6 Mar


They had all retired to a quiet dinner after the prom and the party at the house. Radji had looked so woebegone after Patel intimated him with his experience with his father. He felt for the boy he had always known Patel to be for to him Patel was like Mala—just a child.

Patel had thoroughly enjoyed his time at Mala’s party. It had afforded him opportunity to meet with friends he had not seen for years due to his busy schedule.

Many who initially stayed away from Radji and his family due to Manoj’s unreasonableness had turned around and accepted the family. They saw no reason to stay away from Radji—a hardworking and fast becoming business tycoon. And business tycoon he was indeed becoming for his single store had become a chain of stores and he had gone ahead to establish back home in India too.

He had a chain of stores back home in Ayodhya, Mumbai where he sold goods imported from the United States. While his stores at home serviced the Americans and others who preferred made-in-America goods, his stores in Florida serviced the American Indians who still wanted to identify themselves with the Indian culture though they were nationalized Americans.

It had not been easy rising to the height he was now, and it certainly was not easy raising his only daughter Mala.

Mala had visited Mumbai a couple of times and she really enjoyed her stay whenever she went there. Mumbai was calmer now compared to when her parents had run away with her in tow some eighteen years ago. Since then, another terrorist attack had been the Mahim train station bombing of July 11, 2006.

Her father tried to talk her into returning to Ayodhya to take care of the family business there, but she had been reluctant to accept. To her, returning to her home country would be for the sole purpose of pursing her career in the fashion industry.

She discussed the issue with Patel when they went out for dinner on her graduation night. He had listened to her patiently as usual.

‘Does this mean you want to return to India?’ he asked impressed that despite the fact that she has spent all her life here she was willing to make such a drastic change and move over to India.

‘Don’t you think it is better you to stay here and manage your family’s business here?

‘You are pulling my legs, right?’ Mala asked smiling at him.

‘No, seriously have you considered that?’

‘I have always wanted to return to India.’ She said frankly. ‘I love the picture my papa has painted of the place and when I visited, I was quite impressed about what I saw.’

‘If the place is so great why is your dad not interested in relocating?’ Patel asked still probing her. Somehow, he felt he needed to be convinced she knew what she was doing and not just trying to satisfy some kind of whim.

Mala herself knew this. Several occasions when she had brought some issues up with him, he had used these kinds of questions to help her see the folly or importance of what she wanted to embark on as the case may be.

‘As a matter of fact, he and mama had wanted to do just that. But I need for them to stay here; it suits them. And besides, I really want to do this. It is important to me.’ She took a deep breath. ‘You know, when I visited a year ago, I saw areas I could improve the present fashion while still preserving the traditional flavour.’

Patel could not stop himself giggling.

‘Why are you giggling’ she asked quite taken aback by his reaction. ‘I am serious about this.’

Patel had to stop himself from giggling even more. He really did not want to cause offence.

‘Really… it is not really you, it’s…what has flavour got to do with fashion?’

‘Oh, that.’ She said understanding why he really had to laugh it out. ‘Well, I couldn’t think of another word that suited the idea I wanted you to get.’

‘How about ideals?’ he offered.

‘No.’ she disagreed. ‘I prefer flavour.’

‘Have it your way.’

‘So what do you think? You think I would make a fine entrepreneur and fashion designer and maybe model?’

He shot her one of those looks that made her feel giddy. ‘I think I am looking at a lady that would end up being successful at whatever she sets her mind to doing.’

Mala felt she could cry to hear that come from him.

‘You know there is this song that says you can be what you want to be if you work hard at it you’ll be what you want to be,’ he covered her hand with his on the table. ‘That can and would be your story Mala. I am sure of it.’

‘I am sure it would be, coming from you’ her voice was a whisper from the lump that had formed in her throat.

‘Hey!’ he exclaimed and reached into his suit pocket. ‘I was almost forgetting this.’

He handed her two wrapped items.

‘Can I open it?’ she asked as she excitedly tore open the wrapping paper much to the delight of Patel.

The first wrapping revealed an mp3 player. She held it up with an enquiring look.

‘Something to set you in the right mood when you need inspiration to do your designs. I have a selection of songs that have helped me when I felt I was losing it.’

‘Thanks.’ She said as she tore into the second wrapping. There was a velvet box and she hurriedly opened it. Inside the box was a silver key dangling from a gold chain. She held up the chain to examine the key.

‘That is the key to the apartment I acquired in Ayodhya when you mentioned you might be moving there last year.’

‘You shouldn’t have’ she breathed tears in her eyes.

‘I support a noble cause when I see one; and yours is a noble cause. I wish I had the kind of courage you possess.’

He got out a hanky and dabbed at her tears.

‘You could see it as a personal retreat so that whenever you are feeling out of it, you have a place to go.’

‘I am grateful for this, you know that don’t you?’ she asked him managing a tiny smile.

‘Sometimes I wonder,’ he said teasingly. ‘I know Mala. You are one of a kind, simply unique.’


They remained in companionable silence for a bit.

‘I shall be taking the first flight out to Europe tomorrow’ Patel broke the silence.

‘Where exactly are headed this time?’ she asked wondering when she would get to see him again.

‘I am headed for France, precisely for the non-European art museum Musee du Qaiu Branly. There has been an ongoing exhibition of Indian art since March and it is coming to its close on the eighteenth of this month.’

‘I can imagine how much this means to you, identifying with your roots.’

He nodded his agreement.

‘Then I guess wishing you a safe flight would be in order?’ she flashed him a smile.

He smiled back. ‘I guess that would be in order.’


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