By now you probably know that Happiness Key, now available in your favorite bookstore, has four major characters. Last week we heard from Tracy. This week, Janya has her say.
Although my parents had longed for a son and naturally felt disappointment when I was born, I was still my family’s pet. My mother was young, and there would be more children. As they waited, my father began to save for my wedding and dowry, so that four years later when my brother was born, there were investments. If the match they made for me also brought new business prospects for my father and the beloved son who would dutifully join him in the family’s accounting firm, then this would be best of all.
My parents lived with my father’s parents in Mulund, a once sleepy suburb of Mumbai that is now exploding with construction and an influx of residents. Our house was three stories, painted pink with balconies looking over a courtyard blooming with bouganvillia and frangapani, and shaded by a gulmohar tree with its flame colored blossoms blazing in the months before the monsoon. A fountain sent a fine mist into the air, even on the hottest of days. My uncle’s family lived there, too. The house never seemed crowded to me.
My family is traditional in many ways. Both my mother and father are educated, and my brother and I were expected to become professionals. A medical or engineering degree was to be my fate, so that I would be most desirable for a good match, but in this, as in the way my marriage came about, I was a sad disappointment.
Even early in my convent school education it was clear to my teachers that art was the subject at which I excelled. When it became disappointingly clear to my parents that a position in an excellent medical school would elude me and that no bridge I designed would ever be safe to cross, they allowed me to attend the lush green campus of the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai ,with it’s Victorian and Gothic inspired architecture and excellent reputation.
I had always had female friends. My closest was my cousin Padmini, the daughter of my mother’s cousin, with whom my mother had always been close. Padmini’s family was far wealthier than my own. Because our homes were far apart, when school was not in session we often spent many days at one home or the other. We were as sisters.
When we were at her home, Padmini and I were given much freedom. By the time I was in art school, though, we were ranging even farther. Padmini was never a particularly clever student, and she had not grown up to be a beautiful woman. But whatever she lacked, she made up for it by the force of her personality. When Padmini was in a room, it was difficult to notice anyone else. That is why it surprised me so when she introduced me to Darshan Tambe at an informal party of her friends, and he only had eyes for me.