“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.
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
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.