SHE A Serial By Varalotti Rengasamy Episode 2 Shalini was clearly wounded by her father-in-law’s derisive looks. His brusqueness reminded her of a sudden thought she had on the day after her marriage. Even the vibrant mehendi on her palms had not faded, while her soul did. On that day very much against her feisty nature, she had permitted someone else to instruct her as to what was right and what was wrong. Not in her eyes, but in the personal opinion of the other. Yes, that was quelling a dynamic part of her. Is this life still worth living, with the crippled part of her spirit that survived this onslaught? This question languished in her mind since then. Every day immediately after breakfast, Rishi and Shalini would rush to their room upstairs to pick up their briefcases for work. Shalini was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a medium-size software company. At office, she was feared, respected and admired, not only her professional acumen but also for her fiery independence. Feared by her bosses, respected by the men and admired by the women. Shalini was too depressed to do anything meaningful that morning. She decided not to go to the office. She changed into a comfortable kaftan, removed constricting inner wear and slouched on the bed with a Jeffery Archer thriller in hand. Rishi was annoyed. “Hey, old lady, what happened? Aren’t you going to office today?” “I am not, Rishi.” “Are you sick? Shall I ask our family doctor to come by?” “I am not sick. Thanks for asking. Just taking a mental health holiday, a relaxing day off.” “Now Shal, if you are not sick, then it is not fair to bunk office.” “You are not my boss.” “But Dad will not tolerate this.” “I am weary of him. Tell him, that I am sick. I am not going to go to office. I do not owe an explanation even to my Managing Director.” Rishi was upset by her curt response. Any further argument would only serve to make her even more defiant. He left her without a word. Before Shalini completed a page more of Archer’s book she heard a knock. Exasperated she stood up to welcome her father-in-law. “Rishi told me you are sick. I noticed that, Shalini. You did not eat well this morning. Shall I tell the cook to prepare a hearty chicken broth for you?” “It is all right Uncle. Now I am feeling much better.” “Ok. if you need anything, call me.” “Thanks.” The Captain was always extra-kind when somebody was sick. Shalini wished that he could have shown at least half of this kindness when she was late for breakfast. She could not focus on her reading any longer. Her mind drifted to her childhood memories. Shalini was the only child of Shiva and Lakshmi. She inherited her mother’s good looks and more than that, the rebel-genes of her father. Shiva had a raging lust for life, so potent that he lived only one day at a time. Shiva was the youngest in his family. His father and grandfather were rich landlords hailing from the then fertile Tanjore Delta region. Those were times of change, when agriculture was declining in importance. Fortunes diminished with the introduction of ceiling on land holding and the uncertainty prevailing in the produce markets. Still, Shiva’s father gave his sons top-class education. Shiva’s eldest brother became a Doctor and started minting money, sometimes even faster than the Government Mint at <st1:City><st1lace>Nasik</st1lace></st1:City>. Another brother became a lawyer and soon rose to the rank of Additional Solicitor General of India. Shiva’s father wanted him to become an Engineer. It was only then that the old man discovered what a great rebel his son was. Shiva said a big NO to engineering. His father alternatively suggested medicine or law or any other profession which he wanted. “Thanks, Dad. I actually want to become a carpenter.” His father was shocked. But the old man knew very well that there was no point in arguing with Shiva. Shiva apprenticed himself to a leading carpenter in Chennai. When he was 25, he was happy not only to have found a career but also an excellent medium to express himself – wood. He was not a sculptor, but he thought being a carpenter he could be at least as creative as a sculptor or a painter. He started his career as a Woodwork teacher in a Government school. It was there he met Lakshmi, the sweet-looking Tamil Teacher. Lakshmi was elder to Shiva by three years. She was a spinster at 30 because of a serious problem in her horoscope. And she belonged to a caste several rungs down the ladder from where Shiva’s caste stood. After a decent period of courtship Shiva proposed to her making her weep in ecstasy. . That was the proverbial last straw on Shiva’s father’s back. He disowned his son, disinherited him from all his wealth and instructed his other sons to do so. On the very same day that Shiva set up a family with Lakshmi, he lost the family he was born in. Very soon Shiva resigned his teacher’s job and started consulting for big projects. Unlike the other carpenters he could talk to the architects and the engineers in their own 'speak' and then translate their plans into the typical carpenter’s lingo for his assistants. Shiva proved to the world that one could become rich and famous by doing what one loved to do. And Shalini had inherited the fiery rebellious genes of this master carpenter.