For Your Reading Pleasure
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“Ms. Simi K. Rao does a tremendous job of weaving the customs and traditions of a prearranged Indian wedding. I was pulled into this vast country and treated like royalty as I read and savored the many traditions foreign to western culture. I was amused and bemused with this enchanting, culture-filled coming of age story about the jitters and joy of preparing for a woman’s big day.” ~~Chiara Talluto, Author of Love’s Perfect Surrender.
Here are some recent reviews on my new book MILAN–
“A captivating look into the developing relationship of a young couple falling in love for the first time while honoring family traditions. Throughout the wedding planning, the bride-to-be is in a constant state of nervous excitement and total confusion that will keep you guessing until the very end. An absolute joy to read.”
—Yvette Klobuchar, bridal dress designer and author of Brides Unveiled
“MILAN is an interesting combination of today and yesterday in India, ultimately bringing Mili, twenty-four but innocent and immature for her age, together with Ahaan, a bit older but more in tune with the customs of their country. This story of their arranged marriage, (still practiced in their country), goes through the accepted steps of bringing their union to fruition. The story follows through the Roka (unofficial engagement), the Sagai (formal engagement ceremony) and other preparations for the magnificent wedding which her father insists on, taking the reader along for all the rituals and experiencing all Mili’s continuing uncertainties as she leaves her childhood home to make her new life with her husband’s family.”
—Nancy Sweetland, author of The House On the Dunes
“In Milan, Simi K. Rao has created a delightful story and a glimpse into of an enduring part of Indian culture. Mili’s family wants her to marry Ahaan, an old acquaintance, but as a modern young woman, Mili is reluctant, fearing that she’ll be forced to abandon her career in music. But fortunately, Mili isn’t the only modern person in the pair, and the two embark on a journey that includes old traditions and a promise from the groom that guarantees Mili her own passions in life. But the best part of the story is the realization for Mili that Ahaan appears to be much more than a husband chosen for her. Despite her initial resistance, she might fall in love. Rao writes with flair and includes the colors and scents and sounds that many of us associate with modern India. Without being the slightest bit didactic, Rao educates us, too, about Hindu traditions and the beauty of language describing the bonds and promises of love and marriage.”
—Virginia McCullough, author of The Jacks of Her Heart
Yes! You are invited to the wedding of Mili Bharadwaj and Ahaan Kapoor!
Please join me as they prepare for their life together in my 3rd book—
MILAN (A Wedding Story)
Milan meaning in Hindi ‘a coming together’—a beautiful story of a traditional arranged marriage that transforms into a real life fairytale, set in the quaint hilltown of Coonoor in the lush Nilgiris (blue hills) in South India.
You will also learn about Hindu marriage rituals, the many colorful traditions as well as sample India’s sumptuous cuisine. Come join me as I embark on this journey. You will not be disappointed. 🙂
BUY IT TODAY ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS:
The cover of my next book– MILAN- A Wedding Story
‘Milan’ in Hindi meaning ‘a coming together’.
As soon as I saw the beautiful cover in red and gold depicting a traditional North Indian wedding procession where the bride in her doli (palanquin) is being transported to her husband’s house, I fell in love with it. And I hope you do too! Not just with the cover but with the story- A real- life fairytale!
When a daughter turns marriageable age, what should a responsible father do?
Easy. Wed her to the most suitable boy who comes knocking on the door. Jai Bharadwaj, Madhu’s father and owner of The Serenity Tea estate in the idyllic Nilgiris would’ve probably liked to do the same, but being who he was, he had to ask her first. What would she say?
The book will be out SOON!
Meanwhile you can read the first few chapters HERE!
And get my other books HERE!
Milan pronounced [Mil-un] मिलन <- Hindi. Origin: Sanskrit : A coming together.
Chap 2: Ahaan
“You aren’t ready yet? Ahaan and his mother should be here in no time.” Kiran said, her voice brimming with anxiety, upon entering her daughter’s room and finding her there, standing at the window looking out, still in her blue jeans and T, while the grey and pink silk sari that she was supposed to wear, lay neatly folded on the bed.
“I don’t want to exhibit myself, especially when I already know what my decision is going to be.” Mili retorted, her gaze rooted on the antics of a couple of squirrels on the branches of a Cyprus tree.
“And we shall respect it.” Her mother replied, quietly coming up to stand behind her. She continued, a stern note creeping into her soft voice, “Your father and I do not want to force you into anything against your will. Your happiness is our prime concern. Yet at the same time I expect you to behave like the well bred young lady you are; with dignity and poise. We are proud that you are our daughter and we want to continue to hold our heads high.”
A sudden bout of rigors seized Mili as she made her way slowly with the tea service, to the large open patio, where the family liked to receive their honored guests. The brick path was still wet from a light drizzle earlier that day, but the skies had cleared, giving way to brilliant evening sunshine, which made everything in sight look fresh, clean and vibrant.
It took Mili all her will to prevent herself from tripping over the edge of her sari. Her mother’s reassuring presence behind her helped but did not do much to allay her agitation. A sudden hush fell as everybody’s attention shifted onto her, while she directed hers on the wicker table. After setting the tray down without mishap, she concentrated on pouring out the tea and was thankful when Kiran came to her rescue and handed out the cups.
“Your daughter is the epitome of grace and beauty and this tea is the best I’ve ever tasted.” A feminine voice rang out approvingly.
“Thank you. You are very kind Mrs. Sharma. Mili has prepared it herself and it is the product of our own estate!” Her father Jai, remarked with pride.
I didn’t make it Papaji. It was Ramu kaka! Perhaps he should be the one that Mrs. Sharma should take home. Mili thought, almost bursting out into a hysterical giggle, while her eyes traced the outlines of the bricks in the pavement. She couldn’t bring herself to look up and face Ahaan. She just couldn’t.
The conversation floated unheard around and above her head. He was there, his curious eyes upon her, wearing a pair of shiny brown leather shoes and crisp khaki trousers, sitting beside his mother, who was dressed in an elegant cream colored suit. She felt her face burn as she recalled their many not so friendly interactions. Indeed, their parting had been on less than amicable terms. She hadn’t even wished him good bye. Then why did he agree to see me? Is this some kind of a sham? I’m sure it is…she thought, working herself up into a frenzy, twisting the tassels of her sari around her fingers.
So lost was she, that when her mother tapped her on the shoulder, she nearly jumped out of her skin. “Beta? Why are you so quiet?”
“Youngsters prefer not to talk in front of us.” Mrs. Sharma suggested.
Kiran smiled in agreement. Then looked pointedly at her daughter. “Perhaps you can show Ahaan around our garden which has found a new life under your tender care?”
Mili frowned irritably…her parents appeared to be reeling off lies at a rapid pace today…but she didn’t rush to correct her mother. Instead, she jumped to her feet and marched rapidly away, crushing the sweet smelling grass underfoot, not waiting to see if Ahaan was following behind.
Apparently he did. For moments after she settled down on a low stone boundary wall, the only dry spot she could find; she found him there right beside her.
Milan pronounced [Mil-un] मिलन <- Hindi. Origin: Sanskrit : A coming together.
Dense vegetation with flowering trees and vines are a common sight in Coonoor.
Chap 1B: A Proposal
“At last…I feel human again!” Mili said, pausing to take a sip of the steaming brew that she held in her hands.“Ramu kaka…nobody can make better chai than you!” She called out, looking back over her shoulder, while stepping out of the kitchen. Ramu was their servant who had been with them ever since her father had been a little boy. He was practically a part of the family and everybody fondly called him kaka or uncle.
“But no one can ever top you mom, no one!” She said with a wink directed at Kiran.
Then gazing out of the window at the blooming passion flower vine which hugged the entire left side of the house, she exclaimed joyously,“It is so wonderful to be back home!”
Kiran smiled, secretly observing her daughter, as she settled down at the table and began working on some pea pods. Yes, her husband was right. Their little girl had indeed blossomed. The sloppy, rambunctious tomboy, who used to bring the entire house on its knees with her exploits had disappeared giving way to the beautiful and elegant young woman who sat in front of her. The transformation had come about so quickly that it appeared almost miraculous! Yet, she was still her Mili, her precious little child, whom she wanted to cherish and keep in close proximity all her life. But Kiran knew that would be asking for too much.
“So… Did you have a good time with your friends yesterday?” She asked, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear.
Mili nodded, “Yes, it was like old times. First we went to the bazaar, then to the movies and then back to Annie’s place where we chattered each other’s ears off!” She laughed. “Yet there was something odd about it all…” She paused in her task, her large jet black eyes taking on a wistful look. “Some, like Sonia and Jess, were only there physically while their minds were engaged elsewhere. Probably worried sick about their husbands and their babies.”
“Thank Heavens! That is something I don’t have to be concerned about for a long long time,” she concluded brightly.
You may be surprised my dear…Kiran thought. I should not procrastinate anymore.“I have some news..” She said.
Mili perked up, “What news? Has our neighbor run away with her driver? I sensed something shady there.”
“No!” Kiran said laughing, “Our neighbor is quite happy with her husband as far as I can tell. You have to stop letting your imagination run wild. It is something else. Do you remember Dr. and Mrs Sharma?”
Mili frowned, shaking her head.
“Perhaps you don’t. You were very young when they left. But you should recall their son, Ahaan. He was three years your senior in school.”
“You mean Mr. Times of India? Of course I remember him!” Mili said, bursting into a peal of laughter.
“Times of India…?”
“Yes. Because he was the biggest political junkie! While the rest of us were talking about the latest movie, he was waxing eloquent on the state of world affairs. While we were smuggling Sidney Sheldon in our satchels, he was walking around with a book on Churchill or Lenin in plain sight! I used to tease him so much about it…”
“Why, because he was different?”
“I guess you could say that…” Mili’s brow drew together in a frown. “ And all he did was stare at me with those serious bespectacled brown eyes and walk away. I sometimes wished he would shout back. His silence was getting on my nerves. Then one day he did. He lectured me on respecting my peers —how dare he?!” Her face grew red with indignation. “Another time, he caught me playing truant with a couple of my classmates and told me off, saying that it would affect my grades! Big deal!…… Oops!” She bit her tongue and managed to look appropriately chagrined.
Kiran smiled. The cat was out of the bag. “That was very sweet of him. He was just looking out for you.”
Mili was glad that her mother didn’t berate her on her bad behavior, “Perhaps he was. But the manner in which he said it all, I wanted to punch him in his smug face..I nearly did!”
“Thank heavens you controlled yourself Mili!” Kiran managed to look shocked, though she was enjoying this recount of her daughter’s school days, which she hadn’t been privy to. “I had a different opinion of him, though..”
“Remember the day when it was raining heavily and all the power lines were down? The phones weren’t working either. You had stayed back for a school play rehearsal and I was worried sick. Your papaji (father) was out of town also. I was about to leave the house with kaka to look for you, when I heard a knock on the door and found you standing there with Ahaan. He was holding his coat over your head while getting soaked to the skin himself. And then he left right from the door, even when I asked him to come in. A very gentlemanly thing to do.”
Milan pronounced [Mil-un] मिलन <- Hindi. Origin: Sanskrit : A coming together.
Chap 1a: Mili
It was an early Spring morning in the valley. A thick blanket of soft dense fluffy white covered the verdant hills of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains,) forming an illusion which slowly dissipated as the Sun came up; just like a pleasant dream that dissolves and fades despite desperate attempts to latch on.
A cool breeze pregnant with moisture blew in through the wide open windows of the large villa with the whitewashed stucco walls and the red tile rooftops.
Mili stretched in her bed–long, lazy and limber. It was nice to be home at last and out of the hot and humid climes of Chennai. And this time she was back for good. At least till she could figure out what she was going to do next with her life. For now, she was going to relax, take it easy and get reacquainted with her past.
She got out of bed, ambled over to the window and gazed out at what remained of the beautiful vista that had greeted her for as long as she could remember.
The Serenity tea estate was among the oldest and largest in Coonoor. It had been a part of Mili’s family, the Bharawaj’s, for several decades. From what she had been told, in order to escape the furor and violence that had erupted in the northern territories during the country’s partition in 1947, her grandfather had relocated to the south where the situation was much calmer. After procuring the tea plantation, he had invested his entire wealth in it and then nurtured it with great love. It had prospered since, producing some of the finest tea in the land and provided livelihood to several families who worked on it.
But times were changing. The nouveau riche, that the country was breeding in plenty, wanted to buy up everything in sight and convert it into residential and commercial real estate. Many of their neighbors had succumbed to temptation, sold their properties for premium prices and moved away, leading to the profusion of brand new construction that blocked Mili’s view.
Mili’s father, Jai Bharadwaj, was among the few remaining proud and stubborn plantation owners who had resisted. But the pressure was mounting. Production was down. Many workers had quit for greener pastures. The house and land was mortgaged up to the hilt, forcing him last year to sell a few hectares in order to break even. Mili knew that it was just a matter of time before their home wouldn’t be theirs anymore. She wished she could help but had no clue how.
She sighed, turning away from the window, “I’ll worry about it later. Right now I need some garama garam (piping hot) chai!”
Wrapping her shawl snugly around her shoulders, she raced through a long open corridor and burst into a large living area startling her mother Kiran, who happened to be deeply immersed in the painstaking task of shelling peas.
“Mili!” She exclaimed dropping a steel bowl on the floor with a loud clatter. Fortunately it was empty.
“Sorry ma! I just couldn’t wait to wish you a very good morning!” Her daughter said, throwing her arms around her mother’s shoulders.
“It’s alright beta(child)” Kiran smiled indulgently at her daughter. They had been playing this game ever since Mili had been in elementary school. Now she was a young woman of twenty four. Habits die hard. She smacked away her daughter’s hand as it sneaked towards the peas.
“Seems like affection continues to flourish between mother and child. How about me? I feel left out.”
Mili looked up and saw her father standing near the main door, ready to leave for work, as usual, sharp at eight.
“Papaji (father)!” She shouted, running to embrace his hefty frame which remained straight and strong despite the years that had passed. Only his face showed signs of wear and tear.
Kissing the top of her forehead, he gently stroked her cheek, “You have grown so big, so fast. Time just seems to have melted away. I wish I could ask it to stop, but I can’t.” He said while exchanging a knowing glance with his wife. “I must go now. Have lot of work to do.” He abruptly turned and strode out of the doorway.
“What happened to Papaji, ma? Something I should know about?” Mili said, looking at her mother whose eyes had lost their earlier sparkle.
Kiran avoided her gaze, “Nothing much. First go and get your chai. We need to talk.”
Note: Most of the words in Italics are from the Hindi language.