Anvit in his Indian persona imagined life would go on for him in his beloved Mumbai as it had up to his high school years, but after Curt had returned to the US to pursue university studies and Veena suddenly disappeared off the scene with just a hasty goodbye to his family the constant round of meetings with his friends took a quick turnaround. One by one his friends left, some transferred to other parts of India on business assignment some went abroad for further education and some got married.
At that same time when his circumstance was changing rapidly Bruce was summoned by his father Joseph and confronted with the reality he needed to either take a job back in the US or further his education. Joseph was hoping he’d choose to study, gain his master’s in business or economics and get a job afterward gaining experience and perhaps in future return to take over his father’s banking role. His parents were resolved to remain in India in retirement and therefor hoped their son would return to take over their property and they’d live as an undivided family so they could enjoy their grandchildren there. But Joseph made clear he’d support his son’s ambition wherever he chose to settle.
So Anvit resumed his Bruce identity reluctantly. He realized there was no chance of his getting a job in India as a foreigner with only college education and no experience. The country had moved on and even those with a higher degree could not easily get a job, some highly qualified even settling for jobs requiring only basic education.
It was about this time his sister Anita returned from studies abroad and family focus shifted to that happy family reunion. Bruce anxious to share his anxieties with someone he was familiar with sought his sister’s advice, but her head was so full of the French culture she’d left behind and now missed she showed little interest in her brother’s need of advice. He thought of Veena whose advice he’d sought in the past but since going to Delhi she’d not responded to letters. He felt betrayed and went into a short period of grieving before deciding that was getting him nowhere and opted for further education sponsorship his father had offered. He returned to the US and moved back in with his aunt and uncle, Curt’s family.
Little did Bruce know that Bharti was intercepting letters he wrote and on reading them became alarmed at the familiarity expressed in those letters. There was nothing there expressed of a romantic nature but to Bharti it was not appropriate for a foreigner to be seeking any kind of relationship with her stepdaughter. She destroyed those letters and the ones Veena wrote to Anvit who she came to know was what Bruce’s Indian friends called him and destroyed those written to his mother Veronica as well. Reading those letters Veena wrote to Veronica caused a jealousy that Veena would treat Veronica Aunty as one of her family.
Bharti kept all this from her husband as she knew Mahavir valued Goldring’s business contact and friendship and didn’t want to create problems for herself at home. She was not happy when on his next trip to the US Mahavir took his daughter and settled her into an MBA course she’d been lobbying for. It was time for Bharti to intervene, so she began searching marriage listings for their community in newspapers and prepared a list of men whose credentials appeared to meet the needs of her community. She began background checks and sought through mutual friends to establish an interest in Veena among those she favoured. It was time to get rid of this daughter of another woman so that Mahavir’s attention would henceforth be only on her sons.
Mahavir had been overwhelmed when he returned to New Delhi and found several marriage proposals in the personal mail tray on his desk. They were interested in his daughter Veena. He called his personal assistant in to inquire where they’d come from. Was it more than a coincidence these had all surfaced at the same time or was it in the stars? He looked for mail stamps to try and figure out locations, but evidence lay within where pictures of suitors accompanied with proposals to meet and discuss negotiations gave all the details. He was jet lagged which is never a good time to make business decisions so decided to follow through on that for the afternoon. His personal assistant remembered they’d all been delivered by one person during his absence. That was strange! Then a sudden thought flashed into his mind. “Bharti!” He chuckled to himself. She could be sly, but this was too obvious. For some reason she’d been pressing for a long time and had made this marriage pursuit for Veena obvious. He decided to take the afternoon off and confront his wife.
At first Bharti protested her innocence. No, she had no knowledge of any marriage proposals and no she’d not been involved in canvassing suitors. But as Mahavir’s questions persisted she abandoned her denials and went on the attack. All her pent-up anger rose to the surface and she angrily accused her husband of loving only his previous deceased wife and her daughter and having no love or respect for her and the sons she’d given him.
Mahavir who’d fully understood her duplicity from the beginning and was only playfully drawing out the truth with a resolve to think with her about the best course of action in seeking a marriage for their daughter was aghast at her outburst. He’d not been aware of this undercurrent bordering on hatred. He’d wrongly imagined he had a good life with Bharti. He respected her as his wife and loved his sons quite unlike the situation she’d described.
But at the same time, he’d observed the sometimes-cruel way she’d treated Veena, not realizing at the time she hated her stepdaughter and viewed her as a threat. That was why he’d thought of leaving his daughter in the care of Goldring yar during her high school years. He’d observed Anita got on well with Veena as sisters do and thought that was the best way to keep peace in the home and see his daughter was not denied a loving environment during important high school years.
Mahavir felt his blood pressure rise and turned slowly to leave the room before he did things in jet lag he’d never have done otherwise. The love he’d had for Bharti evaporated in that moment and he needed time to think.
Suddenly Bharti recalled the words she’d spoken in anger, words that had piled up over the years in her jealousy of Mahavir’s deceased first wife. She gasped in horror as she realized what she’d done and rushed in front of the retreating Mahavir falling at his feet and grasping them in repentance. He’d been loving and generous with her and the boys. What had she said, what had she done?
But Mahavir stone faced shook his feet free of her and strode off to his home office, she followed wailing loudly bringing servants running from all directions. They stood gaping as they saw her falling at his feet begging and looked at each other. Their Sahib had woken up to her at last. They too had experienced cruelty at her hands and had no sympathy for her in her predicament.
To be continued.
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