The Mysterious  Incident at Akashdeep Estates – 11

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Shalini Confides

As we sat down for lunch it began to rain and it was no ordinary rain either, but a proper storm which apparently was quite normal in the hilly region.  I waited hoping against hope that it would subside and there would be bright sunshine after the storm blows through. But it only became more intense and raged through the entire afternoon, evening and night as well. So, I could not meet Rohit nor did others step out of the house and we again had a power cut. But this time both the power back up and the generator came to the rescue.

That was also the first day I saw Shalini and Mahesh anna’s part of the house. After Tea, as I sat messaging Rohit about our inability to meet that afternoon, Shalini asked me if I could help her clear things in her wardrobe. I agreed and we both went up to their rooms on the first floor. There were two large bedrooms on either side of the open hall, that were beautifully and comfortably furnished. We entered one of them, Mahesh anna was resting in the other room. The room we entered, which Shalini told me was her bedroom, was a mess with clothes strewn on the chair back, side of the bed and some of them hanging out of a basket. It was the same with her dressing table…I began to automatically pick clothes, fold and tidy up the room while Shalini sat on a chair and watched me. I again felt that she had indeed changed a lot in a matter of few days, had become calmer and more interactive. When I was finished, she nodded and began to speak..” Thank you Anita, I wish we were friends, but somehow we never got along…” I was quiet because to me the reason was obvious, her high and mighty attitude! So, I said nothing, waiting for her to continue.. she did ..

“I suppose you know all about Rohit and me. He was so much in love with me when we were in college, heart broken when I had to leave him, in fact still is very much in love with me" ..

She continued, "In fact according to him, desperately in love with me …I am not sure how to handle the situation. On the one hand, there is Mahesh who is my husband but in name only, and then there is Rohit.”  To say I was dumb founded with this revelation of hers would be an understatement. I was shocked to hear those words  - that Rohit, according to her, was still desperately in love with her and that Mahesh anna was her husband in name only!

Another thing that stuck me amidst it all was the fact that Mahesh anna and Shalini had different bedrooms. But again that may be because Mahesh anna was being considerate. But I felt it was unnatural having seen my parents, sister and other married couples share a bedroom. However, I came out of my reverie when Shalini began to speak again.

“Anita, do you believe in sixth sense?”

That made me blink ... I said carefully that I had no experience of that.

“But, I do have …my own sixth sense tells me that my life is going to change drastically in the coming days and months.“

I had to ask…” In what way?”

“Well. You will see” Yesterday afternoon I became more or less sure about what direction my life would take.“  She gave me a coy smile, which chilled me…what exactly did she mean?  She just sat there looking at me with a satisfied smile. Was this after her meeting with Rohit?

Sad Tidings 

I left her and went to my own room , numb with shock . Was Rohit planning to tell me about it this afternoon and probably ask me to help Shalini? And I thought and hoped ... I sat there feeling miserable totally unaware of the pervading darkness around me until Mahesh anna found me. He came in calling my name and switched on the light and one look at my tear strewn face, he was all concerned. I told him that I was fine but he wanted me to tell me what was it that was worrying me and making me so miserable? I couldn't tell him, so I told him that I was  missing my father. To this he asked me if I wanted to go home for a few days? Knowing that there was plenty of work in the estate, I couldn't leave him now simply because I had no control over my feelings, so,  I said I would be fine in the morning. But he insisted that I should come down, have dinner and be with others.. .

I slept in snatches that night and had developed a severe headache by the time I woke up in the morning. Although the storm was over and the sun was out, it was chilly and windy. I sat on the veranda not knowing what to do and how to face life after what Shalini had told me. Shalini was there sipping coffee and chatting with Arvind, while Mahesh anna sat at a little distance watching and observing both of us quietly. I had an uncertain, fearful thought as to whether he had overheard what Shalini had confided in me. Her voice was quite loud, now that I remembered and he could have easily heard her. Anyway, I had too many  worries of my own!

Mahesh anna asked me to rest after breakfast, since he was anyway going to the town on some urgent work and Arvind too would accompany him. I nodded my head, not trusting my voice because I was overcome with emotion. In the meantime, I had received several messages from Rohit who wanted me to meet him this afternoon. But I ignored them all, not responding to any. Rohini aunt was concerned and asked me what the matter was? " Did Shalini say something hurtful? She is capable of doing anything to get her way." ....I told her that it was not Shalini, but something personal.

I went up to my room and slept through the day, waking up well after lunch time and  managed to eat a few mouthfuls. As I was clearing up the table, I heard voices outside and saw Vidykka speaking to Rohini aunt..Surprised, I went out and greeted Vidyakka. Even as Shalini, who was there until then disappeared upstairs. Vidyakka gave me a hard look and asked me what was wrong? Of course I could not say anything to her. She invited me to spend some time with her and I could see that Rohini aunt too approved of it and so I agreed reluctantly. 

As we walked down, Vidyakka spoke about her own children and their activities but I was frankly in no mood to hear anything. When we reached the cottage, the first thing I noticed was Rohit’s scooter which was parked near the gate. I hesitated but Vidyakka held my hand and guided me inside. Rohit was there looking worried, distressed and unkempt so unlike him. And the look he gave me ...I was at a loss, not knowing how to react! Vidyakka went out to the  garden leaving us alone. Rohit asked me ..."Why didn't you respond to me and not come? "  I requested Vidyakka to bring you here because Rohini aunt spoke to Vidyakka about you, not knowing what was wrong?"

I had no answer to any of that because I could not share what Shalini had confided in me. So I remained silent..

"I had specifically called you yesterday because I wanted to speak to you ...Can I do that now? I will not compel you to tell me anything but please do remember that I am always there to listen and help ."

I asked him to speak ..

And when I heard what he had to say I was amazed.. here is what he said,

"Anita, I already told you that I had known Shalini. She was known for her beauty and very popular during our college days and I was flattered when she began to pay attention to me. I fell in love with her although now when I look back I am not so sure. She too was in love with me and like all lovers we made plans and looked forward to spending the future together....I passed out of college and was looking for a job but we met often. I got a job at the bank and was sent to Mangalore for training.. At about the same time she went away with her parents during the college vacation. After that she stopped messaging or calling me and would not respond to my messages or calls either. I was understandably very upset and distressed but had no way of contacting her since she had left college."  I listened attentively to all this..  

"After almost 2 months, I happened to visit Bangalore and saw Shalini and her mother at a shopping mall. When I approached them she looked up saw me and there was far in her eyes as she turned away. But, later she sent a message asking me to meet her the next day. We met and she told me that she was getting married the next week to a Coffee estate owner because her parents had somehow found out about us and were dead against her marrying me since we belonged to different communities. She wanted to come to me but was restricted by them. She also told me that Mahesh, the boy she was marrying had forced himself on her and she had no other go but to accept him."

These last words made my blood boil ...Mahesh anna force himself on her? To me it sounded impossible but people are known to do strange things in love ...

I waited for him to continue ..

“After listening to her, I was no doubt very sad and unhappy but I also had to accept that I had to forget Shalini. However, I began to hate the person she was marrying because of what he had done to her. But years later, when I met Mahesh anna unexpectedly at a wedding I was struck by his simplicity and sincerity. Later after coming here, I have developed a healthy respect and regard for him in spite of what he did to Shalini. In fact I met her yesterday to convince her to accept him wholeheartedly which seemed to have offended her.“

Now this was becoming knottier than I thought! Two completely different accounts by Shalini and Rohit.

Rohit continued…  “ Coming to my own feelings, I have gotten over Shalini a long time ago and when I met her here I realised that it was all for the best. But, Shalini has been trying her level best to rekindle the past romance by targeting me every where. Initially I decided to speak to her and put some good sense into her which I realised was not possible because she does only what suits her. She has always been selfish and unfortunately even marriage has not changed her.  I find her attitude nauseating and frankly I admire Mahesh for his fortitude. The only regret I have is not being able to procure the loan he wanted…”

I was unable to digest all that especially the last part about himself because I was relieved, happy and hopeful... The only disharmonious note was about Mahesh anna which I refused to believe.

 ( to be continued )even 

 


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