Date Published: Sept.2023
Dayal Singh is brilliant, quirky, & has Asperger's. Son of parents trafficked to East Africa from India just before independence, he knows he's Sikh, African, and calculus is the evidence of God.
He becomes fascinated by a broken piano. and is offered a piano to sell, buys it and learns to play.
Mentored by his older brothers, he follows them to Singapore to further his education, then goes to Switzerland.
He falls in love with the granddaughter of the man who bought his father. She tells him that the situation is impossible, and that he must stay in school as long as his way is paid.
His youth is fraught, being an other. In Switzerland, he is constantly proselytized to, which only defines for him how he wants to live. He's studying physics and engineering, but finds peace in playing the piano. He meets other students, they jam, and suddenly they are rock stars...which Dayal never imagined could happen.
He agrees to meet Sita, the daughter of a Sikh man his father met, and Dayal thinks they are both in agreement about how they will live and raise children, but things gradually go downhill. When Dayal learns Sita hasn't been truthful with him, he has to make a decision.
The song I wrote, “Is This OK?” was a hit. We got it out as a single, and added it to shows. We started in Boston and zigzagged through large cities in Canada, the USA, and Mexico, then to Spain and France. We broadcasted live shows to theaters around the USA, San Jose, Lima, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Perth, and Brasilia, and Japan. I wrote the Glazer girls, but there was no way I could see them.
At the end of the tour in August, I flew to Dubai for a week. We hadn’t seen each other since December! I couldn’t imagine where Sita got the idea that there was so much to do in Dubai. Was she comparing it to Mumbai? I noticed the town was growing. There were triple the number of buildings, many quite tall. We got out to the desert for camel races, where I saw my first Salukis. I thought they looked like Mara’s dogs. They ran a few races, and were so graceful. We went out to eat, saw movies, strolled the mall, the beach, met her girlfriends (she knew no guys and did not socialize with the girls’ brothers or husbands), had dinner with Baba Makkar’s other family, and we talked more about our expectations. Again, I asked her if she had explored birth control methods, and hit a road block.
“You know, a lot of women use the rhythm method based on their cycles and it works,” she said to me.
“Do you know how it works? I will use condoms, but you need to know your options.”
We had no arguments, but our conversations were never about anything controversial or deep. She wasn’t wearing a lot of makeup anymore, at least not when I saw her. She told me she had started saving her allowance, and was even going through her wardrobe to decide what clothes she would really need, as the weather would be different in Europe.
We weren’t sleeping together in Dubai, but we could bring each other to orgasm, and I was happy for that.
I asked Fatima about how the wedding planning was going, and she told me she was thinking of next March.
Seven months more? “Why are you delaying this?”
“Your horoscopes… .”
“This is nonsense. We’ve known each other over a year. I have a school break in November. Make it for then.” I found this irritating, but when I was stressed, and back then, it was almost all the time, everything was irritating.
I really wanted to see my parents. I was halfway there, being in Dubai, so I asked Fatima and Sita to come with me. Mr. Makkar agreed to pay for their flights if I would pay for a place for them to stay, which was at Mr. Curtis’s hotel. A few other small hotels had been built, but Curtis’ place was still the nicest.
I surprised my parents (I did send a telegram). I sent Sita and Fatima on several safari runs, suggested they have my tailor create some clothes for themselves, and took them around in the truck to see Alfred. I brought him a solar lantern, a few books on alternative energy, and a football and badminton set for his three children, who were giddy about the gifts.
Fatima and Sita were surprised at how far out from Arusha Alfred lived. When we pulled into their compound, Fatima asked me, “They speak English?”
“Alfred was in primary school with me, and he often guides safaris, so I know his English is good. I’m not sure about the rest of his family.” I spoke to his wife and children in Kiswahili.
Alfred and I discussed putting in a rain catchment system on his house. He had managed to build a burned brick house with a cement floor and tin roof, but still had his rondoval. His wife and daughters still had to fetch water. I told him I’d loan him the money if he agree to pay it forward.
Sita and Fatima seemed uncomfortable with the goats, chickens and dogs approaching us in their curiosity. Alfred’s mum offered us chai and mandaazi, which is a fried pastry. I saw that Fatima and Sita were hesitant, but I whispered to them, “Everything’s boiled or fried. You won’t get sick.”
On the way back to town, we stopped at a Maasai encampment. I just wanted to greet them, and I had bought them a few plastic buckets. We didn’t stay long. The flies were too annoying, and there was no place to sit.
On the drive back to my folks, Sita and Fatima commented how remarkable it was that people could live like they did and be so happy. Sita asked me, “How is it you have a relationship with such primitive people?”
Her question shocked me. “They aren’t primitive. They’re just poor. You know, they haven’t had the advantages we’ve had.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Maasai like living the way they do. They are free. Their children do all the chores. As for Alfred, I had my older brothers to help me learn. Alfred was the eldest child. He had nobody to help him. Also, his father had two wives, so resources for the children were spread thin.”
My parents were cordial towards Sita and Fatima. However, I knew from the way they were acting, that they weren’t comfortable. There was a real class difference between us and them. Baba pulled me aside and asked, “They knew they were coming to Africa. Why didn’t they dress more simply?”
I remembered the time Avi and Sodhi came home after guiding safaris one day, and were counting their tips in various foreign currencies. Sodhi remarked that most of the tourists on his lorry were French, and Avi responded, laughing, “Today mine were all Italian. They always dress like they’re going to a photo shoot. The women, always silk shirts unbuttoned to show cleavage and gold necklaces, tight silk pants that look painted on, and stiletto heels. Not just high heels—pointy six inch heels. They tottered and had to be boosted into the lorry. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. That the ground would be hard so they wouldn’t sink in?”
My future wife and mother-in-law were dressed as if going to a business luncheon, and I wondered if they owned any clothes that didn’t need to be dry cleaned.
“Baba, these people live in a tall building. They don’t even have a garden. These are their ‘simple’ clothes.” He understood this because he had visited my brothers.
I had been living in Europe as a European and just accepted that some people never did any real work. This was also why I took time to address expectations with Sita.
Hassan had brought one of his wives to live with him, and she was helping Ama with baking. Fatima expressed surprise that my mother could bake such amazing things over a grill in a covered pot.
About the Author
I am retired dog groomer and have titled dogs in performance and conformation. I didn't go to college until I was 30, and took CLEP exams to avoid prerequisites. I have a degree in anthropology with concentrations in African & Indian studies, and a master’s in urban planning. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. I have had several short stories published in literary journals, and the pet industry press.