Emilda40 mins 1.4K 40 mins 1.4K
When Praveen Shah went to Lusaka, Zambia in 1990, he did not enjoy his stay there as life in the evenings was boring.
He was only 24 years old then. He had only worked for three years in Mumbai after his graduation in his home town Baroda. While other Indians went to the Middle East countries for work, Gujaratis did not hesitate to go to Africa, as they knew more about the Dark Continent.
After six months of stay there, Praveen’s General Manager Gopalan Nair who was with the company for more than fifteen years decided to migrate to Canada and Praveen became the General Manager at Ross & Desai Industries Ltd. Praveen’s biggest qualification was- he was an Indian in an Indian owned company.
His salary was doubled to US $ 1500 with a more spacious bungalow on Milton Obote Road, the Indian Conclave with a driver and domestic help. Even all his local expenses were taken care of.
After his promotion, Praveen became busy. Even after coming back home in the evenings, he had to do a lot of things especially planning for the next day.
Cooking, ironing and cleaning were all looked after by a person called Peter Banda.
During this period Praveen was introduced to many businessmen of Lusaka, most of them of Indian origin.
Jayesh Patel became his friend. Jayesh was about five years older than him. Jayesh was looking after his father’s well-established business. Praveen went to his office many times as Jayesh’s company was one of Ross & Desai Industries Ltd’s biggest suppliers. Jayesh also visited Praveen’s office many times.
One evening when Praveen went to Jayesh’s office he found a new young secretary at the reception.
“Good evening sir. You want to see Mr. Patel?” She greeted him.
“Yes,” Praveen said. The secretary looked very pleasing.
“Please take a seat, sir, May I know your name?”
“Pra…win…...” She could not pronounce his name properly. Only his surname was familiar to her because Patel, Desai, Shah were the common surnames of Indians in Lusaka. “Ok. I call you Mr. Shah”.
Praveen was allowed to go in.
“You have changed your secretary?” Praveen asked Jayesh after talking for a few minutes.
“These secretaries do not remain for long. The previous one left last week. I am lucky to find this young girl. She is good. But she will be here for two months during her holidays. Then she is going back to her college for her B.A. final year.”Jayesh said.
“Good at least for two months you have one. She looks pleasing.”
“Yes. She is.”
They changed the topic and spoke about business.
Praveen went to Jayesh’s office many times that month and every time he found the same secretary at the reception. He developed some attachment to her without knowing what she felt about him.
He learnt from her that her name was Emilda and she stayed 20 kilometers away from Lusaka in a farm near Makeni where some ministers too owned farms. Her father was a farmer and also a partner in a press in Lusaka. He would drop her in the morning and take her back in the evening. If he could not come, it was a matter of phoning one of her neighbours. Many people brought cars to Lusaka from her area.
Emilda was rich by Zambian standards. But she wanted to work during her holidays.
“Normally the girls of your age do not work during the holidays. They are happily flirting with their boyfriends” Praveen said. Immediately he realised that he made an offensive statement about Zambian girls.
“As long as the boyfriends look after them during the holidays they are fine. And these boyfriends have an obligation to do so.” Emilda said without taking his words offensive.
“So you are not looked after by your boy friend?” Praveen joked.
“I do not have any boy friend. Even if I had, I would still work. I want to gain some experience.”
Every time Praveen went, he would chat with her for a few minutes if Jayesh was around. If Jayesh was out, he would talk to her till he came.
“Praveen…..my secretary Emilda cannot go home today” Jayesh phoned Praveen one day evening and said “Can she stay with you tonight? Nothing to worry. I do not want her to stay in any other place.”
“O.K. Jayesh, I would not mind. I have enough space with me to accommodate her.” Praveen said.
“Do not feel bad for asking this favour, please. I am only begging you as myself I cannot take her. I will explain the things when I see you later”
‘There could be strong reasons. Otherwise, he would not do it. Why she cannot go? She can be dropped.’- Thought Praveen. But he did not tell Jayesh what he thought. He did not even understand why she wanted to stay with him.
“Has Emilda agreed?”
“Yes. She feels she is comfortable with you.”
Jayesh brought Emilda to Praveen’s house ten minutes after six.
“Praveen she is going through a problem,” Jayesh said when Praveen went to see him off. “If she had gone somewhere it would not help. At least with you, she is safe. She will recover. Handle her properly. I wanted to send her to some lady, but whom to request? They will misunderstand. My wife would kill if I brought any girl home. This is a strange world. They think a girl comes only for sex.”
Jayesh started his car, waved his hand and drove off.
“Is everything fine Emilda?” Praveen asked after allowing her to settle down.
“OK Sir….. No problems” Replied Emilda.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why you cannot go home?”
“There is a small problem at home. It has aggravated. If I go, I will end up standing by my mother. Dad does not like it. If I do not go, they will refrain from fighting. Mom does not talk much. It’s me who talk on her behalf.”
“So there is a fight between mom and dad. But would not they mind you staying here?”
“I have already told them that I cannot come home and will stay at my friend’s place. They do not have any reason to suspect me. I do not have a boy friend. I do not go to disco and I do not drink.”
“Did you request Jayesh that you would want to stay here?”
“No. I only explained my problem. He trusts me and cares a lot. He said he would send me to your place after I agreed and then he phoned you”
Praveen was convinced. He was thinking she might have just ‘created’ a problem to stay with him. ‘If that was the case Jayesh would have known.’ He thought.
They talked for a while. Then Praveen discovered that she did not have cloths to change. He took her to the supermarket. She hesitated. But he forced her to buy some garments and office wear for the next day. After coming home she said she wanted to wash and iron the cloths as she did not want to wear the new cloths as they were.
“Let me put them into the washing machine. They come out well dried.” Praveen asked her for the bag thinking she might not be aware where the washing machine was.
“Do not take the trouble, Sir. I shall do it.” She followed him.
They came back to the sitting room.
Peter served them soft drinks. They went to take out the clothes from the washing machine. After ironing them she went for a bath. Praveen went for his bath in another bath room.
She looked beautiful in the new dress. Peter served them dinner and after clearing the table went to his house in the same yard.
They spoke for a while. Praveen did not want to know her problem. He just wanted her to forget everything at least for that night. They watched a comedy movie together. She laughed a lot.
“This is your bedroom Emilda” Praveen showed her a bed room and said “Please be comfortable. If you need anything, please let me know”
“Where you will sleep?” Emilda asked.
“I would not mind sleeping in the same bed room. I do not like to sleep alone.”
“Do you have any fear?”
“No. At home I sleep alone.”
“Then why in the same bed room here? Keep in mind that I am a boy.”
“Only after trusting you, I came to your house. If any wrong things are to happen, they can happen anyhow and anywhere. I am not worried about these things. I would not come to you otherwise.”
He agreed. They slept on the same bed a few feet away from each other. He turned his back to her back. Both were facing the walls of opposite sides. After a while, she changed her side to face his back. He realised it. After hesitating for a while he turned his face to her face. She looked at him.
“Can I switch off the lights….? But only if you are comfortable.” Praveen asked.
“Anything is fine,” Emilda said.
He switched off the brighter light and switched on the darker one.
“Good night”. She said. He reciprocated.
Praveen could not sleep with a girl besides him.
“Emilda, are you sleeping?” Praveen asked her after half an hour.
“I will sleep in a while,” Emilda said.
“But stop thinking about your problem. If a thought comes, please talk to me. I do not want to ask questions about your trouble and aggravate your problem”
“I know that you are an intelligent person.”
She touched his hand. He did not object. She came closer. A thought that she had come with an intention to seduce him had disappeared long back. It was sure that she did not want sex from him. He also did not. Her touch said that she just wanted to be closer to him. Slowly Praveen hugged her. After a few minutes she slept on his chest like a child. Praveen too slept well.
The next day morning after breakfast Praveen drove her to Jayesh’s office at 7.30. Jayesh had not arrived.
“Sir, Thank you very much,” Emilda said while getting down from the car.
“Do not call me sir when we are together. If you cannot pronounce my name call me by any familiar name. And you can always come to me if you have a problem” Praveen said as he shifted to the first gear to move.
“Ok, Robby” Emilda had chosen a new short name for him.
Praveen was busy throughout the day at his office. In the evening after five, Emilda phoned him to say that her father had gone to Ndola in the copper belt province which was around 300 kilometers away from Lusaka and he would come only on the next day. So she would only visit him the next day.
Praveen was happy that at least for another night she was comfortable at home with her mother.
The next day Praveen did not phone her nor did she. When he entered his house at around 8.00 p.m, Emilda was sitting in his drawing room. Peter was busy preparing food in the kitchen.
“Has your dad come back?” Praveen asked.
“He has. Robby, hope I am not disturbing you.” Emilda said.
“What way? Did you tell Jayesh?”
“Yes. He is happy that I am coping up. He is a great man. The most generous and selfless person I have ever seen. He cares even for little things of his ordinary workers. And Robby, You have something in you which makes you a rare person to find… I cannot explain.”
“I know” Praveen did not know what to say. “Ok Emi….” Praveen changed her name into a shorter one “I will take a bath… You look you had one”
“Yes, I had… You find your clothes in the bathroom”
Praveen found the clothes in his bathroom.
Praveen thought she was also like him when it came to cleanliness.
They talked about cleanliness after his bath.
“I hate odour. The smell of sweat puts me off. So I have difficulty to travel in mini buses. Mind you I am not against those poor people who sweat at the market. It’s only I cannot stand the collective odour of sweat, fish, and meat in the bus.” Emilda said.
“I know you like cleanliness. But you said you would survive the other night with the same clothes.” Praveen replied.
“I would not. I just said so. At night I would have taken off the clothes and washed them. And I would have gone to bed with a towel on. I would
rather be more comfortable with a towel on me than sleep with dirty clothes”
They had dinner. After Peter went, they watched a movie.
“Robby, we are from different countries different colours and religions” She started talking after dinner.
“If I differentiated on the basis of these things, I would not talk to you. I like Zambian girls because they are good”
“But Zambian girls are more after Indians than Zambians”
“Yes…..Because Indians pay well to these girls. They can afford. The Indians who come the first time to Zambia want to taste Zambian girls as soon as they arrive. They say Zambian girls are good in bed.”
“Yes….many times. But I have a problem, the cleanliness….fear of AIDS… I do not like instant sex. That does not give me pleasure.”
“AIDS has killed our country and sub-Saharan Africa. 20% of our adult population suffers from Aids. I feel there is a conspiracy here by International agencies and medical companies to sell medicines” There was a genuine concern in her voice.
“Anyway you do not have a boy friend?”
“I had one three years back – for a brief time. He wanted only sex from me. He always demanded. I never gave in… I too had a lot of fear of Aids.”
“So you never had sex in your life” Praveen had never asked this question to any girl. But he felt very free to ask her even though any type of answer would have been the same to him.
“I did not. Never felt like. They say it is difficult to find virgins here. But I am”
“When will you lose your virginity?” He stopped. “Sorry for this question”
“You can ask me anything. Do not say sorry. I will lose my virginity to a man I really like…. Do not ask me when….. Even today. But Robby please do not go to those girls.”
“I will not…..”
She lost her virginity that night. It was not planned. Neither of them wanted to have sex with each other. But it happened.
Praveen enjoyed every bit of her. It seemed to him that she did not enjoy her first sex.
“Emi…. Do not feel guilty” Praveen said after relaxing for a while.
“Never….Why should I? But do not go with those girls” Emilda blinked her eyes. She was not jealous of them. She wanted him to be safe.
Praveen was invited to visit Emilda’s farm house. He drove there after a week. Emilda’s father was drinking beer under a tree near the house. He was sitting on an empty plastic beer crate upside down. Praveen greeted him. Emilda’s father was drunk.
“Yes good evening Mweene…. How are you?” Emilda’s father said. “I am told you are Jayesh’s friend. I know his father very well. So Jayesh employed Emilda for a short period. Jayesh and his father are not like other Mweenes.”
An Indian is called Mweene which means chilly. Nobody knows are they called so because of their hot tempered behaviour or their chilly based spicy food. It’s an offensive word at times.
“Thank you, Mr. Mwanza, Nice to meet you. My name is Praveen Shah. I am the General Manager at Ross & Desai Industries Ltd.” Praveen shook Mwanza’s hand.
“Have some beer”
“Ok… Please join them. Let me relax here under the tree. Emilda talks a lot about you. She is a good girl. But she supports her mother. I become lonely. Now I am happy that she works. She is good in studies. My son Mel is like me… very cool”
“Thanks….let me see Mrs. Mwanza.”
Praveen walked in. Mrs. Mwanza greeted and hugged him. She was wearing a traditional Zambian dress with chitenje around her waist and scarf on her head.
“Mr. Shah….. I am happy to receive you …” Mrs. Mwanza said.”Emilda says you are a good man. She does not make mistakes in reading minds. It’s after years she has liked two people. You and Jayesh- though we know him for a long time. His father helped us to come out of problems several times. We have a big farm. But nobody works here. My husband is a partner in a press in Lusaka too. So he goes every morning to Lusaka. Instead of going to the press, he goes to the bar and comes drunk in the evening. On his way back home he makes sure that he carries enough beers.” She laughed. There was a pain in that laugh.
Mr. Mwanza walked in and said “Mr. Shah, Will you marry my daughter? She is a good girl. Only that she is African. You Indians do not marry Zambians. You have only an affair with them. Then you go to India and bring Indian ladies in saris.”
There was seriousness in what he spoke and also some wit.
Praveen did not know what to say because what Mr. Mwanza said was a fact.
“Stop it, dad, why should he marry me? I only said that he is a nice person.” Emilda shouted.
“Yes, the girls should always marry nice people. Only your mama married a wrong person.”
“No, dad. You are nice. It is only you drink a lot.”
“Ok, Emilda…..I cannot argue. I want to take rest for a while. Wake me up at 9.00. So that I can have some Nshima with chicken”
“And some more beers…”
All laughed. Mwanza too.
Mel came out and joined them. He was doing his high school. It was a nice family. Only something was missing there.
Praveen had dinner with them. Mwanza talked during dinner “You know Mr. Shah, I have an angel at home. That’s my daughter Emilda. She is a perfect girl. She doesn’t flirt like other girls and does not lie. Always blunt. But compassionate. Her only problem is, she supports her mother. But that’s fine. Someone has to protect her. My daughter is a perfect girl.”
“Dad… Stop flattering. Eat your Nshima. You are only eating chicken.”
“Thank you Emilda”
Praveen wanted to leave as it was already mid night. Emilda was asked to accompany him because it was too late.
“Mr. Shah…..there are car thieves around and they like Pajero…. You could have stayed. But you insist you want to go. Take Emilda with you.” Mwanza said.
Mrs. Mwanza also insisted.
‘But how Emilda a girl would help me if car thieves were to come to snatch the car?’- Thought Praveen. As if she read his mind, Mr. Mwanza had the answer “These car thieves are sympathetic to ladies. Also, tell them that you had dinner at this farm. They may take your car. But will not harm you”
Nothing such happened. They reached home. Praveen and Emilda entered the bungalow. Peter had a left a note on the table ‘Bwana, if you want anything, please knock on my door. Food is in the kitchen’
They did not want any food.
They had a bath together and walked naked to the bed room, she slept on his lap. They did not make love. What’s making love? Just playing with two bodies? When you are in real love, love does not recognise bodies. It knows only minds and hearts.
Nothing disturbed them for days.
Emilda’s college re-opened. She had to finish graduation. On the weekends, she came to Praveen’s house. In fact he wanted her to stay with him during her college days. She objected.
Peter once told Praveen that he should marry Emilda.
“Who else would I marry?” Praveen said.
“Bwana never let her down. She is very very good”. Peter said. ‘Very’ word is repeated twice in Zambia.
Peter always hated girls Praveen brought home. Only lucky ones repeated coming. But this girl Emilda kept on coming again and again and Peter surprisingly liked her. Peter normally did not like to flatter his boss for no reason.
During the vacation after the final exams, Emilda worked for Jayesh. After the graduation results came out she joined for her masters. She took Sociology.
Three years passed. They were still in love. She came and stayed at Praveen’s house and he went to her farm. But they did not get married….Never discussed about it.
Praveen went to India on holidays and other countries several times on business.
Emilda joined the University College as Lecturer.
Some of Praveen’s Indian friends were not happy with him for having an affair or love with an African girl. They said nobody could live longer with African girls. They said African girls drank a lot. That was not the case with Emilda. They said those girls are after money and not loyal. Emilda never showed any anger. She was not even much after bodily pleasure. She never asked him for money. Praveen called her a perfect girl. He pitied his Indian friends who had never seen an exceptional girl like Emilda.
“Emi when I was in Amsterdam, I slept with a girl. She is better than you in bed” Praveen would say.
“Hope you had safe sex. I never said I am the best” She would laugh.
“But did you ever sleep with anybody after I met you?”
“Not even after and not even before”
“But if you did it after we met, I would hate you. When I say I slept with others why you do not shout?”
“Why shout? Will it change things? If you slept with another woman that means you found a better one.”
“But if I settle for someone whom I find better than you?”
“That’s fine. Because what I want is- you should be happy.”
“But will not you miss me?”
“I will always Robby. I always love you. But I cannot control situations.”
That was not the case. Praveen did not love or sleep with anybody else. Everything was hypothetical. But that would be enough for any lady to fight.
But Emilda did not. She only fought with her father that too to protect her mother. But she loved him her father a lot.
Praveen started calling Emilda his mother. Because he thought she cared as much any mother could. “Mama” he whispered to her at times. She did not care about what he said. But she made sure that he was cared for and loved like a small child.
Mwanza loved Emilda so much that he bought an old Toyota Corolla for her.
In 1994 March, Praveen received a call from India that his mother was very sick. So he rushed to Baroda.
Praveen’s mother wanted him to get married before she breathed her last. It is a typical Indian Wish.
Every time she was sick she thought she would die. But she always recovered. This time too she recovered. Praveen came back to Zambia.
Again in August Praveen had to go to India as again his mother was sick. She had too many ailments. Every time she was sick one of the ailments would emerge.
“My son, how nice to see you again. I want to see you getting married.” She said this time.
“My mother you will not die….. You will not. You are ok. I will take you to Africa. You will recover.” Praveen said.
He took his parents to Zambia….. His mother was hesitating to fly. But within minutes of taking off, she was normal.
They liked their son’s house. Peter looked after them well.
Praveen took them around.
“All these people look the same” Mother said.
“And for them, all Indians look the same” Praveen replied.
Emilda came after three days with Praveen’s invitation. He was the translator since his parents knew only Guajarati. Only other language they understood was Hindi.
His mother said she liked Emilda. Father also said the same thing. But they did not know what his relationship with her was. Praveen also did not tell them.
Emilda also liked them. Did she hate anybody?
“They are a lovely couple,” Emilda said.
His parents remained there for a month. The health facilities were not very good in Zambia then. Praveen accompanied them back to India.
It was more than four years of their courtship. Praveen liked every bit of it.
One day Praveen’s Pakistani friend Ali Asgar came to his house. After formal greetings, Ali said- “Praveen I envy you for having a very nice and steady girlfriend for years. She is one of the most elegant ladies I have ever seen. Before she met you I knew her. I had offered Emilda a lot of gifts and money. She never took them. I even promised to take her to London. She always refused because she was not comfortable with my advances”.
Praveen thought Ali’s appreciative words will forever remain in his mind.
In December Praveen was called again to India. His father was sick now. His company always paid for his tickets. Otherwise, who would go so many times? Praveen’s company never cared much about his expenses, holidays and love as long as he gave them a strong balance sheet.
“My son……We want to see you get married as my eldest son. My wife always said she would die. Do you know why she did not die?” His father talked this time.
“I do not know,” Praveen said.
“Because she cannot die before I do. I love her so much. I want to die first”
“Dad………” Tears rolled down on Praveen’s cheeks.
“Yes…..I want to see you married. The girl is ready………..daughter of Rupesh Shah. We have arranged your marriage”
“We will die together,” His mother said.
Praveen just got angry.
“You have always blackmailed me. You can see my wedding from heaven if you are in a hurry to die.” Praveen said and walked out.
He went to a park nearby and reflected on what was happening. He had his reasons to be angry. But his parents had not done any mistake. He felt he was wrong not to reveal about his love. He regretted his anger later. He felt very bad about the words he had said when he walked out of the house.
He was well aware that revealing about his African love had its own consequences. But he had to do it. Revealing was better than hiding.
After dinner, he took time to talk to them about it. Every time he opened his mouth, he failed to take up the issue. But he managed somehow to start the story. His narration took many minutes with a number of pauses in between and his parent’s interruptions.
He asked them to be patient and told them about his love with Emilda.
“That professor? I thought she was just visiting you because of business” His mother said.
“She is a black girl……..very black…..unlike us whites” His father talked.
Who is white? British called the Indians blacks. Blacks called the Indians brown. But some of the Indians call themselves white. Actually they are coconuts, brown from outside and white inside.
The story did not end there. There were arguments. Somehow though too late, they slept.
The next day Praveen phoned Emilda and explained to her his predicament.
“Robby, let them not die. Please marry that girl” Emilda said.
He spoke to her for hours. Still, she said “Please marry. Do not worry about me”
It was very difficult for Praveen to come to a decision.
Praveen agreed to see Kavita unwillingly to please his parents …. But he had decided not to consent for the proposal. He wanted an excuse for that.
She was only twenty-one and was beautiful. Praveen was offered ten crore rupees in dowry. Her father was very rich. He wanted a person who was educated and who could do business outside India especially in Africa.
He spoke to Emilda many times. Emilda did not change her stance. After days Praveen reluctantly agreed to get married.
A few days passed and Praveen felt like postponing the wedding. And he tried.
“Robby, I told you several times to get married. I cannot go back. And you too should feel that you have agreed. Even if you cancel the wedding to please me, I will not be able to marry you” Emilda insisted.
No excuses looked genuine for Praveen’s parents.
Praveen married Kavita.
Praveen went back alone to Zambia. He had asked Kavita to come later after her visa endorsement in the passport.
As soon as reached there, Praveen phoned Emilda…. She came to his house….
They talked a lot. She was not disturbed.
“Emi. Can you take the fact that I am married to somebody else?”Praveen asked her with regret.
“The fact is you are married”
“But I was compelled”
“That’s Ok. It happens”
“Do not feel so”
She was graceful. As usual, he wanted to sleep with her. She did not object. She just bowed. He did not take it as sin.
Praveen delayed Kavita’s visa endorsement.
Kavita came to Zambia after three months of the wedding.
He did not have any intimate relationship with her after the wedding in India. As per the traditional custom, the first night is held after the days of the wedding. So many functions and stays at different relative’s places and her periods did not allow them to sleep together.
He had sex with her. He felt she was good. Like many typical Indian women on the bed, she asked him to switch off lights as she did not want him to see her naked body. She closed her eyes. She showed him that she did not like it. She looked like a hypocrite to him.
Kavita mixed very well with the Indian community. She visited the only Hindu temple at Kamwala.
She pretended to be very rich and she was. She was richer than many Indians in Zambia.
She joined Lusaka Hindu Ladies Association. They had unofficial meetings almost every day in one of the members’ house. Once in a while, they would come to her house.
Jayesh had not changed. He always remained a good human being. He visited Praveen and Kavita very often sometimes with a wife.
Emilda stopped visiting Praveen. He took it with a pinch of salt as absolutely no way she could see him. She stopped calling him too…. He tried his best to forget her because he knew he was married. That’s what Jayesh had asked him to do.
Peter died of an illness….. Praveen attended his burial. Peter looked serene even in his coffin. He served his master well. Praveen paid a big sum to his widow.
“Bwana Mkubwa ….Peter always said that you were very good. He was happy that you would marry that beautiful girl Emilda. But he told me you married another. Anyway be happy Bwana…. My son is too young to serve you…..We stay away from Lusaka. Otherwise, I would have come to serve you. Bwana Mkubwa…..We all love you” Peter’s widow said.
She wept… Praveen knew she would not live long. Peter was a good man. But he lived kilometers away from his wife who stayed in the village. Peter did not know much about diseases. Whenever Praveen warned him about being careless in affairs, Peter would say “Bwana.. It is God’s wish. We all will die one day”
Then Praveen had to employ someone else in Peter’s place. He got one.
Emilda never phoned…..Praveen did not forget his Mama the perfect girl…. It was only that he had to be away from her physically.
One day Praveen took Kavita to Manda hill mall. By chance, he spotted Emilda there outside a bookshop.
She was alone….Their eyes met…..
She pretended as if she did not see him...
“What a beautiful girl. But black”. Kavita said looking at Emilda. Nobody knows why some Indians are colour conscious. Can any colour be superior to another?
Kavita had never ever appreciated other beauties. She always complained about the complexion of Africans. She acted like Hitler and claimed that she came from a Supreme race.
Praveen was disturbed. He did not know why Emilda avoided him. He went to her college the next day.
“Can I see Miss. Emilda Mwanza the lecturer in Sociology?” He almost shouted at the college reception.
“Yes Sir” The secretary replied. Zambians are accustomed to Indians’ rowdy behaviour.
Emilda came…..She made sure that Praveen was alone.
“Robby, How are you?” She asked.
“You bitch…. You bitch….. I saw you at Manda hill yesterday. Do not lie…. You also saw me. Just swear you did not…”Praveen showed his emotions in a higher voice.
He had never talked with her like that. He called her bitch for the first time.
Emilda neither hated nor loved those words. She did not look hurt.
“Robby, I asked are you ok?”
“I am fine. Thanks”
“Yes Robby, I saw you people there. But I did not want to disturb…..Robby your wife is beautiful. She is made for you”
“Do not lie”
“I don’t. I swear. Have a nice life Robby”
What else could he say about this sweet girl? He said bye and came back though he wanted to spend more time with her. He felt she was part of his body… his vein.. his blood. He loved her. How could he use bad language with her? He regretted his behaviour.
Occasionally they met but only by chance.
Lusaka is a big city. But the Indian community is small. They meet one another very often. And most of them stay in the same area. The news
does not remain in one place. After all, Indians are more famous for gossiping than any other community. Someone from the Indian community told about Praveen’s former girlfriend to Kavita.
“Who is she?” Kavita asked him during dinner one day.
“Why?” Praveen said.
“You never told me”
“But what’s the use of telling?”
“I will never sleep with you. I do not want to sleep with a man who has slept with an African girl. Look at other Indians how clean they are”
How did she know that others were clean?
Mrs. Mwanza had applied for a divorce and started staying in the outhouse. She had sent Mel to Livingstone to her brother for further education.
She got the divorce, but not his property. Mr. Mwanza had already pledged everything to various banks. He was almost bankrupt.
Mrs. Mwanza also left for Livingstone.
Mr. Mwanza shifted to an unknown place.
Emilda started staying in a hostel.
These are the stories Praveen heard from Jayesh. Jayesh had tried his best to save the Mwanza family from this disaster in vain.
Then very bad news followed. Emilda was implicated in a tabulation scam. It was alleged that the university people took money to pass some students with distinction. Many lecturers and officials were booked including Emilda.
All papers carried the news for days.
Praveen thought Emilda was innocent. He phoned her and said “Emi I know that you are innocent”
“Thanks. It does not matter I am innocent or not. But I have been implicated” Emilda said.
“Truth will come out”
“Well everybody knows the truth. But all people take what newspapers say as Gospel truth” She was emotionless.
Deputy Bursar of the university who hailed from India managed to flee Zambia.
As per the information circulating among the investigation agencies, only the Deputy Bursar, one official, and two lecturers were involved. But ten had been implicated.
Praveen felt sorry for Emilda. He offered her help. She did not avail any help from him.
When Praveen phoned her after a month, Emilda’s phone was switched off.
She could not be traced. All his efforts to trace her failed. Then he phoned Mrs. Mwanza in Livingstone. She said he got Emilda’s calls every weekend. He requested her to tell Emilda to phone him.
But he did not receive any calls.
Kavita never patched up with Praveen on Emilda’s issue. All she wanted was to know the ‘truth’. She would threaten him even with divorce. She said he would have never earned in his entire life time the amount of dowry he received from her parents.
“See Kavita, she is an innocent person. Because of Jayesh, I had to help her. I could have brought her here to tell everything about us. But she does not live here now” said Praveen while the same issue came up one day.
“Where is she?”Kavita asked.
“I do not know”
“How come you do not know? How do you know that she does not live here? When did you find out?”
“I cannot answer all of your questions. Ask Jayesh if you want”.
Praveen did not want arguments.
But Kavita the next day got in touch with Jayesh. Problem aggravated.
“What do you want me to do?” One day Praveen asked Kavita.
“Let her come here and tell the truth” Kavita replied.
“But Jayesh has told you she is not here.”
“Where is she?”
“We do not know, she had some problems with the university”
“What’s her name?”
She did not talk much. Praveen had thought she knew Emilda’s name from someone from the Indian Ladies Group. She always referred to Emilda as ‘That black girl’. Praveen was always thinking she did not want to take out her name. Kavita also did not know that Emilda was implicated in a scam.
The next was worse.
“How that lady who stole so much can be a good woman?” Kavita asked.
Praveen did not respond. He wanted to take rest as he was supposed to fly to South Africa the next day.
When he was about to leave for the airport, Kavita said “I know how Johannesburg is. Just because you have not had what you wanted, do not sleep with any prostitute there. You are a beast”
In the evening, Praveen went to a night club near the Holiday Inn Hotel where he was staying to pass time. He took a beer and that made him relax for some time.
After two beers when he was just turning his head to the right side to see people around him, he felt like he saw someone very familiar.
He could not believe what he saw…
Emilda was sitting a few tables away from him with a white man. He tried to avoid her thinking the white man would know. But Emilda had not seen Praveen. The moment she saw him, she walked towards him. She hugged him.
“Robby, you are here?”She talked with surprise.
“Yes, Emi….. Where were you?”Praveen could not control his feelings.
“I have been here for quite some time. Mama told me that you wanted to talk to me. I did not want to disturb you. Anyway, it’s only a few weeks before I come back to Zambia.”
She took Praveen to the Whiteman and introduced each other. “Shawn is my friend for the past few weeks….may be for some more weeks.” Emilda said “I know Robby for many years.” Both shook hands. “Robby.. Please phone me tomorrow and I shall talk to you and maybe we can arrange a meeting. I do not want to spoil Shawn’s time. He is paying me.”
Praveen did not understand anything. He had his own imaginations. Is Shawn her boy friend? Then why did she say he is paying? Is he her boss? What few weeks’ job? Any assignment she has with him? If so, why did she call him a friend?
Praveen called her the next day. She agreed to meet him at his hotel room.
The moment she came in, he hugged her like a child hugs the lost mother. He cried “Mama….Why you are away from me?”
“I am not away Robby. Even when I was in Lusaka I did not meet you much. So Lusaka or Johannesburg does not matter. I am always with you dear. I understand every bit of you. But you are married. If you call me Mama in front of your wife, she will never understand nor anybody else for that matter.”Emilda pacified.
She sat. She told him about her.
She no ways could get any job in Lusaka because of the scam. Her father had become a pauper. He started working as a waiter at the Intercontinental Hotel just because he knew the Manager there. But that was only to look after his drinking expenses. He had to attend court as well at least once a week. He was facing cases from the banks, his partner and some other creditors. Her mother and brother were looked after by an uncle who was not very rich.
She was told by the prosecutor that she could be let out from the case or the case be made weaker if she paid a certain amount. She decided to come to Johannesburg to earn some money. She was allowed to travel outside the country with surety.
She looked for jobs. Escort service was the quickest way to make some money. So she ended up sleeping with high net worth whites who liked sophisticated black ladies.
Praveen cried when she mentioned that she was a call girl for some weeks.
“You could have asked me for money” Praveen shouted.
“I did not want to,” Emilda said.
“You could have asked Jayesh”
“We have taken his help all our life”
“But prostitution was not the answer.”
“Robby, it just happened. I cannot write a thesis, do research and earn money quickly. I came with dreams to Johannesburg. But I learned later that sleeping with someone is easier. It just happened. No regrets. Probably I am sleeping with few people now which you call prostitution. I could have slept with fifty people during my college days and later which you would not call prostitution. You may call it friendship. Funny world.”
“But now I want you to quit”
“I will come back once I have earned enough. I am already in the ocean. I am swimming to reach the destination”
He could hardly convince her. She was slightly philosophical. But what she said was right as per her conscience. She did not want to beg from anybody and did not want to return midway.
“But your education is wasted”
“No. Because of my education, I am getting high profile clients. But you know Robby, I am not fond of money, I will come back. My education only has given me a chance to hike my price to make enough money to pay early. I know it’s wrong to pay while we are innocent. But the system is like that. The education system in which I was involved made me suffer and that same education is helping me to make money and pay the people as a bribe, which was wrong as we were taught during our education.”
He took the time to understand her words. It did not matter to him did he understand or not. But it was a bad experience for him. He felt the pain. No philosophy would heal it.
It hurt him because she could have avoided him at the bar, she could have declined to meet him, and she could have lied to him. But she did not. She told him the truth. Truth always hurts.
She was still as perfect as she was.
“Perfect girl” He called her…..
“No one is perfect Robby….. That’s only your opinion, I have been trained to tell the truth by my Mama…..But in the court I was told to admit that I was wrong…. Nobody is perfect…. We all have flaws”
He kissed her. He asked did Shawn kiss her. She said he was not allowed. He could only have sex with her…. That too protected one.
“Robby, you know how much I fear Aids…. It’s not only fear…..a a concern too. I feel why someone should get this type of disease. But people are acquiring it.” Emilda said.
She said goodbye to him and went back to Shawn as she had to spend more days and nights with him.
Praveen still had two days work left in Johannesburg,
On the day of his departure, Emilda came to the airport to see him off.
“Mama…… I will never forget you….. And please come back soon” He hugged her.
Kavita was as mad as before. She liked the company of Indian women. They discussed mostly about Gujarati dishes, African women, Indian men, Temple, Gold, Canada, USA, Feasts, Vegetables, Pounds and Dollars…
Emilda was acquitted for lack of evidence. The court said “When the most responsible person, the main accused, the deputy Bursar was absconding, the prosecution has failed to produce a strong case. The case was built up by the help of speculative reports in the Press. It is evident from the trail that nothing such alleged has transpired.”
The report and the photos of all the acquitted people appeared in newspapers the next day.
“Emilda, that ugly girl has appeared in the newspaper today. She has been acquitted. You must be happy.” Kavita told him the next morning during breakfast. Praveen did not understand how the beautiful becomes ugly in a matter of some months.
Praveen did not feel that he should respond. Praveen knew about it the previous evening itself when Jayesh had phoned him to tell this. The news appeared in the local television also later at night. But Kavita never watched local television saying it was useless.
Once Praveen reached his office, he phoned Emilda on her old cell number without knowing she still had it or not. It was ringing. She picked up.
“Emi can I meet you at Kabwata bus stop at 6.00 evening?” He asked her after congratulating her for being acquitted. She agreed.
Kabwata is the place two kilometer away from Kamwala where Indians, especially Kavita do not go. It’s poor people’s place.
Emilda had come. She sat in his car next to him.
“Congratulations again for coming out clean in the case.” He shook her hands.
“I did not commit a sin. So I was clean anyway. But people took us wrong. Police took us wrong. Now we are declared clean. But for that, we had to become unclean to bribe these people. Anyway Robby….. I need to see you to get some advice. I was about to phone you about this. But you phoned me before that” Emilda said.
“Tell me now….. Do you want any help?”
“No. Thanks. Just some advise”
“I know you never asked for any money in your life.”She only smiled. “What advice?”
“I need time to talk to you Robby. May I see you tomorrow evening?”
He asked her to wait near Bank of Zambia headquarters on Cairo Road the next evening at five.
They decided to drive to Kafue and come back and talk over the drive. He did not want to go to any place and get caught.
She told him that her first boyfriend Joseph wanted to marry her and she needed Praveen’s advice.
“You always said you never liked him,” Praveen said.
“Yes. But look at his passion and love for me. Even after so many years, he is still interested in me” Emilda said.
“But don’t you have any better proposal?”
“Robby, I could have even stayed in South Africa with anybody. Even here some professors proposed. Even the prosecutor proposed, I don’t fall in love like that. You know it well. I fell in love only once. I cannot choose now. I do not go by anybody’s wealth, education or something like that. Joseph’s love and admiration look above all these things. Yes, he was wild….. But he does not look so now. Even if he is, it’s too late and I would not care”
“Marry him Mama…..”
Joseph and Emilda got engaged.
Praveen met Joseph and wished him well before the marriage.. He said he could not attend the wedding as he was going to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe trip was not planned one. He went there with Kavita just to coincide with the wedding.
Jayesh attended the wedding. He could do anything for Emilda.
After six months Praveen learnt from Jayesh that Emilda was sick for some days. He went to her house. Joseph was not around.
Emilda phoned Praveen after a week that she had recovered.
Two months later Praveen came to know that Joseph was admitted to University Teaching Hospital (UTH). He phoned Emilda to enquire. She said she wanted to see me immediately. He rushed to see her.
“Robby, I would not have phoned you. But when you phoned I felt like seeing you….. because.. because” She talked.
“You never struggle for words Mama”
“But I do not know what you will feel when I tell you the fact. I am more worried about you than myself…..”
“What do you mean? Tell me”
“Joseph and I will die very soon”
“Why you say so? Are you mad?”He did not understand anything “Is there any threat to you people by anybody? If so I could handle the situation.”
She without beating around the bush came directly to the point. “We both have AIDS. Joseph is in the hospital.”
Praveen did not know how to react. He felt like collapsing. He did not respond.
“Joseph said he may not come back. I too have it. Its matter of days” Emilda continued.
“You will live…..You will live” He just shouted. Then he started crying like a baby.
Praveen felt that Emilda contracted it in South Africa and passed it to Joseph. But she said she did an HIV test for the first time in life after she came back from South Africa. Though she did not have any chance to contract it, she just wanted to go for a test.
She said Joseph had HIV before they got married.
“Did he tell you then?” Praveen asked.
“Why did that bastard hide the truth from you? I will kill him. I will complain and prove that he married you with the sole intention of killing you” He shouted as he could not control himself.
“Stop it, Robby. Yes, he did not tell the truth. But mind you that was not his intention. After marriage, he drank more and slept early. He never showed any intention of having sex. I did not demand to know. I was not keen. But I thought I would surrender the day he wanted. After all he is my husband. For days nothing happened. One evening, I by accident saw his latest medical report. He was HIV positive. It was devastating to know that…”
“Then….. Upon having known that you knew about his status, he forced you to have sex?”
“No. I invited him for sex that day. I told him why he is getting drunk while he had turned a moderate social drinker. He agreed. No kisses. No foreplay. He wanted to have protected sex. I had it. He was exhausted. The next night I said I wanted it again. He looked for a condom. I said I wanted to have unprotected sex. He declined. I cried and ultimately he admitted that he had HIV after I told him about the report. He said he did not want to pass HIV to me. I asked why he married me then. He said he loved me so much that he wanted me to inherit all his property, not anybody else. I told him ‘Joseph, I understand how much you love me. I love you too. Please have it with me. I do not want to remain a widow and enjoy your wealth. Let my wealth go to anybody.’ He did not agree. But I insisted. I could not imagine a word without him.. And this was how it happened”
“You were mad. Wealth could have gone to somebody else if you did not want it. But why contract Aids? You are committing suicide. I know you never wanted to live….. You got a chance to die now”
“It’s love Robby, He is my husband. A man waited for so many years, he wanted me to enjoy his wealth. I did not want any wealth… His intention to offer his wealth to me itself was my ultimate happiness. Is love only sharing happiness? What’s love if not sharing the pain also? What’s wealth?” With so much pain in life, again and again, she talked philosophy.
He took the time to understand. He put hope in her saying with new medicines she would live longer. He told her that he would take her to South Africa for treatment.
“Robby, be happy. Please go from here...”
Mrs. Mwanza came with Mel.
“Hello Mr. Shah….. It took us a while to come from Livingstone as our bus had a breakdown….. How are you?” Mrs. Mwanza asked.
They talked for a while. It was evident that Mrs. Mwanza did not know the truth. Praveen could not imagine how the mother would feel once she gets to know about her loving daughter’s woes.
Joseph died after fifteen days. ‘Joseph passed away due to an illness’ Said his obituary in the newspapers. That’s the sad thing about this beautiful country with lively and lovely people. The so called ‘An illness’ has killed thousands of them.
Emilda did not agree to go for any treatment.
Praveen visited her many times. She became weak and fragile. But at any point, she did not look worried.
After two months from Joseph’s departure, Emilda was admitted to UTH.
On a Saturday Mrs. Mwanza phoned Praveen that Emilda wanted to see him. He hurriedly reached UTH.
“Robby, I was waiting for you. I may not live even one more day. Good bye forever. I always loved you….. And I also loved Joseph after discovering his passion for me. Robby, be good to Kavita” She closed her eyes.
Praveen came out as he could not control his tears. He went to the chief medical officer’s room and asked him about her status.
“She may go anytime. I know her from the past four years. She did a lot for Aids victims. She donated a fixed amount for them every month. She was very much concerned about the disease. Anyway ultimately she too contracted it from her husband. She should have been careful as she knew the disease well….Sad” The chief medical officer said.
There was a silence for a while till a nurse opened the door open and said.“Doctor……Emilda…..”
The chief medical officer rushed to Emilda’s ward. Emilda was breathing her last. She looked at all of them, more at Praveen…. She closed her eyes….. This time forever…..
Praveen could not sleep the whole night. Kavita asked why…….He did not respond at all.
Praveen was told by Jayesh that burial would take place after five days.
The famous lawyer Jacob Banda had prepared the will carefully. Joseph did not have to share his wealth with any of his relatives because his father before dying some years back distributed everything to all of them. What Joseph possessed belonged to him and his wife Emilda. In his original will he had given everything to Emilda. Before that could be executed, Emilda had to write her own another will.
Joseph had left an enormous wealth with farms and houses in Chipata and Lusaka. Mrs. Mwanza inherited 25% of the properties and 50% went to AIDS victims charity of Emilda’s choice. 15% to Mel. 10% to Mwanza if he wanted to live with his ex-wife and son. He was still working as a waiter at the Intercontinental hotel.
The Burial took place on Thursday morning. Praveen attended the burial. Jayesh cried at the funeral. Praveen too could not control his pain. He came back heavy-hearted.
“I know you went for the funeral of that bitch….. My sympathies” Kavita said as soon as Praveen entered home.
“Kavita…. She is gone forever… stop talking about her”. Praveen talked back.
“Yes, I forgive you subject to a condition that you will go for an HIV test tomorrow. Then only I can sleep with you. No matter what you and Jayesh say, I do not trust you”