I Wish I Never Met
“I am taking a sabbatical during this summer if you are interested you can stay in our house,” Dr. Dayal sounded very kind, at least that was what Juggernaut thought.
“Sure, thank you,” “while looking for a new place to live, I can stay at your house for the summer, you know I am looking for a new place since my flat mate vacated sometime ago and I couldn’t afford the entire flat,” Juggernaut gave a long explanation to his professor and thesis supervisor Dr. Dayal. Dr. Dayal, a man in perpetual somber mood, always thinking and a constant pain in the neck to his technical staff.
Dr. Dayal’s wife always wore Indian garb, “sari.” Just before they left, she asked Juggernaut to visit their house so she could show him a few things; one of the chores was to water the lawn and flowerbeds in the front yard. She insisted that he turn off the lights early and not to use too much hot water to save on energy bill.
“You could use whatever food in the fridge and cooking gas in the hundred pound gas cylinder located outside the kitchen.” she said giving the house keys to Juggernaut as if giving away her own house; after all, the house was a small bungalow provided by the University at a highly subsidized rent to the academic staff.
On the first day of the stay, Juggernaut realized that the house was sparsely furnished. They kept the child’s bedroom open to use and locked the other two large bedrooms. The only food in the fridge was few overripe tomatoes, a half cabbage, and in the freezer section a lump of fat from goat or chicken meat wrapped in a plastic bag. Within few days after moving in, the cylinder ran out of cooking gas. Apparently, the cylinder was almost empty before Juggernaut moved in. Juggernaut replaced the old one with one with full gas and stacked up the fridge with fresh vegetables, fruits and milk in advance to the arrival of Dayals from their vacation/sabbatical.
On returning from sabbatical, Dr. Dayal called Juggernaut to his private office immediately. When Juggernaut entered his office, Dr. Dayal jumped like a predator with his shoulders hunched forward.
“You know my TV wasn’t working,” Dr. Dayal said.
“Perhaps your TV outdoor antenna may be out of synch, following the hurricane we had when you weren’t here. I hardly watched TV you know,” said Juggernaut politely after a little thought.
“By the way, what happened to the passion fruits on the vine in our backyard? My wife counted the exact number of fruits before we left, now we have far less,” Dr. Dayal was holding his forehead with his hand as if it may explode anytime.
“Dr. Dayal, please check with your neighbor I believe he collected some fruits with my permission,” Juggernaut was now frightened. Juggernaut had no clue what he was talking about. But then it occurred to him that after the hurricane, Dr. Dayal’s neighbor, a visiting professor from Sweden collected some over-ripe fruits dropped on the ground with his permission. He didn’t know that those fruits were passion fruits and so precious to fight for. Apparently, passion fruit is used in making refreshing fruit juice in Trinidad.
“Oh, I see,” said Dr. Dayal as if he ran out of cross-examination questions. “Well, I am expecting full rent from you for the six weeks you stayed at our house,” he said, as if closing the book on Juggernaut.
“I will have to pay you in small installments, since I was under the impression that I was staying at your place for free,” Juggernaut was flabbergasted at first, since he did not expect to pay him any rent. Then, he gently reminded Dr.Dayal that it was a tradition commonly practiced on the campus to allow graduate students to stay free when the academic staff were out on sabbatical.
“I will think about it,’ said Dr.Dayal pulling his ear lobe with two fingers as if waiting for some divine help.
The next day, Dr. Dayal called juggernaut to apologize and said his TV was working after some adjustments and his Swedish neighbor apparently relished the rotten passion fruits collected from the ground and as for rent, he asked Juggernaut to forget about it.
One day while walking back to his apartment, Juggernaut was caught in the rain. Driving in the same direction, Dr. Dayal slowed and opened his car door, Juggernaut walked fast to catch up, but then he drove off after allowing a black woman, an office worker to get in. “I wish I never met him,” thought Juggernaut about the mess he got into with Dayals while continue walking in pouring tropical rain.