Prologue - A New Beginning
20 years ago, Ambala, India...
Lalit Juneja turned the key in the big lock he had just placed on the door of his home. His home, the place where he was born, the place where he and his half-brother had grown up. Their bauji had instilled in them the good principles of hard work, love of the land, and being there for your neighbor.
But Lalit had never felt like he had been cut out to be a farmer. He had bigger dreams, dreams of going to the big cities, Delhi, maybe Mumbai, maybe even abroad, and making a name for himself. His dedication to his father however, had held him back, especially after his older brother had fallen into the company of bad young men, who had led him to a life of vice, women and alcohol.
Lalit shook his head in sadness. Who knows where his brother was now. And now, even Bauji was gone. Nothing remained to hold him from his dreams any longer. He was taking his savings and leaving Ambala, leaving it for Canada, where some of his wife's relatives had promised to help settle them into a new life there.
He turned to look at his family, who was waiting patiently for him. There was Gaytri, his wife of almost 6 years. Lalit's first wife had passed away leaving him with 2 small children. But Gaytri had accepted his children Kulraj and Prem as her own. In fact, she loved them so much that no one would have guessed that they were not her own. She held 6 year Prem by one hand and 4 year old Herman by the other. Herman, the first symbol of their love and the apple of his eye. Next to them stood 10 year old Kulraj trying desperately to hold onto a very hyper 2 year old Preet. Lalit rolled his eyes. Preet had apparently discovered some very colorful feathers that were attached to a rooster pecking nearby and he was determined to get his hands on them.
"Bauji, chalain?" asked a frustrated Kulraj. Lalit walked over to his daughter to relieve her of her naughty burden.
"Chand!" cried Preet and stretched his arms up towards his father.
"Nahin Preet", said Gaytri as she turned to walk towards the taxi waiting to take them to the train station, "chand din ko nazar nahin aata".
Lalit paused, frowned and nervously passed his hand over his receding hairline. He picked up a toothy, grinning Preet and followed the rest of his family towards the waiting taxi.
Chapter 1 - The Junejas
20 Years later, The Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Canada...
A handsome young man in a black suit, with well groomed black hair and chocolate brown eyes stood in the hotel lobby nervously looking here and there. He tapped his watch as if to show his frustration, and then shook his head in disbelief. "Where is he?", he thought. He walked over to another slightly taller and very proper looking young man aslo dressed in a black suit and asked, "What time is it Herman?"
"It's 5 minutes from the last time you asked Prem Bhaiya, and I don't see why we're standing out here when we should be inside. The ceremony to honor Bauji as the businessman of the year starts in exactly 10 minutes".
"I know, I know", replied Prem. He didn't want any problems, not tonight of all nights. "Where is he?", he thought.
Just then Kulraj and her husband Kiran walked over to them. "Tum loag abhi tak yahan kya kar rahay ho?" asked Kulraj. "You know the ceremony is about to start, and Bauji wants all of us front and center right now and...Wait a minute...Where is Preet?"
"Nawaab saab has yet to show up", said Herman with a smirk.
"I am sure he'll be here any minute", said Prem frowning at Herman. "In fact, he's probably just parking the car".
"Sorry Bhaiya", said Herman, "I don't think you'll be able to save him this time. Come on Kuldi, I'll go inside with you and Jiju".
"That boy will never change", said Kulraj, "Come on Kiran let's go inside". Kiran put a reassuring hand on Prem's shoulder and then followed his wife and Herman inside to the ceremony.
Prem looked at his watch again, exhaled and turned to go inside as well, when all of a sudden a sleek looking red sports car came to a screeching halt in front of the hotel. A tall, handsome young man dressed in blue jeans, black T-shirt and a black knit cap exited the car. Holding his cell phone to his ear with one hand and tossing his keys to the valet with the other, "Park it", he said. "Hey PB", said Preet, smiling as he reached his brother, but in reply only received a half-angry glare. "Um...sweetheart", said Preet hanging up the phone, "I'll call you back later...family thing you know".
"Preet!" Prem began, "Do you know what time it is and how important this evening is for Bauji? And it's a black tie event, and..."
"Relax PB". Preet cut in. "It is 7:59 pm, the ceremony starts at 8:00 pm, I hate ties, and..." He whistled and signaled to a hotel staff person. A young lady walked over to him carrying a black coat. He took it from her and flashed her his million dollar smile. "Thanks sweetie...Chalain PB?"
Prem shook his head and pulled the cap off Preet's head. "Tu kabhi nahin sudray ga", he said.
"Never", mouthed Preet and put his arm around his brother's shoulders and walked with him inside towards the ceremony hall.
The next morning at the breakfast table of the Juneja Mansion talk and joy about last evening's event was still going on among everyone, everyone that is except Preet, he was busy laughing it up with someone on his cell phone.
"Last night...", said Lalit proudly, "Last night was a culmination and recognition of 20 years of hard work. Hard work and sacrifices which have made Juneja Group of Companies what it is today. And a poor farm boy from Ambala owner of an empire worth $25 billion".
"Bauji, Forbes magazine has you listed at number 9 on their richest men in the world list", said Herman proudly.
"Hmm", said Lalit as he glanced over at Preet who was busy chattering away on his phone. "Well ladies and gentlemen", he said addressing all the members of his family as he rose from the table, "If everyone is done with breakfast, I'd like to see you all in my study. Oh and that means you too Preet, that is if you are done talking with Eena, Meena, Deeka, or whoever". Looking at his youngest son with a frown, Lalit picked up the morning paper and walked away. Everyone at the table was looking at Preet now.
"Hehe..ah..um.. I'll have to call you back...family thing you know" Preet said hanging up the cell phone. "Hey PB, who's Eena, Meena and Deeka? he asked. Prem just shook his head and motioned him to quickly follow the others and join them in their father's study.
Prem, Preet Herman, Kiran, Kulraj and Gaytri sat in Lalit Juneja's study waiting for him to begin. Lalit was pacing the room, trying to figure out where to start.
"You all know how hard I've worked to make the Juneja name what it is today. But by all means, I could never have done it alone. Gaytri...", he smiled looking at his wife, "...they say that behind every successful man there is a woman, and you have been my pillar of strength, through all my highs and lows. Kiran... you have been by my side since you married Kulraj 10 years ago, and have selfessly performed every task thrown your way. You even helped Prem learn the ropes when he joined our company a few years ago. You've done more than what I would have expected from my own sons, and I wanted to appreciate that because the crowd last night didn't cheer all the so called "little people" who made it possible, and who hold a big place in my heart.
"Thank you Bauji", replied Kiran. "You know I love and respect you as if you were my own father. It's not everyday that an orphan gets the love and opportunities that have been showered upon me by this family". Kulraj beamed with happiness and pride at her husband.
"Prem Beta", continued Lalit, "You've shown remarkable talent and dedication since you joined our company, and I'm sure you'll take it to new heights".
"Thank you Bauji", said Prem, "Lakin aap dekhna, now that Herman and Preet have joined us, the sky's the limit".
"Hmm", said Lalit looking at Preet sternly. "Anyway", he continued, "I called you all here because I wanted you to know that true happiness lies not in the wealth or the name recognition we have achieved over the years, but in the love and bond we have as a family. The family that was brightened and strengthened when Kiran joined us. And now", smiled Lalit, "perhaps we may be getting another new member soon".
"What?!" cried Preet, "Kuldi, are you expecting again? Hey congrats!"
"Wait a minute Preet!" cried Kulraj. She loved her children dearly, but 3 little ones were enough for her to handle right now.
Lalit was trying to be patient. "Prem Beta", he continued, "I am talking about a marriage proposal that has come for you from India". Prem looked up in surprise.
"From India!" cried Preet.
"A very good friend of mine", continued their father, "and very successful business tycoon, Rishap Rampal, you remember him don't you Prem? We met him at the meeting in London 2 months ago.
"You mean that short guy with the 5 O' clock shadow, crooked smile and pointy chin?" asked Preet.
"He has a lone younger sister", continued Lalit, "I met her once about a year ago, when I had gone to Dubai for a business trip. She was on holiday there with some of her friends".
"A paunchy stomach", interrupted Preet, "Yes I'm pretty sure he had a paunchy stomach too. Wow! With genetics like that how can Prem Bhaiya go wrong".
"Shut up Preet!" said Lalit, "Kabhi to soch samajh kar bola kar. Ladki well educated hai, sundar hai. Uska naam hai Sanjana. Sanjana Rampal, heiress to 40% of the Rampal Empire".
Preet bit his lip, he wanted to say more, but his father's rebuke earlier had made him hold his tongue. But his mind was racing. How could his Bauji do this to PB? An arranged marriage, in this day and age, and what's with the 40% heiress thing? It's not like we're short on money or something. Sounded more like Bauji was maneuvering a business merger than presenting his son with a marriage proposal, he thought.
"This", said Bauji holding up an envelope and then placing it on the desk, "is her picture and contact information. Take a look, think it over, no pressure". He patted Prem on the shoulder and left the room, followed one by one by the rest of the family.
Gaytri stopped in front of Prem as she stood to leave. "Prem Beta, this is your decision, but your father is really excited about this rishta. He will be really happy if you say yes".
Ah, thought Preet, the kiss of death. Prem Bhaiya would do anything to make Ma and Bauji happy.
"And what about you Ma?" asked Prem.
"Well", said Gaytri, "there is no harm in meeting her is there? She seems like a nice girl. But I would like for my son to follow his heart, because I'm sure he will make the right decision". She patted Prem lovingly on the cheek and left him to his thoughts...and of course Preet.
"PB, you don't have to do this you know", said Preet walking over towards the desk where his brother stood staring at the envelope.
"I know", said Prem, "but like Ma said there is no harm in meeting her, and if it'll make Bauji happy..."
"In that case", said Preet, snatching the envelope before Prem could pick it up. "Let's see what the pointy chin man' s sister... I'm sorry... I mean Sanjana Bhabi looks like. He pulled out the picture and studied it carefully. "Hmmm. Not bad...but what is she really like? Anyway PB the decision is all yours", said Preet, handing the picture over to Prem and leaving him to his thoughts.
Prem looked at Sanjana's picture quietly. She seened like a nice girl, but...was she the one?
Hope you all enjoyed it. Please leave comments and let me know what you think
Chapter 2 Preview: Lalit sends Prem and Preet to India
Edited by ummesulaiman - 20 March 2013 at 6:03pm