The Mysterious incident at Akashdeep estates – 6

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My routine at akashdeep

In no time at all I settled  into my new routine at Akashdeep estates. I would wake up to the sound of the daily roll call and the twitter of hundreds of birds, it really was something ! …later , I would help Gita and Rohini aunt in the kitchen . After breakfast I would explore the estate and the narrow winding roads around the estate. Since Mahesh anna was busy with the estate managers and supervisors until 10am or even later than that , I was free to do what I wanted until then. Shalini did not seem to favor my company since she never spoke to me nor showed any inclination to have me around her which suited me fine although Mahesh anna was keen that she spend some time with me or rather I spend more time with her..

On the fourth day after I came to Akashdeep, Arvind came back from wherever it was that he had gone. I greeted him with affection and enthusiasm but was surprised to see his lukewarm response. This was perplexing and disturbing to me since I had always thought of him as my ally and a friend who I could count on in a totally new environment. That day when I went into the office room which by the way was located behind the stair case , Arvind came in and asked me whether I had been working there ever since I came . I said yes, wondering why he asked the question ? where else would I be working ?..

By then Mahesh anna came and I started with my accounting and book keeping work . Arvind watched us for a while and left the room with an expression that was difficult to fathom . It was all very mysterious ! Arvind,  incidentally had his room next to the office. The office itself had a small balcony facing the vast estate grounds, where the coffee beans are normally spread out for drying after they are harvested. There was a short flight of steps from the balcony that led down to the ground below , so that the estate workers, supervisors and the manager could directly come into the office without having to go round the garden, come into the house  and then reach the office . Just below the balcony was a  shed that had a table, a bench, couple of chairs and few other things like baskets, plastic bags piled up in a corner, spades etc. This is where the workers queued up in front of the table waiting for their roll call in the morning and evening. The log book was kept in the office and Mahesh anna would hand it over to the supervisor in the morning and I would collect it in the evening after which it was put away in the locker.

The Handsome stranger again..

I saw the handsome stranger again the next morning… I had just turned into the estate gates after having walked through the winding roads for almost an hour, and  as I did so I heard the sound of feet behind me on the road and when I turned back to look , I saw him jogging and he waved out to me with a warm smile , I did the same, again wondering who he was. As I turned back and walked towards the house I could see Shalini standing on the veranda with an angry look on her face. I approached her  and  was taken aback to hear her  harsh voice asking me “ How do you know Rohit? “

That was the first time I came to know that his name was Rohit and now when I look back , I still remember the incident clearly ,especially Shalini's expression and it all seems like a dream..

I told her about having met him with Mahesh anna ,  she simply went down the steps and walked away  with an angry stride. As I went in I saw Rohini aunt standing at the window , watching Shalini walk down the driveway towards the road . The expression on her face  clearly indicated that she was unhappy with something , probably Shalini. This again for some inexplicable reason brought back my old fear, a premonition of danger.

I asked Rohini aunty who  Rohit  was ? She was about to say something but Gita came out just then and wanted to consult her about the lunch menu after which Rohini aunt  went with her into the kitchen. So, Rohit still remained a riddle to me.

As I went into the office, I could not help but think about Rohit and Shalini and wonder whether there was any deeper connection between the two. For some reason , I felt depressed to even think of that possibility. Mahesh anna came in just then and I got busy with my work. Normally after lunch, Mahesh anna would take a nap since he woke up very early in the morning while Shalini would come down , laze around or go for a walk . Once, when I asked her if I could go  with her, she refused quite rudely after which I did not ask her again. However, I noticed that as the day progressed and became afternoon, she became more energetic , eager and almost her normal self  , in fact she began to look radiant !   

Arvind..

I spoke to my family almost every day which was a good thing because I missed all of them and missed my life back at home , surrounded by my doting family. But that did not mean that I had any regrets at having chosen to come here. Mahesh anna, being the kind of caring and understanding person that he was, had given me a new cell phone , as also asked me to use the computer in the office whenever I wanted. I could access only a few files  on the computer and once when I had to refer back to some other file , Mahesh anna transferred it from his laptop. As I was looking through it, I could sense someone standing behind me and was startled to see Arvind looking at the file on the computer screen. He wanted to know how I got it and whether more files would be sent ? Before I could respond to him, thankfully Rohini aunt came in, asking him to accompany her to Shalini’s room.

She looked back at me and said …”  Arvind is the only person who is able to get through to that woman , I find her behavior quite obnoxious “ obviously referring to Shalini..

“That is not a nice thing to say amma especially given her state of mind “

State of mind indeed !

With that they both left the room. I was confused as to why Arvind felt the need to sneak around, that too when he had been here for years and was bound to know all the ins and outs of the estate dealings since he took care of most of the financial and official matters concerning the estate or was it possible that he did not have complete freedom with the running of the estate? This I felt was natural since Mahesh anna, afterall was the owner of the property .

I realised that I had still not been either invited nor had the opportunity to see Shalini’s private abode . Since Mahesh anna was rarely there, for all practical purposes it was hers. I also realised that I had hardly had any interaction with her, leave alone look after her which was the main purpose of my visit . Something did not make sense here, but I was not able to understand ..

Most of all Arvind's behavior hurt  and confused me because he was friendly at times but I noticed it was only to get some information about the estate accounts. Another fact that I have to mention here - Mahesh anna telling me not to give the password for the computer to anyone. Arvind had a computer of his own which he kept in his room . Did'nt Mahesh anna trust Arvind ? or was  he just being cautious since the office was open during the day to estate workers and others who would march in and out even when one of us was not around  ?

Each day at the estate brought in new excitements but of course I could never have imagined  what was in store for me in the coming days..  

( To be continued ...)


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