I’ve waited for you for so long, how could I have any idea what you’d really be like? My image was warped by desire; formed in youth from bedtime stories and rose-tinted memories – not mine, my father’s. You were his fantasy too. His infatuation; the first foreign place he’d been to. The holiday romance then the longing for the return visit that never came. What a first country to visit – weeks by ship, the wall of tropical heat, unusual fruits never eaten before or since. How could the reality ever live up to those book-like tales of men scurrying up coconut palms like monkeys to cut a pale orange coconut and send it crashing down to earth? To mangoes cut so the sweet flesh could be pushed out through the hole, like some wound oozing guts? To eating rice and curry off banana leaves – I didn’t even know what a banana leaf looked like then, or a mango and the only coconuts I knew were the small hairy ones you knocked over with balls at the fairground. I couldn’t picture rickshaws or the miracle of the first monsoon raindrop, but it was magical and I wanted to be in that world.

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