Chapter 4 - Culture Shock

The Prime Minister of Tawa: Chapter 4

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Judy made a quick tour of the bungalow. It was seven in the evening, but her body clock was still five hours behind.  Mash had come back after his audience with the King. He was now in the drawing room, being interviewed by a journalist. Heather was sleeping in one of the large bedrooms. The house was spacious and airy but did not have certain necessities. None of the toilets had any toilet paper. Not that it mattered since Judy had almost expected this and was carrying enough toilet paper that would last them for a month or so. If things were so bad that toilet paper could not be purchased anywhere in Hepara, she would get the Tawan High Commission in London to send them a monthly shipment. Surely, the Prime Minister was entitled to some toilet paper, wasn’t he? Even if he did not get elected - Mash and Judy had discussed that possibility countless number of times – he would be the head of the opposition party and entitled to a certain lifestyle and degree of comfort. A degree of comfort which hopefully included toilet paper!

She had been to Tawa only once in her life, when she was five or six years old. Her father had brought her and her mother to Tawa for a two-week vacation. She had only vague memories of that vacation. Her mother, who was from Swindon, did not have a good time. Her husband’s relatives did not really take her to their bosoms, and she had felt snubbed. ‘I’ll never let you take me back to that wretched place,’ she had angrily told Judy’s father after they got back to Birmingham where they lived at that time. A few years later, her parents were on the verge of getting divorced when her father died of a heart attack. After her father’s death, her mother sold off their house in Birmingham and went back to Swindon to live with her parents. Once at Swindon, she got married rather quickly to a plumber who made good money and stopped worrying about being taken back to Tawa by her husband.

The kitchen was quite primitive with just a couple of gas stoves. It did not have a microwave or a grill or an oven. Hell, it did not even have an exhaust fan. One would have thought that such a large and beautiful house would have a well-equipped kitchen. However, Judy was not unduly worried since there were two servants who were dedicated to working in the kitchen.  The first big shock of the day had been when all three of them sat down for a late lunch. The elderly maid servant who laid the table had forgotten to set down the cutlery. Judy had turned to Mash and asked him to get to remind the maidservant to fetch three forks, three knives and three spoons. Mash promptly translated, but it took the woman a few seconds to comprehend what Mash was saying. Slowly it sank into Judy that the woman expected them to eat with their fingers. Judy always knew that poor people in Tawa ate with their fingers. But she had assumed that the well-to-do classes would follow basic rules of hygiene and use clean cutlery to convey food from their plates to their mouths. It had taken the maid servant a few minutes to locate the cutlery and bring it to them. On inspection, Judy had found two of the forks to be dirty. Judy had sighed and asked the maid servant to take them back, clean them and bring them back. Using a dirty fork defeated the whole idea of cleanliness and hygiene, didn’t it?

Her world continued to be in a whirl. There seemed to be too many things to be done, so many things to plan for and still, despite all the effort she put into it, unexpected things kept cropping up. The decision to return to Tawa had been made just three months ago. Until three months ago, Mash had been hopeful that he would make partner at Halboroughs. Judy could still vividly remember the December evening when Mash came home earlier than usual. He had taken a slow train from Euston, one which stopped at Watford High Street, instead of a fast train to Watford Junction as he usually did. He had walked home from Watford High Street Station. A single look at Mash’s face and Judy knew that he had been passed over for partnership. This was the second year in a row that he had missed his promotion. ‘I didn’t want to risk driving in the state I am in,’ Mash had mumbled and collapsed on the sofa. Thankfully, Heather was out playing with her friends. Judy had tried to console him. There were so many things he could so. There was that smaller firm at Pinner which had asked him many times to join them as a partner. But Mash had set his heart on becoming a partner at Halboroughs and hated the idea of settling for anything else. As he sat in his rocking chair with a glass of double whiskey in his hand, Judy left the house taking the car keys with her. She took the bus to Watford Junction and drove back in the car, which Mash had parked that morning in the car park in front of the train station. When she got home, Mash was on the phone to Horan Samiban. Judy had been tempted to snatch the phone from Mash and hit him on the head with a stick. How could he do this to her? How could he do this to Heather? Wasn’t it enough that his father had sacrificed his life for that faraway distant country?

But she was learning fast. The most important lesson that she had learnt was that there were many people around willing to do her bidding. She merely had to give them the right instructions. Even in London, once their decision to return to Tawa had become public within the small Tawan community, there were so many people who offered to pitch in and help them out. Their house on King’s Close had been put up for sale. A buyer had been found very quickly. They moved out of their house in February and stayed for three weeks in a house owned by a rich businessman of Tawan descent till Heather’s spring term got over and Mash could wind up his affairs at Halboroughs. The most heart-warming thing was that so many people came over and told them how grateful they were to Mash for having decided to return to Tawa. It would have been perfectly understandable if Mash had never gone back. But Mash had vehemently decided that he had to return to land of his fathers.

Judy was sure that Mash had taken the wrong decision. Judy’s mother was much more upset than Judy when she found out that they were planning to go back to Tawa. ‘I thought you said you would get killed if you ever went back,’ she had angrily told Mash over the phone. It was no use telling her that Tawa was no longer under military rule and that the party founded by Mash’s father was back in power and they desperately needed Mash to win the next elections. She had not been very happy when Judy decided to marry Mash fifteen years ago. ‘It must be in our genes,’ Judy’s mother had told her after Judy took Mash home to meet her mother and stepfather. ‘I married a bastard from that part of the world and now you’re making the same mistake.’.

‘He can’t be that bad,’ her stepfather had defended Mash. ‘They do make good first husbands.’

‘He is unlikely to go back to where he came from, isn’t that right?’

‘He can’t go back. They will kill him if he ever goes back. Just as they killed his father and so many of his relatives. He and his mother were out here for his mother’s cancer treatment when that happened. Otherwise, they would also have been killed.’

Judy had met Mash at a friend’s birthday party. They were almost of the same age, with Judy being just a year younger than Mash. At that time, Mash was doing his articles at Halboroughs and Judy was training to become a teacher. His mother had died of cancer a few years ago and Mash had cut himself off entirely from Tawa and all Tawans in London. Judy had reminded Mash a little bit of himself. She had part-Tawan looks but had no ties to Tawa. Mash was not very tall, just five feet eight or so, but he had such intense eyes, curly hair, and a charming smile. And he was so polite and good natured. It had not taken much effort for Judy to fall in love with him. After her mother met Mash a few times, she was won over as well. It was difficult for anyone not to like Mash, with his quiet confidence, good looks and eager to please attitude.  And Judy continued to love him even now. Even though he had put on so much weight and had stupidly decided to return to Tawa. Judy loved him enough to know that she would always stick by him, whatever decisions he took.

Judy decided to wake up Heather. She had been sleeping for a couple of hours and if she continued to sleep any further, she would never get over the jet lag. A five-hour time difference wasn’t so bad. Not as bad as Australia or New Zealand which were ten hours or so ahead of the UK. If only they could have delayed their trip by another week, daylight saving would have started in the UK and they would have had to make up just four hours instead of five. Things would never be perfect, however much one planned, Judy told herself.

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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