Nov 29, 2023
Nov 29, 2023
by Vinod Joseph
The Prime Minister of Tawa: Chapter 12
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Heather was having lunch on her own in the large dining room. She had inherited Mash’s intense eyes, dark skin and curly hair. She was quite small for her age and when dressed in a sleeveless frock as she currently was, she looked much younger than her nine years. It was cool inside the bungalow, though it was sweltering outside. Judy was napping in the adjacent bedroom after having had a late brunch. Mash was on the phone to the Prime Minister, having just returned to the bungalow from somewhere. Heather knew that her Dad was speaking with the Prime Minister since the housekeeper had answered the phone and scampered to fetch her Dad, shouting ‘Prime Minister calling Maheshdas-raan’ in her high-pitched voice.
The shrimp was delicious, Heather decided. Heather had never liked rice all that much. But the steamed rice cooked with cumin seeds tasted so good when it was eaten along with the shrimps and the red sauce that the shrimps were cooked in. And the half dozen side dishes that were on the table. The chicken had been sliced into many small pieces and deep fried. The beef was cooked in a brownish sauce that was not as hot as the shrimp. Ishee was hovering in the background, just waiting for Heather to ask for something. They were all very nice. Especially Ishee who just jumped at the chance to do something for her and her Mom. She did not know the names of most dishes. That would take time, Heather decided. But she would learn their names. Similarly, the names of the servants were all so similar, that Heather could not differentiate between one and the other. She just knew Ishee's name. Funnily, she had heard someone else being called Ishee by the cook who seemed to control all the kitchen staff.
Heather was enjoying herself at Tawa. There were numerous servants hovering around her to cater to all her demands. It didn’t seem as though she would have to do any chores for her mother. She did not have to help in the kitchen either. The Head Teacher of the Royal Moshee High School, which was the smartest school in Hepara, had been in to meet with them. And he had been so polite to both Heather and Judy that it was almost embarrassing. Heather-ree could start school whenever she wanted. It was the school where her respected father had studied. Even the King and all the princes went to the Royal Moshee High School. Which grade did they think Heather-ree wanted to join? The third or the fourth? Maybe Heather-ree could have a look at some of the books which the school used for the third and the fourth grades and then decide. The school year was from September till May with a few term breaks in between. The idea was to ensure that schools did not have to function during the main monsoon months. Which meant that the academic year was about to come to a close. But it did not matter. If Heather-ree wanted to join any particular grade, she could. Or did Heather-ree prefer to take a break and then start in September? It was so embarrassing to be addressed as ree by the Head Teacher!
Heather had always liked spicy Indian curries. And her Dad had always told her that Tawan cuisine was much, much better. They were much hotter and infinitely tastier. And he had been absolutely right! Today morning, Heather had called up LJ, her best friend back home and told her that Tawan food was indeed the best in the world. Far better than any curry or Chinese takeaway. And boy, was it hot! Heather's bowels were on fire and the burning sensation permeated the whole of her stomach. But it was still worth it. Heather decided to eat one of the white cubes which were stacked up on a plate. She picked up a cube, which was an inch long on each side and bit into it. It was slightly sweet with a mild tang to it, the perfect counterfoil to the spicy food she had just eaten. She wondered if she should ask what it was called but decided not to bother for the moment. It would be easier to learn the names once she started to learn Keenda.
Ishee asked her something in Keenda which Heather did not understand. Ishee came closer towards Heather and repeated herself once more and it appeared, she was speaking much more slowly, as if by speaking slowly Heather could understand what was being said. Ishee's clothes smelt of some fried food. Heather flinched with a grimace. Ishee did not understand why Heather flinched. She patted her stomach and Heather understood that she was being asked if she was still hungry. She too patted her stomach and shook her head from side to side. Ishee pointed to a large dish which had a pudding of some sort in it. Heather had eaten that the previous night and was not too sure if she should have it once again.
'Ice cream?' Ishee asked her.
Heather could not believe her ears. Yesterday after she finished dinner, she had felt like having some ice cream and had asked Ishee for some. Ishee had gone into the kitchen for consultations and had come back with a sad face. 'No ice cream,' she had told Heather.
'Yes! Ice cream!' Heather nodded vigorously. Ishee disappeared to fetch the ice cream. Heather wondered what flavour it would be. The whole thing was like a dream. A happy dream from which Heather hoped she would never have to wake up from. However, everything was not perfect. There were many things yet to be fixed. The bungalow they lived in did not have internet access. Yet when her Dad asked for a broadband connection to be installed, they had asked him why he needed one. It was almost hilarious.
Ishee was soon back with a bowl of ice cream. It looked like Vanilla. The most basic of flavours. Ummmmmm! Yes, it was Vanilla. Things weren't bad at all. Maybe she would be able to get them to get her some Raspberry Ripple the next time. She would ask the housekeeper who spoke a smattering of English. There was a possibility that Raspberry Ripple was not available in Tawa. Not that it mattered all that much.
Yesterday night her Mom and Dad had quarrelled over something after dinner. Her Dad had come back from somewhere looking very happy. They had had dinner and were getting ready for bed. ‘The rally went off very well,’ he had told them. Instead of being happy for her Dad, her Mom had blurted out, ‘I guess you’ll spend most of your time attending meetings, while I sit here with nothing much to do.’ Her mother had gone on to complain about everything in Tawa. She hated wearing the clothes which she was supposed to wear. The doree, thuli and sarong were so uncomfortable and restrictive that it was practically torture to wear them. Heather did not really think it was torture to wear the doree and sarong. The sarong was actually a lot more comfortable that wearing a skirt and stockings.
Dad had been forced to make a series of promises to her Mom to placate her. He promised her a visit to London every six months. And she could stay in London for a month each time. Which meant, she would spend only ten months in Tawa every year. And if they could not get something they wanted in Tawa, it could be sent for from the UK. Heather was not sure what would happen if her Dad lost the elections. Maybe they would have to go back to Watford. It was not a happy thought. Heather did not particularly want to go back. It was far better to live in Tawa and visit the UK once in six months. And send for the things they could not get here from Marks and Spencer’s or Debenhams or Sainsburys. Maybe she would ask her Dad to send for some Raspberry Ripple from the UK. Heather desperately hoped that her Dad would win.
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More by : Vinod Joseph