Veena sat on campus away from other groups sitting together chatting, she was serious about finishing her MBA and determined not to let one minute of social opportunity come between her and her studies. Oh, she did socialize and was quite popular but kept it all to a minimum, so parties didn’t draw her away from studies. She wanted to hurry her studies along so she could return to India and be companion to her father Mahavir who was now conducting his head office from Mumbai. Veena had agreed this was a good move with Mumbai being the business capital of India and she fully understood why Mahavir had separated from Bharti. She’d never mentioned Bhati’s cruelty before her father had comprehended what was happening and sent her to Mumbai to live with the Goldring’s. There was pain in her heart as she thought of those happy years with that family. Why had Victoria and Anita refused to answer her letters after she was summonsed to Delhi by her father? Why hadn’t Anvit written to her when she’d written to him explaining why she had to leave so suddenly. She’d felt rejected and angry at the sudden break in communications.
Her thoughts were interrupted when someone spoke to her, she looked up, but the sun was in her eyes, so she shaded them with her hand.
The shape of a young man loomed in front of her as she strained to try and recognize who it was.
Veena moved to try and focus better with the direct sunlight in her line of view. “Do I know you?” There was a trace of irritation in her voice. She hated to be interrupted when she was thinking through some difficult study passage.
“It’s me, Curt Judd. I didn’t know you were in the US or this university for that matter. It’s nice to see you. I remember the good time I had with you and the rest of your gang on my visit to Mumbai two years ago.”
The hurt and anger in Veena reared its head but she replied in an even tone followed by an attempt at laughter.
“I’m surprised you decided to come over and talk seeing your family seems to have cut me off!”
Curt shrugged. “Mind if I sit down for a moment, I don’t live in this city but I was going to visit with my girlfriend who attends this university but for some reason I couldn’t find her on campus and was surprised to see you so decided to greet you while keeping an eye open for her to appear.”
Studying her face carefully he saw his presence was apparently unwelcome. “I’m sorry, it appears I’m disturbing you.” He began to stand up to leave.
Veena felt sorry for her unfriendly response and indicated he should sit. “I’m sorry, that was not kind of me. Actually I was just thinking of those years and struggling with why Victoria Aunty and Anita cut me off like they did. They never responded to my letters when I had to leave for Delhi and it really hurt me.”
Curt exhaled in surprise. “Veena it’s strange you feel that way because that’s exactly how the Goldring’s feel. They are still hurt because they didn’t receive any response from you after writing letters. Eventually they gave up and wondered what happened. Your father is still friendly with my Uncle so we all thought it must have been your preference.”
Veena burst into tears and Curt looked around anxiously to see if people were taking an interest in what was happening to make her cry.
She recovered quickly. “Bhati!” she muttered, “it had to be Bhati. She and her family ruined my life and Bhati has caused my Dad immense pain, how can I ever explain this to your family?”
“Well perhaps you could start by explaining it to Bruce, he’s been so different since leaving Mumbai. When he’s not studying he’s working out or playing extreme sports and my Mom is really concerned about him. It’s not normal! I can’t talk any sense into him anymore!”
“You think Anvit would still talk to me after what happened?” Veena asked hopefully.
“Oh, please talk to him I want my cousin back. Give me your phone number, I’ll have to go now as I see Julie looking for me.”
Veena quickly wrote the number down and Curt waved to his girlfriend beckoning her over to introduce her to Veena before they took off holding hands.
That evening Veena couldn’t study. She sat by the phone hopefully intermittently watching TV for a change, then when there’d been no phone call by ten pm she gave up and got into bed turning out the light. She’d only just dozed off when the phone rang, and she jumped up and grabbed the headset off its cradle.
“Anvit?” She could hardly contain her excitement!
The voice on the other end was subdued. “This is Curt and you owe me big time Veena. I’ve just got off the train and shared our meeting with Bruce, but he thought I was pranking him, and this is a very delicate subject for Bruce. So now I’ve got a sore jaw and my Mom wants to throw Bruce out of the house. Please sort this out and speak to Bruce. I’m getting a cold compress for my face and going to bed.” There was a clanking sound as Curt handed the phone over to his cousin.
“Anvit, what have you done?” In the background she could hear Clara Simson Judd’s angry voice as she shepherded her son out of Bruce’s room.
“Is it really you Veena? I’m going to have to do serious repenting to my aunt if it is. She wants to throw me out after I punched Curt”
Anvit that’s not like you at all. You should apologize tonight itself. I really misunderstood you and your family when I didn’t get any response to my letters in Delhi and I want to apologize to you and your family for that misunderstanding. It was my wicked stepmother Bhati who kept my letters back and threw yours out. I can see that now please don’t misunderstand me anymore. I want things back as they were before.”
“Veena things can’t be back as they were before, it’s taken me these two years to realize that!” Veena froze at his words.
“I don’t want to be only friends with you, I want something more, something deeper. I know the taboos against marrying out of your community but that’s what I want with you and I couldn’t be happy with anything less now.”
Veena began to cry and Anvit sobered. “I’m so sorry I overstepped but it just sort of fell out.”
“I’d have to ask my father Anvit but from my heart it’s all I want too. I’ll sound him out and let you know if it’s possible. But I would like to be with my father in Mumbai to help him now that he’s separated from my stepmother. How would you feel about that if Dad says yes?
“I don’t know if I could get permission to stay on and work in India Veena. I need to finish my graduate work and get some job experience here first. Would you wait until that was all sorted out or we could find some other solution? Please start by sounding your father out. I’ve been so miserable without you.”
Veena was beside herself with happiness now. “Go and apologize to your aunt and cousin now Anvit. I’m going to phone my Dad and sound him out to see how he’d react if your parents approached him for a marriage proposal.”
Mahavir struggled with that decision for a week before coming to a decision. It would be his sons who eventually ran his business empire. At an appropriate age he’d bring them under his influence in Mumbai putting them into school there. With his separation from Bharti his community were divided now, some supporting him and some her so what did it matter if his daughter married a foreigner. He phoned his daughter and told her his decision. He felt comfortable linking his family with the Goldring’s, but they’d have to make the first move.
In view of the cultural sensitivities marrying outside his community Mahavir decided on a quiet ceremony in the US with a limited group from each family in attendance. When Anvit and Veena’s high school friends heard about it they demanded a celebration of the marriage be held in India at a place where they could all attend and that happened during the next university holiday period.
As soon as she’d graduated Veena returned to Mumbai to help her father with his business empire while Bruce remained in the US to get work experience with an investment corporation in New York staying with the Judd’s who’d long forgiven him for his indiscretion with Curt.
Joseph Goldring who was well respected by the international bank he’d spent his life working for eventually prevailed on the bank to give his son an administrative position at the bank in Mumbai as he planned for his retirement. Bruce would have to prove his worth over time to reach his father’s role but was quite happy to work under the one sent to replace his father.
Joseph and Victoria got their wish. Anvit and Veena eventually took over their Malabar Hill property and responsibility for the servants who’d served the family so well for many years. Anita had returned to France and the love of her life she’d met there during her years at school.
The bungalow was renovated to give their retired parents some privacy in their own quarters and grandparents delighted is spending their days with grandchildren and the many friends made through their working years continuing to enjoy that spectacular view over the city of Mumbai from bungalow grounds.
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