was all the big cities like Sydney, Adelaide & Perth and it was all a bit of a blow for me, I must say.  It wasn’t bad mind you but from what I was seeing, I was reminded of a John Wayne cowboy film and I guess I left that gun-slinging adventure back in my boyhood.  

Suddenly it didn’t seem so appealing to me anymore at least not in the same context.  Now as a young adult I think I was just wanting more bustle and bounce in my world at that time.  Of course I was certainly amused at what I was seeing; instead of cars, I saw horses.  

I remember thinking to myself silly comments as I watched the locals come in on horseback to the town for groceries, dinner or what have you and I watched curiously as they’d tie them up to hitching posts; wow they really do that.  Smile.

Yeah maybe the cowboy world wasn’t in the cards for this island boy after all.  I felt parched and dusty just watching these scenes unfold before my eyes, a mind game perhaps because I felt like it was blistering hot; true to a good western!

It was evening when I boarded my train that would carry me to Melbourne.  Here’s another, I can’t remember the name of the city where I caught that train from; good thing I wasn’t walking!  I was thankful that I had sleeper accommodations, even though the space was shared, it was comfortable, semi private and roomy enough for sleeping purposes.

It seemed that whenever I pulled up the shades to view the passing scenery I saw red rocks, little ones, big ones and sometimes very big ones.  Then there were the kangaroos who were jumping around all over the place, mostly in groups.  Anything smaller was a bit difficult for me to pin down as we were moving much too fast.

It was 1½ days on the train by the time we arrived in Alice Springs which turns out to be approximately mid point in the journey.  For some reason that stuck in my mind.  After 1900 miles traveling in a southeast direction from my beginning point and 3 days later, Melbourne greeted me at last.

Ready to really stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh air, I quickly sought out an information counter.  The lady attending to the booth was very friendly and helpful.

Crikey! The whole world is here.” she exclaimed.  She told me I would be quite fortunate if I was to find any accommodations at all, what with the 1956 Summer Olympics here and all.  

And then as though to let me in on a little secret, she suggested I look into the Melbourne YMCA.  She continued, “Listen mate, it’s only bed and breakfast; that’s only if you do get lucky enough.  You’d be smart to grab a taxi and do go straightaway.  Best of luck.”

I was able to catch a taxi and arrived not long after into the heart of the city.  I think the driver said something about being on City Road, knowing I was a foreigner.  Perhaps he thought I should be properly oriented in my directions.  I was hoping for at least the night’s rest at this point; a few more nights being a bonus.

The city was jam-packed with people unlike the sparse locales I had recently experienced.  Big city yes of course but more so crowded now, what with the games and all.

I was very fortunate to have found accommodations at the recommended YMCA.  I was set-up to share a room with a young student.  My bed and breakfast cost me A£3 per week, paid in advance and this YMCA became my home for the next 17 or so days.  

Yes I did try to see some of the games but I quickly learned that I should have purchased tickets ages ago.  I was fortunate enough to catch some of the games and especially the Hockey win by 🇮🇳 over 🇵🇰 when they took the Gold.

I caught these in a local pub on a television set.  That was pretty exciting all the same, knowing I was actually right there … only not there.

In between I had some time to think things over and I figured I would station myself here and then call for Hemma.  Australia.  England.  Either way I would make a go of it.  

And it would still mean I was out of Fiji and we would live our life together, away from interference.

 

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*Had LBM stayed till the 31st of October, he very well may have seen the Duke of Edinburgh arriving that day on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Stopping off first in Singapore, he too was on his way to Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, to open the Olympic Games of 1956

28. Bombay is a Beauty …

India!   And what a 1st experience it was.  I was feeling pretty good, carrying around a perception of freedom; away from confusing feelings and all at once I was excited, alone and …missing my wife.  I started to think it would have been very nice if she was with me.  

But this was also the heart of the monsoon season in Bombay!  It almost felt like the rains were mocking me as I was going through my own monsoon of sorts.  I had arrived in Bombay right smack in the middle of it!

Bombay in the state of Maharashtra, was to me, a beautiful place.  I stayed there in the city at a hostel, similar to an American YMCA, near the Naaz Cinema Hall.  These lodgings were run by a businessman with ties to an associate in the Indian Consulate back in Fiji.  

I was given the address of this place before I left the island by that connection.  Thankfully it was affordable and centrally located.  My weekly rate was approximately 25-30 rupees.   I ended up staying here nearly two months.

Each morning the proprietor had a bucket of hot water for my in-room bath, brought up to me with a knock at the door.  The heavily accented masculine voice said, “Saab-ji, garam pani.”  Also he would ask me what he could bring to me for my breakfast.

He’d go across the street to this Brahmin restaurant and bring delicious dishes for me to start my day with.  Masala chai, saag sabji, and of course hot, red, puffy puris!  If this didn’t suit my mood, I’d go out to one of countless restaurants in the immediate vicinity and chow down on amazing food.

Out and about in the city, there are so many people!  You cannot walk anywhere without bumping into each other though I never minded if it was a pretty girl.  That crowd was of yesteryear so just imagine today!  

The one place I really wanted to see and be a part of before leaving India, was Marine Drive.  As a youth this was a must!  I had seen it in the Hindi films so many times and heard that it was a very special street where so much happens.

Odds were that I’d be lucky enough to see in passing, an India film star.  Naturally girl-watching was part of the plan but the rest of the people were interesting too!  I would sit on the wall there with the Arabian Sea to my back and just watch this part of India go by.

I quickly learned that after 3 or 4 in the afternoon was the very best time to do this.  It was a place to see and be seen which lent to the girls dressing real pretty in their colourful attire; the lovely salwar kameez, saris and what have you, a blend of many nations really.  

Speaking of which, there would be 10 guys talking amongst themselves and each one’s native tongue is a different language of India.  There’s Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu (whew!) just to name a few, oh my!

But I wondered how they were actually communicating together and it wasn’t in English.  The common denominator here was Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi and I must say it was to me quite a sight to see the Chinese man living in India speaking one of these 3 versions!

The liveliness of the crowds included the chana wala, “Chana garam babu, garam, garam chana!” singing his sales pitch as he walks by you.  Then I notice the thel malis guy singing out advertisements of his services; a quick-fix massage of various body parts -head, shoulders, arms, legs, etc., and the most important guy sells garam, garam masala chai and all for a few paisa!

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I shall tell you only what I can remember; the monsoon travels around the subcontinent and arrives at different times throughout the country.  I was soon to discover, this weather affects people in very interesting and sometimes baffling ways.  So much like the tides of life.  Well, that’s it, that’s what I got out of it!

Brahmin diet  a vegetarian lifestyle focusing on consuming clean foods thoughtfully so eating natural meant promoting peace and tranquility into one’s being; also referred to as yogic or sattvic diet

chana wala     the chickpea vendor(dry fried muttar/peas)  

thel malis       oil massage provider (quick on-the-spot)

garam              hot