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Short story - Rasika

Rasika
by Dr.Ketaki Patwardhan Nirkhi
Neela was busy with her morning chores. She had just seen off her husband Rajesh to his office and dropped her son Chiranth to his school. She had now placed the pressure cooker with rice and dal on the gas and was peeling potatoes.
‘Diiiiiiiiinnnnng dooooooonnnnggg’. The door bell chimed. Who can it be at this hour, she thought as she hurried to open the door. The maid had called to say she was not coming today. But still Neela hoped that she had turned up somehow as there was loads of household work pending. She never really believed in the fortune forecasts that were published in newspapers, but Rajesh was fond of reading them, and he invariably told her the days’ forecast for her sun sign. ‘Today will bring a storm’ he had told her. Storm of household work, she had thought. She opened the door to find a young woman in her early twenties, with a suitcase in her hand, a small purse on her shoulder and an anxious look on her face.
“Yes?” Neela asked.
“Umm…I am Rasika,” the girl said. Neela waited for further explanation.
“Actually I had come to visit your neighbor, Mrs. Shalini Wagh” she said, pointing at the adjacent flat.
“Oh…but Shalini has gone for some teacher’s camp today…she wont be back till the evening…didn’t she tell you? Wasn’t she expecting you?” Neela asked.
“Actually…” Rasika fumbled for words.
“I am so sorry, please come inside,” Neela accosted her inside, “What will you have? Tea? Coffee?”
“Give me some water”, Rasika said as she took a seat on the sofa. She looks troubled, Neela thought as she went into the kitchen. Neela came back with a glass of water and some poha in a plate. Rasika almost gulped the water in one instant but did not touch the food. She sat with her head hung down. Neela waited, giving her time to settle down.
“I am Shalini’s cousin,” Rasika said after some time. “I stay in Pune with my husband. I got married one and half years back. It was an arranged marriage. My husband is from a good family and everyone in the household is very well educated. My husband is on the post of CEO in a big company. So my parents thought this was the best proposal we could ever get and didn’t think twice before getting me married to him.” She paused as if trying to collect herself together. “But within a few weeks into our marriage, my in-laws started making demands from my parents. I belong to a middle class family. We ourselves cannot afford luxuries. But still my parents did everything possible to raise money and fulfill their demands.”
“What kind of demands?” Neela asked.
“First, they asked for some furniture, then they wanted a car. Then they asked my parents to cough up money to buy tickets for my husband’s foreign tours. Then they wanted a flat. But even though my parents kept on fulfilling their demands for my sake, their demands went on increasing day by day. Then they started torturing me mentally. They would not let me eat properly, would not let me sleep properly. They constantly insulted and humiliated me in front of everyone. I was made to work like a maid.”
“What about your husband? Did he too do all this?” Neela enquired. She felt sad for the young girl. She looked so beautiful, innocent and vulnerable. How can people be so cruel?
“No, my husband was a silent spectator. He neither helped them, nor opposed them. He was least bothered. He never treated me like a wife. We never even spoke to each other properly.” Rasika kept looking at her feet as she spoke. Neela felt bad for the girl. She had endured everything for no reason.
“Their torture turned physical since a few weeks. And yesterday night…” Rasika spoke in a low voice, “They tried to kill me.”
“What? How can they? What did they do?” Neela was shocked.
“They tried to set me on fire. I somehow managed to escape and ran away. At night I took shelter at a friend’s place. And I took the early morning bus to Mumbai.”
“Where are your parents? Where do they stay? Do they know this?” Neela asked, concerned.
“My parents stay in Jalna. They knew that I was being troubled by my in-laws, but they kept insisting that I should try to adjust to save my marriage. What they don’t know is that there is no marriage left to save.” Rasika replied bitterly.
“Do they know about the physical abuse?” Neela asked.
“No, and I don’t want them to. They are already under financial constraints and under pressure of getting my two younger sisters married. I don’t want to trouble them.” Rasika said.
“Does Shalini know? How come she never mentioned anything to me? We are quite close…”Neela said.
“Shalini knows nothing. She is under the illusion that I am happily married. She doesn’t know I am here. I just wanted to run away from that hell. So I landed up here.”
Both sat in silence for some time. Neela’s heart melted for the agony and suffering of the young girl.
“What do you plan to do now? Should we go to the police?” Neela asked after some serious thinking.
“No no…going to police means defamation for my parents. No police” Rasika replied.
“Then we can call the woman’s support organization. They will surely help you without making your identity public”, Neela suggested.
“No”, Rasika shook her head, “No one can help me.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist. There are many women in the same situation as yours. You should not run away, you should learn to fight.”
“That’s easier said than done”, Rasika said matter-of-factly.
Both sat again lost in their own thoughts. Rasika suddenly got up.
“I should go now” she declared.
“Go? Where? Aren’t you going to wait for Shalini?” Neela asked.
“I will wait downstairs. I shouldn’t be troubling you.” She said.
“Oh, come on, that’s the least I can do for you” Neela said.
Rasika hesitated a bit before getting seated again.
“You carry on your work. I am comfortable” she assured Neela.
“Okay. You can watch the television if you want. I am preparing lunch.” Neela said.
An hour later, Neela was done with making lunch and washing clothes while Rasika sat blankly watching some news channel. Neela thought of making some conversation with her to make her feel better.
“So where do you stay in Pune?” she asked.
“Have you been there?” Rasika asked.
“Yes, a couple of times. Nice city. My grandparents used to stay there.”
“And your parents?” Rasika asked. She too seemed earnest for some talk.
“They stay here itself, in Mumbai”, Neela told her. “Which company does your husband work in?”
Before Rasika could reply, her cell phone rang. She picked the phone and listened without uttering a word. “Okay” she said as she disconnected the call and got up. Neela too got up. “What happened? Whose call was it?” she asked.
“I need to go urgently. I will be back in half an hour. Will tell you everything then” Rasika said, hurrying towards the door with her purse in hand. “I hope you don’t mind if I keep my suitcase here till Shalini returns” she said.
“No, ofcourse not, its fine.” Neela said, still confused by her abrupt exit.
Neela went about her other household work as usual. She packed Rajesh and Chiranth’s lunch boxes and handed them to the watchman to deliver then to the office and school respectively. She kept expecting the doorbell to ring now and then. One hour passed, two hours passed, three hours passed. There was no sign of Rasika. What could have happened to her? Could it have been her husband’s call? What if he called her saying he would settle the matter and tried to get rid of her? Neela shuddered at the mere thought. Should she have accompanied Rasika wherever she was going? She opened the door to see if Shalini was back. Their house was still locked. What should I do now, Neela thought. Her panic was mounting with every passing moment. Should I go to the police?
‘Diiiiiiiiinnnnng dooooooonnnnggg’ The bell chimed again. This time Neela almost ran to the door to open it, eager to see Rasika back safe and sound.
But it was not Rasika at the door. Instead, there were two police officers.
“Yes?” Neela asked, thousands of questions clouding her mind.
“Mrs. Neela Kashyap”, the older policeman said, reading her name from the nameplate on the door, “We have information that you have given refuge to a murderer”.
“What? What are you talking about?” Neela blurted.
“Have you seen a young girl in a pink salwar suit since morning?”
Rasika. “Yes”, Neela said weakly, “But she told me…”
“She told you that her husband and in-laws were torturing her for dowry and that she had run away” the police officer continued for her.
Neela listened in sheer disbelief. How could this be true? She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out.
“She also told you that she is the relative of someone from your building who is not present at the moment?” the officer continued.
Neela nodded her head palely.
“So…Rasika…is…a…murderer?” She asked, still in shock.
“Yes. She is a thief and a murderer for sure, and could even be a serial killer, if we can prove it. Her modus operandi is very efficient. She first traps a well off guy who stays alone, with her good looks and sweet talk. She then promises marriage and starts living in with him. Then one fine day she runs away with as much money and jewellery she can carry. She keeps on changing her looks and identity. She has done such robbery many times under many different names. But her greed got the better off her. So last two instances, she gradually withdrew lots of money from the victims bank accounts before her final act of theft, and to avoid suspicion, killed those guys too. Last time, she dumped the suitcase full of blood stained clothes, murder weapon and other evidence at an unsuspecting woman’s place, just like you”.
Neela felt a cold shudder run through her spine. The cute looking, innocent looking, poor little girl was a cold blooded murderer? She could not believe that she had spent half the day alone with a thief and murderer! How easily she had managed to fool Neela. As Neela looked back retrospectively, she realized Rasika had never given her any personal details. She diverted the question when Neela asked where she stayed in Pune. She refused help of police or women support organizations. She kept watching news channel for an hour. And it also explained how she had managed to bring a suitcase in spite of having had to run away from her in-laws who were supposedly trying to kill her.
“Yesterday night, she killed a young man who was an engineer with Infosys. Did she leave any bag here?”
Neela shuddered as she looked at the suitcase kept near the sofa. She found no words to say to the police as she pointed in the direction of the suitcase. Now she would always believe in forecasts. Because today had really brought a big storm in her life!

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About The Author

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Ketaki Patwardhan Nirkhi

Public & Government Service

Maharashtra ,  INDIA

I am Dr.Ketaki, an anesthetist by profession and writer by passion. My debut novel, "Those enchanted four and half years" is a medical college campus lovestory. My next novel 'The missing connection' which is a psychological thriller has been launched recently.  Few of my short stories have been published on sites like induswomanwriting, shortstorybook, Muse India, writers cafe, Your story club, Litizen etc. Besides writing, I love reading, travelling and playing casio. My husband, Dr.Aniruddha is also an anesthetist and we stay in Mumbai with our cute little daughter Isha.

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