The Mysterious Incident at Akashdeep Estates - 13

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Rohit , Me and Mahesh anna

Now, when I think back, I am surprised as to how some things become clearer with time. But when it is happening it makes little sense,  or has no relevance unless you look at the larger picture.

That morning when I went into the office room, I saw my laptop had been tampered with, because it wasn’t in its usual place and a few things kept on the desk like a pencil holder and a note book which I used for making notes, had been moved around. I decided to tell Mahesh anna about it, but he himself came in and told me that last night he had used the laptop since he wanted to take a look at some old files stored in it. So it was not Arvind..

Rohit was back and sent me a message asking me to meet him that afternoon. I simply could not contain my happiness and I must have been grinning from ear to ear after reading the message, realised it only when I saw Shalini looking at me with narrowed eyes while we were having lunch. I freshened up and came down, planning to meet Rohit. Unexpectedly, Shalini who was half lying on the sofa called me and showed that she was in the mood to chat with me. I  was not sure how to get out of her clutches. Mahesh anna who was moving around came to us grinning and teasingly asked me “no walk today?” I said that I was planning to go and  left smiling at him and waving to Shalini who was not too happy.

I almost ran to my spot and Rohit was already there waiting for me. Although he gave me a heart-warming smile, he looked tired and somehow sad and all I wanted to do was hug him to me and tell him how much I loved him and not to worry about anything. Instead I asked him “How was your trip to Bangalore? “

He brightened up a little and said that it was good, he had accomplished most of the things that he wanted to, although it didn’t matter now. It was like a riddle to me because he did not explain and before I could ask him for an explanation, rain played spoil sport, making us run towards shelter. Since, his house was closer we both ran down, completely drenched, shivering with cold. Vidyakka gave us steaming cups of tea and insisted that I change into something warmer. So, I wore one of her housecoats and sat chatting with them.  Mahesh anna called me and came to pick me which was as well because the rain never stopped for a long time. I thanked Vidyakka who bundled my wet clothes into a plastic bag and handed it over to me as we were leaving, Mahesh anna hardly spoke to Rohit which pained me, although he was quite friendly with Vidyakka. I felt that I should have a talk with Mahesh anna, sometimes soon and if possible clear the misunderstanding. But little did i know that, that would never happen!

Shalini ?

When we reached home, there was no sign of Shalini anywhere, Rohini aunt told me that she had a headache, so was resting in her room. I wondered aloud whether I should go and see her but Mahesh anna asked me to leave her alone since she was in a bad mood. A little later as we were having tea, Mahesh anna asked Geeta to prepare some hot milk and take it up to Shalini since she had Hardly eaten any lunch as well. He and Nanjappa soon left for their rounds. Geeta was in the kitchen and Rohini aunt was in her room but Arvind was nowhere to be seen, so I presumed he must be in his room, resting. Rohini aunt was removing seeds from Tamarind and I helped her with it while Geeta was busy in the kitchen.  Geeta having forgotten to take the milk , called out to me and asked me if I would take the milk for Shalini since she was grinding the rice for Idli batter. She reheated the milk and I went to the kitchen to pick up the tray on which she had paced the glass of milk and a small plateful of biscuits. I noticed that there was a small bit of bread crumb sticking to the side of the milk glass. As I tried to take it off , it fell into the glass. I took a spoon and scooped it up just as Geeta came into the kitchen looking at me questioningly and I explained to her what had happened. I took the tray up and went into Shalini’s room knocking on her door. Shalini was sleeping and the room was dark. I gently patted her arm and asked her to drink the milk but she asked me to leave it on the bedside table and she would drink it later. She sounded sleepy and incoherent. I left her and came down and  as I descended the steps, I thought I saw a shadow behind the stairs, but when I checked no one was there..

Mahesh anna came home and enquired about Shalini and felt that it was best to leave her alone. We stayed up for some time after dinner, Mahesh anna  and Arvind went into the office to take care of some details. I and Rohini aunt went up to our respective  bedrooms. I welcomed the solitude when I could think of Rohit and the time that we spent together. Today, we  hardly got to speak  and he looked worried and  sad but thankfully he was almost back to his normal self once we ran down the slope into the warmth of his house…  I told myself “tomorrow I will ask him for an explanation” soon I was fast asleep little realising that our lives would change drastically when we woke up in the morning.

I woke up as usual to the twitter of the birds and the roll call of the estate workers. Went down and saw Mahesh anna and Rohini aunt already up and drinking coffee on the veranda. Arvind too joined us. Rohini aunt asked about Shalini to which Mahesh anna replied" she must be still sleeping,  I and Arvind were up for a long time checking some accounts and I went to bed after that. I will go and wake her up now "Saying this he went up and came down in a rush within a couple of minutes shouting and saying that she was not waking up and that she was cold… 

He was desolate and immediately called the doctor and I and Rohini aunt and Geeta ran up to Shalini's room. She looked peaceful, almost as if she was sleeping and looking at her I couldn’t stop my tears. Rohini aunt was stunned and  so was Geeta. The Doctor came up and checked her and pronounced her dead. He said we had to call the police since it was an unnatural death …

All I could think of were her  words spoken in this very room about sixth sense and how she felt her life would change forever! I felt a great sadness, pity and much more. Mahesh anna was inconsolable. Arvind although looking shaken took charge and called her parents and I called my mother and when she heard about the tragedy she too was shocked. I sent a message to Rohit, who was understandably shocked and said he would inform Vidyakka and come to Akashdeep  immediately.

The Doctor waited upstairs since he wanted to have a word with the police when they arrived, while we were all asked to leave the room. The police officers arrived within a few minutes and Inspector Ganesh, who I thought looked very thorough and efficient took charge straight away. He spoke to the doctor and on his advice it was decided that Shalini’s body would be taken to the hospital which was in another town. Mahesh anna and Arvind  decided to accompany the body. Just as we were waiting for the Ambulance Rohit and Vidyakka arrived and I could see that Rohit was nervous and uncomfortable. Both he and Vidyakka went to Mahesh anna and stayed with him consoling him. In the meantime, the police locked Shalini’s room and were speaking to Geeta and Nanjappa. Later, they spoke to Arvind and Rohini aunt.

All I could recall was the numbness I felt along with the shock of losing her. I kept wondering how could  it have happened? Did she commit suicide, or have a heart attack? What would happen when her parents arrived? what would happen to me after this? It may seem selfish of me to think of myself and my future at a time like that but I have read somewhere that people think of the most absurd things when they are in the middle of  a tragedy!

As of now all that we could do was wait!

( To be continued)

 


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