SHE A Serial By Varalotti Rengasamy Episode 3 Shalini’s unfettered and rebellious spirit thrived and flourished under her father’s upbringing. Shiva indulged her to be herself at all times. His intervention for course-correction was non-intrusive yet effective Her mother, on the other hand, was love personified in its purest form. She went out of the way to make life pleasant for Shalini. She took tailoring as her pastime only to ensure that Shalini had the best dresses which she designed herself. Their household had a a retinue of domestic staff and two cooks-one for Indian and the other for Continental cusine. But Lakshmi would prepare food herself and serve her husband and daughter with her own hands. She would not even let the staff see the family eating together. While Shalini showered love on her mother too, her independent nature did not allow her to permit her mother interfere with her own affairs. Much against her mother’s wishes she signed up for the prestigious, and notorious (if you consider the pass percentage) CA course. Shalini signed the deed of apprenticeship with a senior chartered accountant in the city. At that time there were not many women doing the course. In the office Shalini apprenticed there was only one other lady apprentice. Within days of starting her apprenticeship Shalini learnt the nuances of the trade. The work done at her office bore little or no relevance to the subjects she had to study for the CA exams. At the office they prepared or assisted in preparing the tax returns of small and medium scale enterprises, visited some medium-sized companies for audit and once in a year visited some public sector banks and insurance companies for their year-end audit. That way her work in the office served only to hinder her studies. It tired her early and when she returned exhausted at 7 in the evening she would not have the mind to study even a line. Shalini was restless until her senior apprentices told her to relax and defer preparing for the exams till the last three months, her period of study-leave. But that turned out to be too intensive an effort even for a determined girl like Shalini. She cleared the First Level exams in flying colours. The final exam which would make her a fullfledged professional was really a hard nut to crack. The study leave for the final, qualifying exam was about to start. Shalini’s mother had been to a cocktail. When a friend enquired about Shalini, she casually mentioned that she was taking the CA Final Examinations that November. The friend spoke fifteen minutes non-stop about the CA exams. Her son had been flunking the exams continuously for the past three years. The friend, to justify her son’s failure, told Shalini’s mother that the pass percentage in CA Final Exam was less than 3%. A candidate could have been academically brilliant all her life. But still that did not guarantee any success in the Final Examinations. Lakshmi was devastated. Not that she was worried about Shalini becoming a Chartered Accountant. But given Shalini’s temperament she was afraid that the silly girl might take the failure to her heart. As soon as she returned home after the party she summoned Shalini to her room. Shalini’s eyes were red. She was sleeping only 5 hours in the night. Placing a hand on her daughter’s shoulders she narrated what her friend had told her in the party. Shalini confirmed that with a smile. “But Shalini… why should you suffer like this if you are not sure of the result?” “Ma, I am pretty sure of my result. I am working hard. I have not omitted any part of the syllabus. If in spite of all this if the exam is going to be tough for me, then it is going to be tough for all the 10000 and odd candidates who are going to write the exam with me. They can’t simply fail all the candidates, right?” Lakshmi was not convinced. “Do you remember that Tamil film we all went to see last month?” Lakshmi nodded. “In that film there is a cranky character who actually is the villain. But there’s one quality about him which I like the most. You see he is a race driver. And just to ensure that he drives fast enough, he sets a time bomb to himself. “The bomb is set to go off at the end of the target time he sets for himself. Suppose he wants to cover a distance in 7 minutes, he sets the bomb to explode at the end of the 7the minute. “When he drives having one eye on the bomb-time and one eye on the car’s odometer, he is bound to do his best. After all it is a question of life and death, you know?” Now Lakshmi was really horrified. “Ma, let me tell you another example. You know the Oscar Winning Director James Cameroon who directed The Titanic. He did the editing for that film. He used to stick a razor blade to the computer in which he did the editing. When asked about it he told the press, “If the film sucks, I’ll use that to finish my life.” “What the hell are you saying, you devil?” Shalini’s mother shouted pathetically. “Please be calm. I am not going to do anything silly like that. But I want to tell you that my determination is no less.” Perhaps Shalinis mother knew something intuitively. Perhaps she had a premonition that something was going to be seriously wrong. Very soon.