In March, my new short story collection, Intriguing Women, was published. These stories have had very positive reviews from America and India. I am thrilled about this and would want several readers to read these stories. Below is an extract from one of my unfinished stories.
A #SAMPLE OF MY #WRITING: A #STORY I BEGAN BUT HAVE YET TO COMPLETE
My Indian Heart
Today I am seventy-two, a wiser and wizened woman. But then I was a chirpy twenty-two year old, healthy and rosy, leaving the shores of England to visit India for the first time. I was more than thrilled as I stood on the deck of the Rohna, the steamship that carried thousands of passengers to India. Captain Carter looked at me and smiled. I more than smiled back at him to make him feel welcome. I thought it the right thing to do considering how important a captain is on the ship. Besides, the way he looked at me was rather nice I thought.
‘Yes, it’s my first trip anywhere out of England and I am excited.’
‘Who’s accompanying you?’
‘Going all the way alone?’
‘Don’t you see so many co-passengers? You’re like my old man in India. He warned me not to set off alone. “Sally,” he said. “You’ll be picked up by someone that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, if you travelled alone.” Picked up, Daddy? Do you think I’m a little basket? “Yes, you’ve got to take care when you’re travelling to India.” Daddy, I asserted, I am no ordinary woman. I am Sarah Clemens, daughter of Dan and Annie Clemens. Let anyone try to be funny with me! And I am no ordinary woman that any damn bloke can fool around with.’
‘Is your father a resident of India, Sarah?’
‘Yes, he has a business in the little town of Mirzapore, a place he simply adores because the only thing that the town has is unoccupied space. He loves the serenity of this little town and the few friends he has there; a few families of other English settlers. The anonymity of the place makes him so much at peace with himself.’
‘That’s great, isn’t it? Hope you enjoy yourself in India. Of course, while you’re on the ship, do feel free to let me know if there’s a problem.’
‘Yes, sure and thanks, Captain.’
The voice of the captain is still fresh in my ears after fifty years. I began to like him very much because of his friendly behaviour during the voyage. Had he not been double my age I would have seriously considered proposing to him.
When Rohna touched the port of Bombay, I felt relieved as the long sea journey had begun to get a little on my nerves. To tell you the truth, I had at times felt a little insecure on the ship, in spite of Captain Carter. There was a dormant fear somewhere deep inside that I really needed to guard my virginity. When I stepped on the land there was a sudden lessening of stress. I had arrived quite intact and without losing anything that I valued either in cash or in kind.
The way the Indians, mostly unoccupied urchins and coolies, at the port, received and welcomed me and the other whites was unbelievable. It was as though they were waiting for someone dear to them that they had long known. Their excitement at seeing us was amusing; their curiosities and their delights jumping out of their skins, their eyes open wide and their lips waiting to bloom into the most readily available smiles. You would never think that we were their masters, occupying their territory. Except for one or two grumpy fellows loitering around, most were cheerful and had the curiosity to look searchingly at each one of us, trying to discover something that they could somehow relate to. Noticing this, it was natural for me too to try and find something that I could identify with. But apart from the fact that we were humans with a similar kind of spirit, there was little I could consider even remotely resembling the people I had left behind back home. This other face of the earth did seem vastly different. I wouldn’t have indeed touched it, I felt, a little ashamed of myself at this, though, with a barge pole.
In India, my father had made great arrangements to be picked up and transported to the train that was strangely divided into compartments for us and them. Some Indians however, though very few, were smart enough to get into our compartment. They were dressed like Europeans, could speak English and took pains to seem right in their social conduct. I had never seen this kind of mimetic behaviour. It was an attempt to present the self to the other as the other, or as close as it could be to the other race. This was all done, it seemed, in an attempt to find acceptance. In this acceptance probably lay a golden future for these men. Though there were several white skinned passengers in my compartment, my eyes kept returning to the three or four whose skins were not white. I found it difficult to explain why this happened but this is what happened on my first day in India. Was it a subconscious curiosity to see what these people were like?
‘Don’t look too much at them, it can mean trouble,’ I heard an older woman, in a greyish green dress, tell me. I suddenly looked towards her and noticed her rather uneven skin. Her fingers had grown golden brown at the point where she held her cigarette.
‘Yes of course. Thanks,’ I said, ‘it’s just the initial curiosity perhaps. It is my first day in India.’ At this point, I noticed that the Indian sitting next to her was taking an interest in our conversation. He tried not to show it but his body language gave it out.