The guards stood in front of her. Their bearing told Mina everything she needed to know; For a moment she had to act honored, submissive even. Sardari instructed Mina to take a briefcase from one of them, before instructing them to wait in the car. She would need time for a few words.
And the two soldier-types retreated to the air conditioning.
Mina carefully closed the door after she entered, then relaxed.
"Is this leather?"
"Water Buffalo, I think. They won't. Fucking. Let me carry my own briefcase of money. This is not a good part of the job."
"Is this all of it? 30 years and you're finally paying me back?"
"I couldn't do gold, obviously. But no Taka, at least. All Indian Rupies - and my calculations, for your approval."
"Alright then. Let's- Wait, I assume you want tea. Assam?"
"Yes - please - but let me handle that."
The kettle whistle breaks the grumble of the car running outside, as Mina counted out stacks of notes of various denominations. The steeping of leaves concluded while she critiqued the accounting before her.
"Well, I have no way to confirm the price of gold while you're here, but - this is going to be enough work to get to the bank."
"Really. You trust the banks?"
"As much as you trust paper money to satisfy me. But, British-backed ones, yes. By the time they charge for converting to pounds sterling..." She tried to remember exchange fees, not that they mattered at the moment, "Yes. I'll call it even."
"Thank you," a cup of black Assam tea and it's accompanying saucer was placed between her and her figures. "Of course, on my official books you're another temple, but honestly I'm glad I was able to pay you back a little earlier than expected."
"You could have made partial payments at ant time in the past-" Mina checked the calculation again, "32 years. But, sure - the papers are concerned with the economy lately. But the border rearrangement - that sped collection up, of all things?"
"So, officially I'm a Bangladeshi citizen now, but rumors are that's going to be pretty much open door. But alms... yes, those actually went up, since the rates don't have to be lowered for all the enclaves now. There's just one to get the 'special deal' anymore," Sardari sighed, allowing herself a sip, "Fighting all the anti-corruption tweeting is endless, though. I've got to work myself up in front of at least two ... officials ... today, while I'm in the country - about the difference between a living wage and what the government pays-"
"And how many times does the word 'bribe' enter into these conversations?"
"That and the extra coke fees," She paused for a moment, waiting for something to register on Mina's face. It didn't. "You know, snorting coke like the kids do these days? Kenyans? Corrupting-"
"So 'bribe' is still an avoided word, even in private?"
Sardari sighed, as seemed to be her momentary wont, "It's as poison now as it ever has been. Can hardly ever bring up 'partiality', even. 'Levels of service' sometimes works," Sip, "Worse case, I start questioning what gods they are trying to buy off - which almost always can be counted on for the proper sort of discomfort. But. For sure, you're getting the biggest wad of cash today. Debts before bribes."
"Oh, you have more? Maybe I should check-"
"Don't," Sardari had an incredulous look on her face, "If either of us cared that much about every single Naya I'd have planned to be here for days."
"True," Mina leaned back from her tea and sums, "But seriously, what is that outfit?"
"This outfit?" She took what looked to be a practiced sitting pose, the hole into her pant leg and possibly garter belt being very visible, "I've got to differentiate from movie stars, ok? Maybe if you had a television you'd see how bad our representations are..."
"Our? I'm pretty sure I should be thrilled with any representation at all. But I do see enough movies," sip, "It just seems... drafty. In the wrong way."
"I still have other clothes around, believe me - though -" she looked at the loom in the other room, saree sitting half-done inside it, "If you're really that short on money, I could email you some other designs that have been proposed. Like this one was. What is your email?" She took out a cell phone.
"Oh, I don't have a computer. Or a cordless phone."
"I have the fax number of the store off the highway..." Mina looked towards her kitchen, eyes settling nowhere, "somewhere around here. I'm sure they charge less than postage. For black and white."
"Why don't you have a phone? Your husband travels, doesn't he? And it's not like you can't afford it?"
"Uddyam seems to think cordlees phones will corrupt me or somthing. And I think he likes writing. Gives him more to do while the films are showing."
Sardari zoned out for a moment, imagining what Mina might do if she knew what Tiktok was, "I mean, I can sort of see it-" she trailed off for a moment, "And if you want a quiet life anyways... yeah, I could get you an estimate by mail. Now that I have the ri- current name."
"Then I'll wait for more mail after you get back - though you'll probably want to come for a fitting, too, at some point. It shouldn't be too hard to declare- no, you're probably more knowledgeable about getting things across the border than I am."
"You better believe it. Bare minimum... things that aren't nude," Sardari got a grin on her face.
"Please. Yes we both know that story. Big whoop. I sure you would have easily found... now that I think of that, do you not carry the jar anymore? Or are you hiding it somewhere?"
"The whole 'sealing evil' gig doesn't get called for much these days. Though," she grabbed at and held up one of the two plugs the braids of her hair wrapped around, "these will do in a pinch, even if it does take a little longer. And," she paused for a moment, then pulled a stack of bills from what seemed to be thin air, "they are filled at the moment. I did say I had plans for later today," The air seemed to vibrate, and the money was gone again, "These gain a different sort of attention than the jar would."
"And I figured you might like a suitcase, as I never returned the trunk the gold was in."
"I would have just assumed you could use the furniture anyways," Mina took another long sip of tea, it was cooling quickly.
They listened to the rumble of the engine for a bit.
Sardari was looking uncomfortable in her current comfort, "Do you miss the jar? Did you want another ride?"
"If I needed to get over the border - IF i needed to - I'd ask for bigger jar, not a smaller one," Mina shivered a little, "Maybe if I were to visit your temple one day. Or maybe you'd just need to talk with the border guards first."
"Whichever is more fun," She glanced at the clock on her phone, "I've got enough time to loop back after my second appointment, if-"