This is part 10 of the serial novel.
With a touch of finality and irreversibility, death writes the closing chapter in one’s life. A sense of shock and disbelief had enveloped Mrs. Rao’s mind like a fog. She had felt numb and bereft of any emotion in the beginning, crying when somebody cried, but otherwise maintaining a calm exterior.
Then, just as slowly, the foggy pall lifted and the mind started going back to all the calcified images of the past, recalling and reviewing every detail and reconstructing every incident. Mrs. Rao would sit for hours looking at photo albums, sighing away at a fond recollection and wiping away a silent tear drop.
Vasantha and Shweta had thought it best to leave their mother alone.
Inspector Ram had set the mood right for Mrs. Rao. He had struck the right chord by asking her to share her thoughts with him — her son. He asked her casually how close Rao was to his family. The innocuous question stirred the old memories tucked inside the folds of Mrs. Rao’s mind. Like water gushing out of an open sluice gate, those nuggets of family history unplugged from their confines poured out.
Vasantha was Rao’s first daughter and the personification of his dreams. Every milestone she crossed as a baby would see him in raptures; every prize she won at school would make him gloat with pride.
The only time Vasantha had made Rao agonize over her was when she told she’d marry Krishnan, and no one else. His jaw had dropped when she said that. Whoever thought that Vasantha, who shared every little secret with him, could have encased her most precious secret away from him? Krishnan? That non-descript boy, who he had seen occasionally chatting with Vasantha, had the key to her heart, and he hadn’t the faintest clue?
Vasantha walked in carrying a teapot. “So, your daughter married without your husband’s blessings,” said Ram, smiling warmly at Vasantha as he took the tea cup from her hands.
Vasantha interjected now. “My dad could never see me sad; so he agreed to the marriage, probably very reluctantly. After the marriage, he told my husband that I was used to a luxurious life; so he would make him his business partner and we could live with him too. My husband declined; he said his blessings alone could help earn the kind of life I was used to.”
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