In all the excitement, our visas were about to expire. We booked tickets to go back to South Africa in December to renew them. I was nervous. I had so immersed myself in India; I hadn’t given much thought to our visas or South Africa. When it hit me, there were a few things we had to do.
Wilf had always dreamed about having an old gramophone. We wanted to get him one for his birthday. Tony thought we should take an extra one to sell to help cover our air tickets. We planned to get them in Delhi on the way out.
The other thing was to work on the girl’s eating habits. A few weeks before we left, I watched them eating with their Indian and Nepali friends. My thought was, “Oh my goodness, what will Val say?” They ate with their hands, shared food from plates and learnt from their Nepali friends how to lick their plates clean. I knew Val would be horrified. I got out the knives and forks. They needed a good cleaning.
The girls were upset. They liked eating with their hands. The food tasted better and it was more fun. Poor things looked really awkward. We didn’t push it too much, but made it clear that only Indian food could be eaten with hands; not spaghetti or any Chinese food. They agreed.
Tony went to an NCMI conference in August and took our Tibetan friend, Sonam with him. They had a great time but we really missed Tony. While he was away, I was forced to drive. I had avoided it up till then. Ash had to go to school and there were things to do, people to see.
The roads were really steep and narrow. In some places there was only room for one vehicle. There was a lot of stopping and reversing and there were plenty of precarious edges and trenches to negotiate. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it and actually started to enjoy that kind of driving.
While Tony was away, Zoë got really confused and upset about something. We were talking about marriage and I told her that one day she would get married and have her own husband and she wouldn’t live with us anymore. BIG mistake. She got into such frenzy and started crying about me getting old. “But who will hold my hand? I want my own daddy back, not an old daddy. The one who left us. I want him!” Oh my goodness. She was so confused. It took ages to calm her down. When it was all over, we started talking about Jason and Ali and she asked me, “Mummy is marry Ali-ed? She realised her mistake and we laughed and laughed.
Tony arrived back with the first five-year Indian visa ever granted from South Africa. It was amazing. The girls were on his visa and I would be given one at the end of the year.
He also came back with the things I had asked him to bring for us; things we couldn’t get in Mussoorie:
Coloured felt pens, tampons, tea towels, Marmite, ANY chocolates/sweets, vegetable peeler, choc chips, door runners, brewers yeast, good pens, contact lenses, kid’s videos and snacks.
It was like Christmas and daddy was back! The old one. The one that left us. That one.