Dec 10, 2023
Dec 10, 2023
by Vinod Joseph
The Prime Minister of Tawa – 25
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Heather seemed to be the only one in Tawa who hated the idea of Holy Week. Schools closed for Holy Week, which, as it would be obvious to anyone, lasted for a week. Heather had started as a fourth grader at the Royal Moshee High School in September and in less than six weeks, Holy Week had kicked in. Heather loved going to school. While they lived in London, if someone had told her that anyone liked school as much she did right now, she would have thought they were nuts. If someone had told her that she would soon wish she did not get school breaks, she would have called them bonkers. But here she was in Hepara hating Holy Week as the whole of Tawa mourned and celebrated the death and birth of Guardian Akbar. The Guardian was born many centuries ago on the fifteenth of October and died sixty-three years later on the twelfth of October. And so, every year on the twelfth of October, Deelahees mourned the dead of the Guardian. But they mourned without despair, since the Guardian had left behind his lasting legacy of ideas and anyway, his birthday was coming up in three days time, on the fifteenth. Three days of mourning and four days of rejoicing by everyone except the Seedas who were yet to accept the true path shown to all human beings by the Guardian.
Heather plonked herself on the sofa. She did not like the new bungalow they had shifted into. When they moved into the Residency, she had thought that it would be their home for good. Her father had become the Prime Minister and prime ministers lived in the Residency, didn’t they? But they had moved within two months to this bungalow which was much smaller than the Residency. Heather missed the ocean which was just across the road from the Residency. The Quaree River, which ran close by their new bungalow, was hardly a substitute for the ocean. But she understood why they had moved. Judy had explained to her that the Residency reminded her father of his painful childhood. Those cruel army men had killed her grandfather and her father had a narrow escape. Now, he had bravely returned to Tawa to reclaim what was rightfully his. Heather believed all that her mother told her about Tawa, even though her own experiences did not show Tawa to be a cruel place.
At the Royal Moshee High School she was treated on par with the royal princes and princesses. Unlike the grammar school she went to at Watford, she did not have to wear a uniform. Certain days she wore frocks and on other days she wore a doree and sarong. Everyone did the same. The teachers called the princes and princesses as Raan or Ree. Heather, because she was the Prime Minister’s daughter, was Heather-ree. She had homework every day, but no one ever insisted that she finish her homework. And because the teachers were so nice, she usually completed her homework every day. She was taking special classes to learn Keenda which, though not an easy language to learn, she was picking up very fast.
Four more days to go before she could go back to school, Heather told herself. The three-day period of mourning was over and four days of celebrations had just begun. She looked out of the window. All the black banners had been taken down from the streets and red flags of celebration were put up. Everyone wore new clothes. Tons of gifts for all three of them had been delivered to the bungalow by various people. That nice man who worked with her father, who had spoken to her when they landed, he had come to meet them earlier in the day today with a new doree, sarong and thuli for her. You will soon be old enough to wear a thuli, he had told her in front of her beaming parents. Yesterday, someone had sent them a box full of western clothes. Her father muttered something about not accepting the clothes since they were from a businessman who would later ask for a favour. But her mother had looked at the clothes and decided that she would keep them. ‘Don’t do anyone any favour you do not want to do,’ she told her father. ‘It isn’t possible to accept gifts and then say No,’ her father had shouted back. Her parents had continued to argue loudly and her mother had gone into a sulk. She was still sulking in her bedroom even now, though her father had told them that they could keep the clothes.
Heather didn’t really care. She had more clothes than she could possibly wear. As soon as her father had won the elections, her mother had made a long list of clothes they needed for receptions and the like and sent them to the Tawan High Commission in London. The clothes had arrived a month later and then her mother decided she needed a few more and sent another list to London.
Heather decided to call up LJ. LJ was her best friend and was just a call away. Heather dialed Heather’s home number. Hopefully she would catch LJ before she left for school at eight in the morning. It must be seven a.m. in England and LJ must be rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Her mother walked in as she was dialing. Her eyes were still red. She must have cried a lot yesterday.
‘What are you doing honey?’
‘I’m calling LJ.’
‘Is that a good idea? She must be getting ready for school.’
‘I just want to tell her that I don’t have school today, though it’s a Monday. What time is it at home?’
‘It’s twelve here. Must be already eight in the morning over there. Too late sweetheart. LJ must have left for school by now.’
Heather hung up before someone answered the phone.
‘Why can’t we have daylight saving here as well Mom?’ If only Tawan time changed in the fall and in spring just as it did back home, it would be much easier to calculate the time. Spring Forward and Fall Back. Forward March, Retreat October, that is all you need remember. Those beautiful mnemonics which she had learnt back home were so useless in this new place.
‘Honey, here the damn sun sets at the same time every day. So, there is no daylight to be saved.’
Heather realised that despite everything, she missed home.
‘How many more days before we go home for Christmas?’
‘Why don’t you count the days yourself honey? You are a big girl now. You’ll soon be ten.’
Heather had counted the days so many times. They were to leave for London on the twentieth of December, two days after school closed for the trimester break and return on the fifteenth of January. They would be staying in hotels except when they were in Swindon where they would stay with their grandmother. You will stay in the best hotels; her father had promised her mother. Heather had written down the names of the hotels they would be staying in. They would stay in the Savoy in London for a week, at the Le Meridian at Edinburgh for five days and at the Georges Cinq in Paris for a week. The rest of the time, they would be in Swindon with their grandmother.
‘Mom, can’t Dad go with us when we go home for Christmas?’
‘No darling, I don’t think so. He said he can’t.’
‘Why can’t he?’
‘He’s got to work. He’s a prime minister. He runs a country. This country. He’s the Prime Minister of this country. You ought to be proud of him.’
‘Are you proud of him?’
‘Of course, I am proud of him.’
‘Then why did you quarrel with him yesterday?
‘Heather, mind your business will you?’
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More by : Vinod Joseph