Prof (Dr.) Viyatprajna Acharya
Shalini adjusted her short hair once again and smiled at the mirror satisfied with her image.She donned a pair of denim jeans and a polo necked T-shirt with full sleeves. She adjusted her golden rimmed spectacles, pushed the curls of hair a bit backwards and mused a half smile that spread to the angles of her lips about the last evening incident.
Bored of her long plaits that hung till mid back she decided to have a very short hair-cut and went to the beauty parlour and asked for short steps. The beautician held up her hair and was marvelled at their thickness. She asked her whether she was sure about the hair-cut. Then Shalini sat straight with closed eyes & nodded ‘yes’.
When she opened her eyes, she’d been transformed into a young teen again.Satisfied with her new look, she paid & returned home humming the latest Hindi film hit song. When her mother saw her, stood aghast and started whining, “Oh, dear! What have you done to your hair!I’d tended themso carefully… And just look at the mirror!You look like a child, just out of school!Whowill believe that you are a full pledged doctor now?”
Shalini felt a bit guilty inside but said, “Oh, Mama! Come on,I was bored with those long plaits and needed a change. And why do you worry? It’ll grow back soon.”
Her mother continued – “And what if your marriage is fixed and people come to see a bobbed hair bride?” Shalini retorted, “Oh, Mama! Who’s going to marry now?” Why is it so necessary to get married soon?
“And this is not bob cut Mom, this in step cut –steps, steps —“, She said teasingly adjusting her curls in model-like style.
Mom said “We call if bob-cut, whoever crops her hair upto shoulder length. And what is so early?”
“You are 24 years now, my dear. At this age we used to be mother of two….. on and on she went till Shalini interrupted in the middle & said, “Oh! Ok! I won’t cut so short my hair next time but now let me pack my things for tomorrow’s journey. Give Didi a ring & ask her to send Jeeju to receive me at the station in time. I haven’t seen much of Dehli yet.And the altercation died there.
Mother’s call to start soon shook Shalini out of her reverie. She took her handbag and rushed downstairs to the car where her Papa gave her an appreciative smile and said, Oh! My daughter looks so smart. ” Just then her mother darted from the behind, ” It’s you, who’s spoilingher. Now don’t get late for the station” Shalini sat back silently & smiled to herself.
Two years back Nalini, who is Shalini’s elder sister has been married to Sameer who is a Software Engineer earning well and loved Nalini a lot.
Know not why but Shalini felt a bit depressed this time while leaving her parents.She thought how lonely her parents would be, when she’ll leave them for higher studies or gets married.She pushed these thoughts to back of her mind saying after all who is indispensable to whom? This is all ‘Maya’. Her Philosophical thoughts came to a halt when their car screeched to stop near the station.
After waiting for half an hour, the train arrived. During that period her mother gave her all kind of advice—- how not to talk to any stranger not to take any food from outside, check herluggage from time to time, lock them properly, brush early before others started using the toilet etc etc. When Shalini got irritated, her father came to her rescue & said to her Mom, “Oh, stop it Darling”! She’s a doctor now if you have not forgotten. You won’t be there for her always. Let her explore the world by herself, I’ve faith in my daughter”.
Shalini’s mom brushed him off saying that Shalini would always be a kid before her.
When the train gave final horn, Shalini & her parents bade goodbye to each other. As usual her mother’s eyes dampened a little.
Inside the train Shalini comforted herself, checked the luggage and her ticket once more. The reservation chart read Dr. Shalini Dash, age 24 years– smiled Shalini.She toiled so hard to add this prefix“Dr” to her name and now she feels very proud about it. The next moment she became cautious about her mental thoughts. Is it right to be proud for having bagged the MBBS degree? Isn’t this pride tarnishing her soul?
She remembered a story about a King who hadhelped a poor man and when asked, gave his identity in a very humble way. He had said – “”I don’t know who I’m. I’m in search of my true self.” What humility? Only Great men can do so.
Then she admonished herself – “And look at yourself, you silly girl! It is not even a fortnight that you completed your internship and so much pride has gone to your head!”
Suddenly a strange idea came her mind. If she could manage to conceal her qualificationduring the entire journey, then it would be a great victory in her life.
For the first time she was travelling without her heavy textbooksand was in a holidaying mood. Who knows, this might be her last holiday. Next, she must prepare for PG entrance or else join somewhere in a job.
She sat back comfortably with her Robin Cook novel.
After some time, she noticed a handsome young man near about her age sitting opposite to her and throwingsecret glances towards her. Shalini marked from the corner of her eyes that the guy was wearing a pair of cream-colored trousers and a blue chequered shirt. He too was bespectacled and sported a thick moustache “Ummmm….. quite handsome!” Shalini mused to herself.
Suddenly their eyes met and Shalini felt caught. The guy bent a little forward and confidently said, “Hi, I’m Abhay. Can I take a look at your book?” Shalini passed on the book without saying a word. “Smart guy, Huh!”, said to herself and handed over her novel.
Abhay read the back of the cover page and then said, “Can I borrow the book when you finish reading it? I’ve seen that, you have got a tremendous reading speed and by evening I hope you will befinished. I too have a fascination for medical fiction.”
Shalini smiled quietly nodded an ok. Then Abhay asked her name and with a bit hesitation she gave it away. She planned to practice her humility with Abhay and cancelled the recently earned Dr. prefix which was so dear to her.Conversation flowed endlessly totally washing away her Mother’s advice from Shalini’s mind of not talking to a stranger.
After talking a lot Shalini came to know that Abhay is an engineer and has also completed MBA after the B.Tech. degree. He is going to Dehli to join an MNC with a handsome salary. He’d stay with his brother who too is working as a manager in a reputed company.
Shalini gave her details except her career. She deliberately told a lie that she is doing her graduation withEconomics hons. in a local college. Her younger looks matched her statement too.
When Abhay asked how she liked Economics, she said “Oh! No studies please. I’m in a holidaying mood”.
Abhay said, “O.K. No studies. I too am in a similar mood” Shalini heaved a sigh having been saved from Economics. God known only, why she chose Economics in front of an MBA graduateand realized that truth is much more comfortable than a lie.
Now to practice humility, she must tell a series of lies. Then told to herself, “O.K. Shalini Baby, let’s see how far it goes. Let the adventure flow.”
From then Shalini and Abhay talked on anything & everything. They enjoyed each other’s company. Earlier Shalini thought how she would spend 24 hours journey time in the train and now it seemed to fly with Abhay.
Abhay was frank, jovial and a sensible person what Shalini could guess. Abhay found Shalini very smart, intelligent yet humble. “The girl is not quite the show-off type” Abhay thought.”But she should have been in a better place with her kind of intelligence. Perhaps she is going to top in her exams.”
Both talked together, laughed together, shared each other’s food & left the bookmark contort in the middle of the novel, waiting for a glimpse of another page but in vain.
The next day they were to arrive at Delhi by evening but then came a twist in the story.
In the afternoon a panting T.T.E rushed to their coupe & asked – who is Dr. Shalini Dash?”
Shalini came to a jolt on hearing her name and when the T.T.E repeated the question in urgency, Shalini dwindled a bit whether to give away the truth or not.
Somebody asked what the matter was?
T.T.E told; it was a pregnant lady. Suddenly her labour pain has started. The next station is at least one hour away, and the railway doctor has taken off due to his sudden illness.
Now again when he asked for Dr. Shalini Dash her conscience didn’t allow her to sit quietly anymore. She stood up & said, “That’s me.” T.T.E stared in dismay and asked her to follow.
Shalini turned to the awestruck Abhay & asked him to keep an eye on her luggage and without waiting for any reaction followed the T.T.E.
On reaching near the patient, she found that the other ladies had made a small cabin by tying sarees all around the berths. The male members had left the coupe making space for them.
Shalini thanked God for she had well-mastered the labour room tricks during the one-month internship due to her immense interest in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. She examined the patient’s pulse. She missed her stethoscope badly. Did a per vaginum examination to find that the membrane had already ruptured. Head of the baby engaged and well-felt. When asked about the history came to know that the membranes have ruptured well before her expected date of delivery. This was her 2nd pregnancy. On getting the news of her mother’s illness she was travelling urgently with her husband & son to see her mother.
Shalini checked from time to time to see the baby position. In the meantime, she prepared a small bed for the baby with neat gauge and saw into other minute details with the help of other women. Finally, the head crowned and it did not recede back with further contractions.
She knew that time has come for delivery of the baby. Pelvis was adequate and episiotomy may be avoided for a 2nd pregnancy. Finally, the head came first. With the help of gauge pieces that she had collected from the first-aid box wiped the face of the baby. The mother relieved a sign of relief when the head came out. She checked for cord around the neck. Then the whole baby was delivered. Oh! It was a sweet little girl! The cry of the baby echoed around the coupe & the crowd waiting outside cheered. She then clamped the cord with threads and cut in between. She sterilised the cord with antiseptic and handed over the child to another woman to wipe it clean. After 5 minutes, the placenta was delivered. Bleeding was quite minimal.
She padded her well & left another woman to wipe the mother clean. She thanked God for not having any kind of complications and washed her hands thoroughly. She had done it all without gloves for the first time. But the success made her forget the blood stains. When she came out of the bathroom a large crowd gathered to congratulate her. Just then the train halted at a station.
She wrote down the delivery note & instructed the husband of the woman to take the latter to near- by hospital and have some rest. The Railway employees also assured her to do so. The family gave Shalini a touching goodbye and promised that they would christen their new-born after her name. Their eyes were wet with gratitude. Their smile was reflected on Shalini’s lips.
When she started to move back to her coupe’ she remembered Abhay– knowing not how to apologise to him. When she reached to her seat, people all around her congratulated and thanked her. But she was deaf to those and kept looking at Abhay who didn’t even look at her once, lest congratulate her. Shalini was afraid to confront him. She sat back very still, till the train arrived at Delhi after two hours averting gazes with Abhay. The silence was very painful for her.
Her ‘Jeeju’, Sameer had come to receive her at the station. She secretly glanced at Abhay but soon he disappeared into the thick crowd. They parted ways as complete strangers. She felt guilty but the next moment she rationalised by saying to herself, “After all, who is Abhay to me? Why should I bother so much about him?”
Yet she could not push away the thoughts of Abhay out of her mind. Her Brother-in-law saw her upset and when asked her about it,she waved it off by saying that it was sheer strain of journey and diverted their conversation to how she delivered the baby in the running train. Her Brother-in-law was quitemarvelled and blurted out this story to Shalini’s sister Nalini on entering the house. All of them chatted happily till late night with intermittent supply of tea and goodies.
Again, the sullen face of Abhay danced before Shalini’s eyes when she came to bed. The more she tried to sleep, more the thoughts of Abhay troubled her. Had Abhay given her a single chance she would have explained it all. Her eyes welled up with tears and she decided not to practice such Humility with anybody else.
With tumultuous thoughts she went to sleep and woke up at 8am next morning. Nalini had sent her hubby to office and was waiting for Shalini to wake up. She had planned lot for the day. Shalini felt a little lighter than last night with the cheery sunshine.
A week passed by thus. Shalini was to go back 4 days after. That day Nalini & Sameer had arranged a small party for their friends on the occasion of Sameer’s promotion in his office. Among the invitees there were 4 colleagues of Sameer’s and an old pal of Nalini’s and a family from the Neighbourhood.
By 7 pm in the evening guests started pouring in. Both the sisters had arranged the home and had prepared a good number of dishes spending the entire day. Nalini wore a soft green coloured Lachha and Shalini donned a sea green suit with long sleeves& a high neck. The well-tailored suit reflected her curvaceous figure nicely. Both the sisters looked stunning.
Shalini was introduced to all one by one. Nalini was waiting for her old pal Reena anxiously. As Shalini was giving the last touch to the dishes, she could hear her sister shrieking with pleasure and she knew it must be Reena Didi. Nalini gave a loud cry “Shalini Darling” look who is here! Shalini took the Sherbet tray and entered the room. At the doorway she felt glued to the ground.
She felt like four kilo lead tied to her feet. Her eyes were widened with surprise to find Abhay with Reena Didi. Nalini dragged Reena, her husband Ajay & Abhay to introduce them to Shalini. Shalini was half-hearing them and could muster up some courage to smile at them. Reena introduced Abhay as her Devar (brother-in-law). Oh! Shalini could see the hatred in Abhay’s eyes for her. He came forward andsaid, “So, how do you do Dr. Shalini Dash?” Shalini murmured in a low tone, “Fine, thank you.”
After that she failed to mingle with the guests. She felt as if Abhay’s hatred filled gaze followed her everywhere. Amidst the hustle bustle neither Nalini nor Sameer could mark the change in Shalini. Shalini excused herself from the crowd and went to the darkness of the balcony to get some fresh air and to remain alone for a few minutes. Her head throbbed withpain; her whole body burnt like fire. She didn’t know the physiology of such changes neither she wanted to remember anything. Few minutes later Abhay followed her to the balcony. Shalini felt like getting choked.Abhay looked starkly handsome in a pair of denim jeans and a blackblazer.
Shalini could hear her heart thumping loudly and was afraid it could be heard by Abhay. She turned back to get out of there, but it was late. Her wrist was in the strong hold of Abhay’s. She couldn’t dodge from her position. Abhay came nearer and demanded, “Why did you do it?” Shalini was already in the verge of tears. Abhay went on. “I liked you at the first instance and poured myself out before you and you kept on telling me lies, why?”. Shalini meekly looked up into his eyes. He looked dangerously handsome. The cologne was intoxicating.He was quite four inches taller than her and she felt overpowered by him.
She found her voice somehow and heard herself saying, ” But it was all true.”
“Oh!Was it? snappedAbhay, “And out of blue you, an Economics graduate got an MBBS degree & performed a delivery in the running train. Is that what you want to say?”
“No… yes… I mean …Oh! My wrist hurts…. leave me and I’ll tell you everything” Abhay loosened his grip. Shalini examined her reddened wrist and then explained how she wanted to practice humility and how she felt guilty during the last few days.
A smile spread on Abhay’s lips that extended to a guffaw “Oh! You little foolish girl! I’ve made such a nastyimpression against the whole womanhood during the last few days.” He kept on smiling and when he stopped, found Shalini smiling too. Then she said slowly, “Another point was also there. My mother had told me not to talk much to strangers.”
So, I looked like a rogue to you, huh?” Mockingly Abhay said,“So now you’ll get the behaviour of a rogue.”Before Shalini could realise what Abhay meant, the latter pulled her to his side and occupied her lips with his own. Shalini heart thumped again.
She’d never been held by a man so close lest kissing. The fire burnt her body from tip to toe. Automatically, her hands searched for the back muscles of Abhay. She felt like melting in Abhay’s arms. Finally, when Abhay released her lips and caressed the hollow of her neck, Shalini could manage to whisper “Please Abhay don’t do it” You make me wild” She rested her head on Abhay’s broad chest and quivered like a bird.Abhay murmured into her ears, “Oh! how I love you darling. The moment I saw you on the train, I fell in love with you. I felt so possessive about you that I couldn’t bear the thought of your deceiving me. Oh! Shalini, would you like to marry this mad rogue?”
Shalini quivered with joy. For a single moment She thought she was dreaming. Then she found her voice andmumbled a small ‘yes’ to Abhay. And again, her head rose & their lips met.
When finally, they parted and stood hand in hand Reena, Ajay, Sameer and Nalini came into the balcony. On seeing them,Shaliniand Abhay freed their hands and stood apart. Nalini came forward and took Shalini’s chin, raised her face & asked, ” So should I announce the engagement of my dear sis’ if you people have liked each other?” Shalini leapt forward&embraced Nalini and said, “Oh! Didi you are so naughty” and ran inside her room.