When we arrived in Mussoorie from Goa we still had one-month visas. We had made a connection with music producers in Bombay. They wrote letters requesting that we help them with the distribution of Christian music including Tony’s “Colours” album. When we took the letters to the registration office. The officer wasn’t impressed. He folded our papers up, gave them back and said, “Just do your music and go home.” We were stunned. We knew if we left his desk we would not be allowed back in. The girls were sitting on our laps and we were all beyond tired. We refused to move. We just sat there. We sat while he did his business around us. People came and went and the Johnsons just sat. In the bizarreness of the situation, Zoë somehow managed to undo all my dress buttons while we stared at the officer. Fortunately I noticed before he did. After two hours, he looked up and asked, “So, what can I do to help you?” We couldn’t believe our ears. It was if he was seeing us for the first time. He asked if we knew anyone who could teach Tony Indian classical music. We did. We knew an elderly Sikh man, Ajit Singh who owned Pratap Music House in Astley Hall. His claim to fame was that he had taught George Harrison the sitar. We needed to get a letter from him.
With that suggestion we drove for seven hours back to Dehra Dun to Pratap Music House. Ajit was more than happy to help. Then back to Delhi we went. The same officer stamped one-year visas into our passports. We were so relieved and happy. It was another miracle. Tony bought a sitar and went to Ajit once a week for lessons.
A priority for us was to get a phone line. We really needed one. We put in an application and waited. In the meantime we gave people the phone number of the orphanage next door. It was an almost impossible situation. If someone called, one of the children was sent to call us. By the time they got to us and we got to the phone, the caller had hung up. Many of the calls were international. Every now and again, men from the telephone department came and hovered around waiting for us to put some money into their hands to do the job. If we had paid a bribe we would have got one in a week. We decided that it was better to wait for a miracle than to pay a bribe. We knew one bribe would lead to another. Those we bribed would have been back every month for more. It would have been a never-ending story. It was two years before we got our phone.
Banking was quite a challenge. The closest ATM machine was in Delhi. On a few occasions Tony couldn’t get money from our local bank so he drove to Delhi early in the morning and arrived home late that night.
Sarita and her family lived in a small tin roofed room on our property. When we moved in she came down to ask if we needed help. She was heavily pregnant with her first child. Her husband had a maintenance job at a local school. She was lovely and we fell in love with her from day one. Asha and Zoë went in and out of her house as if it was their own. Within a few months she gave birth to a beautiful little girl. We were so happy but they clearly weren’t. There was no wild celebration, just a few cheap Indian sweets to announce that they had a baby. Our excitement helped them to accept and love her. Sarita asked me to name her so we called her Angela or Angie for short.
With baby Angie.
Seeing their disappointment at having a girl baby inspired me to write some words:
Held loosely in your mother’s arms
Her breasts withholding love from you
Your cries fall on bitter ears
The future is in her eyes
Like watering a plant in another man’s garden
Building a house that’s not your own
Like feeding a lamb that’s bound for the slaughter
Loving a baby into somebody else’s home
Drawing water from the well
Dusty feet and worn out hands
Your tears fall on bitter ground
The future is in your eyes
Dressed for the occasion
Best clothes you’ve ever worn
They’re fixing a price upon your head
What are you worth?
The future is in their eyes
We couldn’t understand why there was no celebration. Angie was so beautiful. She was perfect in every way. She hadn’t done anything to disappoint or anger anyone. She was just a baby. A baby girl.