SHE A Serial By Varalotti Rengasamy Episode 14 Raj and Shalini were in the resort on the outskirts of Kumbakonam. They were talking about so many things that night. As Raj was talking his voice became low, and suddenly it turned into a whisper. Shalini heard a sound of a small hiccup coming from him. Then there was silence. Total, complete,absolute silence, which lasted for a few minutes. Then Shalini’s scream was heard two floors below. Shalini was sitting in their resort room. Her tears had completely dried up. And if there were tears to shed, she did not have any strength left in her body to cry. She was staring at a distance lost in thought. She felt completely lost as her only hold in life, her future husband, her live-in partner, her own dear Raj had died just like that. There was no sign, no warning, nothing. Only the previous month Shalini had accompanied Raj for a master health check-up at Appollo. The day-long investigation revealed nothing. The Doctor had only issued a very mild warning that Raj was bound to be a diabetic sooner or later, as the disease ran into his family. Even that was just a remote possibility, the Doctor said. But how did this happen? Shalini’s smile born out of utter despair was a result of her thinking about the irony of fate. Only a few days before she was in the height of happiness. She thought at that time, that everything was just a dream or a fantasy. And now pushed to the other extreme, she thought that even this was a dream – the worst nightmare that could ever happen to her. It was a day after Raj Metha’s death. Shalini had informed his daughter and son. They were coming the next day. When Priya heard the news she let out a wail which shocked Shalini even more. Once the news was conveyed, Shalini did not have anything to say. Both the women were sobbing non-stop. After Priya Bansali spoke to her for the first time, Shalini felt very happy. After being alone for so long a time, she was not only going to have a husband, but also a friend in Priya. They bonded so naturally, that Shalini even thought, that in some previous birth, they should have been sisters. But now there was no scope for any kind of relationship with Priya. Yes, she might talk to her once in a while. Yes, they might cry over each other’s shoulders. Yes, the common grief might create some kind of a bonding. But that relationship simply did not have any future. The one person who was to be the bridge of love between the two women was not there anymore. Priya would just remain a contact for Shalini. And so would Shalini be for Priya. Nothing more. Shalini was now all alone for the third time in her life. The first time was immediately after her divorce. At that time there was some expectation, some hope, and even some mild exhilaration at the new-found freedom. The second time she was alone was after Jaggi went away. She was not sure of herself at that time though she could steer her life well. And it was only because of her boldness and ingenuity did she find a man of golden heart – the one and only Raj Metha. Despite her best efforts to control it, a sob escaped from her mouth. She was also afraid that her search for her identity or love or happiness, whatever it is, might even destroy her. Shalini had the same feeling of wretchedness that engulfed her when her father died all of a sudden five years ago. If only her father had been alive….. Shalini thought for a while. She would abandon her search for her identity and live with him and would have brought happiness and relief to him in his old age. She would have even been a nurse to him, if he fell sick. She would have taken care of him, not as his daughter, but like his mother. Her life was somehow full of these ‘would have been’s. She was in the depths of despair and thought with a tinge of optimism that it could not go any worse. But it did go. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]--> Shalini’s screams that day woke up all the guests who were staying in the resort. The Manager also came running. There was a Doctor among the guests who examined Raj’s eyes and pronounced him dead. Some North Indian ladies consoled Shalini and was with her for the whole night. The Manager told her that he had no other option than to call the Police. An Inspector Of Police and two constables came late in the night. The Inspector was very polite and courteous to Shalini. He asked the usual questions and then sent the body for autopsy. Shalini begged the Inspector to spare Raj from all these cruelty. The Inspector said in a firm voice that the death was of a healthy man and had happened in a public place. In her own interest it would be better to have the doubts cleared rather than having some complications later. Shalini relented. The Inspector advised her to extend her stay for a few days to collect Raj’s body.