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Kingpin

By Kavita Daswani

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In the end, they could say that it was a ‘love marriage’. After all they had first laid eyes on one another in the most oddly romantic way possible—across a crowded room.

But it had been more than just a quirk of fate.

Sonia had landed in Bombay the previous day, not just to celebrate her cousin’s thread ceremony, but because she had been told that the community’s most eligible bachelor would be there. In an uncharacteristically bold move, she had detached herself from her family at the party to go in search of him, having already been shown his photo by a coven of enthusiastic aunts. And when she had seen him, drinking whisky at the bar (which was where she had been reliably informed he would be located), she had scurried back to her entourage to inform them of the sighting. And, when he came looking for her, that said it all. Everyone knew that Anil never went looking for anyone.

There was a flurry of phone calls, Anil’s parents and sisters suddenly converging on Bombay. There were tea gatherings, and polite conversations between the families that within a few short days morphed into warm hugs, talk of brotherhood, of unity.

And so that is how Anil and Sonia found themselves one day at a temple, exchanging marigold garlands and sparkling rings and feeding one another mithai cake studded with pistachios.

Anil could not take his eyes off her. She glowed with an otherworldly radiance. He wanted to encase her in glass, just so he could stare at her. Anil was twenty-eight. Sonia was nineteen. The age difference bothered no one.

Sonia looked at Anil with an undisguised devotion. Here she was, a debutante out of nowhere, trapping the biggest catch in the sea. She had succeeded where others had failed.

There were faxes and telexes and phone calls galore, from far and wide. They were a golden couple, blessed beyond blessed. They both had money, looks, pedigree. Anil was the youngest of his family, with three older sisters. Sonia was the youngest in her family, with three older brothers. His birthday was on the first day of the fifth month, and hers was on the fifth day of the first month. Their mothers shared the same first name. These coincidental oddities were repeated across countries and continents, as news spread that Anil had finally met his match. Resentful girls and their mothers tried to find fault—yes, she was beautiful, but wasn’t she very dumb, really? And they would laugh into their hankies, and wish for the miracle of a broken engagement, so they could have another chance. Anupa, just minutes after meeting her would-be sister-in-law for the first time, described her to Saloni as ‘a beautiful mannequin, but with less personality.’

Anil was convinced, about four days into his shiny new state of engagement, that there was a reason he had been guided to accompany his sister to Bombay at that particular time of year, that he happened to be standing exactly where he had been at the moment that Sonia had seen him. It had been written in the stars. She was his intended. And everyone else leading up to this point—Minah, Ravina, his random college girlfriends—were all simply stepping stones to get him to where he needed to be today, betrothed to a woman of incomparable beauty, whose words were whispers, movements delicate, who knew how to let others take care of her. Who, in fact, insisted on it.

Anil slid easily into this role. Sonia chastised him for having the audacity to plan a lunch celebration on a rainy day, refusing to get out of the car for fear of stepping into a puddle. So Anil got out first, and walked sidestep along the automobile, thick drops of rain tumbling onto his head, to arrive at a precise corner of the sidewalk that was dry and smooth. He rapped the driver’s window with his knuckle to alert him to stop, and then he held Sonia’s soft hand as she alighted from the vehicle. The rest of the party, already gathered inside, looked out of the window and commented on how genteel Anil was, how dashing and chivalrous, while taking great care to look away from Sonia’s low-cut choli, from which her large, soft breasts tumbled. She looked vexed, even as Anil stayed with her, traversing over potholes, to deposit her at the entrance of the restaurant, her breasts heaving as she continued to complain about the weather, scolding him every time he let the jacket above her head slide even a fraction.

Anupa turned to her sisters, all of them on their second Bloody Mary, and anointed their new sister-in-law ‘Titler’.
The name stuck.

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