7 Mar


Mala’s move to Ayodhya took longer than expected. She had been invited to work in one of the top fashion houses in Boston.

Mala had been quite flattered to find out that her designs had travelled thus far. A classmate of hers—Sylvia whose father was a professor at Harvard had worn one of her designs to one of the dinners held last year. Also at the dinner was the owner of one the top fashion houses there. Sylvia had spoken very highly of Mala and that conversation had resulted in Mala’s being invited.

At first Mala had rejected the invitation preferring to strike out on her own. She trusted greatly in her ability to make it on her own. But her father, as well as Patel, had helped her to see that it was better she acquired some experience in a fashion house before she strike out on her own.

She had spent the last year at Elegance designing a new line of teen casuals for summer and fall. It had been a very interesting experience. Her designs had hit the runway in one of Boston’s biggest fashion shows. She had placed second at the fashion show. For a first timer that was a great achievement. Her family had been there to share the moment with her.

At the expiration of her one year contract with Elegance she had finally moved to Ayodhya. Her father had outdone himself. He bought her a property to be used as her fashion house and she got to Ayodhya to find an elegant looking building with the name MALA, emblazoned on it. She had then proceeded to furnish the house.

It was no easy task. She had to recruit tailors and dressmakers, pick fabrics suitable for her kind of designs, shop for the machines to be used. She had to be careful with the dressmakers for not many of them know how to manipulate all of the industrial machines used in the industry. She also needed professional cutters; cutting of the fabrics was not going to be an all comers affair.

While taking care of the grand opening of MALA, she also had to keep an eye on her father’s business interests. Her reputation had gone ahead of her. All over city of Ayodhya she was known as the Indian-American who came back home. This was not a very common trait. Many Indians who went abroad to search for the all-important ‘greener pastures’ seldom ever remembered home, let alone return.

But Mala was exceptional for she had spent her entire twenty years in the United States and yet she carved a life she had never really experienced—a life which would by all means prove to be more difficult than that which she was used to. This reputation of hers helped to bolster her father’s already fully fledged business.

Most nights Mala was too exhausted to sleep. Between the fashion house and her father’s business, she had more than enough on her plate every day.

Mala set a date for the grand opening of MALA. This meant that she had to work twice as hard as she did already to meet up the deadline. She had a very cooperative staff and much support from her parents, especially her mother who took time out to come down to Mumbai to see her.

Being around Mala brought Jemina’s artistic prowess to the fore. She and Mala came up with the most incredible designs and the dressmakers did justice to them.

A fortnight to the big event Patel visited Mala. The exhibition in France had been a huge success and he had also become a big name in India. Mala could not be mentioned without Patel when it came to discussing patriotism. To the nation both of them were foremost when it came to discussing patriots in the diaspora.

Radji had felt embarrassed about Patel’s buying Mala an apartment in Ayodhya, to him it made Mala appear like a kept woman. He had vehemently opposed her staying there and so she had settled for carving out a living area for herself at the MALA house. She had however kept the gold chain and the key that came with it.

The locket he had given her when she was ten was a regular feature in her fashion accessories. She had a photo of Patel in the locket.

Her mother had happened on the locket and the picture therein by chance when Mala was preparing to move to Boston. Mother and daughter had had a heart to heart there and then and Jemina had for once noticed how her daughter practically glowed when she talked about Patel. Jemina could not help but understand that though Mala only thought a feeling of brotherly affection existed on her part, something greater and stronger than that was present. Jemina’s great fear was if Patel felt the same way for her daughter.

Patel took her out for dinner that evening. It was a quiet dinner outing in the exclusive oceanfront JW Marriot Hotel, the favourite hangout of Bollywood actors.  Mala had worn the dress, a flattering fully embroidered gown worn with a sari, which she had designed for herself, for the fashion show in Boston the year before. Heads turned when she and Patel made their entry into the hotel lobby. Patel had made table reservations before their arrival and they were led to their table in the restaurant of the hotel.

The cool air complimented the beautiful scenery. It was a good thing for Mala who had not taken a break from work for the past three months since her arrival at Mumbai.

Patel was determined to feed her that evening and decided not to burden her with chitchat until they were done with their meals.

For starters he had samosa while she had sewai. These formed the base for the main chicken dish they ordered. For Mala, chicken would always feature in her meals. That was one thing staying in America stamped on her—an appetite for chicken.

‘So college is clearly not in your agenda?’ Patel asked when the empty plates had been removed and replaced by coffee.

Mala took a sip of her coffee while contemplating what answer to give him. Of course she knew that a college degree was definitely out of it. She could not pursue a college degree with how busy she was!

‘For now, no’ she answered cautiously as she carefully gauged his reaction. Seeing him again after a year’s absence had confirmed to her something she had been trying to deny all these years—she had fallen in love with Patel.

Patel smiled to himself as he wondered at the answer she had given him. Mala had always been sure of herself and independent, something that had endeared her to him all those years. Was he sensing some sort of holding back on her part?

‘You have always been the “absolutely not” kind of person. You are not sure of what you want to do?’

Mala feared she would say the wrong thing and so settled for not answering at all. Back in the States it was okay for a girl to express her feelings, to take the initiative in matters of the heart and back here it used to be customary for the girl’s parents to do that, but the tradition was a fast dying one.

‘…So what do you say?’

Mala snapped out of her reverie to find that Patel had just asked her a question.

‘I am so sorry, you lost me there’ She gushed. ‘Say again?’

Patel gave her a quizzical look. ‘You are certainly not acting yourself tonight.’

‘I really must apologise. It must be my nerves, they are quite strained lately. You know the preparations and all.’

Patel nodded his understanding.

‘Do you forgive me?’ she asked as she inwardly berated herself for her uncharacteristic behaviour.

‘I have something to show you’ he said as he stood up and helped her out of her seat.

He led her out to the terrace where they felt the full force of the breeze from the Arabian seas. The sight was spectacular and Mala was clearly floored by it.

She did not notice Patel remove something from his suit pocket until he held up the object in front of her.

It was a ring. A ring studded with a finely cut diamond that sparkled like the stars in the sky of the Arabian nights.

‘Would you marry me, Mala?’ he asked her on bended knees.

In her mesmerized shock Mala could only breathe one word ‘Patel’ as she helped him to his feet a tear staining her face.

Patel slid the ring into her finger and then he kissed her.


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