SHE A Serial By Varalotti Rengasamy Episode I Rishi was having his morning shave in the bathroom attached to their bedroom. He let the tap running while he was busy with the razor – an act that had so far never failed to infuriate his wife of five years, Shalini. “That's a sheer waste of water, Rishi. You know in <st1:country-region><st1lace>Somalia</st1lace></st1:country-region> an individual has to survive on 100 ml of water for a whole day. And you are wasting ten times that quantity for removing some tiny hairs from your face. Isn’t that atrocious?.” Rishi would just grin back at her which would only serve to fuel her anger. He somehow got turned on when his actions or words irritated Shalini. Now, he was a trifle sad that his wasting water was not being noticed by her. She was still asleep. “Since Shal is not there to see, this is a real waste.” He shut the tap and focussed on his shaving. He was startled by the sound of a crowing cock right inside their bed room. The sudden jerk in his body made him nick his chin with the powerful triple-blade shaving razor. Seeing blood while shaving was a bad omen for Rishi. He was sure that the day was doomed to be bad. He looked around to find the source of the sound. It was Shalini's cell phone. She kept changing her ring tones and alarm tones constantly. At times even daily. ‘So now she has this cock crowing for her morning alarm.’ Rishi walked in to see his wife. She had skilfully postponed the alarm while still huddled inside the sheets. Rishi continued with his shaving carefully avoiding the blood-stained area. He was going out of the city for a site inspection. He was sure that his work would be jinxed thanks to his sighting blood on his face. As he was washing his face he heard the cock crow for the second time. He ran out of the bathroom. He saw Shalini’s hand slowly coming out of the sheets to postpone the alarm again. Rishi’s hands were faster. He swooped on the bed and moved the cell phone beyond her reach. Now the cock started crowing for the second time, the third time….. “Rishi… Rishi…..” A sleepy voice mumbled from under the sheets. Rishi now had a wicked smile on his face. To make her wake up earlier than she had planned to, was on the list of small pleasures in his life. Meanwhile the cock continued to crow. Now Shalini sat up on the bed and shouted at her husband: “Come on Rishi, give me my mobile. I am going to sleep for another half an hour. I had to work till <st1:time minute="0" hour="1">1 AM</st1:time> last night. Please give me my mobile.” That was exactly the problem. Rishi was a lark and Shalini, an owl. Rishi could never hold himself beyond <st1:time minute="30" hour="9">half past nine</st1:time> in the night, whereas Shalini's hours of maximum alertness and creativity started at that time. When the novelty of their marriage wore off this difference in their circardian rhythms was the greatest irritant in their sex life. Rishi’s voice was gruff. “ The lady of the house sleeping till 7? Aren’t you ashamed?” Now Shalini was fully awake. She never missed an opportunity to argue with Rishi. “The man of the house going to bed at <st1:time minute="30" hour="9">9:30</st1:time>. Aren’t you ashamed, Rishi?” “See Shalini, getting to bed early is a good habit.” “Objection, your Honour. It’s your habit. It is neither good or bad. I can very well say, getting up late is a good habit.” “Haven’t you heard “Early to bed and early to rise…” “You will never meet the rich and famous.” Shalini completed the devil’s version of the proverb. “Do you know Shal, that it is the early bird that gets the worm?” “I do, Rishi. But do you know that it is the early worm that gets eaten? “ Rishi was exasperated. He now talked with resignation. “Do whatever you want. But remember we need to be downstairs by 8 sharp. Otherwise Dad will be annoyed.” Shalini mumbled something like ‘Ask him to go to hell’ but Rishi did not hear that. Rishis Dad ran the household with the military precision. In fact that was the only way he knew to manage the house. Captain Ramnath had retired from the Indian Army twenty years ago after having seen action in the 1962 Chinese Agression and the 1965 Indo-Pak war. With a generous military pension and subsidised drinks and other items from the ‘military canteen’, with substantial ancestral properties and with his only son Rishi comfortably settled in life as Executive Engineer in the State Government's PWD, Captain Ramnath looked forward to a hassle-free retired life. The only tragedy in his life was the untimely death of his wife Sheila, 10 years back. The old man was still in the pink of his health. Two hours of treadmill in the morning, a round of golf in the afternoon and some tennis in the evening kept him “fighting fit” as they say in the army. Captain Ramnath was a nice man in his early sixties. He had done his duty to the country and had enough medals in his Uniform to infuse patriotism into anyone who cared to look at them. During service, he had led his troops with an iron hand implicitly obeying his superior’s commands and demanding the same kind of unspoken obedience from his subordinates.