28 Feb


Radji parked the truck on the drive. His daughter, Mala, ran out to meet him. It has been ten years since their move to the United States. Their benefactor, Mr. Vigrage had made things very easy for them. They arrived to ready-made accommodations and ready-made jobs. Their already having a baby thrilled Ajay beyond measure. He watched her grow up to the age of seven before his demise. Mala grew up seeing Ajay as the only grandpa she knew.

Their decision to move to the USA had been greeted with anger. Jemina’s parents had wanted her to spend the first one year of the baby’s life under their roof. To them, even if she doesn’t stay that long, the naam karan should at least be celebrated in their home.

Radji had been adamant and his wife very supportive of his decision. They had left once their travel documents arrived. They have since communicated with home at least once a year. The family back home had a picture of Mala each year so the young girl was no stranger to them.

Mala knew no other life than that she had in the States. She had made friends with the children of the other workers and attended elementary school within the neighbourhood. This was quite an expensive school attended by the elite, but Ajay had insisted on this and there was no way they could refuse.

Manoj had been supportive of them when his father was alive, but upon the death of Ajay, he changed.

First thing he did was to kick them out of his father’s house and then stop the sponsoring of Mala’s tuition in the school.

Kicking them out of the house meant Jemina lost her job as housekeeper. Manoj had to work twice as hard as he used to, in order to support the family. He had never been a wasteful person and that was his saving grace. He had always known that their time in Ajay’s home was limited and he saved as much as he could when the going was good.

They moved into a modest house, much to the chagrin of Manoj and others who like him did not favour the attention they were getting from Ajay. A couple of months after that Radji resigned his appointment with the company and set up his own business. Though he could not afford the school Mala used to attend, she got enrolled in a public school and since she had attended a prestigious school prior to that she had blended perfectly academically.

Radji and Jemina worked hard at their business, a grocery store—just as Ajay had started. It was over two years since the business started and there was no reason for them to complain.

‘Hi dad’ greeted Mala. ‘Where is mum?’

Radji alit from the car, carrying a bag of groceries which he had gotten from the store.

‘I just needed to bring these home before going back to take over from her’ he answered as he swooped to plant a kiss on her cheek.

‘I needed her to help me with my home-work.

Radji gave her a look of mock pain and she smiled.

‘No hard feelings dad, you are no good for that’.

They both walked into the house and he went directly into the kitchen and set the bags on the table.

‘Would you help me unpack, princess?’ he asked as he began to set the contents of the bags on the table.

‘Sure’ and she set to putting away the groceries.

Mala was quite tall for her age and had the most beautiful figure. It was as well that her father called her princess. She was a beauty to behold.

‘So what did you need your mother for?’ Radji finally asked as the last item went into its proper place.

‘Calculus’ she answered as she washed an apple at the sink and bit into it. ‘I hate calculus.’

‘So do I’ her father concurred and putting his hand in his pants pocket, he brought it out to show her a new calculator. ‘That is what calculators are for.’

‘Oh dad, I wish we were allowed to use those for exams.’ She looked at the calculator with a lot of longing.

‘Well it would no longer be an examination if you use it’ her father pointed out as he put the calculator on the table. ‘But you could use it when it is not examination time.’ He glanced at his watch, ‘I really must run, your mother would wonder what kept me.’

Mala waved him away as he headed for the door. She wished she could confide in him how she actually felt.

Her parents were really doing their best to take care of her, but ever since she left her former school things have not been the same.

She was doing real well at her academics. Most of the times she pretended not to understand some of her school-work so she could get that special attention which Ajay used to give her back at the big house. Her parents were hoping she would become some kind of academic genius, but she was tilting to the arts. She loved to sing, dance and act. Of course her parents had never shown any form of prejudice against anything she wanted, but deep down inside she felt she may be letting them down.

It is at times like this that she missed Patel. Patel had been a good friend of hers until they got kicked out and his father forbade their association. That was three years ago and he was in his early teens then, but now he was seventeen and pretty much able to do as he pleased.

She had been quite surprised at his visit three days ago. She had not told her parents about it for she did not want to upset them. She had always seen Patel as an older brother, the two years they had been apart seemed like decades to her young mind.

They had discussed everything under the heavens ranging from the home front to school and growing up. She saw him as ancient, he being all of seven years older than she, so she discussed all her worries with him with ease.

He had been quite supportive of her desire to go into show business when she grows up. Though she knew she was quite young to be thinking about a career, but she had felt good sharing her dreams with him.

Before he left, he had given her a memento, a locket with his photo in it. She had it tucked into the bottom of her dresser. To her it was a prized possession. She really wished she had a brother like him in the house, she wouldn’t feel as lonely as she did most of the time. Her mother was not yet past the age of having children and she was sure that someday her dream would come true. But meanwhile she just had to make do with the occasional promised visits of Patel.


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