STEAMPUNK INDIA

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The following diary, discovered torn and scattered among Tinku Ranbir's personal effects, is a very personal insight in the Indian woman's experiences while accompanying her scientist husband to London. The subsequent upheaval involving Chan Ranbir's invention places Tinku at the hub of political intrigue and social unrest.

 

 

      The Tinku Diaries

 

* Preparations for our Airship voyage have reached fever pitch, not least for the presence of the aunties who have descended on the household, ostensibly to 'help'. So far, this means clogging up the kitchens, sharing chai and the latest gupshup while occasionally making veiled comments about my organisational skills... No matter. My priorities lie elsewhere.

In reading about the British clime, I have concerns about Janav’s health. A real worry, besides tearing him away from his friends and everything he knows. What will this new environment do to his constitution? The bustle and industry of London will fascinate him, as it does me. But in weak moments I find myself fretting about this being the best place for my boy?

I sincerely hope that Chan is making the right decision. I do love the idea of the new cultural opportunities we will be enjoying. There will be so many great places to visit, and Chan has been invited by the Queen. I am so proud of my husband, of his placement in Her Majesty's Department for the Advancement of Sciences and being acknowledged for his work at court! I must do all I can to support him.

* All these yards of silk... Should I have prepared clothing in a more subdued colour? They are so much less exuberant in what they wear in England. Do I have the right clothes for the weather?

I must find my brocade sarees and have some more underskirts made up. Layers should help and I shall still be able to look my best.

No. The silks will come! I'll risk being frowned upon and wear what I like. I'd miss the colours too much after having to give up my whole country as well. If I'm to represent I should proudly wear the traditional garments.

* Our departure is near and I must make haste. All is in readiness. Janav seems mostly excited.

We fly tomorrow.

 

- Aboard Airship, above the Indian Ocean.

*On board ship. After his initial motion sickness Janav can now not be removed from the viewing deck. His laughter lifts my heart; the wind just made away with the little kite he was trying to fly.

The East India Co. staff are attentive, though the crew had me worried at first. But they are a decent sort, if a little rough. Some of them are happy to show my eager son around the engine rooms and the captain makes time every day to show him how to apply the latest means of calculating Longitude. (I am keenly curious to see what the other scientists will present to the Board, apparently some of the contraptions are very quaint!)

It does me good to see Janav is so well liked, it keeps him distracted from the enormous change he is undergoing.  His parting from his great friend Ashwin was hard; it was clear his brash amiability was hiding great distress. Ashwin just wept. Sweet-hearted boy.

Janav is already writing him page long letters and we have only been in the air a few days.

I truly hope he'll not pine too much, it would sadden me so.

The ocean is gloriously beautiful, stretched out below us. I almost wish I could keep my little family flying on indefinitely, riding the winds to a never arriving horizon: we are perfect together, right here between worlds. We are leaving everything we know behind. Time will tell what awaits us in London.

 

London.

* Durga-Ma, this city chills my heart.

I think I shall get used to the climate in time. But the cold, the fog, the wind, combined with the rush of the city and the Londoner's drab mode of dress do make it seem as if all the colour has drained from my world. This is in no way helped by our new acquaintances - and Chan's benefactors - the Frobishers.  Lord Frobisher was instrumental in arranging Chan's placement in the Department of The Advancement of Sciences and in organising our passage from India.

On first meeting Lady Frobisher, I was uneasy at once. She was all gracious enthusiasm, yet I somehow suspected she was being disingenuous.

She immediately took a great interest in Janav in a manner that made me exceedingly uncomfortable. But I am new in this society and we owe the Frobishers a great deal.

I must proceed with equal measures of grace and care, however insincere Lady F. appears to be, for the sake of Chan's great work.

Meanwhile, I have been appointed a...Companion-In-Waiting, I suppose I could call him.

His name is Thomas.

I am uncertain as to what precisely his function is meant to be, but he is hot on my heels wherever I go.

* Lady Frobisher came to tea this morning and it seems my fears are justified. I deeply dislike the way she is already trying to influence my son towards certain modes of thinking. Her behaviour towards Janav, the gifts she gives him, the way she steers his thoughts towards a world of Clockworks in which he should work, it's blatant politicking. He is only a boy and must come to his path in life on his own. But she works so closely with my husband I must tread carefully. I can counterbalance an unwelcome influence with my own!

Today I have planned a surprise trip to the Horniman Museum - a place of beauty and culture combined, perfectly suited for my son to open his mind to the wider world. I want his views to be balanced, not skewed by hidden agenda's by someone who has no business in our family life, and takes up so much of Chan's time already.

Evening. Museum visit turned into nightmare. My son's ambivalence towards the new Clockwork servant he was presented with is clear, though he named it 'Ashwin' after his friend in India. Then.... He fought with other boys, inside the building, in full view of the officials and scientists.

Much worse, it put Chan in such a cold rage he is talking of sending my boy away to school early.

We have been discussing it, but up until today we were considering this step together, at the scarce moments Chan was home from the laboratory. We were going to put it to Janav delicately, as we initially promised him otherwise - which is breaking my heart.

This is all wrong.

He will feel abandoned, betrayed, punished. I must try to reason with Chan tomorrow.

If he comes home.

*Janav is thunderously rebellious: he feels this punishment - as I knew he would see it - is unjust. And I must own, by the way things have progressed, so do I. Sending him to this far away place is one thing, but sending the robot with him is another thing entirely! Ashwin the Automaton, my son's companion. It hardly bears thinking about, it is so cruel. But I have been overruled, and must do nothing. It pains me, but if I wish to preserve the brittle balance of my family, Chan's work, my task as official Clockwork advocate to the public at large, not to mention our position in British society

I. Must. Do. Nothing.

Tommy has proven to be indispensable; he has a way with Janav, doing his best to comfort him.

I am infinitely grateful for that, especially now I am not in Janav's good books...

My son, do you know how much I will miss you?

*Tommy is intent on ensuring my comfort, he appears to have made it a personal investment.

We have differences in opinion on the benison of clockworks in society (he sees it all through the lens of encouraging trade) but I think his heart is in the right place.

He does his best to provide humour and encouragement; sometimes I can't bear it while my very family seems to hang in the balance. But now I believe he genuinely means to be kind.

After all the social subterfuge and political squabbling I must own he is a breath of fresh air. I shall try to be more patient with him. I am less and less convinced he is some agency or other's eavesdropper.

* Chan now devotes all his time to developing the Clockwork hearts, and seems to have forgotten about home life. Such irony, considering one of his main motivations was his passionate search for a solution to our son's condition. The Queen has generously given us an apartment in her glorious house in Greenwich; the parks are a welcome variety to the grime of the inner city. But it comes at a price. Firstly, we have a neighbour - Frobisher. It would seem that we are now joined at the hip, which is a state of affairs I aim to do something about. Secondly, refreshing as the grounds are, what is one to do in a palace, so removed from many of the things we have been enjoying in the heart of London since our arrival?

* A Clockwork will NOT live in this apartment! I shall put my foot down. Ashwin will be confined to the servant quarters unless Chan is present in the house. I am so looking forward to Janav's homecoming for the Christmas holidays. We will be a family again. There is absolutely nothing that shall thwart my plans for our time together. Especially not an animated collection of bolts and springs.

Oh, but what would Chan say if he knew these thoughts. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pair my personal experiences with my official appointment as Clockwork advocate for the Board of Trade. Tommy, dear boy, is aware of some of my misgivings but I find myself erring on the side of caution, even with him.

* Chan came home in a rage last night, such as I have not seen before. It appears there is a developing situation with a faulty Clockwork that may prove detrimental to all his hard work.

The Board of Trade jurisdiction has prevented him from personally investigating the case and his frustration is immense. His usual countenance is so darkened and he will not share his troubles with me, as he used to do. He is caustic and withdrawn. I hardly know him these days.

* Chan is having sleepless nights. Something is troubling him to the point of distraction, but still he refuses to speak with me. All my attempts at easing his mind off his work when he is home are fruitless, his rage flares up at my very proximity at the moment. This pains me more than I can say. He has stopped asking after Janav altogether and isolates himself completely. It is becoming intolerable.

* More trouble brews. Chan has enlisted the police, since the Board of Trade will not allow him access to their findings. The faulty Clockwork situation is now a matter for the constabulary.

Tommy tells me a siege is underway at Hodgson's Brewery as I write this. It appears that is where the Clockwork was stationed. What is wrong with it? - I must find out.

The papers also speak of the siege but all in a highly sensational tone. It is vexing in the extreme, to have to cobble together what news I can from the limited sources I have access to.

Chan has shut me out entirely. I am seeing a new, darker side of my husband. He behaves like a man possessed. I begin to believe have lost him, the very man I once loved. My utmost priority is now to protect my son from his increasingly toxic influence. Tommy has been an absolute rock these past months. But even I am concerned about how many times a day it occurs to me that life would be quite unbearable without him.

* Chan is having nightmares. He awoke last night, wild eyed, fingers clutching at thin air, screaming "No more! Don't speak of the Alchemist!” When I asked him who this Alchemist was, he shouted at me, “No one, leave me be". He turned his back to me and went back to sleep. The apartment is a stifling lockbox of secrets and I find it so hard to bear. Chan will not allow us to face life's twists and turns together, as we once promised each other. His work is driving him to distraction and I don't see and end to it.

 

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