Chandra Gains a New Family
There seemed to be no softening of Hameer’s attitude, but Dakshana had learned through the London Reddy family Chandra had been a frequent guest in their home through her studies and realized there would be an eventual confrontation on that issue. Dakshana wanted to see her son Aadi happily married to a woman of his choice and she liked this girl from her personal experience having her as a regular class guest in her home before Hameer’s outburst. She thought he was being unreasonable and was building up courage to face him on this issue when he had one of his leaves from front line army responsibilities. Hameer had recently been elevated from Captain to Major and was reaching the age and position to be recalled into overall administration rather than assignments to the front line of border protection.
On her graduation Chandra received a surprising card of congratulations from Dakshana and she consulted with Aadi as to whether it would be appropriate for her to respond in that Hameer could possibly read her letter if he was at home when Chandra’s letter arrived. She didn’t want Dakshana to get into any trouble on her behalf. Aadi promised to pass on Chandra’s pleasure in receiving his mother’s congratulations when he next phoned her. It was obvious his mother knew they were continuing to see each other, and he was glad that was out in the open. Perhaps that card was an indirect indication she approved of their being together.
The London Reddy’s insisted Chandra move to their home in London on completion of her studies while she thought through what she’d do next, and Chandra’s father approved. She was not yet ready to move back to India and toyed with the idea of gaining some employment experience if that could be arranged through UK immigration.
Soon after moving in to share a room with Maloti who was now firm friends with Chandra, it was discovered by a specialist Laxmi Reddy had an advanced form of cancer. Chaltanya and Maloti were devastated, and Kishore Reddy found it difficult to cope with the eventual loss of his wife. It affected his management work at the bank as he tried to be there for his wife and give support to his children and care for work at the bank.
Chandra took over under those circumstances seeing Chaltanya and Maloti were motivated to attend their jobs each working day and giving constant assurance to Kishore she’d care for Laxmi’s every need during the day. At first Kishore phoned regularly during the day after each bank interview or administrative meeting but he soon grew to have confidence Chandra was caring for his precious wife’s every need at home and taking her to regular appointments with specialists.
When they all returned from work in the evenings Chandra would wearily retreat to her room and sleep off the stress she was going through. However, she was glad she could be of service to a family who’d accepted her as a daughter and cared for her during her study years. Laxmi and Chandra formed a close bond during Laxmi’s final months of life. Because of the pressure of her each day care of Laxmi the relationship between Chandra and Aadi went into holding pattern, but he understood and was amazed at her caring nature. He saw that no one else could possibly match her as a life partner.
But the inevitable end arrived, and Laxmi’s funeral arrangements had to be completed. Invitations were sent out to the extended Reddy family in their different places of residence around the world and Hameer found he could be given special leave to attend the funeral services in London. Dakshana would accompany him and Maan and Labanya were old enough to care for themselves during their short stay in London. Kishore assured Hameer they could use the guest room in his home in that other relatives would be caring for their own accommodation.
Chaltanya met Hameer and Dakshana at the airport and saw them settled in the guestroom. Kishore called to Maloti and Chandra to come and meet the new arrivals. Kishore was unaware of any tension this could cause having Chandra in the home and treated her as one of the family now. Chandra had been apprehensive as she realized Hameer would be coming and tried to excuse herself at that call, but Kishore went to the room and bought her out with his arm around her. He turned to his brother. “This is the young woman who has graced our lives since we first met her two years ago. She is like a daughter to us and was the one who cared so lovingly for my dear Laxmi during the final months of her fight with cancer and encouraged us through that sad event. I’m proud to introduce her to you as my daughter.”
Dakshana smiled at Chandra in appreciation. “What a coincidence. I met Chandra in Delhi when she and Aadi studied together with a few from their class after school. How are you Chandra and thank you for what you did so lovingly for Laxmi. Where is Aadi?”
Kishore looked at Chandra in surprise. “I didn’t realize you knew Aadi’s parents Chandra.”
He turned to Hameer. “So, you already knew what a jewel this young woman is. We’re glad Aadi introduced her to us as we have another daughter now and are looking for a way to talk her into not returning to Chennai.”
Hameer didn’t know whether to be angry at this girl’s intrusion into the Reddy family or be thankful for her loving care of his sister-in-law and family during a time of crisis. He felt an urgent pressure on his arm from Dakshana who had this gentle way of telling him to be careful when his emotions got the best of him. His anger at Aadi’s seeming duplicity was pushed into the background and he addressed Chandra who’d been watching his reaction carefully.
“Thank you for your kind attention to my sister-in-law. Have you and my son studied together in London. How did you meet?”
Chandra quickly grasped the subliminal message and thought quickly before answering.
“I’ve been studying at Oxford and have just completed my master’s degree. As Maloti and I have been friends for about two years I was happy to help uncle Kishji and the family when aunty Laxmiji was confirmed as having only months to live. We were very close. But Aadi and I did study together in Delhi. Aadi has done well with his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and will be finishing this year.”
Hameer stood there confused. So, they hadn’t been in company at the same school and were far removed from each other until recent times. But obviously they had seen each other if she was so well accepted into this home as an adopted daughter and Aadi obviously visited his relatives here on weekends. His letters home had indicated that but there’d been no mention of Chandra. He decided to confront his son as soon as possible without making a scene here under such tragic circumstances for the family. Perhaps he’d wait until the funeral was over. No point in talking to his brother about it as his brother had been completely captivated by her. Chaltanya could take him to Aadi’s apartment on the pretext of an interest in where Aadi was living but he’d not take Dakshana in case there was an unpleasant scene between father and son.
Throughout the preparations for funeral Hameer watched Chandra give quiet support to his brother’s family and in the meeting of the Reddy clan after the funeral Maloti and Chandra took a leading role in caring for guests together. Hameer was grudgingly impressed as he watched this woman who he’d previously discounted as being an appropriate match demonstrate her worth as a natural part of her makeup and character. He was confused but felt his son had not been up front and truthful in his relationship with her. He would have to confront him.
So, when all the Reddy clan had departed to their own homes and work after the funeral, he asked Chaltanya to take him to Aadi’s apartment on the pretext of seeing to his comfort. Aadi had been very quiet during the interactions between extended family members and knew after it was all over his father would be seeking him out for counselling. Arriving at Aadi’s apartment Hameer asked if Chaltanya would allow for some private time and Chaitanya indicated he could be found at a nearby restaurant when Hameer was ready to return home to his brother’s place.
Aadi decided to take the initiative. “Pitaji I know you are angry with me and while I’ve only met with Chandra a few times in the past two years due to our schools being so far apart and the need for us to concentrate on our respective studies I have messaged her regularly. I know you said I should not have anything further to with her but my love for her is so strong I could not obey you. I’m sorry for doing this behind your back but will not consider any other woman as a life partner even if you disown me and I must find a way to fend for myself. Chandra has strong feelings for me too Pitaji.”
Hameer’s anger dissipated as he remembered making much the same speech to his parents long ago when he expressed his love for Dakshana who was not of their community. Almost involuntarily he smiled and Aadi watched the change in his father’s attitude with surprise.
“Son, you are setting yourself up for hurt. Even if you could persuade me to take her into our family her parents would never agree to her marrying into another community.”
“Oh, but you are wrong Pitaji. Chandra has been very up front with her family, and they have insisted she have the right to choose any young man she wishes regardless of where they came from provided, they were of good character and come from a good family. Chandra asked if her parents would consider Aadi if his parents were comfortable with a match and after a week, they indicated they considered the Reddy family appropriate. However, they were insistent any approach for marriage should come from Aadi’s family and they’d not intervene in any way. They only wanted what was best for their daughter’s future, but any arrangement should be negotiated in the customary way.”
For a moment Hameer felt anger all this had gone on behind his back. Then he once again recalled the terrible conflict in his home when he indicated his love for Dakshana. He shook his head and then laughed.
“I like your courage son. I’ve observed Chandra carefully and believe her grace and concern is not something she put on to impress me. She is naturally that way and I must agree with you she is beautiful and would steal any man’s heart. You have my blessing, and I suspect your mother has secretly hoped I’d remove my objections. She obviously loves this girl too. I will talk with Chandra and get her parents address then begin negotiating with them proposing a marriage between the both of you as soon as you have finished your exams this year. You will be returning to India after your studies, won’t you?”
Aadi knelt and touched his father’s feet in respect. “Thank you Pitaji I intend to return and Chandu is looking forward to returning to India too. I think Uncle Kish will really miss Chandu and so will my cousins.”
“Good, it’s all settled then I’m going back to report our conversation to your mother, and I suspect she will be overjoyed to hear the result.” Hameer hugged his son. He had a strong will and sense of purpose, and he knew Aadi would make him proud as he established a home and successful career.
Back at his brother Kishore’s home he reported this conversation to his brother and Dahshana. Kishore was happy that Chandra would become part of the Reddy family and hoped Aadi and Chandra would choose to locate in London if appropriate visas could be arranged. He felt his bank would employ Aadi if that could be arranged. Dakshana on learning of the result from her husband’s visit that evening rushed to Chandra’s room and embraced the startled young woman. She passed on the news Hameer had withdrawn his opposition and Maloti joined in the excitement this news bought. As they were celebrating Aadi phoned Chandra to report on the conversation and was delighted his father had already informed the family of his approval.
Aadi concentrated on his remaining months of study with a new zeal so meetings with Chandra were few. Chandra housekept for the Reddy family so they could concentrate on their respective work programs, and she was a comfort to them all on the loss of Laxmi.
But Aadi’s graduation came, and he completed his work with honors. Now in a relaxed mood he could spend time with his beloved Chandu. Together they decided not to accept a career in London and return to India to seek their fortune. Aadi had decided on a career in banking and contacted an uncle in the banking industry in Mumbai who expressed a keen interest in introducing him to the banking fraternity there. Chandra would be assured of a job in one of the education institutions there. The Reddy name was familiar in the teaching profession so two offers came her way when it was learned she’d be locating there. But first the Shadi, the wedding.
To be continued.
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