SHE A Serial By Varalotti Rengasamy Episode 6 As soon as she woke up that morning Shalini had a sinking intuition that something was wrong. Seriously wrong. Tears welled up in her eyes for no reason. It was then her mobile phone rang. The maid working in the ground floor heard Shalini shrieking. “OH NO, NO, IT CANT BE.” Shalini’s worst fears were confirmed. Her father had died early in the morning. Her family doctor called her up from her father's house. Shiva was only 56. Shalini was staring at the large garlanded picture of her father placed in the main hall of their house. Ten days had passsed since her father died. The events of that most fateful day in her life ran like a flashback for the hundredth time. When she first heard the news Shalini was too shocked even to cry. She did not know how she reached her father’s place. The Doctor was waiting for her. “I got a call from your father at 5 in the morning. He complained of chest pain. I immediately asked the cook to get a barbiturate for him. I came rushing. Massive cardiac infraction. He was alive when I came here. He was talking to me. But before I could get the injection out of my bag he collapsed and passed away. It happened at <st1:time minute="2" hour="18">6:02</st1:time>.” Shalini asked in a broken voice. “What were his last words?” “He told me that he had donated his eyes. And that I should call up Aravind Eye Bank before it is too late.” “Have you called?” “Just wanted to have a word with you…” “Please call them right now.” The crowd was yet to come. Only the Doctor and Shalini were there. And she asked the question she dreaded to ask. “Was he a heart patient, Doctor?” “No. He was in perfect health. Looks like he had some shock yesterday. And it was too much for him.” Shalini felt a tug at her heartstrings. Was she responsible for his death? Did she give him that guilt trip which ultimately proved fatal for him? Tears started to flow as she remembered his last words to her. “You know I had been to the temple this evening after several years. Not been there since your mother died. And my only prayer to God was ‘If I had made a mistake in pushing Shalini to marry this guy, then I am in the wrong. Give me any punishment you like. But just leave my little girl alone.’ “You know for the first time in my whole life I entered into a deal with God. I have vowed to God, ‘If my little girl becomes happy again, I will fast on Sundays and come to your temple every day.” Shalini broke down sobbing. By mid morning it appeared to Shalini that the whole city mourned her father’s death. Shiva’s body was kept in state in the main hall and hundreds of people respectfully filed past paying their last respects to him. Shalini’s tears had dried up. She sat in a chair near her father with a hand on his cold forehead. “Dad you gave me everything I wanted. But did I give you anything you wanted from me?” This haunting thought made her to sob silently by the side of her father’s lifeless form. She was puzzled to see a old man in his eighties being escorted to the hall. The old man placed a large rose garland at Shiva’s feet and stood there sobbing. Then his escort nodded at Shalini and said something to him. “Are you his daughter?” Shalini nodded. “I tell you, beti, even if my own son had died, I would not have grieved this much.” Shalini was moved. “I worked for your father. I retired 20 years back because of health problems. My sons let me down. My wife is dead. I came back to your father crying. He has been supporting me since then. What my sons failed to do for me, he did. A deadweight like me is still living, while a God like Shiva is dead. It’s an atrocious world, beti.” Shalini muffled her sobs. Around <st1:time minute="0" hour="12">noon</st1:time> some policemen arrived and regulated the traffic outside. Some were deployed in regulating the queue. Some of them making calls to the caterer; some were making arrangements for the funeral. Shalini was puzzled. Around 11 a person who appeared to be a high ranking police official came in. He was in his police uniform. He left his shoes in the verandah and tiptoed into the hall. He removed his cap and stood in silence at Shiva’s feet for a few minutes. Then someone handed over a large rose garland which he placed on Shiva. When he came to talk to Shalini his eyes were full. She recognised him as the State’s Director General of Police. She had seen his picture in newspapers. “Mrs.Shalini, I am sorry about your father’s death.” Shalini did not know what to say.