Chapter 1, Pt 2 of 2
My cabin-mate was a very sophisticated and fashionable young lady from Bombay who was going to England for some advanced training in teaching. It so happened that on the very first day she struck up a friendship with a tall and fair German youth on the boat, and from then onwards their flirtation started in earnest. As I occupied the top bunk in the cabin, and was stricken by the seasickness, I was kept constantly entertained by the billing and cooing of these lovebirds just below me. Being an orthodox Hindu girl, I used to feel rather embarrassed and shocked to watch them. I sometimes tried to keep my eyes away from them but found temptation too much to resist for long.
We reached Aden at last and as soon as the rocking stopped I breathed a sigh of relief. I gathered up what strength I had left in me and staggered out of the cabin. For a short while I stood in the passage holding on to the railings watching the movements of my fellow-passengers. There was no doubt, I was feeling greatly in need of a sympathetic friend, and fortunately I did not have to go far to find one. My wandering eyes soon rested on a middle-aged Indian lady standing in front of, her cabin quite near to mine. She was dressed in a simple white sari and the kind smile in her bespectacled eyes illumined her rather sallow round face. Our attraction towards each other was spontaneous and magnetic. She at once beckoned me to her cabin.
This gesture of friendliness seemed a godsend to me and I wasted no time in following her into her cabin. I sat on her bunk as directed by her and she gave me a ripe juicy mango to eat. She was taking two basketfuls of these mangoes to England but had to sort them out every day and finish off the ones, which were ready to eat. Mrs Mojomdar, this was the name of my newly found friend, was a Bengali doctor; had her practice in Calcutta and was now off to England for one of her periodic pleasure trips.
Mrs Mojomdar later introduced me to a group of Bengali gentlemen and together we went ashore to Aden and brought back with us some fresh limes and chilli’s, which gave much, needed Indian flavour to our food. I was a staunch vegetarian then. I remember two of the Bengali gentlemen trying to convince me that fish and eggs were included in the vegetarian diet, and that I was missing a great deal by not taking fish. Little did they know what my reactions were when I saw a trout complete with its eyes and tail being served on our table. I used to shudder just to see it lying on the plate.
We eventually disembarked at Genoa and then went on to Paris. There, much to Mrs Mojomdar’s annoyance, all her young Bengali gentlemen friends deserted her. They were no going to pass this city of gaiety and pleasure without getting some experience of it. My cabin-mate, the much talked about lady, decided to go to Germany with her newly-found boy friend instead of coming to England. So during the last lap of our journey, Mrs Mojomdar and I came closer than ever to each other. I told her in detail about our marriage and the long separation soon afterwards, which was now to end on my reaching London.
She gave me a serious look and then a word of warning. “Your husband,” she reminded me,”has been in England for nearly five years and you have not seen him since. You might find him greatly changed. You might even face some difficulties. But,” she went on, “if you ever need my help while I am in London, I would do my best for you.”
I thanked her quietly. Quietly, because in those days, I was undemonstrative by nature. I felt deeply grateful to her and yet to express my feelings in words seemed rather a superficial way of appreciating her kindness. I pondered over her warning that I might find my husband greatly changed after his long stay away from home. The reason why Mrs Mojomdar was eager to prepare me for any eventuality I might have to face, came to me in a flash. She had guessed that I was over-optimistic about everything, and she was right there.
I was at that time, an optimist to the extreme. I had faith in the Omnipotent God and was confident that He who had looked after me so far would not abandon me even after I had reached my destination.