Meanwhile, back in Poole, Silla was coming of age, and she had questions.

After her mother’s death Silla remained in her father’s care, an arrangement that had upset the natural order of things. When the mother dies, the child would usually go to live with the grandmother.


The average life span of a dog is 12 years, eight years longer than many of the babies born here. The odds were even worse for the babies born on Indian barracks. There a woman might have ten children and see only four of them live to speak their own names. The odds in Poole are a little better, but not by much. Colonial power was distant, and everywhere, and largely indifferent to the death callers who would walk the streets with a bell, calling out the name of the person who had died. There were no phones then, and the callers would have to let the neighborhood know that one among them was to be buried; one among them was grieving; one among them was perhaps available again to be married, to be with new child, or to be fatherless, or motherless forever. The carpenters would have to know when to build a box, and approximately how big, and the diggers would have to know whether they might be needed in the churchyard in the morning. This was a time still drawing slowly past, led by horse carts. Large wheeled carts taking the dead to be buried, followed by long processions of everyone you might know in your life, chanting and singing hymns.

Her mother’s name had been called in the streets: Georgie. Upon hearing the story of her death, Silla knew only one thing for sure — she didn’t want to live the life of scarcity that her mother and father lived in this place. She was sixteen years old. She would go to live with Cecelia, James and Sasa.


Silla. Born 1926.