Chapter  4, Pt 4 of 4

DOMESTIC HELP AND MISSES PERRY

One evening a policeman brought a drunkard to the door. The chap was looking red in the face and eyes, and swaying from side to side. The police officer held his arm to keep him steady. I opened the door and took them into the consulting room. I must have looked a little frightened. “You do not have to be afraid of them,” said the policeman. “They become quite nervous and cowards when they have had so much.” I learnt something new from him.

Another day I found a very unusual customer at the door. He was a tall, bearded Sikh, with a handsome face and bright pink turban. He had a large suitcase, which he had already opened on my doorstep.

He held one or two scarves of paisley silk and said in his broken English, “look lady, Indian, very good.”

I gave him a broad smile and waited for him to recognise me. He stared at me in return and looked puzzled. Of course, he did not think I was Indian. How could he? I had Western dress on and had bobbed hair. I had covered my olive skin with plenty of make-up so how could the poor villager of India guess my nationality.

Still smiling, I said in Punjabi, “I do not need any of these goods sardar ji.”

He seemed to relax a little then, and said in amazement, “so you know my language?”

“Yes,” I said, “and I am also a Punjabi.”

It took a little while to convince him of that, but when he was sure of it, his attitude changed completely. He closed his suitcase straight away, and was anxious to talk to me.

I asked him in to the hall and he showered me with questions. How long had I been in England? How many children had I? Which part of the Punjab I came from, etc., etc. But he seemed most polite all the time.

“What can I offer you?” I said. “Would you like something to drink?”

He looked at me with his penetrating eyes. “Well, if you are our own sister, then what about giving me a few chapattis?”

I laughed. “Sorry, I cannot prepare those just now. But would you like a glass of milk?”

“Yes, that would be good,” and he had that, and wiped his beard with his hands. He gave me and my family his blessings, lifted his heavy suitcase up and went on his weary way. I watched him from the open door until he turned the corner.

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