Chapter 2, Pt 3 of 4
MY FIRST HOME
“Oh, she is one of the sweet English girls I know.” There was a twinkle in his eye as he went on, “I have not lived like a saint you know. I have had some fun. Now, let me see, how many nurses I know in Liverpool alone. There is Alice, Mabel, Molly . . .”
Just at that moment, Sally who had been quietly listening to our conversation interrupted suddenly. “I do think it is unkind of you, Doc” (she always called him Doc) “to tell your innocent wife about your past. I think you will be wise to keep quiet about it.”
We met Miss Butcher outside the “Dominion” in Tottenham Court Road I liked her almost at once. We had tea on the first floor of the “Lyons Comer House ” which seemed to me then so dazzlingly lit and decorated that I felt like being in a dream land.
It was a completely new experience, too, to see such a large number of pink and white faces with broad smiles all round me. Miss Butcher (we call her Butch for short) and Sheel had to carry on the conversation entirely between them selves, because I remained speechless most of the time. Oh, how I long to recapture the virtue of keeping silent in company. Would not Sheel be pleased if I did sometimes revert back to my old habit?
However, from “Lyons Corner House” we went to “Selfridges”, and once inside that huge store, we followed Butch’s long and regular strides (to me they seemed exceptionally long) from one department to another and eventually decided on a pretty brown and mustard floral dress, a tan-coloured Harris Tweed coat and a hat to match. The accessories, such as a pair of high-heeled brown shoes, silk stockings, handbag, gloves, etc., were also bought on the spot.
Butch came to our house one day in the following week and with her help I managed to put on my new garb. What a transformation! For a minute or two I could not believe it was me standing in front of the mirror, showing the best part of my legs. I felt half dressed, very shy and self-conscious.
“Try the coat and hat on,” persuaded my helper smilingly, “then you will feel dressed.”
I did what I was told. Oh, but how heavy that Harris Tweed coat was. It felt like a ton weight on me, and the low-brimmed hat nearly covered half of my face. But I must admit that as the time went on and the styles of ladies’ hats became more flexible and pretty, I enjoyed wearing them and still do.
I kept my beautiful saris for wearing on our days off, when we went to London to see our Indian friends and for evening wear in Laindon. After I got over the initial strangeness of English dress, I found I could move about and work more freely in that than in a sari. After a little hesitation, I consented to have my hair cut short as well. So now I was all ready to get down to my duties, to learn to look after my house, to cook for Sheel and to serve him with my own hands.
I had not forgotten the good advice, which my mother repeatedly gave my sisters and me. She used to say “If you want the constant love and attention of your husband, do the cooking for him yourself; tickle his fancy by preparing tempting dishes for him.”
But much as I wanted to do all these things, I did not like to interfere in Sally’s work. My instinct told me that it would be most unwise for me to upset Sally in any way. However, to start with, I persuaded her to teach me to do some of the household chores, such as lighting fires, polishing, washing, etc. As I have said before, she kept the house scrupulously clean.
After about three weeks of my arriving, Sheel casually mentioned to me that he could not really afford to keep Sally all the time, but there was no alternative because he did not think I would be able to tackle everything alone. I at once assured him that I would manage it. Naturally I was waiting and praying for this opportunity of being left alone to try my hand at everything. But I did feel sorry for Sally who did not really want to leave us. She cried bitterly when Sheel broke the news to her. He eventually arranged for her to go to work in a Private Nursing Home in Liverpool.
The first week without Sally was a cheerless and trying one for us all, when I say all, I mean to include Roy, the dog, as well. who it seemed was suddenly left motherless. Try as I might, I could not put him in my lap to feed him and to kiss and cuddle him. Sheel seemed very quiet and melancholy as well, and I myself, missed Sally’s, ready smile, witty conversation and the companionship. But I knew I could not have it both ways and was thankful to be left alone to run my own home.
After watching Sally doing the household chores for nearly three weeks, I thought I would be able to tackle them without much difficulty, but I had a shock when for the first time I started to light our old-fashioned kitchener and it would not burn. I tried to hide this fact from Sheel as long as I could but eventually he had to go down on his knees to show me how to make the fire burn. He never lets me forget that incident.