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Published: July 25th 2013
Sunita was alone in her office, so she and Frank could talk. Kalpana had come up to the first floor for a while earlier in the morning to help her out with some typing, and Frank had observed that Sunita was cold-shouldering her. He had tried to make conversation with them both, but while Kalpana joined in, Sunita said no more than was absolutely necessary, and then only in monosyllables. When he left he could hear nothing but the tapping of typewriters.
“So? Is it true your Mrs Lopchan is leaving the UN?” she asked as Frank dropped some typing into her in-tray after Kalpana had returned downstairs.
“She's not my Mrs Lopchan, as you put it. Anyway, don't be a gossip-monger,” he said. Kalpana's impending departure was no longer a secret, yet he felt touchy about it. “I don't know why you treat Mrs Lopchan so coldly. You ignored her when she came up this afternoon.”
“That's not true,” she said.
“It is. You were very rude to her.”
“If that is what you want to say, then I am not going to say any more!” she said with a thick French accent. They fell silent, and although he regretted making the accusation, he couldn't bring himself to apologise, and left the room.
A little later, he rang her from his office to ask her to call on him in the evening. She asked him why and then let the phone lie silent. Angered, he went to the Lopchan's that evening instead.
The following day, he tried to make amends. He spoke politely to her, and she was equally civil to him. He could have broken the ice with an apology, but didn't. His accusation had been true enough, even if he had made more of the incident than was strictly justified.
“Are you coming tonight?” he asked.
“But you don't want me to come!” she said. He stomped out. If that's what she thinks, she can stuff it.
But Frank had cooled down by the next morning, and regretted his quick temper. Banking on the strength of her materialistic instincts, he wrote: I am getting rid of my things. Why don't you come and see if there is anything you or your sisters would like?
She wrote: Sabitha and I will come to your flat on Saturday afternoon
Sunita and Sabitha came to his flat as promised, and went through his possessions. Sunita asked him what he was doing with the tape-recorder. He told her that he was thinking of giving it to the Lopchans because Tashi was a singer.
“Yes, that's a good idea,” she said. “Of course. Poor Tashi. I am sure he needs a tape-recorder badly.”
“You know he's a good singer,” he said, in Tashi's defence.
“Of course! I insist you give him the tape-recorder. He's so wonderful!” The sarcasm infuriated him, and he fell silent, leaving them to draw up a list of what else they wanted unaided.
He heard them talking earnestly, but as they were talking in their impenetrable Newari, he couldn't understand. Then, while Sunita grimly busied herself with the list, Sabitha asked him if he could change some Nepalese rupees for her. He thought he could claw back some good will by agreeing to change a few pounds at a rate that was far below what he could have got on the black market, but as soon as the transaction was complete, they departed. Thereafter Sunita refused all communications with him.
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