Chandra had already been in UK staying with relatives for six months. Aadi had missed their clandestine meetings while he waited for formalities of UK visa and school acceptance and Dakshana had watched her son with sympathy as he shut himself away from usual pursuits. She guessed her son was missing this girl, Chandra. Dakshana had liked the girl and felt Chandra had bonded with her quickly during study visits. From her point of view Hameer was unreasonable to not at least give the match some thought seeing her son and Chandra obviously were committed to each other and her family were well connected and of good reputation. She’d made private inquiries when she noticed her son’s interest and everything she learned about Chandra and her family was positive. Of course, there was the question of Chandra not being of their community. But Aadi had a point when he blurted out to his father Dakshana was not one of their community and Hameer had not considered that an issue at the time and had demanded his parents approach Dakshana’s family proposing a marriage arrangement.
She could remember the Reddy extended family at war over this before Hameer’s parents bowed to the inevitable. However, it was a long time before Hameer’s parents accepted her in this marriage and it had been hard for her to win them over with her respectful attentions. So why had her husband been so angry when Aadi challenged him on this point? Hameer was the head of the home and had treated her well in their marriage and been a good father and provider. Aadi would have to work this out with his father.
Chaltanya hummed the latest Hindi song fresh out of Bollywood as he and Aadi sped along the London underground rail system checking on newspaper ads for student accommodation at various stations. It was important this accommodation should be located as close to the rail system as possible as Aadi would sometimes be returning home from classes late in the evening and some areas were not safe after dark. If you’re looking for cheap accommodation where there was an abundance of Asian markets and restaurants, you had to factor in possible safety. Of course, that applied to predominantly white areas too where skinheads ruled. These few months before classes started were a necessary orientation to a new culture with its advantages and disadvantages to be clearly understood.
Aadi was having a hard time remembering his cousin Chaltanya liked to be called Charles now. He said those he worked with struggled with his real name, so he’d substituted Charles and found people warmed to him with that change. Chaltanya, or Charles, was a favorite with girls of all nationalities in London and he took full advantage of that knowledge.
Charles stopped humming and turned to his cousin. “I must introduce you to some of the girls I hang out with Aadi. Are you going to keep that name while you’re here on a study program?”
“What’s wrong with my name Chaltanya I have no intention of changing it and I’m not interested in the girls here?”
“The name is Charles now lar. Nothing wrong with your name it’s just the Ferengi (extra-terrestrials) of this country may irritate you by mispronouncing your name in class. Using an English name helps them cope. So, you don’t like the local girls? I seem to remember you were very close to a desi girl I saw last time I visited relatives in Delhi. I saw you in deep conversation with one when your other cousin was driving me to the airport to return to London. I called out to you from the open window as we went past and snapped a picture. You didn’t even look up, so I mailed you a copy when I got home.” He laughed.
Aadi turned in anger as the train lurched to a stop at the station they were to get off at and he almost lost his balance. “You sent that picture to my father? You got me into big trouble. Not cool Chaltanya!”
Charles stared at his cousin in surprise noting Aadi’s angry look. “Hey, what’s this anger for? I never sent it to your father, I mailed it to you.”
Aadi shook his head as he now realized what had happened. “My father opened my mail. That makes me angry.”
The cousins negotiated the escalator up to streets above silently and Charles consulted directions to the new address. Eventually they reached their destination. They’d lost count of the number of units they’d inspected today and were feeling tired. Best not to talk when one was in a bad mood. However, Aadi brightened when the agent opened the door. The hallway had been a bit shabby, but the one-bedroom apartment had been freshly painted and suited his needs. A glass wall and sliding door took him to a small balcony overlooking the street below and it was a short walk to the rail system. He turned to the agent and nodded.
“I’ll take it.”
The agent shrugged and produced papers to sign. “One thousand pounds advance deposit and signature authorizing your bank for direct monthly payment. I presume you have that kind of money. Read conditions of occupancy carefully. There will be periodic inspections to see the unit is properly maintained and if you do not fulfill these conditions there will be an initial warning and if on the next inspection conditions have not been honored you will vacate. Make sure you have funds in your bank for the monthly payment. We don’t forgive missed payments. Any willful destruction of property will be repaired out of your refundable deposit when you vacate.”
Aadi tried not to show his irritation. The tall muscular Nigerian agent was not one to be toyed with. “You’ll have no trouble from me sir!”
The agent studied signed papers as Aadi did a quick transaction on his iPhone to make the initial deposit into the agency nominated bank account. He showed the agent the bank receipt on his phone and the agent recorded the receipt number on signed papers. Then he handed a carbon copy of the document to Aadi with a set of keys and took his leave,
Charles glanced around. “Good choice Aadi. A bit compact but has all the stuff you need, and I like that plate glass wall looking out over the balcony. That’s a nice feature and its double paned to keep heat in during our shocking London weather. We need to go buy you bedding and stock up provisions. We passed several Asian stores and restaurants, so you have it made here. The rest of the evening was spent setting up the unit and the cousins then returned home. Next day Chaltanya’s parents would deliver Aadi and his suitcases full of clothing and personal effects to the newly acquired student lodgings.
First weekend in his new lodgings Aadi messaged Chandra he’d finished moving and was anxious to contact her by phone if she was available to talk. He received a quick terse response. “We need to talk, I’m away from home so this is a good time to talk!” This got his immediate attention and he punched in the cell phone number she’d given him soon after his arrival in England. The call was quickly answered.
Aadi smiled happily as he heard her voice. “Chandu it is so nice to hear your voice. It’s been a hard week getting oriented to this new location and setting up residence. I feel reasonably confident getting around London now and have been doing preliminary work meeting those I’ll have to deal with when I commence studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I found out who sent that photo of the two of us my father challenged me on before we both left India. It was my cousin here, but he explained he’d directed the letter to me not my father, so it appears my mail has been read over time. I’m so angry about that.” He waited for her response.
“Aadi, I have my UK drivers license now and dad has purchased a small second-hand car for me, so I’ve been touring around to get used to the car. Fortunately, they drive on the same side of the road I’m used to in India and Dad has been allowing me to drive one of his cars since I was an early teen when we were out of town but one of our drivers had to be with me every time. I guess the police must have known I was unlicensed, but I never had any trouble with them, and that good driving experience helped me with my learning and test here. I’m coming down from Oxford tomorrow and am a little fearful of London traffic but have a GPS to guide me. I don’t know about parking in your area so perhaps you should meet me at the street, and I’ll give you a call when I’m almost there. We can go somewhere there is parking and enjoy the day together. I’ll come early as I need to be back in Oxford for classes on Monday so it will be a quick one-day trip.”
Aadi could hardly believe his good fortune. They’d been in correspondence and sometimes talked by phone since his arrival in the UK, but this would be the first time they’d met since their clandestine meetings in Delhi before Chandra left India. He could hardly contain his excitement.
“Chandu I’d love to show you my unit. It’s small but convenient. I’ll see if I can arrange a ten-minute parking space so I can show you the place quickly. I’ll probably have to pay someone as parking is difficult around here unless its for deliveries to shops. Then we can find a mall where there’ll be lots of parking and we can find a nice restaurant to spend time catching up. I’m so excited!”
“So am I Aadi, but I have some sobering news that I need your input on so that’s why I’m rushing the trip even though I’m not very confident in London traffic.”
At 9 am Aadi received a brief phone call saying Chandra expected to reach his location within twenty minutes depending on traffic. So far, she’d not encountered any problems on the road. Aadi had to spend quite a bit of money on one of the shopkeepers to use his parking spot for a brief time. They could walk to his place in two minutes, check it out and then return to pick up the car and head for the nearby mall. The shopkeeper threatened if they took too long coming back, he’d want more money. Aadi shrugged, he’d spend whatever it took just to see Chandu’s face again.
To be continued
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