The art of gentle persuasion and the promise of a ceremonial wedding have apparently achieved what love alone could not, peacefully ending a four-day drama involving an Indian diplomat's daughter who was detained in her parents Silver Spring home because they objected to her marriage to an American.
Renu Malhotra is now free to live with David Patrick Reynolds, the Kensington man with whom she eloped last Friday, according to family friends and an Indian Embassy official. The couple's announcement of their marriage Friday stunned Malhotra's parents and prompted her father, an Indian Embassy employe, to detain her over the weekend in the parents' Silver Spring apartment. After learning of the wedding, P.K. Malhotra, the father, tore up his 23-year-old daughter's marriage certificate and the woman's mother and brother forced her into a bedroom and locked the door, according to Reynolds, who was then ejected from the apartment.
The incident, which brought new attention to the sometimes murky legalities of diplomatic immunity, ended late Monday after a flurry of meetings between Indian Embassy officials, the Malhotra family and Reynolds.
"Everything is working out," declared S.P. Bagla, the Indian Embassy's minister of economics, who acted as a go-between to settle the dispute.
"Naturally, the girl's family was taken aback, surprised," Bagla said. "But now the two families are talking together."
Although Reynolds and members of the Malhotra family declined comment yesterday about the resolution of the dispute, Bagla and another person familiar with the matter said a key breakthrough came over the weekend when the couple agreed to be married anew in a classic Indian wedding rite.
The promised, albeit ceremonial wedding, went a long way in mollifying Malhotra's father, who was unaware that his daughter had been dating Reynolds, said Bagla and the other source.
"The ceremonial wedding would give the parents a chance to have an emotional satisfaction," Bagla added.
Bagla also said the father was at first very distraught over his daughter's marriage because he was scheduled to leave his job as an economic adviser at the embassy this week and return to India.
The embassy has granted Malhotra permission to stay in the area several more days to spend a little more time with his daughter.
The wedding ceremony is expected to take place before he leaves the country.
During the weekend, Reynolds had expressed frustration at being ejected from the Malhotra apartment and said he feared that the father could force his daughter to return to India.
Yesterday, several legal and protocol experts at the U.S. State Department said Malhotra was well within his rights to eject any American from his apartment, because international law affords the residence the same "inviolability" as the Indian Embassy itself. These officials also said Malhotra probably could have forced his daughter to return to India, because she was at the time a "dependent" living in his household.
However, once she begins living with Reynolds, Renu Malhotra will cease being a diplomatic dependent protected by immunity and will need to extend her visa or apply to live permanently in the United States, the officials said.