Rane Pradhanvetri was only half Deccan, so she was considerably paler than almost everyone else on the crowded train. Her shari was a serviceable dark blue and, because she had managed to secure a seat, she had a large rectangular lunch basket perched across her knees. Inside that was the meal she was delivering to her cousin, Kaupur, who was setting up for a gig with his band on the far side of Gobindapur from their home. Their mutual grandmother, the senior Mrs Pradhanvetri, had been insistent that Rane take them the food that Kaupur had left behind. Rane had thought her conviction that there’d be nowhere near the club open for lunch unrealistic but, when she got there, the street was still shuttered although it was midday. The band greeted her enthusiastically when she entered bearing food, and her grandmother’s catering standards meant that there was enough for the band, their roadie, Rane and the security guard on the club’s door.
On her way home with the basket of empty containers, Rane wondered again why her cousin had taken up music when the rest of the family were engineers or technicians.
At least he was working.
Her mother’s parents were expected in country again. Felicity and Walter Simpson had been frontrunners in a wave of discontented yearners from the United Domains who’d flooded through the Deccans looking for the spiritual growth and enlightenment and they’d dragged their daughter, Spring, along with them. The Simpsons had quickly fallen into the clutches of one of the dodgier ‘ashrams’ and only emerged from the drug haze and mind manipulation months later. They’d been bemused to find their daughter married to Manni Pradhanvetri, a young engineer. Rane wasn’t sure how her parents had met, but vaguely understood that her father and Mr Mahrishi, the local street magician, had rescued Spring from something horribly dangerous.
Rane had never heard anyone talk about work and her maternal grandparents in the same breath, despite them having money for foreign trips. Rane’s parents, though, both worked: Spring Pradhanvetri ran the Sumla Street Hotel in Kokla, convenient to but not too near the international airport; and Manni Pradhanvetri had his own engineering firm nearby. Rane worked for her mother while her brothers and sisters all worked in other family businesses.
Because she was thinking about them, it somehow wasn’t surprising to find her grandparents talking to her mother in the hotel lobby, along with an older European-looking couple and a man of the same background a few years older than herself. “Rane!” Her mother sounded relieved to see her. “Your grandfather’s parents and your second cousin Randy have come to see us with your grandparents. Come and be introduced!”
After Rane had shaken hands with her great-grandparents, her mother said, “And Randy is my cousin James’ son. Apparently, James is running the business for Grandpa these days.” Then she turned back to her grandparents.
Randy, still holding Rane’s hand, leaned forward and hissed, “I was warned you girls would try and get your hooks into me the way your father did your mother, so I’m on to you.”
Rane looked back at, too astonished to try and free her hand. “Look,” she said, “you’re very pretty, if you like the whole Western European thing, but what do you do that I should be so interested?”