The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 17. Part 1 — Edgbaston late March 1962: Forgiveness & New Beginnings [section 1 of 3]

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“Do you think you and Ian might see your way to come over tonight?”

It was the end of Thursday’s music theory class, and Rashmi asked me just as I was about to leave.

“I’m certain I can,” I replied. “I’ll have to see about Ian, but I imagine that he can, too – wazzup?”

Taya – Uncle – and Bhai Sanjit,” she said. “They’ve both asked that you come. I don’t know why. I can only hope.…”

“Wot?” I asked after her pause widened into an endless fermata.

“I presume too much, sometimes; maybe it’s best I not say anything more. Will you be there?”

“Of course.” And when I asked Ian during choir, he said he would, too.

I smiled one of my “reassuring” smiles at Stan when he glanced my way, flashing him a “thumbs up.”

For the first time since Holika, he smiled back.

* * *

We met in the Gupta’s dining room – at least it was the equivalent of the dining room on our side, had a large, dark, elaborately carved wooden table, and was elegantly furnished.

I was glad I’d kept my school uniform on; at least I didn’t look completely out of place. Either Ian or Mrs. Tippins must’ve inferred that the occasion was somewhat auspicious, for he’d returned from home in his “cricketer dress-casual.”All three females were in dress saris – even Rashmi, whom I knew wore them no more often than every other twenty-ninth of February – or maybe somewhere between that and twelfth of Never. From the elaborate decorative stitching on what appeared to be silk tunics, I gathered Stan and Dr. Gupta were also dressed up.

In the center of the table was a plate of balushahi (from a bakery – heaven knows where – ever so slightly stale, but dipped in syrup, and a total delight), bordered by a large elegant pot of the most robust, aromatic tea I’d tasted up until then, and flanked by candles and a pair of figurines. Incense, my first exposure to Patchouli, was burning in the corner, flanked by another pair of candles. Stan and Dr. Gupta sat at the two ends of the table, Mrs. Gupta and Paravati on one side, Ian, Rashmi and me – in that order – on the other.

Dr. Gupta began. “Much is made of the playful side of Holi – of people spraying each other with a rainbow of colours, of treats and camaraderie thereafter. Often, that is enough. But, there is another side as well: one that can be neglected as we have fun – certainly, I’ve neglected it this year, though through distraction, not from fun – that often can be even more important.

“For Holi is also the time for penance, for new beginnings and for forgiveness.

“And it is time for this family – for my son and me, in particular – to fully – if perhaps somewhat belatedly – observe such an element of the celebration. And, I particularly wish for you, Reggie, and for you, Ian, to bear witness to what Sanjit and I pledge to each other this day.”

 

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