It was at Sahib Humphrey’s funeral a final rift took place between the Gopal Das family and Felicity Rani Reed Smith. Felicity Rani was granddaughter to the Gopal Das family and they came to the funeral expecting to manage funeral arrangements as they’d done for their daughter Geeta. They came with good intentions.
But Felicity Rani had other ideas. While she’d deferred to them in the past she was now a married woman and had a husband who she felt should be the one to arrange proceedings. It was her father after all, and she’d be the one to give him the greatest honour. Her husband Thomas Smith was sad at this turn of events. He worked with Gopal Das at Madras headquarters office and admired him. He insisted Felicity Rani agree to Gopal Das having joint participation in planning arrangements. But the slight caused a permanent rift between Gopal Das and his granddaughter.
It was only on sifting through Humphrey Reed’s personal papers Thomas Smith discovered Humphrey in his later years had acquired a little hotel in the hills above their station. It was at this hotel the family had spent their holidays since Humphrey had married Geeta. This was the place Felicity Rani remembered from her childhood with its English owners, whitewashed walls, well-kept gardens and teak furnishings.
The English owners had confided in Humphrey on one of his retreats in the hills prior to death they saw no future for themselves in India and were planning on leaving the country as soon as they could find a buyer for their hotel. When Humphrey had enquired the price expected he was amazed at how little they were anticipating. Clientele had mostly been European vacationers seeking a rest from the stifling heat of the plains, but now there was an anticipated exodus of Europeans the owners did not think it would be viable financially in future.
Humphrey boldly offered a lower figure which the English couple gratefully accepted. The couple had a faithful manager who’d served them over the years. He’d dearly have loved to make that hotel his own, but even that give away price was beyond his means. Humphrey approached him to see if he’d be willing to continue on as manager with a higher pay? Agreement was reached much to the delight of both.
That had been several months prior to Humphrey’s death. Fortunately ownership papers had been legally transferred and it along with personal effects was now the sole property of Felicity Rani according to the will. This was another point of contention between Gopal Das and his granddaughter. He felt that having taken so much trouble over the years in support of the Reed family, some of the Reed estate should have been gifted to his family.
Thomas Smith watched the sharp interchanges between grandfather and granddaughter with apprehension. He was loyal to his wife but thought she’d been unreasonable during these incidents. He didn’t understand it was grief at work, and what he’d witnessed was not his wife’s natural nature. Later Felicity Rani came to bitterly regret her actions when she discovered contact with her grandparents and extended family was irreparably damaged and further contact impossible.
Bad feelings extended to relationship between Gopal Das and Thomas Smith. His English name was an irritant in the Madras office increasingly being staffed by Indians to the point Thomas even considered changing his name to the Bengali name of one of his ancestors. Gopal Das cultivated that animosity as a way to get even with his granddaughter.
Finally the matter was resolved with Thomas being transferred to New Delhi. His talents and work overshadowed the English name and he was considered one of the rising stars now that so many Europeans had left the country. Gopal Das was incredulous he’d been passed over for that plumb career advancement and he determined to throw his full weight behind the Quit India movement daily gaining strength.
The time would come when he’d see these foreigners out of the country and those like him who’d been disadvantaged all these years would be masters at last. That anticipation brought a smile of satisfaction.
To be continued.
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