The Mysterious  Incident at Akashdeep Estates – 10

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That night it rained heavily and we had a power cut soon after we had finished our dinner. For some reason the power backup too failed and the only alternative was to go down to the pump house where the generator was kept and connect it to the residence.  Arvind and Nanjappa went down carrying torches and their mobiles in plastic bags. They came back after an hour, unable to fix the cable since it was dark and the torch light was not sufficient and added to all that, part of the pump house roof was leaking, having not been fixed since a long time.

So, we moved around with candles and torches and went to bed early. I felt like a little girl, finding the experience of moving around the large house, holding a candle strangely exciting but Shalini as expected kept grumbling at the inconvenience and inefficiency in not fixing the power back up, the generator etc. She could only think of such things rather than help out.  Rohini aunt, quite fed up of her nagging, questioned her as to why she could not help out rather than blame others all the time. Shalini just went up in a huff without bothering to answer. Later, as I lay in bed listening to the steady beat of the incessant rain, my thoughts naturally turned to Rohit and our last encounter. Although I had met many boys and young men while I was in college and even been attracted to a couple of them, I had never met anyone like Rohit before nor experienced the kind of strong feelings that were now raging within me, although I was not at all sure about his own feelings.  I hugged them to myself and soon fell asleep.

The next morning was bright and beautiful, thankfully the power too had been restored. When I went down, Rohini aunt greeted me with a warm smile and Geeta handed over a cup of home brewed coffee. Geeta had already prepared Upma for breakfast and since it was Sunday and their day off, both she and Nanjappa were planning to visit some relatives. After breakfast I and Rohini aunt went round the garden, collected flowers, vegetables, some of which had dropped down due to the heavy rains and plucked some fruits as well. Later we made Bisibele bath which is the south Indian Khichdi with lots of vegetables and Raita for lunch.

Visiting Vidyakka and Rohit

Shalini and Arvind appeared during lunch time and after lunch,  Rohini aunt announced that she was planning to visit Rohit and Vidyakka  after her nap. Arvind wanted to come too and so did Shalini. We walked down the street instead of taking the jeep. Vidyakka  was in the garden, Rohit too came out greeting us and gave me that special look as he smiled at me? Or was it my imagination? Vidyakka was very hospitable and a wonderful cook. She served us Tea, tasty pakorahs and Coconut Barfi, which she said was Rohit’s favourite. Shalini commented that Rohit used to like Coconut Barfi even when he was in college and everyone went silent! It really was a tricky situation but Shalini seemed quite oblivious of it. Other than that we had a lovely time chatting and getting to know them and the more I interacted with Rohit and his sister the more my attraction for him and regard for her grew. Arvind too seemed to be happy and carefree, speaking to both of them and laughing a lot. As it began to grow dark we made our way back with Rohit accompanying us till the estate gates.

It was a memorable day and a very happy one. Shalini seemed much more approachable while we were there. But once we reached home, her alter ego was back with a vengeance. She strode upstairs without responding to Rohini aunt’s queries about dinner. I found it shocking and  felt it was highly insensitive of her not to bother with any household chores, leaving Rohini aunt to handle everything even on Sundays when Geeta was away. Since Geeta and Nanjappa came back, we all could relax and together I and Rohini aunt helped Geeta in preparing dinner .

I was finding Shalini’s behaviour more and more perplexing, she seemed fine after Mahesh anna left and I also felt that whatever mood changes she had were nothing but clever manipulations to fool Mahesh anna. I felt extremely sorry for him because he was a caring and generous person who tended to overlook many things that were obvious to others. He was hard working and seemed preoccupied with work and responsibilities of running the estate all the time, added to which was Shalini and her many avatars that must be causing a great deal of anxiety to him. No man would be happy to see his wife openly showing preference to another man and I sincerely hoped, Shalini would mend her ways and realise Mahesh anna’s worth.

Rohini aunt joined me and asked me what was I thinking about? I hesitated but decided to tell her exactly what I felt about the situation. When she heard me out she sighed and had this to say..

“Shalini has never cared for Mahesh, she married him for his money little realising that life is not easy for him nor is it a bed of roses for her here at the estate. When Rohit came here Mahesh and he became friends through their dealings in the bank and Mahesh in fact found the house for him without realising that he was involved with Shalini at one time.”

I asked “ So when did Shalini meet Rohit?“

“She met him here at home when Mahesh invited Rohit and Vidyakka for dinner one night.  After that she started her new drama, going into depression and what not .. “ “It is no use telling Mahesh that she is quite normal and in her full senses… Anita, I can only see danger ahead of me. God alone knows what exactly goes on in that devilish mind of hers.“

I was scared to hear that because I too had sensed  danger and felt uneasy at times for no reason at all. I went to bed with a disturbed mind filled with foreboding and anguish. As a result I had very little sleep that night.

Mahesh anna is back

The next couple of days went quickly but one incident stood out in my mind. It was the day Mahesh anna was expected back. After breakfast I went to the office and found the laptop I was using open  and obviously tampered with. Only one person could have done that – Arvind. In fact, he came into the office just then and asked me for some documents. I told him frankly that I could not pass any document, account details or files without Mahesh anna’s consent. I could see that he was not happy with my response.

Later, I went through the file he had asked for and found several large amounts of money transfers from the main estate account to different bank accounts. I decided to bring this to Mahesh anna’s notice as soon as he was back. After Mahesh anna was back, I noticed a change in him right away. He seemed more sure of himself and plunged himself into work with added zeal. Shalini too must have noticed the change in him because one morning when Rohini aunt complained of back ache, Mahesh anna asked Shalini to help out in the kitchen and look after the household rather than lounge around in her bedroom all the time. Shalini opened her mouth to probably protest and contradict him like before, but stopped short when he looked at her sternly. Not that she did anything much but she did hang around the kitchen coming in Geeta’s way and generally being a nuisance. I felt it was a welcome change to at least see Shalini falling in line after all this time.

But what caused this sudden change in Mahesh anna? I told him about the money transfers which he seemed to know but asked me to send the file to his computer. Later that night after dinner we could hear Arvind and Mahesh anna arguing in the office. I presumed it had something to do with the money transfers. Surprisingly Shalini came and sat next to me and asked if I knew why they were arguing. I denied any knowledge of it but she looked at me as if she did not believe me.

Tangles

The next few days brought in many changes in all of us. Shalini was in the kitchen during the day trying to help and was a little more friendly to others including me I and Rohit were now meeting on a daily basis in the afternoons. We would talk about many things and I would confide in him about all that was going on at Akashdeep. The only disturbing fact was that he would never comment or speak about Shalini even when I brought up her name. I was wondering if we could really move forward unless we breach that wall. Another incident that disturbed me was accidentally discovered by me. One morning after my work at the office, Rohini aunt requested me to accompany Nanjappa  to Vidyakka and Rohit's house, since he was taking some vegetables and fruits grown in the estate. I agreed and we set off down the road and ahead of us Shalini was walking and turned into one of the roads and when I glanced in that direction, I could see someone ahead of her and I realised with a shock that it was Rohit.  Vidyakka too confirmed that Rohit had come home early and had gone out for a walk. That afternoon I did not go to my favourite place. I was totally depressed and angry , went up to my room and lay down pleading a headache. As I thought things over I felt that I was being unreasonable and Rohit had every right to lead his life the way he wanted and I also remembered my father's words "Never judge a situation without full knowledge and understanding." But the ache in my heart refused to go away. 

However, in the evening Rohit and Vidyakka came home unexpectedly and we were all pleasantly surprised to see them. Shalini came down but remained quiet and uncommunicative. As they were leaving, Rohit asked me if he could have a word with me. I nodded and when he asked me for my mobile number  I gave it with some reluctance. He smiled and thanked me. Later he sent a message requesting me to meet him the next afternoon without fail since he wanted to discuss certain matters with me. I agreed and promised to meet him.

The next morning while I was at the office Mahesh anna came in and teased me about Rohit. He wanted to know if there was anything brewing between us and I was taken aback and must have blushed nice and proper because he laughed out and seemed happy about it. But I told him that we were friends and there was nothing else and he laughed some more and went out. It was good to see him happy and laughing which he rarely did.

I eagerly waited for lunch time and after, when I was free to go for my walk and meet Rohit..

( To be continued )

 


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