The sun had put in an expected appearance as Archie parked his car in the short-term car park at Edinburgh airport. That’ll be a nice welcome home for Drew, he thought as he looked at the arrivals board.
Deepak and his grandad were flying in from New Delhi via Amsterdam on KLM and it looked like their flight was on time which was a relief as the car parking at the airport was ridiculous. He had the money, having done well out of Bradley’s deals, but he resented having to pay too much for something. It was the Scottish in him.
He kept his eye out for Drew, wondering if he had changed much in the thirty odd years since he’d seen him. They should be able to spot them easily though, Deepak’s curly, slightly ginger hair would make him stand out. Sure enough, he spotted them straight away as they emerged from the International Arrivals hall.
‘Drew Robertson! It’s been a while. Good to see you again.’ Archie offered his hand to shake.
Deepak beat them to it and thrust his hand in Archie’s enthusiastically.
‘Mr Archie! I am so pleased to make your acquaintance, sir. My grandfather has told me great things about you.’
Archie and Drew smiled and eventually shook hands once Deepak had let go of Archie’s.
‘Aye, it’s good to see you too Archie. It has been a long time. It’s good to see a friendly face on home turf again.’ Drew replied, marvelling at how much Edinburgh airport had been improved since he last saw it. That would have been when he was doing a runner from his past with all his worldly goods in two suitcases heading for New Delhi via Heathrow. A lot of water had passed under the bridge since. There was much to catch up on.
Archie loaded their bags on to a trolley and led them across the road to the car park, remarking on how the weather was always like this in Scotland now, thanks to an edict by the ruling Scottish Nationalists who only took credit for good things, blaming the bad things on Westminster.
Deepak was mesmerised by the glamorous cars and buildings, and the smartly dressed businessmen heading for their flights. This was nothing like his home in Jaipur and he was fascinated, constantly interrupting Archie and his grandad to ask questions. He was like a little kid at Christmas. Having dreamt about visiting the land of his fathers for so long, it was wonderful for him to actually be there to see it for himself. As they left the car park with Archie and Drew deep in conversation, Deepak eventually just pressed his face to the window and took in the view leaving the grown-ups to catch up.
Archie had booked them into a hotel near to Hearts training set-up on the outskirts of town and he would pick them up in the morning to take them there. He warned Drew that he might not recognise the facilities enjoyed by today’s Scottish footballers. A lot of investment had gone into the game with TV rights and sponsorship and it was now quite different from Drew’s time plying his trade in the old Scottish First Division.
Once they had checked in, Archie left them to settle in and promised to pick them up at 9 the following morning. Deepak was still marvelling at the opulence of his new surroundings and couldn’t wait to sleep in a comfortable bed with fluffy pillows and a TV in the room. Grandad had told him all about it on their flight over. It would be a stark contrast to what he was used to.
Drew didn’t have as much cash as he used to, but Archie had left some money with him to take Deepak out and show him Edinburgh and have a nice meal. Deepak had been reading up on what Edinburgh was like and how the food would be unusual to him, especially haggis which he couldn’t wait to try. Drew decided to take him into town and treat him to a battered haggis supper from one of the many chippies that he remembered from his past, although he was disappointed to find out that most of them had closed and Scotland’s culinary tastes had moved on somewhat, erring towards a healthier, fresher diet.
Deepak loved Edinburgh instantly. The huge castle in the middle of the city enthralled him and reminded him of the Pink Palace in Jaipur in some ways. It dominated the skyline and looked so majestic. The old buildings like the Scott Monument and National Gallery also reminded him a bit of home, such was the British influence on India around that time. They managed to find a chippie just past South Bridge and Drew ordered them a fish supper and a haggis supper before sitting down at a table with a cup of tea each.
Deepak declared that he wasn’t a fan of the tea, it was much better at home, which of course, was only to be expected. Drew laughed as Deepak tried haggis for the first time and pronounced it delicious. After their suppers, they started to flag and walked back to the tram stop at Waverley station to head back to their hotel. It was going to be a busy few days and an exciting time for Deepak. He needed to be in good shape for the morning so they settled in to their room and had an early night.
Partly due to jetlag, and partly to excitement, Deepak woke up at 3am and struggled to get back to sleep. He could hear his grandad snoring loudly which wasn’t going to help him sleep. So, he just lay there thinking about the day ahead and getting more excited. He had read a lot about Scottish football in the Jaipur library after school, so he knew all about Hearts history and the famous players who had worn the maroon shirt over the years. Grandad had told him lots of stories about his games against Hearts in the eighties and how they had a very loyal support along with a fierce rivalry with their neighbours from the other end of Princes Street, Hibernians.
He quietly slipped out of bed and looked out of the window to have another look at his new surroundings. Unfortunately, it was still dark although the first glimmer of sunrise was starting to lift the gloom enabling him to make out the shapes of the trees and the nearby tram stop.
Everything looked so fresh and clean compared to Jaipur. No dusty waste grounds to kick a ball around, just well-manicured green spaces and some of them even had goals set up. Proper goals, painted white with nets on. He briefly thought about having to give up Jaipur if his trial went well which made him sad. He would miss his family and friends terribly. Hopefully grandad would be able to come and stay with him, and maybe even bring grandma or his parents. That would be nice; he could show them around the city and take them out for a battered haggis thingy, which although he enjoyed, had left him with slight indigestion. Back home he would only eat rice and vegetables that were slightly curried, depending on what spices his mum could get.
He stood at the window for ages just watching the impending sunrise and hadn’t noticed that his grandad had also woke up and had come to stand next to him at the window.
‘So, you couldn’t sleep either, Deepak. That’s what’s called jetlag and it happens when you fly across too many time zones.’ Drew smiled as he hugged his grandson.
‘I don’t understand it, grandad. When we left New Delhi it was teatime and when we arrived in Amsterdam it was still teatime even though we had been flying for so long.’
Drew explained to him how the Earth revolves around the sun and when it’s teatime in India, it is lunchtime in Britain and breakfast time in America. He still didn’t get it, but trusted his grandad’s answer implicitly.
‘Come on, take a shower and get dressed then we can go out for a walk.’ Drew suggested.
He had to show Deepak how the shower worked; he was only used to a communal bath back home, usually with cold water so this would come as a shock to him.
Once they were washed and dressed they headed down to the reception and swiped the room card to give them access to the outside world.
Although it was summer, it was still quite chilly at that time of the day, similar to Jaipur in the winter without the threatening heat of the day to come later. They walked and talked for ages with Deepak asking so many questions about what this was, what does it do and so on.
By the time they got back they noticed that breakfast was starting to be served in the hotel restaurant and feeling hungry, they found themselves a table and ordered tea which Deepak was getting the taste of now. The buffet spread out in front of Deepak was amazing to him. He had never seen bacon or sausage before and being an adventurous eater, he piled them on to his plate along with fried tomatoes and mushrooms, which he recognised, hash browns and beans before sitting down with his grandad to eat it.
He pronounced it the best meal he had ever eaten as he wiped the tomato sauce from his face. They had an hour before Archie would pick them up so Deepak decided to try some more of this delicious feast, this time he chose more healthy options like fruit and yoghurt, which he was used to, and cereals which he had never seen before.
Drew worried that this trial could be too much of a culture shock for his grandson. India and Britain were poles apart on many things, and if Deepak continued to be gobsmacked by the silliest little thing, it could distract him from the reason he was there.
When Archie arrived at the hotel, Drew and Deepak were waiting patiently outside soaking up the early morning sunshine. It promised to be a good day, weather-wise.
‘Morning, you two. Hope you had a good night’s sleep and you’re fit and raring to go, young man.’ Archie enthused.
Drew told him how they woke up early because of jetlag, but they’d enjoyed a good breakfast and had a nice walk around the area.
They arrived at Hearts’ training complex ten minutes later which put another smile on Deepak’s face. It was so modern and clean. He was surely going to love it here. Archie escorted them into the main office where they met Fraser Ingram who was previously captain of Hearts but was now a coach since his retirement from playing.
After the introductions and a brief rundown of what was in store for Deepak, Drew and Archie retired to the canteen and wished Deepak luck. He was going to be medically assessed first then put through the gym to gauge his strength before trying out on the field. This gave Archie a chance to spend some time alone with Drew and get some more background on what happened back in the eighties.
Archie ordered a couple of teas and took them to a quiet table.
‘So, what’s been happening since we last met? You caused quite a stir when you disappeared off the face of the Earth. I know you’ve told me about this other family in Aberdeen, but why did you do a runner? To India, of all places.’
Drew looked out of the window and sighed.
‘It wasn’t easy. I just wasn’t ready to settle down and I think she got pregnant deliberately. I panicked as I had just retired from playing because of that injury so there was no money coming in. I didn’t want to be burdened down with a kid. I was young and foolish, I suppose. I chose India because I thought there would be less chance of anybody finding me and what money I did have would go further there. I had been there for a holiday and loved it. Such a simple way of life, friendly people and better weather. I had to weigh up what I would miss against what I stood to gain from moving to India and India won. I just bought a one way ticket and buggered off. Looking back, it was a bit immature and cowardly and I do feel guilty for leaving her behind with a bairn. I sometimes wonder what happened to him.’
‘Well, I do know that he was adopted by your girlfriend’s eventual husband and he grew up just fine. He’s still in the area, got a good job, and a family of his own; two girls and a boy. You’ve got more grandkids that you thought.’ Archie smiled.
It took a while for the news to sink in.
‘I’m glad it all worked out for them. I don’t suppose he wants to see me now and I wouldn’t blame him.’
‘So tell me about what happened when you arrived in India. Did you have a job? Somewhere to live? A game plan? Bit of a wild step, wasn’t it?’ Archie pressed.
‘I stayed in hotels for the first six months. Dead cheap ones that cost pennies per night. Dirty, filthy holes some of them, but I needed my money to last. That’s when I met Rashmita who I ended up marrying. She was a street girl who used to hang about outside the hotel and I got to know her well. We would go for walks and talk; it was a tragic story and I felt sorry for her.’ Drew explained.
‘What was the story then? Was she a hooker or something?’
‘No, nothing like that. Although her parents thought she was and that’s why they kicked her out. She had got involved with a boy from a lower caste and that pissed her dad off. The boy ended up dumping her anyway, so she had to live on the streets begging. When I found an apartment to rent, I invited her in to have a bath and clean-up which she was grateful for. When she stepped out of the bath naked, I could see the scars and burn marks on her body. I asked how she got them and she started crying. Turns out her dad used to beat her up and abuse her. She told me all about it and we ended up holding hands. I think it was then that I fell for her.’
‘Wow! Sounds like a nightmare. So what happened next?’
‘I got a job in an office, quite a senior one as well, and asked her to move in with me. One thing I didn’t realise was how young she was. She was only fifteen, but apparently that’s legal in India. Loads of girls get married off younger than that so I didn’t feel too bad. She was lovely; looked after me by cooking and cleaning, and I grew fonder and fonder of her, so a year later we got married. Full Hindu wedding and everything, although there weren’t many guests as I didn’t know that many people and she was estranged from her family who I’ve never met. She fell pregnant almost straight away and had Deepak’s mum. We all now live in the same street and I help them out with money whenever I can.’ Drew continued.
‘That’s some story, Drew. So after all that, are you all still happy? Deepak seems to think the world of you, that’s for sure.’
‘Aye. We’re all very happy. I’ve got a good family back there. Lots to be happy about.’