• Empathy & Compassion || While some people have to work hard at learning to think about the others and seeing things from another’s perspective, these are things that come naturally to Devika. A typical empath, she can easily intuit what is going on within a person behind the social facade they present to the world. But the witch does not stop with understanding others’ motivations, she deeply and genuinely cares for them and tries to do whatever is in her power to help those who are in need. The compassion she feels was what drove her to choose a therapeutic profession and remains the main motivator and moral compass in life.
• Ambition || For as long as she can remember, Devika loved to dance. In any class she joined, she sought to learn as many new styles as possible, and practiced for hours to become the best. The work ethic and diligence that she learned to put into her hobby and school work was what got her a full scholarship for the college of her choice and continues to be the cornerstone of her business. She continues to put in long hours to make sure her dance studio, her personal passion project, is successful and doesn’t shy away from trying out new styles and offering new classes to attract more customers.
• Loyalty || As the ancient family motto of the House of Laurier goes, family comes first. It was what was drilled into Devika and her sister while they were growing up, and she wholeheartedly tries to live up to the principle. Standing to her family and coven through thick and thin, she doesn’t abandon the people who are important to her in difficult times or even when they do things to hurt her.
• Memory Manipulation || With her elemental affinity to air, Devika’s magical strengths lie in working with the mental capacities. She has chosen to focus on developing skills in memory manipulation. This ranges from relatively mundane workings such as amulets to never forget the keys, to more complex rituals where memories are externalized or retrieved from an object. Mostly though, the regent of the House of Laurier uses her expertise with the elderly suffering from various forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
• People-pleaser || From her earliest childhood, the importance of empathy, understanding and helping others has been conveyed non-stop to Devika. Her father, the former regent of the House of Laurier, saw these as crucial qualities for successful leadership and instilled them in his progeny. But with them, a sense of being responsible for other’s well-being and emotions was also born within her. As a result, she will bend over backwards to make sure the people in her coven are doing well, often at the price of neglecting her own needs, and has a hard time saying no.
• Inner Conflict || At her core, Devika possesses two strong impulses: the drive actualize her personal wishes, and the deep need to make her loved ones happy. Unfortunately, her closest ones do not always agree to what she wants for herself, and this is a source of much inner turmoil within the regent witch. In instances when her wants go against what her friends and family want, she finds herself torn and unable to make a decision. This causes much suffering for her and even to those who are influenced by her decisions or refusal to make them.
• Stubbornness || Once Devika has decided something, it is nearly impossible to convince her to change her mind. She strongly holds onto her beliefs and values and doesn’t let uncertain circumstances sway her stance. Even if there odds are stacked against her in such a way that her chosen course of action will almost certainly lead to failure, she will remain on the path just because she believes it is the right thing to do. Reasoning and logic do not compare, especially in personal matters. Within her business, however, she is very much adaptive to current trends and doesn’t shy away from different tactics to stay relevant.
• Shyness || Not many people would suspect that the head of the House of Laurier is shy. Her activities as a regent involve meeting a lot of people and settling their disputes, and in her career, she performs and teaching groups of people. The things she wanted and was intended to do required being exposed to the public, which was a source of great anguish for Devika as a child who dreaded having attention directed at her and preferred to blend into the background. Slowly but surely though, the worked to overcome the once crippling shyness so that she is now confident even when she has to be in front of big crowds. It doesn’t mean, however, that she enjoys exposing herself in this way, as she prefers introverted activities in her free time. Nowadays, her shyness mostly manifests in a lack of confidence when it comes to talking about and living her true wishes and affections.
Like the dancer that she is, Devika appears to be in perfect control of herself and her surroundings. The elegance with which she carries herself makes her a commanding presence in any room, speaks volumes of her confidence and grade of education. It comes as no surprise that this woman fills such roles as a self-made businesswoman and a regent of a strong local coven. As far as first impressions go, Devika is the epitome of worldly success. This evokes reactions from others that range from admiration to envy, and some mistake her poise and reserve for arrogance. But beneath the facade of accomplishment is a more complicated woman than the labels she wears would suggest.
The way that she pursues her passions and confronts challenges might seem assertive if not a little bit forceful at times. Professionally and in magic, the witch knows what she wants and pursues her goals with arduous determination. However, throughout her life, Devika has learned not to trust her impulses to act immediately, and when she does, she usually spends a lot of time worrying about if it was the right thing afterwards. If she can choose the conditions, she prefers to have a lot of time to plan out all the details so that she can be sure that her direction is correct and the product of her labour will be perfect. Unafraid of hard work, she often puts in long hours if working on a project. This can take on workaholic tendencies. Devika tends to look for ways to keep busy, often to the point of exhausting herself, as a means to escape emotional distress.
Ironically, although she has difficulties paying her emotional life the proper attention at times, preferring to drown her sorrows in work, it is never a problem when others are concerned. A natural empath, Devika easily understands and genuinely cares for the feelings of others. These qualities were actively encouraged since she was a child, along with listening and remaining judgement-free in morally difficult situations. This quality gives her an edge over others in her chosen therapeutic field as she almost seems to intuit what might be plaguing her clients where others need to rely on complex theories.
More often than not, and especially within her most immediate family, the wishes of others conflict with those of the witch. Trying to navigate the waters of making others happy while pursuing her passions is a difficult task and a cause for a large amount of frustration in her life. She spends a lot of time weighing her decisions and choices, but at the end of the day, Devika is the kind of woman to more likely do what she should rather than what she would like to. In private life, she has suffered losses and failures that robbed her of the belief that these things, especially romantic relationships, could work out in her favour. Therefore, she prefers to be dutiful and keep her personal, humble wishes to herself. The regent doesn’t disclose how much she yearns for a quiet family life with a beloved husband and children, finding joy in the close connections and the simple pleasures of life like a shared meal or a board game.
Divya this, Divya that.
Comparisons to your sister are unavoidable once you step through the creaking, wooden framework of the ancient house in Marigny your family has inhabited for generations. Comparisons spill across the lips of your mother so freely, like water out of a cup, but end up like sharp daggers in your heart. You are faulted for being too brash, too impulsive; for playing with boys as freely as you do with girls, for talking back and correcting elders, for your ambition. All things unseemly for a girl. Especially for a girl with your predestination.
Your sister, two years your senior, is right at your side during your adventures, but quick to mime the obedient, coy daughter once back home. She smiles sweetly as while you get scolded. You do not want to tell on her, you love her. But you rebel against this unfairness of judgment, yelling your vindications as hot tears stream down your face, scalded by the fire burning in the pit of your stomach.
“Bhoot,” your mother calls you -- vengeful, angry spirit. For your magical family, they are not merely legend but a reality.
“Bhoot,” she calls you, and it feels like the ultimate rejection. Like earth is ripped from underneath your feet.
“When we called her ‘little goddess,’ who knew that we summoned Kali?” your father interjects with a kind-hearted smile as you’re raging from one tiny room to another. His words feel like love, like a salve, and you cannot stay mad long.
You learn that your impulses are wrong, and that silence is the best policy. You channel your frustration into productive activities, though the choice is limited to ones that are approved by your family. Sports are out, but dancing isn’t. You pour your soul into it with daily practice along with the classes you attend, and on days you fight with your family, you stomp your feet into the floor with such force that they bleed. As if you could force the ground to stay in its place.
On days that you do not have any extracurricular activities, your father takes you along as he makes his rounds through the neighborhood. Your thumb brushes against his soft skin as you hold hands while walking from one colourfully painted house to another. Different faces greet you at the doors, some belong to your family members, fellow witches in the coven, others are those of potential clients who desire to solve their problems with magical assistance. You sit quietly beside your father as he talks to them, letting it all wash over you, although the concerns of adults oftentimes seem too complex and confusing to you. Once the door behind you closes and the visit ends, your father takes time for your questions, explaining everything calmly in his soothingly deep timbre: the complexities of relationships and conflicts he is called to conciliate, and the magical workings he plans to address certain issues.
“You have to listen to the people, Devi,” he reiterates. “The leader does not boss around, he serves.”
According to the definition, your father is a great leader, looking out for the needs of the coven and community and putting an emphasis on strengthening ties. He does this not only through personal visitations, but through regular get-togethers and cookouts. Your mother shines during these events, casting away the role of a stern disciplinarian for that of a gracious host. A new boy shows up at a barbeque in your backyard one day. Somewhat gloomy perhaps, but new blood is not common in your tight-knit community and the other kids and you take him in without many questions. Dray. He gets put in the same dance classes Divya and you attend, and soon you see quite a lot of him.
Over the years, your gaze starts to linger on his even, well-sculpted face, and the smoothness of his movements when he dances, and how well he does just about everything. You are suddenly overly aware of yourself when you are around him, the position of your hands, the sound of your own voice, the heartbeat that feels almost like the organ had jumped to your throat. Divya had told you about crushes, and begrudgingly, embarrassingly, you admit to yourself that you have developed one for Dray. It remains your private secret for months, growing in secret despite your attempts not to pay it any mind. Dray would never go for you either way.
They say that everything changes in high school, but for you, it is even more true than for most. In the summer before the school year begins, you are initiated into magic and start participating in the House of Laurier rituals and start experimenting with amulets and mojo bags yourself. And a few months into being a freshman, the unimaginable happens and you begin dating Dray after the two of you confess feelings for each other. The relationship is everything that you could have ever imagined in your most private fantasies, as you form a relationship that grows over the years as you grow up with each other.
Until your mother finds out, that is. She does not agree with it. In her eyes, not only are you too young, but Dray is an entirely unsuitable match for you: broken family, mental health issues, not a witch… she enumerates the reasons why you should break off the relationship during heated screaming matches the likes of which you hadn’t experienced since early childhood. “Bhoot!” - your old nickname resurfaces, but nothing she says reaches you. You love him. That is all that matters. To Dray, too, so you two find ways to sneak around and keep your relationship hidden. As you approach your eighteenth birthday, you get engaged to each other and also form a familiar relationship. You think that this means that your family will have to accept your union.
You are wrong.
Lalita finds out and confines you to the four walls of the apartment, forbidding your from seeing Dray. But as torturous as not being able to get out seems as you try to pry the doors open with any tool you can get your fingers on while your eyes are swollen with tears, the worst is yet to come. They tell you of their plans to send you off to India, to live with Lalita’s relatives you have only ever heard over the phone. You’re informed that you will be attending one of the best schools for Indian dance, a career you had aspired to but were denied until now in lieu of something more practical and lucrative. But what was arranged to sweeten the deal leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth as all you can do is wait to board the plane while worrying about your relationship.
It is a great, exhausting change. You expected things to be different, of course, as you moved to a country you’ve never been to before and are living with people who were little more than strangers to you. But not this different. Even the light and air feel different. Mumbai is crowded, dirty, confusing, and feels hostile most of the time, people speaking in different languages that you can barely understand, and expect you to follow rules that you do not know exist, much less understand the reasoning of. You get made fun of for your faulty Gujarati that you spoke at home with your mother and broken Hindi which you picked up from watching Bollywood movies as a child, and whenever you speak English you get called pompous or a foreigner. Pardesi. Your new nickname that sticks at home and at dance school, the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya. You hate it. You hate everything here. It seems that you cannot get anything right. Not even in the magic that your Indian family practice here. You are labelled as too brash, too direct, too bold. The same accusations your mother threw at you come to haunt you once more.
Meeting Dray in your dream world is your saving grace in those first months. The visitations help keep the heartbreak at bay, at least at first, but you cannot shake it off in your waking life anymore once they become more irregular. Until they abruptly stop altogether. Your days are filled with worry, and during a phone call with your father, you gather up the courage to ask about Dray. Unwillingly, and not without making you promise to stay put, he tells you about the accident that put him in the ICU. It feels like the air is being ripped from your lungs and they fill with water. After you get over the initial shock of the news, you try to figure out a way to get back to New Orleans, you’d give anything to see him, but every possibility you think of does not work out. Before you give, you receive a visitation from Dray. You are relieved to hear of his road to recovery but he carries other news as well. A breakup.
It seems the only rational solution, as neither of you can continue with your lives that are separated through this unsurmountable distance while trying to sustain your relationship. Even if it is the only logical thing to do, it does not ease the pain. You fall into a deep hole of depression until everything loses its colour and flavour and nothing seems to matter anymore. Your performance at dance school suffers so much that you are pulled into a meeting where the teachers and your aunt and uncle discuss a possible expulsion. As their judgy, sanctimonious faces look down upon you in disdain, accusing you of having been too spoilt as you were growing up overseas, a hatred and indignation is born within the pit of your belly. An anger that would empower you on to dedicate yourself to dance entirely, much as you have done as a child, you work out your frustrations through perfecting the form of dance movements. You get your act together enough to pass the exams that year, and in next years the dedication and countless hours you put into honing your discipline pay off so much that you graduate as one of the best students.
Apart of dancing, you spend the majority of time practicing your craft with a local coven. As magic is something you have always been good at, witchcraft becomes your non-physical home away from home. You meet Kiaan Purohit when he joins the coven, one of the few people in your age group, and slowly his enthusiasm wins you over. Friendship forms over being hunched over books, countless cups of steaming chai, motorcycle rides, and watching the sky bloom in a palette of colours as it changes from blue to black. Mumbai turns out to not be too bad, with friends like him.
Although your achievements open doors to a career as a dancer in India and you have gathered a handful of like-minded people you call friends that make life not only bearable but fun, you’ve got your sights set on something else: a degree in Psychology. Thanks to your excellent grades, you manage to obtain a scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Despite having relocated back to the States, you do not visit family much, electing to work through holidays a lot, as the relationship to your mother remains poisoned by staunch bitterness from both sides. While there, you find a local coven and keep up with your magical practice as well as the workload at university. Your work ethic and intelligence help you graduate with honours and you extend your education with a Masters in Dance/Movement Therapy at the Pratt Institute. New York City offers you a lot of opportunities for employment as you teach the occasional dance class and begin working as a freelance dance therapist immediately after graduation. You are happy with the life you’ve created here, between work, coven, and friends, and quietly hone dreams of opening your own dance studio one day.
All of it is left behind after one phonecall from home.
At the funeral, one of your arms is around your mother’s shoulders while the other hand squeezes Divya’s tightly. When the casket containing your father’s body is lowered into the ground, you feel as if a part of you goes up is buried with it. The women on either side of you they are what remains. He had been just as much of a part of them as you. All discord and petty fighting is forgotten in the face of your joint loss.
Out of instinct to seek and offer consolation, you stay longer than intended. The sight of your grieving mother makes you want to forgive her the wrongdoings, and you feel a sense of obligation towards her. You cannot leave alone, and Divya has her own family to take care of. Along with condolences, family members bring you reminders of your obligation: you are intended to take over the leadership of the coven. You hesitate. But Divya has an additional offer, opening a dance studio together with her bringing the starting capital, and so you accept it as a package deal. As you work on the formalities of founding a business, you slowly start to re-familiarize yourself with the extended family you had left behind as you try to grow into the big shoes that your father left behind.
Another figure from the past also makes his way back into your life: Dray. After seeing each other at the funeral, you meet several times as friends, and once you’ve get your dance studio going, he steps in to teach a hip hop dance class. As soon as she gets to know about this fact, your mother starts looking for suitable grooms for you. You try to tell her that she doesn’t need to worry, there can be nothing between the two of you as Dray is engaged to be married. But your mother is relentless. Because your energies are mostly spent on taking care on every side of running your business, Nataraja Dance Studio, and heading the House of Laurier coven as its Ma after that, you do not interfere much with what you consider is Lalita’s activity to occupy herself. But then every now and then you start getting introduced to men that would befit your social standing. You disregard most of them, as none seem to be remotely compatible with your personality, until you meet one man who doesn’t fit the mold of well-bred, obedient, and utterly boring. Kiaan Purohit, your old friend.