I couldn’t wait to see Tony after work. We spent every possible moment together and it was so difficult to say goodnight at the end of the day. While I loved all his letters I much preferred having him. We talked a lot about all kinds of things, but there was one subject we always came back to; India.
I didn’t know much about it. We had prayed for many missionaries working there and seen their slide shows and heard their stories. It all sounded very interesting and exciting. The ship was on its way to India but my time was up. I felt slightly disappointed. I thought it would have been an “easy” way to see the country without actually living there. To somehow get a glimpse of what it may be like without really getting involved.
The first Indian I ever met was our childhood vegetable man, “Sammy”. He was nice.* As we got older we shopped in Grey Street. It was affectionately called “CoolieTown.” It was where we bought our Levi jeans and stole bangles. We felt ok because we knew we were being ripped off every time we went there.
When we were small, dad would stop at an Indian sweet shop on his way home from work, to buy bright pink cakey things covered in coconut. It was one of the highlights of our week.
Wilf got a job at the Sugar Experimental Station in Mount Edgecombe, right in the sugar cane fields of “Indian country”. He made friends with Tommy and his family. One invitation for a meal at their house turned into many. Before we knew it Peter, about 10 years old, was sleeping at their house during the holidays. His days were spent half naked, swimming in a small dam, fishing and eating lots of curry. He came home a few skin tones darker, with a huge smile on his face and smelling like fish masala.
Indians were nice. They were generous, hospitable and friendly. Even in those apartheid years when we couldn’t be neighbours, they didn’t seem too affected by it.
I knew India wasn’t going to be like the peaceful sugar cane fields of Natal. I knew all families weren’t like Tommy’s. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But there was so much I didn’t know.
I asked Tony some questions.
“Are there lots of flies?”
“No, not that I can remember.”
“Where will we live?”
“I’m not sure. We’ll have to see when we get there.”
* See Post 21 for more on “Sammy”