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Love's Grandeur

“Hello Selena!” said her friend Emma, “is it true that your dad has been transferred to India?” “Yes Emma darling, we are going there for two years.” “Aren’t you scared going there? What about the heat, dirt and dust, plus the worry of being sick?” “Well, I don’t think there is anything to worry about. I think I’m going to enjoy myself. It would be wonderful to visit the place I have wanted to go for a long time and the idea of actually staying there for sometime really excites me.” “Well, then I wish you luck Selena dear and hope everything goes well for you. Do come back single. Do not, I repeat do not, under any circumstances fall for an Indian guy.” “What if I do M. I think I’ll look for nice guys for us both.”

Emma was Selena’s best friend and they were neighbors too. She was a slightly chubby girl of medium height and a round freckled face. She had a worried look on her face for most of the time but she was a very sincere person. Selena was her opposite. She was slim and tall with brown hair and dark brown eyes in an oval face. Her smile was like sunshine. She was a bouncy, chirpy kind of person who could make friends easily.

Mr Brown, Selena’s father was going to Kolkata on delegation from his office. He worked in the hotel business. Selena was his only child and both he and his wife Sabrina loved her dearly. On august 21, 2003, the Browns arrived in India. They landed at the airport and were taken to their new home in old Alipore by Mr. Brown’s personal Indian driver Jyoti. On the way to their new destination Selena asked Jyoti, “tell me Mr. Jyoti, does it rain very much here during this month?” “Yes memsaab it does, but today it is a nice clear day. You should have seen how it rained the whole day yesterday.”

Selena’s excitement was too great to worry about M’s warning words of water logging, humidity and disease. She was busy watching the people traffic and buildings passing by. At last they reached their new home and were ushered inside a huge old rambling red colored house by the butler, Mr. Mohan. “Welcome Sir, maam and missy baba. It is good to see you all. Come to the verandah Sir, ladies, tea is ready to be served. The round cheerful verandah had white and green cane chairs with green cushions and white curtains. Tea was laid on a round glass topped table. All three of them sat down and Mrs. Uma handed strong cupfuls of delicious tea to them. She was their new cook. “Sir, please taste these puffy dhoklas I have especially made for you all. See if you like the taste maam. If not there is home made patty and cake too.” “Thank you Uma, I’ll taste the dhokla. Oh! It is quite nice. Mum try one, said Selena, passing the plate towards her parents.

“Welcome to India madam, sir and didiji, called a humorous voice from the doorway and in came Bansi, their personal servant cum bearer. “Hello! You must be Bansi. I know you all from my assistant Mr. Sinha’s letters, said John Brown smiling broadly. Selena said, “are there more people working for us Bansi?” “Yes miss there is Chameli, the sweepress, Nandu the gardener and Kamala the kitchen help. I do all the dusting and polishing. Mr. Mohan does all the shopping around here. He does not trust anyone with things to be bought in the market. The saab who was here before you left everything for us to manage. None of us will give you any cause for complaint.” “Thank you Bansi, smiled Sabrina.

The evening passed inspecting the new house, unpacking and settling down. They had an early supper comprising chicken soup, vegetable bake and rice pudding and turned in tired but happy. The morning saw all three at the breakfast table at eight thirty sharp. John left for office at nine o’ clock because it was quite far off. Cereal was eaten with freshly baked bread, fruits and fried eggs.

Later during mid morning, an elegant lady in a pink and white sari came in to say hello. She was Mrs. Srivastava their next door neighbor. It turned out that Lila had a son and a daughter Selenas age. Sandeep was working in a multi national company. Presently he was out of town on some assignment. Sandhya, Lila’s daughter was an interior designer and worked free lance.

Uma came into the verandah with a huge laden tea tray and a big smile on her homely face. “Hello auntyji, how nice to see you. I have made special tea cakes for you. Hope you like them.” “Why thank you Uma. You know I love anything you make.” Later on as the evening progressed, Leela and Sabrina were chatting like old friends. “You are lucky to have Uma as your cook, Sabrina. She really makes wonderfully tempting dishes.” At last, Leela got up to go but not before extracting a promise from Sabrina that she would come for tea to ‘Creamrose Cottage,’ the Srivastava home, sometime during the next few days.

The following days passed settling the house which both Sabrina and Selena loved at sight. John was still missing his country home. The thing he liked most about his new surroundings was the garden. Whenever he had time he spent most of it gardening. “Nandu you must grow more roses, sunflowers and pansies. Selena loves flowers,” John smiled. “Yes Sir, her room has fresh flowers everyday.” “Ma, Ma,” called a little girl wearing a blue frock. “Who is this Nandu,” asked John. “Oh! She is Sheila, Kamala’s daughter. She lives nearby and must have come to see her mother. I’ll take her to Kamala.” “Come for tea dad,” called Selena. “Mum’s waiting in the drawing room.” “Right go ahead dear. I’ll come along.”

Sabrina had decorated their drawing room quite like the one back home. All John’s favorite pieces of art were everywhere on the walls, on the side cabinet and his favorite ash tray was on the round low centre table. It was a present from his father in blue porcelain.

The ground floor of the red house had the drawing room, dining room, verandah, two bedrooms, a lounge, a study cum library and the kitchen. The hallway opened outside where the portico stood with marble seats in the corners. The lounge opened to other rooms. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, a sitting room, a verandah and a dressing room. All the rooms had windows which made the rambling old house both airy and light.

 

The gardens were massive, complete with fountains, ducks in a small pond and best of all a small park like area with green and red benches, a swing and an archway covered with lovely flowers below which there was a path with stones of all sizes and shapes strewn about .Selena loved to walk along this path talking to Nandu about his village in UP, while he attended to the pots and plants.

The master bedroom of ‘Sunshine Manor’, named by Selena, as soon as she reached it, was beautifully done in cream and maroon and Selena’s room had turquoise and shell pink drapes and upholstery. Her room had a window seat where her favorite teddy ‘Mr. Collins,’ sat with his wicked grin and glinting brown eyes.

In a few days, Sabrina and Selena’s personal maid Barbara arrived. She was black with a round chubby face which had a perpetual smile for everyone she met. John’s personal manservant, Gregory had refused to come to India. John in the mean time thought Bansi was as good as Gregory if not better. Barbie took a few days to adjust with the staff but liked ‘Sunshine Manor’ on sight. Bahadur, their chowkidar was a jovial hefty man in his late thirties. He lived in the servant quarters behind the house. His wife Bela, daughter Mina and son Mukesh were very happy with the angrez saab and mem saabs. Mr. Mohan, Bansi and uma also lived in different quarters with Bahadur and his family. Sabrina used to spend one hour daily teaching English to the staff members. All interested used to come, especially Mina and Mukesh. They were fascinated with Selena who helped her mother.

On Saturday afternoon Sandhya came visiting. “Hello Mrs. Brown, I’m Sandhya Srivastava, your next door neighbor. I was dying to meet you all but couldn’t come earlier being awfully busy.” “Come come my dear, let us go up to the sitting room. Selena is sitting there with her painting,” said Sabrina, ushering Sandhya up the staircase. “Does Selena paint a lot auntie,” asked Sandhya. “She loves to paint when she is free.” They entered the cozy cute sitting room which had a seaside painting by Selena hanging on one of its walls. “This is Sandhya dear our neighbor’s daughter,” said Sabrina. “Nice to meet you at last, said Sandhya shaking hands with the other girl. “Hello Sandhya, I’ve been wondering why we couldn’t meet earlier.” “One client of mine really kept me busy. I came as soon as I was free. You must tell me all about yourself Selena.” Sabrina asked Uma to get tea and they all sat down and chatted about this and that.

Sandhya was a slim and tall girl with big black almond shaped eyes and long tresses of jet black straight hair. She wasn’t very fair but had a certain charm about her which made her popular with anyone she met. She loved good food, watching films and going out and always had a kind word for everyone around. No one had seen her sulking. She always had a smile on her face. Selena liked her instantly and Sabrina thought how cozy they looked chatting and giggling together as if they knew each other from a long time. At last Sandhya left, but not before getting a promise from them to come over for lunch to ‘Cream Rose Cottage’, the next day. “What shall I wear mum,” asked Selena the next day. “Something charming dear. I think the pretty pink and lemon dress you bought for your last birthday will do fine.” “You are right mom. I’ll wear that. What time should we start?” ‘Eleven thirty should be fine. Well I’d better go for my bath because it’s already ten thirty.” “Yes yes Selena I know how long you take. Run along and I’ll send Barbie to help you.” Barbie was in Sabrina’s room getting her blue chiffon dress ready. “Barbie,” said Sabrina, “I’ll manage. You’d better go and help Selena.” “Oh! She will take half an hour in the bath maam. I have plenty of time to get your accessories ready for you.”

At last, both mother and daughter were ready to go next door. John was busy with his friends at the nearby colony club that day. Both ladies walked to ‘Cream Cottage’ where they were met by Tara, the house maid. “Come madam, miss, memsaab and missy baba are waiting for you in the morning room.” ‘Cream Rose Cottage’ was a beautiful house, white in color. It was quite small compared to ‘Sunshine Manor’, but was very well kept and furnished. “Hello Leela”, called Sabrina, entering the beautiful room furnished in green and white. “Hi! Sandhya, lovely to see you again so soon.” The girls held hands and walked towards the swing which was at one side of the room. The ladies sat on chairs at the other end of the room. Just then a girl of about twelve or thirteen walked in with a tray laden with nimbu paani. She was Madhu, Tara’s daughter. Though so young she helped her mother with the household chores magnificently. “Hello didiji, namaste auntiji, smiled Madhu. After about an hour lunch was served. A fantastic feast was laid on the dining table for the guests. Tara had excelled herself by making pulav, paneer cutlets, chicken roast, alu dum and bread pudding for dessert.

After lunch the two ladies sat on the swing chatting happily while Selena was taken on a grand tour of the house and gardens. Sandhya’s room was very cozy, decorated simply by herself. Pastel shades were used everywhere on the walls, cushions, rugs as well as the bedspread. Sandhya showed her dresses and soft toys together with photographs of her friends. Around three thirty, the Browns left for home with promises of outings in the near future.

On Friday, Selena was sitting on her favorite bench in the garden reading the latest Mills and Boon, her friend Emma had given her as a parting gift. It was early evening and the weather was fine,. Suddenly she was interrupted by a typically male authoritative voice which yelled at her. “Who may I ask are you and what are you doing in my garden?” Selena felt her cheek getting hot and red by what she thought was the most audacious manner in a human being she had met so far. She replied in kind. “This is private property Mr. Grumbler and you can be charged with trespassing.” “Oh! Is that so,” anger made him speak with gritted teeth. “This house is unoccupied at the moment and I consider it as my own.” “Oh! really! Well, how sad for you, but we are the new residents now and I demand you leave this place immediately.” Just then Sandhya called “Sandeep, Sandeep, I guessed you will be here. Have you met Selena?” “Yes sis, but I wish I hadn’t. She is the rudest person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said her brother, walking briskly towards the gate and going out of it hurriedly as if he couldn’t bear to stay there any longer. ”Dear, dear, my brother is so quick tempered,” giggled Sandhya. “I would say ill tempered, Sandy,” said her friend making a face at the poor gate.” “You love calling me that name isn’t it?” “Well, Sandhya is too long and difficult,’ said Selena laughing and holding her friend’s hand. “Come inside and tell me all about your brother.” “Oh! and I thought you didn’t like him, “said her friend with a mocking smile on her face.

Selena found out that Sandeep had returned only this morning and had come to ‘Sunshine Manor’ right after breakfast. The girls chatted about this and that and generally had a good time. Before going back to her own place Sandhya made Selena promise to go to a movie. Love's Grandeur Continued

Contributing Story teller : Amita enjoys writing stories and poems.   amita17149@hotmail.com

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