blog 73 Naturally

A week later I returned to my bungalow as my friends, do I dare describe Jock and Syn as friends, as my friends razzed me gently about my dancing.

“I can’t believe you guys talked me into dancing before all of those poor people!”

“But John! You were fantastic! Why didn’t you tell us you were a good dancer?”

“I am not!”

“You are better than Jock!” Syn said.

“What?” Jock replied. “You don’t like my dancing?”

Syn winked at me. “But John. When the professional dancers came you quite kept up with them! Over the three days and nights we were at the temple you learned a lot of the formal dances quite wonderfully!”

“They were just being nice” I replied blushing.

“And when you were invited to do the purification rites and then dance on the ritual stage you were very fine!”

I blushed embarrassed. It was not something I could explain to Jock and Syn. For a moment I felt transformed, as if as I danced I was remembering steps to a dance I danced in a prior reincarnation rather than something I had just learned.

“Everyone said you looked like Shiva the Lord of the Dance.”

“Just because I am very tall and usually you don’t expect tall people to be able to move without stumbling over both left feet…Whooo! What! Look!”

The buggy drove up to my bungalow which had been transformed from rather a wreak to a trim little cottage with a clean veranda surrounded by flowers. Fresh tattie grass mat screens were hung around the veranda to keep the hot sunshine out and cool the air entering the darkness of the bungalow. And the thermantidote was working! I showed it off quite proudly. I had bought it off Hobson. “There is the water tank there to keep the tattie grass mat sodden and there is the fan that creates a breeze through the wet tattie!”

“Swamp cooler!” Jock and Syn exclaimed.

“Ah. Yea.”

“We have one in our barracks.

“What? The cadet barracks did not have one!”

Jock and Syn grinned. “You cadets are suppose to suffer. Initiation into India! Show us the rest boyo!”

We entered by lifting the tattie aside and going through. The bungalow was swept out and fresh smelling from the newly woven tattie grasses at the window and covering the dirt floor which gave the place a heather smell. The high ceiling ventilators were working again too. New window screens were hung and a new mosquito net hung around my fold up wicker cot. And the ceiling punkah fan was swaying gently as an elderly Indian sat in a corner rhythmically pulling the fan by a rope. The aged man smiled at me as my grass cutter came into the bungalow beaming. “Sahib! Sahib! Didn’t I say I had a large family! That is my grandfather Sahib! Perfect for punkah. Your new used camp furniture came. We set it all up. See! Your cot. Your wash stand. Your table and chair. Your foldout camp trunk and desk. And see! The back rooms are all ready too! The kitchen is swept and the two pots and pan and kettle and water tank are all shiny and full of food to eat! Even the plates and cups are clean! The altar to the local gods is set up again! It had been knocked down. See! Your horse is so happy now! And meet the rest of your servants Sahib! Here is your batman Sahib!”

“He looks just like you.”

“Naturally! He is my father Sahib! And here is your dirzi tailor.”

“I don’t need a tailor and he looks just like your father!”

“Of course you do! And of course he does! Father and Uncle are twins! They always work together!”

“Naturally!”

“And here is your sweeper!”

“Who is she?”

“My grandmother Sahib!”

“Naturally!”

“Though between we two she is actually a strange old woman who wandered into our village one day and latched onto us so we all just call her ‘Grandmother’ because she has forgotten her real name.”

“Why am I not surprised.”

“And here is your musolchi scullery!”

“Who is he?”

“My brother!”

“Naturally!”

“And here is your gardener and cow wallah to milk your cow.”

“I don’t have a cow” I said.

“You do now! My other brother! And he is a very good cow wallah! And here is your dhobi washerman.”

“Who is he?”

“My other brother.”

“Naturally!”

“And here is your bhisti water carrier.”

“He is scarcely a boy! And who is he?”

“My little son! But do not worry. Being a little boy he will be helped by my other son. Two bhisti for the price of one!

“Naturally!”

“And here is your cook.”

“And who is she?”

“My sister Sahib!”

“Naturally!”

“And here your khumagar footman.”

“I don’t need a footman even if he is your brother!”

“No Sahib! He is not my brother! He is my oldest son! Doesn’t he look splendid in his red tunic so when he answers the door everyone will be impressed with you Sahib!

“Naturally! It looks like one of my tunics.”

“It was so used and old you would be ashamed to wear it so we cut it down to size.”

“Naturally!”

And here is your khansamah housekeeper!”

“And who is she?”

“My mother of course!”

“Naturally!”

“So everything is ready for you Sahib!”

“Naturally” Jock and Syn and I repeated in unison.

“All right! But! But only if I can use my names for all of you!”

“Naturally Sahib!”

“Grandfather! Grandmother! Father! Uncle! Mother. Sister. Brother 1. Brother 2. Brother 3. Brother 4. Son 1. Son 2. Son 3.”

“Naturally Sahib!”

“And I suppose you don’t know a good munshi do you?”

“Yes Sahib! I will fetch him tomorrow!”

“Naturally!”

And thus I got my servants. I wonder if they are still at my old post with my trunks and thermantidote at my old bungalow at Ferozepore? With my foul luck they have long ago absconded with all of my worldly belongings as well as my monthly pay which is being sent there with only batta traveling into Afghanistan with me. The funny thing is I actually miss them. My make believe Indian family. Wasn’t it lucky for them I had a premonition in my guts that Afghanistan was a grave waiting for me and so I came alone……

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