4 Mar


…And so we all gathered here today, are a living attestation to this freedom. This class of 2010 says a hearty thank you to our alma mater—or soon-to-become alma mater…’

The audience giggles to the subtle joke.

‘…and assure you that we won’t let you down; we won’t let our families down; and we won’t let our country down. God bless America!’

Mala alit the stage to the thunderous applause of the audience, which comprised families and friends of the graduating seniors. She walked tall, proud to have been the valedictorian of an esteemed school such as this.

For the Indian community, this was a day to be proud of and always remember. It was not every day that one of theirs attains to such great heights. She was not some American dream wannabe. She was the embodiment of the American dream.

Her father gazed at her proudly as she joined her colleagues on her graduation gown and mortarboard. She looked so beautiful. He had had some kind of pep talk with her this morning as she got ready for her big day. She had donned one of her newest designs, another reason for which he was so proud of her.

Mala had started off on something close to a career in fashion design. She had been able to design her own clothing line which she sold to her school mates. She had been inspired by Brooke Davis of One Tree Hill—a TV seasonal, who had established a clothing line (Clothes over Bros) when she was in High school and sold clothes over the internet with the help of her friends Peyton Sawyer and Haley James. Brooke had proceeded to become a big name in the fashion industry.

Mala had been so impressed by Brooke Davis that she decided to do exactly the same thing, so much so since she too had a flare for fashion. Her ultimate goal was to become a top model or actor, but for now she was basking in the ‘glory’ of having her schoolmates wear her designs and being the valedictorian of the year.

The graduation ceremony climaxed with all graduating students throwing their mortarboards heavenward amidst the cheers of all onlookers. It was an exhilarating experience for all the seniors; an experience they have all been looking forward to.

Mala also looked forward to the prom. It would be her last in high school and she hoped Patel would be there. So many of her classmates had invited her to be their date for the prom but she had rejected their invitation and had instead invited Patel. She had missed him at the graduation and hoped he would not disappoint her at the prom.

The prom was promising to be a great night. Her parents were there but she knew they would not be there for long. Her parents both had never been night people.

Her father had the first dance. She looked divine in her exquisite design—a blend of turquoise and lavender which hung on to her figure and accentuated her almost fair skin.

Midway through the dance, someone tapped her father, ‘May I?’

It was Patel.     

Her father did well to conceal the shock of seeing him, but she could see he was quite uncomfortable with the situation. All the same he let him take her hand, and he retreated to join his wife at their seat.

Patel smiled at her and her heart beat a staccato.

‘Your dad seems not too happy to see me’ he observed.

‘You may be right about that’ she concurred casting a glance at her father’s direction. ‘He must be worried for your sake actually.’

‘Ahhh!’ he said in mock exclamation. ‘You don’t mean you never told him I’ll be here?’

It was Mala’s turn to smile, ‘Guilty as charged.’

He twirled her around the dance floor to the admiration of many of the guests. They indeed made a handsome couple. She was radiant with the joy of his being there with her to enjoy this momentous occasion, oblivious of the effect it was having on those around her. It was that naivete, in Patel’s opinion, that was the main source of her beauty.

‘You look tired’ Patel pointed out after they had danced silently for a while.

‘Yes’ she agreed.

‘Let me take you to your seat.’

They both moved over to their reserved table where her parents were waiting for her.

‘Am I glad to see you Patel’ Jemina greeted him excitedly. ‘It’s been…ten years now?’

‘About that’ Patel agreed. ‘I really missed you all you know.’

‘How did you know Mala was graduating?’ Radji inquired.

‘Well I…’

‘I invited him’ Mala cut in. she reasoned it was high time she came clean with what had been going on.

‘You what!?’

Mala could not tell if her father was angry or just surprised. She settled for surprised.

‘I invited him dad…Patel and I have been in close communication for some years now.’ Now that she had said it she wondered if this was the right forum for it.

Radji did well to conceal however he was feeling. He looked from Mala to Patel and shook his head. Picking up a glass of champagne from the table he raised it. ‘Salute’ he said and took a sip.

‘Won’t you join us for the post-graduation party at home?’ asked Jemina. We would be happy to have you.’

‘I’ll be honoured’ was Patel’s reply as he lifted his glass of champagne in salute and also took a sip.

‘Why don’t we powder our noses?’ Jemina asked as she rose and took Mala’s hand.

The men rose from their seats as the ladies departed the table. Radji sat down first and Patel said, ‘I would leave if my presence makes you uncomfortable.’

Radji motioned him to take a seat, and cleared his throat. ‘You don’t make me uncomfortable Patel, far from that. In fact I am happy you have kept in touch, but I would have preferred that I knew about it sooner.’

‘I understand you Radji’ Patel agreed with him. Mala did not want to upset you…and besides, we feared that the more people that knew about it, the greater the risk of my father finding out about it.’

Radji nodded his understanding of the situation. ‘And how is your father these days?’

Patel twirled his champagne in his glass while he pondered the question. ‘Well, I believe he should be fine, considering that I have not seen him in the past four years.’


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