In an exploration of the background of the characters of Happiness Key, I’m sharing Janya’s story this week.  Remember, my publisher is offering a coupon good all month: 

Here’s part two.





peakdefinition photo.jpgDarshan was, on first sight, the end of all my childish dreams of a lover and husband. He was better than any dream, the handsomest man I had ever seen, tall and broad-shouldered, heavily lashed dark eyes, black hair that curled over his forehead. Darshan had an attentive gaze. When we chatted, it was as if I was the only woman in the world. He leaned forward and his gaze never left mine. When we were interrupted, I could read the distress in his eyes.

I discovered, to my delight, that Darshan was a promising student at the same school as I, in the separate department of architecture, a burgeoning field in a city whose skyline seemed to change as one gazed at it. Now that I knew I might see him on our campus, I was thrilled and hoped he would be, too.

After we left for Padmini’s home she warned me about Darshan. Darshan was a superior flirt, she told me, and not free to marry just anyone. His father was expected to be the next governor of our state. His family was not only powerful, but rich and well connected. Darshan might not submit to a traditional arranged marriage, but he would follow his parents’ lead, and his choice would be advantageous to his family and above reproach.

Until that moment I had never thought of myself as “just anyone.” My family was good, my marriage prospects as good. I had been told I was beautiful. I was praised for my art, particularly my painting. I was both convent educated and carefully raised. I had rather thought that the man who wed me would be the lucky one.

If Darshan subscribed to Padmini’s theories of his life, he never let on. We met for tea on campus, once, then once more. He invited me to a party, accompanied by Padmini of course, and I accepted with delight. After a month of escalating meetings, like the dutiful daughter I was, I informed my parents.

My mother was, at first, concerned. My father and uncle, though, put her immediately at ease. Unless Darshan was not worthy of his family’s excellent reputation, we had nothing to fear. Either he would cut short our flourishing friendship and marry another, or he would persuade them to accept me. Whichever it was, unless I put myself in a compromising position, I could not be harmed by this informal courtship. I would know soon enough which it was to be.

I continued to see Darshan for months, most often on campus or when I was visiting Padmini, who protected us when Darshan and I wanted to be alone. I had fallen deeply in love by then, something I had hoped would not happen to me until after I was married to a good man. Many Indian girls of my class were making love matches, but I had seen first hand how many hurdles they had been forced to overcome. I had hoped to miss that particular obstacle course.

Tomorrow: Part Three

Janya.jpg

Before we launch into Janya’s story, I have another special link.  Diane Chamberlain, who was interviewed here recently, interviewed me.  You can find that interview this morning right here.  Enjoy.

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.