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Published: June 17th 2013
Sunita wrote: You are cordially invited to have dinner at my house on Saturday
The terraced house was a tall, narrow modern concrete structure, with one room per storey. Sunita opened the door to Frank, and led him up the uncarpeted, cement stairs to the guest-room on the first floor. There was little in the way of soft furnishings to counteract the coldness of the cement. She sat him down on a mattress laid on the floor and then went off to prepare the meal. He sat alone for a while, until her two sisters entered and introduced themselves. There was Sabitha, Sunita’s older sister, and Yesha the youngest in the family. Both were bigger boned than Sunita, but gorgeous in their own, more voluptuous ways. He found himself assessing their charms in a way that Sunita might have objected to if she had been present, but the sisters seemed perfectly happy with the attention he was giving them. Sabitha did the talking, earnestly gazing into his eyes, while Yesha giggled and fluttered her lashes. He couldn't resist flicking micro-glances at Yesha's fulsome bosom as Sabitha explained how she longed to marry a westerner, preferably a doctor or an engineer, and travel abroad. Then they were gone, leaving him to his own devices once more.
As he sat there wondering how long he was going to have to endure his own company, the door opened a fraction. An older woman, with silver-streaked hair, peeped in for a second, and then withdrew, closing the door behind her.
Finally, Sunita brought the food in, and sat with him, keeping him company as he ate, and maintaining the flow of curried pork and chicken and vegetables, and yoghurt and pickles, from a variety of small serving dishes into the compartments of his metal tray. The sisters came and went, and felt no obligation to converse with him. Sunita was now in charge. There was no question of any of them eating with him. This was to be a solo performance.
“You like Mrs Lopchan very much, don't you?” Sunita said nonchalantly.
“Yes, she made me her brother,” he said. He had not told her this before, sensing that she did not approve of his friendship with Kalpana. He did not want to stir up any jealousies, but on reflection he thought that mentioning the bhai tikka
ceremony before she left for France would be a good idea, setting her mind at ease over the nature of their friendship.
“Did you know the Lopchans are bhotiyas
?” she said, wrinkling her nose.
“I advise you to avoid them. You are a foreigner and don't understand. Bhotiyas
are lazy and dirty and have no religion.”
“Well, Mrs Lopchan isn't like that at all,” Frank said indignantly. “In fact, she's the opposite. She works hard. She keeps her house clean. And she's very religious.” Fortunately, there was a knocking on the front door. Sunita peered through the net curtain, and raised the alarm. There was flurry of female panic from upstairs in the kitchen. It was Joshi, the boy assigned to be Sabitha's future mate. Yesha was given the task of telling the poor man that Sabitha was not in.
“He's always so jealous,” explained Sabitha.
As soon as he'd had his fill, the plates were removed, and he was escorted to the door. Meals are not primarily a social occasion in Nepal. The meal is everything, and once it is over, the guest is expected to leave. He promised the sisters that he would invite them to his flat to meet some of his friends.
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