Captain Hameer Reddy sat pondering the future of his children at his home office in Delhi. He was on leave from his battalion. Posting in the mountains for the duration of his last assignment had been cold and uncomfortable and he was happy to enjoy the comforts of home for a time with servants to answer his beck and call.
He reflected in appreciation on his good fortune in marrying Dakshana. With his long absences on duty over the years she’d done a wonderful job bringing up his children and installing good family values in them. Her name meant sweet, but she knew how to be firm in the nicest way, and this had translated into his sons Aadi and Maan strength of character and diligence in study. They respected and loved their mother and were in awe of him and his position in the army. His authority over them was unquestionable.
Then there was his daughter Labanya she was well named too for her grace and beauty. Labanya doted on him when he was on leave, and he showered his affection on her. It was too early to be considering an appropriate match for her in marriage as she needed to finish her education first. Captain Reddy believed that girls should be well educated and treated with respect and love, and he’d modelled this in the way he treated Dakshana. He’d make sure when the time came for him to consider marriage for his daughter, he thoroughly investigated a potential marriage partner to see she’d be treated with respect in her married life. Her future husband would be watched carefully to see that happened.
But right now, the major decision was what to do with Aadi’s further education. He’d finished his bachelor’s degree with honors, and it was time to consider the next stage of his education. Traditionally the Reddy family had sent their sons overseas for a master’s program to experience other cultures and return to India for their final education and employment. Most had chosen to enter programs that would see them settled for work in universities around India and the family was entrenched in education at levels of influence to be able to advance other members of the extended family, but Hameer had gravitated to a career in the army and had completed his higher education and training in army facilities. Some of the extended family had remained after completing their education in other countries. Through family connections he’d advanced quickly through the ranks to his current position and expected further advancement in future.
He’d leave it to his sons to choose their own career path, but he’d insist on them advancing to at least a master’s degree before they made a final decision on the next step in life. Maan his second son had already decided on a career in education, but his eldest son Aadi seemed to struggle with a chosen career. Sometimes it was engineering, sometimes education, then he’d get enthusiastic about a business career only to get interested in the army when his father told of the exploits he was permitted to share on his infrequent leaves. It was time for him to come to a decision point, so he’d summonsed him to the office and was waiting for his arrival.
On Aadi’s arrival home from a visit with friends Dakshana quickly shepherded her son to the inner sanctum of Hameer’s office whispering the reason he was being summonsed and cautioning to be serious. Aadi had a good deal of phlegmatic nature to him, and this was not the time for that kind of attitude.
Aadi stooped to touch his father’s feet as a token of respect and Hameer beamed with pleasure placing his hand on Aadi’s head in love and acceptance. He motioned for Aadi to sit facing him and took his seat behind the desk smiling.
“Well, its decision time Aadi. I’ve been studying literature from some of the best universities in America and England now it all depends on what you see your future career being as to how we proceed.”
“Pitaji, I’ve also been thinking about the future and am not quite settled yet in my mind on what that should be but feel a degree in economics would be a good next step as it gives me a wide number of choices afterward.”
His father looked at him in surprise. “What kind of choices would come out of an economics degree son?”
“Teaching, corporate administration, banking, politics, there are so many careers that could use that kind of base Pitaji.”
Hameer beamed with pleasure. “It doesn’t rule out an army career either does it son?”
Aadi smiled, it was a career he’d ruled out as he wanted to make sure when he married, he had plenty of time for his family. An army career was not an easy one for family.
Hameer glanced at his table and pushed a photo over for Aadi to see.
“What is the meaning of this photo beta?”
Aadi smiled. “One of my classmates. We had a small group of students who studied together after classes and Chandra was one of them.”
“Well son it looks like a very small group of students who study together. This is a picture of you and a girl called Chandra, but I don’t see anyone else in this picture. The picture is obviously taken in a tea stall, and I don’t think they have a tea stall at your college, do they? What kind of study is this and does your mother know you are in company with this girl?”
“Yes, Pitaji sometimes the small group have met in our home and Chandra has been with them. Mum has provided refreshments to all of us when we did that, but classes are finished now.”
“Are you still meeting with this girl?”
“I’ve discovered her father is a Tamil politician son they are not of our community so you know there is no chance either your parents or hers would permit this going any further than a convenient study method, so I hope you and Chandra realize this.”
Aadi stared at the floor. For the first time in his life, he felt resentment against this father. He’d never thought his relationship with Chandra would be a problem. She and his classmates had been accepted by Dakshana without any reservations and the class had grown to love Dakshana for her hospitality and acceptance during their study periods together in this home.
There were people in his family with darker complexion than Chandra and she was of the wheat complexion so often referenced as desirable in advertisements seeking a marriage liaison. Surely that was not the problem?
His feelings for Chandra now went beyond the dictates of class interaction and he’d kept up meetings with her after graduation. Chandra had similar feelings for him and had stayed in Delhi with relatives after her graduation on the pretext of looking into further work prospects within the country after studies were completed abroad. But her real reason was to continue seeing this young man of her choice.
Her father had indicated he’d be prepared to send her overseas for her MA as circles he moved in around Tamil Nadu would welcome a daughter in law with a high level of education for their sons. Chandra had quickly agreed to consider going to England for education where uncles lived in case her father changed his mind and agreed to a marriage liaison with people who supported his career and were anxious to build a family relationship.
Aadi looked up at his father. “Mother was not of our community when you married her Pitaji.”
Hameer exploded in surprise and irritation. “You will not see this girl again Aadi!”
Hameer calmed down. They were here to deal with his eldest son’s further education and that would take him out of the orbit of this girl for good. He’d forget her in his absence from India and a suitable marriage could be arranged on his return. He began to shuffle through papers on his desk.
“How about looking at some of these universities in the USA?”
“I want to go to the London School of Economics and Political Science.”
Hameer looked up in surprise. “That was a quick decision! Why go there?”
“Much broader coverage. Proximity to Europe could possibly offer me further cultural experiences with temporary job opportunities. I’ll get to America for further experience someday but always have in mind coming back home to India to live and work with a breadth of experience in the Western world to offer to my homeland.’
Hameer nodded his head in approval. “Very mature thinking indeed Aadi. London School of Economics and Political Science it is then, and I’ll begin working on that plan immediately. Now remember what I said about seeing this girl, Chandra. Remember too the whole of Delhi has eyes and ears that spy and I’m grateful one of your cousins sent me this picture.”
Aadi bowed respectfully to his father and left the office. It hadn’t seemed surprising when he saw a photo of he and Chandra on his father’s table. Dakshana had taken photographs of his study group whenever they visited his home, but it only occurred to him now this photo had been taken at a tea stall when he was visiting with Chandra so obviously his mother wouldn’t have taken that photo and he tried to remember a cousin taking any photo of them. Must have done that secretly without his knowledge. What a troublemaker!
He’d need to use his mobile phone to consult with Chandra so headed for a secluded spot away from the family at the back yard under the banyan tree. Those branches offered protection from prying eyes and the mobile phone coverage was excellent. An hour later the two of them were huddled over a private table in a place not frequented before and Aadi gave Chandra a report on what had transpired that afternoon in his father’s office.
He turned to Chandra. “Chandu, I know you’re committed to me just as I am to you but somehow, we must find a way to deal with our families. I’d hate to lose you. How far advanced are your plans to go to London and where will you be staying?”
“When I arrive, I’ll be staying with relatives, and they’ll help me find student accommodation near the school I’ll be attending for my master’s studies. They are quite liberal and would have no objection to you visiting me there. However, we must be realistic, it’s not only Delhi where spies are about, and the Indian diaspora have just as much delight in finding out what is going on in the Indian community in other parts of the world. What are your plans?”
Well knowing you were going to UK certainly made it easy for me to decide where I’d get my masters and Dad has commenced working on it. I’m going to London School of Economics and Political Science.”
Chandra smiled. “Maybe I’ll have a change of heart and change my field of studies then. Aadi what would you do if my father forced me to come home for a marriage liaison of this choice? I hope you’d fight for me. I think I’d rather die than be given to someone else.”
“Oh, please don’t think that way Chandu, I’ll fight for you.”
Nine months later Aadi arrived at London Heathrow airport and was met by one of his cousins. It would be three months before he was able to commence his studies at London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London. His cousin who was born in and worked in this city had all the contacts to help find him accommodation. While his father could easily cover costs, he wanted to find something inexpensive as he did not want to drain his father’s wealth in consideration of the need to educate his brother and sister too. First, he’d have to get used to London’s transportation system so he could commence his studies confidently.
Too be continued.
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