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HE'S STILL BOUND TO HIS PAST BY GOLDEN THREAD

Shri Prashad is ready to move on from his failed relationships, but first he has a suit to get rid of.

The suit had to go.

It had hung in a zippered dress bag in his bedroom closet for five years. The Sherwani, as it's called, was made by hand in India, fit for a king or a man of dignity. Pure ivory silk, woven with delicate strands of gold thread.

It's not that it made him angry or ill or vengeful. He certainly didn't need the money. But a few months ago, he realized something.

The suit represented everything he didn't have.

He wrote a newspaper ad.

Indian Men's Suit, Custom made for wedding. Never used! Paid $1,850. Sell for $300.

- - -

On the surface, he has it all.

Shri Prashad, who goes by Dino, is 44. He's a handsome real estate investor and insurance broker who built a fortune for himself by flipping property. For one, he bought and sold Tampa's famous Goody Goody restaurant in a single day.

He has a soft, elegant British accent from his childhood in London. He owns a 4,400-square-foot luxury home locked behind wrought iron gates on a sprawling 6 acres in Brandon. It has a botanical garden, a 20-car garage, a pagoda, a Swedish cedar sauna that makes a great pizza warmer for parties. Most surfaces are marble. Nothing is dirty.

The house once belonged to a baron from Scotland, Prashad said. He keeps the baron's photo hanging on the wall in the stately dining room and ponders it now and then.

"He became a prisoner of his own success," he said.

Prashad works from home at a desk that's a replica of one used in the Oval Office. His companions, a dog named Daisy and a cat named Boo, crawl through the trap door like the Kennedy children.

He knows he needs to get out more. But it's easy to stay home.

"It's like my own little Shangri-la," he said, barefoot in a tailored black outfit, sipping cranberry juice from a cut glass tumbler. "I can come back to my own safe enclosure."

He bought it during a serious relationship, armed with visions of children playing.

"They don't exist like I thought they would."

In 2004, Prashad was engaged to a gorgeous woman he met on an airplane. She was sitting in Seat 17 - his lucky number.

They planned a huge wedding on the grounds of his home. Indian by heritage and from a well-connected family, he had relatives and dignitaries flying in from all over the world. A carriage drawn by white steeds was to escort the couple from their door. A drummer would beat a joyful rhythm and chant.

The groom is coming! The groom is coming!

Maybe he should have known. Maybe he was ignoring his intuition because he wanted to be married so much. But as the wedding date neared, he confronted more details about his fiancee. She wasn't truthful, he said. She was older than advertised and involved with other men.

Three weeks before the big day, everything fell apart. The wedding was off.

His family came anyway. He was in no mood to celebrate, but they had a massive party.

You can drink wedding drinks and eat wedding food.

But what do you do with everything else?

- - -

Prashad has always been unlucky in love.

One ex-girlfriend stalked him, he said. Another tried to extort his money. People see his lifestyle and assume he's a playboy. These days, he's a little gun-shy.

He said he waited two years after his disastrous near-wedding to date again. The next time, his mother set him up with another beautiful girl, they got engaged a year later. They planned a small wedding with a party at home. He planned to wear a different suit.

That relationship also faltered. It was not as dramatic a crumbling as the last time. It just wasn't right.

Prashad takes marriage seriously. Too many people treat it like a contract you can just break, he said. He's haunted by thoughts of himself as an old man dating a 20-year-old bimbo.

A cliche.

He wants a woman who is attractive. Who has a career and old-fashioned values. Who is kind-hearted and cares about him. Who isn't just looking for a comfortable life.

"I'm so tired of being the knight in shining armor," he said. "I want to take my armor off and make sure no one is going to take a shot at me."

He clings to humble things that contradict his wealth - a $300 1986 Mazda truck he got in a business deal. A soiled, fried-fish smelling uniform from his days as a struggling server at Leverock's.

He wants to sell the big house and move into something smaller.

"Right now, what I'm trying to do is just shed," he said. "Not be possessed by my possessions anymore. I just need to get rid of the ghosts of the past."

He's only had one call from a potential buyer for the wedding suit.

It didn't fit.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

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