Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sense of Family

Narain's loyalty to his family plays a big part throughout the series. He's surrounded himself with people who become his family: Sophie, Dom, Cassie in some respects the staff of his restaurant who he treats like family (though he has yet to reveal his secret to them). Perhaps all to replace the family he's lost when he left to fight in the fields of France so many decades before.

Narain was 25 when he left for the First World War. He was the oldest of four children which included Aziz who was 13 in 1916. Aziz could be petulant and headstrong. The brothers shared a resemblance in looks but not one in temperament as Aziz felt a sense of rivalry with an older brother who seemed much more in sync with their beloved father. Zaheer, 10, was the quiet brother. The compassionate child. The brother always ready, even at so young an age, to offer a comforting word. The one often breaking up disagreements between his older brothers. Then there was Ujaali, age 5 when Narain left, the light in everyone's hearts. As headstrong as Aziz yet sharing the compassionate trait that ran so strong in her brother Zaheer.

When news of Narain's death reached the family after he promised Ujaali he'd return, Ujaali was inconsolable for days. Zaheer cried himself to sleep all night but did his best during the day to put on a brave face for his parents who were dealing with their own loss.

Aziz went off on his own to deal with his grief for while he and Narain had had their differences, there was love there as well. Sometimes his grief would lead him to look for trouble as if a street brawl could take his mind from the loss. That sense of directionless grew, leaving his parents to wonder what would become of their second son.

After Narain became a vampire and, thanks to meeting Alphonse Reno, he learned to understand the condition better. Alphonse was able to convince Narain to return to India. If Narain could sit down with his family, explain what had happened, what he'd become, help them understand the condition the way he did, perhaps they would accept him.

Alphonse yearned to be reunited with his son and didn't care what his son had become. Would the joy of Narain's return help his family look past what he now was?

The question was never answered.

Narain traveled back to India and returned to his village but couldn't bring himself to take the final step of meeting his family. The thought of the looks on their faces should the horror over what he told them be too much held him back.

And it was a chance meeting with Aziz in his hotel room that sealed his decision. Aziz, now not very much younger than Narain had been when he left, had heard that his brother's look-a-like had been spotted in town and he came to investigate. But his demeanor when they met was cold, a bit calculating, as he told Narain that the family had grieved for him. He should remain dead to them. It had been too long.

Narian's own cowardice had already made up his mind. This stunning hardness on the part of his brother only confirmed the correctness of his decision.

And so he left (though this meeting would figure in later novels), returning to Europe but not to Aphonse. he didn't have the heart to return having failed in his task. Narain wrote to Alphonse every so often, letters full of positive news and contentment. All lies, for Narain's life upon return to France became a life of wandering and uncertainty as he fought to do that which he had to do to survive, all the while fearful of passing the condition on as it had been done to him. He roamed town by night, sleeping in caves or crypts during the day, uncertain in how to turn things around.

It ws during his wandering at his lowest point in life that Narain met Sophie (a meeting described in the second book), the daughter of millionaire industrialist Harrison Grayson. She and her father allowed him into their lives and after the father had died and and Germany invaded France, Narain and Sophie opened their mansion to war orphans. It was Sophie's suggestion but Narian agreed, the couple somehow making it work while hiding what Narain was from the children. To them, he was simply curious "Uncle" who appeared to interact with them as soon as the light faded. Playing with them, giving them cooking lessons.

After the war, when Sophie and Narain made their way to Chicago they kept the mansion open as a school for children from around the world. In the meantime, Narain collected what family he could in Chicago. His staff, who, in a business with high turnover, often stayed on at the restaurant because of the way he treated them. Dom who became like a brother. Cassie, his new love once Sophie had gone.

To Some he revealed his secret, the secret he couldn't bring himself to reveal to his family in India. To some he he didn't. But those who received Narain's trust and loyalty received the sort of loyalty he would have showed his family from so long ago had he found the courage to return to them. Decades later their loss occasionally hits him. 

In To Touch the Sun it's revealed that he's been searching for Ujaali, the one person from his immediate family who might still be alive. He isn't sure if he simply wants to know if she lives or if he would take the next step if she does and go to her.

The biggest regret in his life was when Narain promised his weeping sister upon his departure from India that he would return to her and he never did. It's a promise that haunts him through the decades that follow.

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