The big news Avinash had was that he had started writing stories on Story Mirror. This was a storytelling app that worked for readers and writers alike. There was an abundant number of stories available on the app. As an aspiring writer, Avinash also wanted to establish himself well in the community of writers and readers. One problem haunted him. He had quit his day job, trusting his passion for writing to provide for him. It was a dangerous risk to take, yet he took it. It was a couple of months ago when he implemented that crucial decision. At that time he was completely unaware of the upcoming challenge that he had to face- the family reunion.
Avinash sweated profusely, thinking about the taunts and jeers he might need to go through during the family reunion. His paternal family was Rajput descent of the Northern Mewar region. Most of his uncles and aunts were well settled. Two of them were in the UK and one of them was in Canada. Their six sons and twelve daughters were living, studying, and working in these foreign countries. A sense of inadequacy overwhelmed Avinash as he sank deeper in the plush cushion of the comfortable sofa on the patio of the Super Luxury Diner in Udaipur. He didn't feel any luxury or comfort amidst his relatives. His father, Raja Ajith Singh, and mother, Maharani Kumari Devi served the guests with their ever-present enthusiasm. Adithi, his younger sister was drooling over her cousin Virat who was the son of his great uncle Raja Virat Singh Senior.
The food and beverages started arriving. The air was full of a sense of camaraderie. But for Avinash, it was an unbearable scene. He noticed that one of his aunts was speaking in a hushed tone to his mother. When Avinash approached them, the aunt changed the subject quickly. Her voice became bold and loud. She started talking about Aishwarya Rai, the lady millionaire who owned this hotel and many others, bigger than this, all over the world. For a moment, Avinash thought that he had misinterpreted their expressions. Perhaps, they were talking about Aishwarya Rai, a common bait of all high-society gossips in this area, especially in their family, because she was a Rajput and was wealthier and influential than all of them combined. Still, the expression in the eyes of the aunt gave it all up. Avinash knew what it was. It was scorn, wrapped in sympathy. Avinash noticed scorn and sympathy on many faces. So far, he was successful in avoiding the prying eyes and poking questions of others. He was sure though that his mother would have shared the dark news of her son's quitting the job with her sisters-in-law.
Avinash remembered the day he had sent the resignation letter. He was working as an assistant coach at a management institute. He hated the job with all his heart. The institute was run by his father, Raja Ajith Singh. It took him several months to convince himself to leave the job for good. He wanted to be independent, outside of his father's care. But he also wanted to become a writer. He had found an opportunity at a publishing house to work as a marketing manager. This was his much-needed break, he had thought.
Just as the Coronavirus erupted, the publisher was one of the many businesses that were affected and they started to sack people off of their payroll. They announced that no new candidates would be appointed at this time. The dream of Avinash broke into a million pieces. But he had taken a decision- to be independent of his family. There was no going back now.
Just before the day, the government of India imposed the first level of lockdown, Avinash sent his resignation mail. HR Manager of the institute, Mr. Gupta called him back within an hour to inquire if the mail was sent by mistake. When he heard the decision Avinash made, he said he was shocked.
"I have taken the decision, Gupta ji, please share it with the top-level management," Avinash said, his heart bursting with a strange sense of enthusiasm. Even now, standing amidst his relatives in the posh hotel he felt the same uplifting energy coursing through his body. He had no other job, but only his stories to keep him occupied but he was free from the responsibility of carrying forward the family business.
He felt elated, suddenly freed from the overpowering judgemental gazes of his relatives. He felt like he should enjoy a serving of the delicious Thalassery biriyani, one of the special delicacies cooked by one of the star chefs from the south Indian town of Thalassery. In his sudden burst of enthusiasm, Avinash moved out of his comfort zone. He took a few steps and paused. Oops! The wrong move, he thought. Standing in front of him, blocking his way was Raja Virat Singh Senior.
"Hello, dear Avinash, I heard you started on your coming-of-age journey," Raja Virat Singh Senior scoffed.
"Uncle ji, I... just," Avinash searched for the right words. None came for his rescue.
"I still don't understand what your father is doing with that stupid institute. I had asked him several times to sell it up and join us in Canada. He could have had a big chunk of profit by investing in my business there."
So that was his plan all along, to grow his business at the cost of our deplorable immigration to Canada, Avinash thought to himself.
"So Avinash, what's your current status, by the way?"
"Uh... my status... uncle ji, I am presently working towards publishing my novel. It's my first novel. I am sure I will be able to break big in the publishing industry in India," Avinash said, his words gaining momentum as he started contemplating his favourite work, his novel.
A burst of resounding laughter was the response from Raja Virat Singh Senior.
A few others joined them, hearing Raja Virat Singh's laughter, looking for conversation and fun.
"Our Avinash hasn't even completed his novel and he still hopes to make it big in the what... by the way? Oh yeah, Indian publishing industry. No offense, Avinash, but I don't even read Indian fiction. Does anyone of you read these Indian authors, ha?"
Everyone around them shook their heads.
"On a serious note, what was that guy's name? Oh yes, Chetan Bhagat. Are you a Chetan Bhagat kind of writer, Avinash? " Raja Virat Singh said.
Avinash couldn't think of a way to drown himself. His face burned red.
"I...," Avinash couldn't speak. He couldn't look at their faces anymore, due to shame and humiliation.
"Excuse me, I think I know you, sir," a female voice said, while a hand tapped Avinash's shoulder.
For a moment, Avinash felt a big surge of relief. At least, he could use this opportunity to escape from uncle ji. Avinash turned and saw a stunningly beautiful lady in front of him. He heard cheers in the background. Someone screamed from the corner, "Oh my God! Aishwarya Rai madam, here!"
Avinash just gazed into her beautiful eyes.
"I think I know you," she said again.
"I don't understand, ma'am," Avinash said.
"You are the writer from Story Mirror, right? Avinash? The number one writer? I am not mistaken, am I?" she said in her soft cooing voice.
"Yes, ma'am, you are not mistaken. I am Avinash; I am author Avinash," he said.
He could hear gasps from behind and saw from the corner of his eyes that Raja Virat Singh Senior was struggling hard to get closer to Aishwarya Rai.
"This is my nephew, ji. Hi, I am Raja...," Raja Virat Singh couldn't complete his words. He was interrupted by Aishwarya Rai.
"Avinash ji, why don't you honour us with your presence in our main lobby? Please. I'd like to take a picture with you if you don't mind," She said.
"Sure, why not!" Avinash said. He could hear gasps and cheers from the background still. He saw that uncle ji stood there stunned and speechless. He couldn't see his aunt who was speaking with his mother earlier. An hour later, when Avinash returned from the main lobby there was only one star in the family reunion. It was Avinash.