Sunita De Souza Goes to Sydney and Other Stories

By Roanna Gonsalves

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Aunty Marilyn was a higher-up in the Bank of Dubai, and kept getting promoted higher and higher every three years. But I suspected that being first in line for work promotions could never heal the wound of being second in line for love. If twenty-five years of marriage had taught her anything about her husband, it was that he still nursed a fondness for the stylish Aussie. He married Marilyn only after he realised that Gloria had gone for good – there was no beating around the bush with that fact. Yet, here she was, the wife, sending with the homemade xacuti masala a hidden message that Gloria was just another fragment of the past. ‘Tell her she and Tony should make a visit here soon. They’re welcome any time to my house.’

Gloria had visited Bombay one Christmas when I was a mere schoolgirl, and Uncle Joe and Aunty Marilyn had not yet left for Dubai. It was her first trip back after migrating to Australia. I can’t remember much of what she said then, but I distinctly remember the two-pack of tea towels with a print of the Australian flag she presented to Aunty Marilyn, tied with red curling ribbon, a clip-on koala clinging to the bow. Her freshly manicured red nails anointed this gift with glamour, with intelligence that soared out of the reach of our drab two-bedroom, hall, kitchen flat close to the grunt of the train station.

‘Throw away your kitchen cloths, Marilyn, this is what true-blue Aussies use,’ she announced. And then she laughed, exuding refinement with every lilt in her voice, with every gesture of those perfect hands, with every crossing and uncrossing of her stilettoed Sydney legs. Her knees were not scarred like ours. Gloria’s voice transgressed with confidence, presumed triumph, as Aunty Marilyn stood there with a bowl of wafers in her hands, not knowing whether to go around the room with the bowl or put it down on the centre table. There was a slight pause of confusion before all the adults laughed along with Gloria, without really understanding what they were laughing about, including Aunty Marilyn, whose laugh came out as a high-pitched shriek. It was the first time we had ever heard of tea towels. In my childish mind they conjured a particular English sensibility gleaned from reading too much Enid Blyton, of dainty teacups and cucumber sandwiches, and frilled-up men and women wiping their mouths, discreetly.

—From ‘Full Face’

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