" Margaret is Coming! Margaret is Coming! Nimmi! Begum Sahiba, have you heard?
After twenty years she has at last agreed to come visit us! And what is more, she will
be staying for some time. She's researching into dalit conditions, I say, what energy!"
Arshad was literally over the moon with happiness. He was jumping in his bare feet
and pajamas all over the moss-covered terrace, his outstretched hand holding the
letter of glad tidings arching over the faint sickle still visible in the morning light
between the tall palms. The oblong opened envelope, with English stamps, and his
name written in a sloping cultured hand, was being gently wafted over the edge of the
terrace. He rushed to retrieve it, skidding on the green moss. He wanted every part of
his New Year Gift locked away in his mahogany desk in his studio eyrie, to be looked
at, at leisure.

Margaret Eisenherz had been his professor at the L.S.E. long years ago, and he was
certain, as he had told Nimmi several times over, every year, he would never have got
his doctorate without her kind guidance. The years had dimmed the memory of her
Germanic strictness, her nitpicking insistence on getting all the foot-notes right, her
fierce scoldings when he was just ten minutes late for her tutorials. He had clean
forgotten the evenings down in the school basement bar where he had solemnly agreed
with the other students that Margaret far from fleeing Hitler's Germany, was actually
Adolf's secret agent, pursuing the project of fascism from her professorial chair.

Margaret had never visited India, despite his repeated requests to afford him the
pleasure of extending traditional Hyderabadi hospitality. She had retired gracefully
from her chair half-a-dozen years ago, and had been seen off to her home in
Maidenhead by a cheerful group of academic colleagues. Since then, Arshad had
received only short Christmas greetings from her, posted from various European
resorts bordering the Mediterranean. And now, here was this letter, detailing her
research, and her imminent arrival.

Arshad rushed down two floors to his wife, who was supervising his morning kheema
roti being made in the kitchen. He burst in with his news. Nimmi was her usual placid,
well-organized self. " Arshad Mian, we will give the old lady the time of her life," she
said. " I know what food is like in London; not even our dogs would eat that stuff.
Every day we will give her a choice Hyderabadi dish. The mutton biryanis, Nellore fish,
and Iqbal's special pattar-ka-gosht where else in India do you get such cooking?
Don't worry leave it all to me."

A cloud descended on Arshad's handsome forehead. " Actually, Nimmi, Margaret
doesn't eat meat in fact she doesn't even touch milk she is a Vegan; y'know those
people who eat only vegetarian products; so even cheese, milk, curds, everything is

Nimmi sat down with a thump on a stool quickly pushed into place by a thoughtful
servant. " Hai Allah! This is madness. People will just die! Do you know, I give lectures
every week to girl students that unless they eat some meat, they will continue to be
anaemic. One Brahmin girl swooned in class, and you know what? Her haemoglobin
level was down to 6.2! She could have died. And now this mad Englishwoman will be
staying here and propagating this nonsense?"

Arshad was on the defensive. " Well, it isn't quite nonsense, you know," he said with
some hesitation. " It's a moral issue with her and Plato and Pythagoras were

vegetarians, and y'know what? The famous Epicurus, y'know of Epicurean meals, well,
he was a vegetarian. Margaret used to rant at us for eating carrion!" He laughed
indulgently. " Well, she was a well paid professor, and we poor students could never
afford vegetarian food in London, but she never agreed to make concessions even in

He had another difficult task to perform. He looked fondly at his wife's silk-covered
back, and short bobbed hair as she bent over the stove. " Nimmi! Nimmi, listen. While
Margaret is with us, we must make only vegetarian food, vegan food. Listen, darling,
it'll be like a picnic, fun food, y'know?"

Arshad spent the better part of the morning convincing Nimmi about the new food
arrangements. First, she would not listen to his pleadings. Then, when he mentioned
the honour of his house and what he owed, what they all owed, to Margaret, she asked
what the children were to do, Irfan would want his mutton shikampur at least twice a
week, and though Mumtaz was a malleable child, she as a mother could not see her
children get malnourished. Well, if she was such a great nutritionist, why could she
not think of a few vegetarian substitutes, like soya for instance, he argued.

The next two weeks were spent by a distracted Nimmi trying a few new vegan dishes on
her children to their loud protests. Irfan went so far as to puke on the verandah, and
his father had to take him aside and read him a solemn lecture on family obligation.
None dared to broach the topic of the new arrangements with Baddi Ma, Arshad's
mother, and the nominal matriarch of the house. It was quietly agreed between Nimmi
and Arshad that separate meaty meals would be cooked in the disused outhouse
which would have to be repaired at top speed anyhow and the food taken up by the
back stairs to Baddi Ma under a lace chaddar. The children, when they got desperate,
could go up quietly and have a bite with their grandmother, but they were put on their
honour not to breathe a word of this breach, even in fun, in front their guest.

Nimmi and Arshad inspected the guest rooms, and found them totally unsatisfactory
for the impending visit. There was a smell of mould that Nimmi disliked. Arshad found
the bathroom plumbing not at all up to European standards. Finally, they decided to
clean out all the furniture, and start afresh. Gangs of expert builders were called in
and an expensive interior decorator trained at the prestigious National Institute of
Design was to supervise the redesign. When the rooms were completely empty, and the
floors swept clean, young Chatterjee, the designer, said he needed to meditate in the
rooms in solitude for two days before he could decide on his design strategy.

On the appointed morning, Nimmi and Arshad were called in to hear his decision. "I
have selected complementary pastel shades of emulsion paints for the walls," said
Chatterjee, a little grandly. "The warm colours will be on the west-facing walls, so that
the early morning sun will bring a sense of the Eastern dawn into the rooms. The
trellised balcony of course will be in bice-green, for a vegetarian breakfast, you see,
while when the sun sets, the bedroom will be cooled by blues, a meditative colour
beloved of Krishna."

While Arshad had a few uncertain questions to ask, Nimmi seemed to agree to
everything the fellow said, and seemed to be lost in long conversations with him in the
days that followed. Chatterjee had convinced Nimmi that African motifs were de
rigueur that season, and the divan, curtains, and floor matting all had mock zebra

stripes, or leopard spots `suggested in the weave.' The central coffee table was balanced
on carved sandalwood posts shaped like curved elephant trunks. When the rooms were
finally declared finished, Arshad had a momentary pang that the renovation had cost
him more than what his grandfather had paid out for the whole mansion. But of
course he said to himself with a half-laugh, today's rupees could not be compared with

Nimmi interviewed a series of women to be Margaret's special servant during her stay.
After much careful thought, she selected one Ramulamma from a nearby village who
had come to the city looking for some short-term work. " She would be excellent,"
confided Nimmi to Arshad. " She is a dai, very clean, experienced, and understanding.
She even knows some English words, so that will help. She will sleep in the corridor
behind the guest rooms. What is more, she is a dalit, so that should please your

On the great day, Arshad stood nervously at the airport holding a large marigold
garland. Nimmi was at home seeing that all comforts for the honoured guest would be
exactly as she wanted them. Arshad felt unduly nervous; somehow the heart-fluttering
trepidation he used to feel twenty years ago came flooding back, when he would stand
outside Professor Eisenherz's study, plucking up courage to knock faintly, half hoping
he wouldn't hear her piercing `come in' shoot out through the oak door. He wished
Nimmi was beside him; that girl always gave him a sense of courage, of rational well-
being, actually. He had almost decided, with a wildly surging sense of relief that
Margaret had missed the plane, when he saw her scraggy form, clad in an orange tee-
shirt and khakee shorts, push a determined luggage trolley through a mass of indolent
travelers. He waved ecstatically to her; her long face broke into an answering grin, and
she lifted a floppy white cap in return salutation. Grabbing her trolley at the gate,
Arshad shepherded her out, babbling words of greeting, and messages from Nimmi
who was making all things ready at home; and words of warning about the quality of
drinking water in Hyderabad, and the uncertain weather. In a few minutes they were
at his car.

" Oh, Margaret! I brought this in greeting, but stupidly forgot, what with all that mess
at the barrier." He looked down at the slightly crushed flowers still clutched in his
hands, and garlanded her awkwardly.

" What a mass of beautiful flowers to have massacred so early!" said Margaret, with her
vividly remembered incisiveness. " I am tired, Arshad after a nineteen-hour flight. Air
India is no better than British Airways, I am sad to say. In fact, in some respects like
an interminable supply of indigestible oily food they are distinctly worse. Let's get
home. I want to see your children, and, of course, Nimmi."

Arshad focused on driving his way through the thickening traffic as a way of calming
his nerves. He said something trivial about his unreliable old car, and Margaret said
she did not approve of fossil-fuel guzzling vehicles, and would have been happy to get
home in a pedal rickshaw, if he had only thought of it.

At home, she was very kind to the children, though Irfan kept his face averted as she
kissed him, and then after nodding to Nimmi, who was offering tea, Margaret gave
Arshad an incisive account of her research, and what she wished he would do to help.
They were all relieved when it was time for her to be shown to her rooms for a wash

and a rest. Margaret did not come down for lunch, but the servants took up a carefully
prepared tray, which Nimmi hoped would be found acceptable.

That evening Margaret came down for dinner in a long tailored white cotton dress, and
straw sandals. She wore no jewellery except for a string of cowrie shells. Nimmi in her
guest's honour had worn a brocaded silk sari, and had on her favourite diamond
necklace. Arshad proudly poured out some wine, assuring Margaret that it was Indian,
and as good as the middle-range of French plonks.

" Nimmi, I am so happy to be with you and dear Arshad," said Margaret very
graciously. " I've been here hardly a day, and already I feel like an old India hand.
Such antique richness! It's like another world! You are so beautiful in your silk sari.
Tell me my dear, why do Indian women adore silk saris? They are beautiful, anyone
can see that, but I shudder when I think of millions of silk worms, poor dears, being
boiled alive to create this beauty! How do your people reconcile the concept of Ahimsa
with such savagery?"

Nimmi said something defensive about people never really thinking about the silk
worms, and Margaret nodded sagely. " Oh, I know, Europe is also full of unthinking
people carrion eaters, I call them! If I ever had to eat meat, I would start with the
faculty of the L.S.E., I assure you, and leave innocent animals well alone."

Arshad giggled rather vaguely, but Irfan, who had been discretely flicking bits of salad
under the table, decided to challenge the guest. " My grandmother, Meherunnissa
Begum, eats mutton everyday, and she is a very pious lady."

There was pin-drop silence round the table, except for a sharply indrawn breath by
Mumtaz. " My dear boy, Evolution teaches us that we are all descended from
unthinking animals," said Margaret in the sibilant tone she had used to quell a hall
full of doctoral candidates. " Homo sapiens have given themselves a title they do not
yet deserve. Do they teach you Evolution in your class? Tell me about it." And she
leaned towards Irfan like a tigress towards its prey.

The rest of the meal was dedicated to an inquisition of Irfan's, and his, and his
school's, pitiful knowledge of Evolution was laid bare for all to see. But the boy
remained defiant to the end, using erratic non sequiturs to counter the professor's
formidable logic. Arshad could sense his good-natured wife's slowly rising anger, but
before he could interrupt any tart retort of hers, Mumtaz suddenly burst into tears,
said her tummy felt unwell, and begging leave, left the table with her ayah.

As they were all leaving the table, Margaret said pointedly to Arshad: " I am very
grateful for your hospitality, but I must request you to let me sleep in some simple
room tonight. I can see great care has been taken to furnish my rooms dear Nimmi,
thank you but honestly I would have nightmares in a place where every fitting is a
reminder of our savage annihilation of species in Africa. Human barbarity is ingrained
in our cultures. Our only defence is to root out every symbol of our appropriation of

Upon inspection, no room in the house seemed to suit Margaret's highly-tuned
sensibilities. She rather grandly repaired to a simple white-washed room in the
servants quarters, but next morning emerged with her pale parchment of a face

blotched with red suppurating mosquito bites. Arshad felt even worse than he was
expected to feel, and he urgently commissioned another set of decorators to strip the
guest room and start afresh, money being no object, he assured them.

The days that followed did not get easier for Arshad, Nimmi, or the children. Their
careful plan to have the children dropped and collected from school by their
experienced driver was stopped by Margaret as inculcating in children an unthinking
acceptance of energy prodigality. They should cycle to school, and if the roads were not
safe, well, it was public responsibility, and she expected Arshad and his family to set
an example by embracing the issue, not avoiding it. Nimmi put her foot down at
endangering her children, and peace was restored only when Arshad organized two
servants to ride alongside the children when on the road. Most of his time, however,
was taken up in organizing research meetings for Margaret, selecting and frequently
changing translators, and assuaging the feelings of high government officials, whom
Margaret had casually insulted. Not accustomed to a constant high-fibre diet, some of
it raw, or very lightly cooked according to his guest's suggestions, Arshad's stomach
revolted almost on a weekly basis, and in between putting her voluminous notes in
acceptable order, he rushed frequently to his doctor for quick-fix solutions for his
nervous stomach.

Arshad lost weight; he fell ill, much to Margaret's growing concern, though Nimmi
staunchly refused to discuss the matter. Arshad took to sleeping by himself in his
study on top of the terrace, partly to avoid having to discuss his deteriorating condition
with his wife, and partly to find time at night to work out in perfect detail the ever-
growing volume of Margaret's notes. He knew it could not last forever, but Margaret
was almost at the end of her six-month stay in India, and the government, which had
given her a visa for that period would thankfully put her on an outwards-bound flight.
Would insist on it, in fact, bully for the government. He decided he would have to
revise some of his earlier, harsher judgments on the government's human rights
record. Till then, his family honour demanded that all should be done to the full
satisfaction of his guest, who moreover had helped him get his coveted doctorate. If
anything more needed to be said, her research would most probably benefit the poor of
his country, so any trouble he had taken was worth it.

In the last couple of weeks of Margaret's stay, Arshad's health picked up miraculously.
He was heard whistling about the house, and he even cracked a few of his inane jokes
over dinner. One night he even slept with his wife, who cradled him fiercely to her
breast, and got him to promise when all this was over that he would take his recovery
seriously. Lying in their great bed and looking at a new dawn peeping over the parapet
of their balcony, Nimmi and Arshad decided that they would give a great send-off party
for Margaret. It was a pity that only vegan food could be served, but Nimmi in a rush of
generosity said she would organize some Marwar cooks, and she would also call her
friend who was chief chef at the Taj in Bombay, and have a Chinese expert in Buddhist
recipes fly in for the evening.

All of Hyderabad was there for the party, and Arshad outdid himself in a speech where
he gratefully detailed all the help Margaret had given not only him but countless lost
students in London, who were legion, and he thanked her in front of all Hyderabad not
only on his own behalf but on behalf of all of them, spread as they were in a grateful
circle over six continents, and over three generations. He had never spoken so well, or
looked in such good health, Nimmi thought to herself proudly, as she stood in the

center of a circle round Margaret, though rather defiantly dressed in black and gold

There were tears in Margaret's eyes when Arshad had finished, which she was not
ashamed to shed in front of them all. She mumbled something about how inadequate
she had always felt when called upon to help teach these brilliant students, yes, that
was the word, brilliant, students from the Third World. Among the most brilliant had
been Arshad, she no longer had any hesitation in saying so. Some of her students had
become heads of state, but none, absolutely none, could compare with her host in
brilliance of mind coupled with generosity of heart, a man among the most modern and
yet carrying on his shoulders the accumulated wealth of a fine Oriental tradition. All
clapped loud and long at this oration, for Arshad was genuinely liked by his
neighbours. Many had been recipients of his thoughtful kindnesses, and some even
remembered how he had quietly helped them unasked.

" But now I come to the really good news," said Margaret brightly. " Dear Arshad, and
may I say, dear Nimmi, I don't have to leave at all for another year! My grant has been
doubled, thanks to your efforts, Arshad, no, I must say it, without your poring over my
notes night after night, I should still have had to get back to London to sort things out,
but you have been magnificent, Arshad, as you always have been. I was half afraid the
Indian government would not extend my visa, but that kind man you introduced me to
has just called me on my cell-phone that because the government holds you in high
regard he specifically mentioned you and so I must tell everybody the government is
extending my visa as a special case!"

Everyone gathered round Arshad and Nimmi to shower congratulations, which were
accepted at least by the hostess with great grace. After the last drunken guest, after re-
telling his last story of Arshad's thoughtfulness, had drawn away to the relief of his
driver, husband and wife parted without a word, Arshad making his way thoughtfully
to his studio eyrie. He lay awake most of the night and fell asleep almost as the day
dawned, and dreamt fitfully of snakes and precipices. When he woke, it was already
well past nine in the morning and he felt hot under the shaft of a blazing sun. He sat
up slowly in bed, and stayed still without moving for some time. Then he noticed that a
pot of tea and some toast, gone cold by then, had been left on a little table, just outside
the door. He drank the tea thoughtfully, made a face at the soggy toast and looked
about. Right across at the far corner of his house were the guest rooms, and he could
see Margaret's bright white cap shading her from the sun as she sat in her balcony,
working no doubt on her notes. He looked dumbly at the cap. That cap would be there
for another year, and he would be looking at it next year, or perhaps he wouldn't. His
heart was thumping irregularly. He got up unsteadily to go to the bathroom, and saw
sunlight fall on his father's old gun-cupboard. Memories of his childhood days
swamped him, when it was no sin to go on a hunt, and have his father teach him how
to track a deer, or shoot birds on the wing, early in the morning, over a lake. There had
been rules; you did not shoot a doe during the breeding season; you did not shoot at
sitting birds. They all got a chance.

His father's double-barreled Holland and Holland was in his hands. Aimlessly, he
opened the old red cartridge box, broke open the gun, shoved in a cartridge, and
snapped the gun shut. As he turned, he saw that white cap far across the house and
just down below. Without meaning to, he aimed at the cap; neither his hand nor his
eye had lost the skills of childhood. One gentle pressure on that beautiful old double-

pull trigger and all would be over. He had been cleaning his father's gun, without
realizing one barrel was loaded. What a tragic accident! Such accidents had happened
before. There was that unfortunate colonel of the Deccan Light Horse, who had been
accidentally done away with in his father's time. People had talked, but no one had
really cared. None would now. Last night the whole world had been witness to his
devotion; it would be unthinkable for anyone to suspect any motives behind an
apparent accident. Remember, he was highly connected. And in England, who would
care? None. She had nobody; she was still `that German woman' to most anybody. And
at the LSE? Perhaps a page, no half a column, in The Millennium about some
research, which Indian scholars had carried out far more proficiently a decade ago.
Death by inadvertence would be the verdict. He sighted along the long barrel for a
moment, and then slowly, deliberately, replaced the gun in its case, remembering to
remove the cartridge. The old rules still applied as taught to him by his father. Who
would know? Allah would know. He could no more shoot his professor than he had
ever thought of shooting a sitting duck.

Shaken, he went to the door of his studio, and looked out across the bleak, moss-
covered surface of the open terrace. It was a stark scene, and why did he have to
complicate it? The Westerners were always stark, bleak, and frank. No, Arshad old
chap, you are on your own there. No, sorry, I am busy, and I cannot come with you.
OK, Dutch it is! I paid for your last beer, so set up mine. Why couldn't he just tell her
she could not continue to stay with him? Just like that, I say, Margaret, my relatives,
you know, are coming down from Lucknow, what? So I must ask you to move to a
hotel, my office will fix it for you, no I can't say for how long, you know Indians? She
had never once asked him home, never once stood him lunch through all those terrible
days in London, so why was he obliged? He wasn't being selfish, it wasn't just him, he
had a responsibility towards poor Nimmi, and the children, he must think of the
children, Allah forgive him. Westerners just took Indian hospitality for granted; most
probably thought they were doing a favour by eating his food and ordering his servants
about, while being sarcastic about his wealth. Not one of his assistants in the London
subsidiary had ever come to Heathrow to receive him. So, Arshad flight OK? was the
best he had ever got from the buggers.

He was on the very edge of the terrace, looking down at two squirrels jumping about on
the flagstones far below. The moss felt slimy to his bare feet. Unless he took great care
he could slip and fall. A tragic accident, a house of bereavement, she would leave it to
mourn its loss; after all it was he who had invited her, no one less ever wanted her,
surely she had guessed by now? Would the squirrels scatter as he fell, what did they
think of hospitality, were they his guests, or he theirs? Then, he had an awful thought,
like Hamlet. He might not die. He could see it all. Nothing would be said till he
recovered from coma, but to be honest, the doctors would tell Nimmi gravely, there was
little chance. When he did come out of coma, a long time would elapse before they
determined the extent of damage. Yes, he was paralyzed, but had escaped death by
God's grace, that was what was important, they would assure Nimmi. Most motor
functions were gone, no one knew for how long, or even whether he would regain some
mobility after the passage of time. How long would it take? Who knew, though the
longer the time lapse, to be honest, the less the chance of recovery. But he lived, that
was a miracle in itself, so anything was possible. Though the few sounds he made were
still unintelligible, he was conscious, the brain was active in there, no doubt about it.
Nights and days would merge in shadowy curtains, and pain, dull pain, shooting pain,
inhibiting pain, would surround all his remaining senses, till he seemed to feel no pain

at all, it would be such a constant companion. One bleary morning he would
remember with some clarity. They would be all round his bed in a solemn circle as at a
wake, a ripple of laughter dying deep in his throat, Nimmi, Margaret, who was still
somehow around, the children, Irfan looking very brave, and Mumtaz with her head
hidden in his mother's lap.

He saw tears streaming in an unending slow-motion cascade down Margaret's lined,
craggy face. Her lips move, but her voice comes from somewhere else. Dear, dear
Arshad don't worry, don't worry about anything. I am here, I will never leave, do you
understand? I shall take care of the children, bring them up, dear Nimmi needs all my
help. I have no one in England, you see, no one now but you, so I have made all
arrangements. Dear Irfan and dear Mumtaz will be brought up in the light of the best
principles, I will do my best, dear boy... He closes his eyes for an eternity and hears
her from far or near, he could not say. I think he understands. I saw a glitter for a
second, and then he closed his eyes in gratitude. Yes, he understands I shall never

A soft cough interrupted his thoughts. He turned round to see Ramulamma with a tea-
tray. " I have brought you some hot tea, Sahib," said the servant. " Please come and sit
down. Everything will be all right." Her eyes held his for a long moment. Very, very
carefully, Arshad moved away from the lip of the moss-covered terrace to safety.
Then, suddenly a couple of weeks later, Margaret received an urgent message,
delivered by a courier from the Department of Home Affairs, stating baldly that her visa
had not been extended and that she should leave the country within twenty-four hours
of receipt of message. Arshad came rushing back from his office, and made a series of
desperate calls to all the people he knew in the Home Office. Finally, he tracked down
his special friend, whom he had known since they were boys together at Doon School,
and who had assured Margaret that her visa would be extended. The friend was very
apologetic, said clearly there had been some mix up, sent his regrets to Margaret for
the kafuffle, but said mildly over the phone that the best way to handle the situation,
and not make it worse, might be for Margaret to leave as ordered. Arshad was
distraught; Margaret was angry and dejected in turns. She said things about India and
the Indian government, which Arshad was glad no one in power was present to listen

Nimmi came to the airport that evening, and they all took tearful leave of each other.
Margaret pressed a wad of hundred-rupee notes into Arshad's hand, just before
disappearing through the barrier. "This is for Ramalma, ten thousand rupees. She was
very good, and would have earned it but for this stupid police interference."

Arshad couldn't understand why the Home Office had changed its mind in such a
short time, and so drastically after Margaret had received assurances from the highest
source. The question bothered him so much that he interrogated his servants the next
morning, to find out if anyone had been snooping round. His head bearer admitted
that a Special Branch official had come round, who seemed a very decent fellow, had
been given tea, samosas and cakes, and who said he was just completing `formalities.'
He had asked about Madam, and said he would speak with Ramulamma since she was
Madam's servant. He had left soon after that, thanking everyone politely, that was all
he knew.

Arshad called in Ramulamma next, who came in hesitantly some time later, and upon
permission being given, sat down on the edge of the doorstep. Arshad asked her to tell
him in Hindustani all that happened with the `police sahib.'

Ramulamma beat her forehead a few times. " Sahib! What do I know? I am only a poor
uneducated dalit woman, living because of your mercy. I know nothing. That police
sahib asked me if Madam was a good person knowing she is your friend, of course I
said she was a very good, kind person, who was very much interested in my life and
the lives of poor dalits like me, was I not right to say so, Sahib? I said she was so good
she was even interested in my soul, told me a great deal about their Christian life, to
tell you the truth, Sahib, I was even think of converting to her religion. She gave me
good money, so of course I was interested in all she said. She said she would help all
dalits in the same way, she was such a good person. Ayyo! I don't know what that
police sahib misunderstood. I only praised her."

Arshad looked at her for a long moment, his frown creasing out, and a small smile
started to play about his lips. " Here is ten-thousand rupees that Madam left for you,"
he said at last. " Indeed, she is a very good woman. And since you have lost the pay
you would have earned if she had stayed another six months, here's another six-
thousand rupees on top of that." Ramulamma thanked him profusely, touched his feet,
and withdrew, after calling down blessings from heaven upon the good Sahib, his Biwi,
and their beautiful children.

A week later they got a short letter from Margaret thanking them for their hospitality
and saying she would try next year to renew her visa.

" What shall we do next year?" asked Arshad of Nimmi, tentatively. " Next year we are
all going on the Haj," said Nimmi decisively. " Your mother has always wanted to go,
and we must fulfill her pious desires. A pilgrimage to Mecca would do us all a lot of
good, in fact." Arshad couldn't agree with her more.