The moving tale of Harold Mukerji

Someone should probably have noticed that Harold Mukerji was acting strangely. But, of course, the truth was that Harold Mukerji had always been a little strange.

He was born in Delhi in India as Harendra Mukerji. He had changed his name to Harold because it was, he felt, very English. Harold admired all things English.

Harold’s forebears had all held important positions in their local communities under British rule. The Raj had been kind to them. When Harold Mukerji eventually migrated to Australia he bought a house in a small town in Far North Queensland and mounted a name on its door. That name was “Mountbatten”. It was a very grand name for a small family home. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, was the man he most admired. He had cried when his childhood hero was blown to smithereens years later by the bloody IRA.

There were many things that H.Mukerji Esq. (as he signed his correspondence) liked about this country that had welcomed him in and later declared him a citizen. There were some things he would never get used to.

Chief amongst these was the Australian accent.

Harold, whilst still a boy, had worked very hard to perfect a strong speaking voice and an accent he believed sounded very like that of Richard Burton. Certainly, a faint hint of the Welsh lilt in that great actor’s delivery was reflected in Harold’s lingering trace of an Indian accent. The Australian accent, on the other hand, jarred. He would visibly wince when, whilst watching commercial television, he was inflicted with the word “now” at the end of so many commercials. What he heard was “neeeouw”. The sound of a tortured cat, it hurt. It didn’t help, either, that his children spoke with broad “Aussie” accents.

The most outwardly obvious evidence of Mukerji’s eccentricity was his mode of dress. He leant towards blue blazers with club ties. Nobody thought to confirm the credibility of the ties or the badges displayed on his blazer pockets. He wore tweeds at times; even in summer. He favoured the Ascot scarf and at home wore a velvet smoking jacket. He sometimes carried a walking cane. He adored cricket, attended every major game he could and never ever missed The Ashes. To these events he wore a Panama hat and creams and, of course, the blazer.

Some later said they had seen him mowing the lawn at “Mountbatten” wearing a pith helmet … a solar topi.

So Harold Mukerji was different. This was accepted by all he knew because he was a popular figure, hard working at some minor role in Government circles and a good family man with two attractive and intelligent children. His wife, Sahodra, adored him. Which is why she was so concerned at his behaviour.

Harold had taken to leaving home at all hours of day and night and was very guarded about where he had been. Sometimes he said he was just going down to the shops but at other times he would be gone for hours. When he came home he offered no explanation and would only say “Oh, around and about my pet” or “Just out for a drive my dear”. Sahodra wondered why it was that he sat so long in his car before coming inside. She became more and more convinced that he was seeing another woman. She took note of the mileage he had covered and found that if he did have another interest they must just spend their time together in the car as he drove, because he covered many miles during his mysterious disappearances.

Then came the day when he didn’t come home. “Just going out for a run in the car my darling” he had said as he left the house on a Sunday after breakfast. Sahodra listened all day for the familiar sound of his old Rover 3500, a classic British car, pulling in to their carport. She became more and more concerned as day turned to night and there was still no sign of her husband. “Where is Daddy?” was a question she found difficult to answer, being now convinced that her Harendra Mukerji had left her for another. Fighting tears she phoned the police.

It was four in the morning before the police helicopter saw the glow of a car’s headlights through the canopy of a rain forest some number of kilometres out of town. The car was not moving. Assuming there had been an accident, they called in police on the ground and an ambulance.

What they found was, of course, Harold Mukerji. There were no signs of an accident. He was alive and the Rover was simply parked. Harold was curled in a foetal position, lying across the front seat and sobbing quietly. He held something to his ear, so tightly that his rescuers had to prise it from his grasp.

What they heard from the device clasped in his hand was a beautifully modulated female voice. With perfectly rounded vowels she repeated at regular intervals …

“Route recalculation”. “GPS signal too low”. “GPS signal too low.”

Harold Mukerji had found his secret love. And together, they were lost.

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