Family

27 Feb

CHAPTER TWO

Mr. Ajay Vigrage is the CEO of one the leading exporting companies in Florida, USA. He had started as a small time retailer about two score years and ten ago when Indians were still unrecognized in the United States.

     The Indians had endured so many injustices then, some of them losing their businesses from time to time.

Ajay’s father Patel had been one of the Punjab pioneers who had arrived the United States in the late 1920s and taken up menial jobs in the lumber mills. He and other immigrants like him had spent countless nights sleeping under the open sky in the plantations. Ajay had been but a boy then living without a mother—his mother had died during childbirth back at Delhi. He had had no choice but to accompany his father on the dangerous journey by sea to the USA. He had grown up hard, suffering segregation and living off the streets.

Patel had struggled and risen to owning his own farm. Patel had remarried and had another two sons. Ajay had not wanted much from his father so he had started his own trade, wheeling carts of vegetables from his father’s farm across the streets of Florida. He had progressed greatly, owning his own grocery store at the age of thirty though he had lost his business several times due to the brutal decision by the Supreme Court on the racial interpretation of the word Caucasian.

It was in 1946 that President Truman took interest in the Luce-Celler Bill and had it enacted into the Immigration Act of 1946 conferring rights of citizenship on natives of India. Since then July 3 has been celebrated as Independence Day by Indian Americans.

Ajay looked younger than his age. At the age of seventy-eight he was all of 5 feet 9 and not stooping. Early this morning he had sent for his son Manoj. Despite how healthy he looked, he knew he was nearing his time. He had no regrets; he had lived a fulfilled life. His only wish now was that his son carries on the tradition.

Manoj arrived his father’s mansion accompanied by his last son whom he had named after his own grandfather Patel.

Patel was five years old and dearly loved by his father and grandfather. Upon being ushered into his grandfather’s room he rushed to Ajay’s side.

Ajay was reading the newspapers when they arrived. He had on a grim expression which Manoj noticed immediately he walked in.

Manoj walked over to him and kissing him sat on the bed next to him.

‘You look unhappy grandpa’ Patel observed. ‘Are you all right?’

Ajay gave his grandson a grim smile and motioned him to excuse his father and him.

‘You can come back to visit with me later, not now. I have to talk with your father.’

‘What is the matter?’ Manoj asked immediately the door closed behind Patel.

Ajay held up the newspaper and Manoj saw the headline.

‘Not again. They should be tired of all the bloodshed.’

‘Apparently they are not’ Ajay said as he dropped the newspaper on the bed. ‘Imagine dying over a piece of land. Thousands have been confirmed dead already.’

Ajay got up from the bed and walked slowly over to his reading desk. He picked up a letter and walked back to the bed and sitting next to Manoj, handed him the letter.

Manoj read through the letter silently. When he was done he turned to his father enquiringly.

‘That letter came from Mumbai, from a family that is now displaced.’

‘I don’t understand father’ Manoj said shaking his head uncomprehendingly.

‘Veejay is one of my business contacts in Mumbai. His brother has a son, Radji, who is married and badly needs a job, anything to give the family a break.’ He paused to catch his breath. ‘Problem now is, his brother and his wife died were killed during this Hindu/Muslim riot in Mumbai and the young man is simply wallowing in self-pity.’

Manoj looked at his father affectionately. Ajay has always been like a pillar of the Indian community here in Florida. So many Indians have found solace in him and he has offered employment to countless others. There was no point in time that he did not one person or the other living under his roof. He was like a dog catcher—always bringing in strays. For Ajay, family was everything and here in Florida, all Indians represented family.

‘What would you have me do now father,’ Manoj asked, though he had an idea what the answer was going to be.

‘I need you to have a job ready for whenever he arrives.’

‘Do you have any idea about his discipline?’

Ajay gave Manoj the look and Manoj understood. This was another unskilled labour. Right now he had run out of ideas as to how to accommodate another unskilled labourer.

‘You could have the missus as a housekeeper, here in my house. That would take care of their accommodation’ Ajay suggested.

‘You already have a housekeeper’ Manoj explained patiently.

‘You know how lonely I get son,’ Ajay implored. ‘They are a new couple and would have kids soon. I need that now son. You and your family always come around, I appreciate that, but I need this now more than ever.’

Manoj smiled at his father. ‘You know I would always do everything to make you happy. I would arrange a safe passage for them into the United States as soon as possible.’

‘I would really love that’ his father smiled at him.

‘Would that be all, father?’

Ajay stared at his son absently for a moment.

‘No, that is not all. There is something else.’

Manoj hoped sincerely he didn’t have another individual to absorb into the company.

‘It has to do with Patel…’

Sensing the agitation in Manoj’s eyes he allayed his fears.

‘There is no problem my son.’

‘Then what is it about Patel father?’

‘Son, you know you married an American, not an Indian America but a pure American’ Ajay pointed out.

‘Not with that again father’ Manoj protested.

His father had been very much against his decision to marry an American. He was the only child and his father had wanted him to go back to their roots to get a wife. He had defied his father and married Carmen.

‘You defied me and married an American. I don’t want that for my grandson. I want Patel to marry from India. I want Patel to go back to his roots.’

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