Two things were prominent about Mrs. Shrestha - her height (almost 180 cm.s) and her salt and pepper hair. She was around 50 and looked every bit her age. Every morning as a ritual, she would drink countless cups of tea and tend to her plants. Mr. Shrestha, her husband, was known to be mostly confined to his bed and was rarely seen outside. Their flat on the ground floor was situated in such a way, that while entering or leaving the building, you had to pass by the Shrestha's porch. They were among the original members of the society and suggested by Mrs. Shrestha, the building was named 'Whispers.'
Aamir and Maya were the newest tenants and lived on the sixth floor. Their relationship with the Shrestha's were based mostly on casual and occasional exchange of pleasantries. However, Aamir was always puzzled by appearance and bearing of Mrs. Shrestha, especially when, sometimes very late at night, she'd sit on her large easy chair on the porch, just staring into space. Rumors floating around the building gave the impression that Mrs. Shrestha was not quite normal. It was said the their youngest daughter had committed suicide two years ago. The incident had affected her so badly that she had developed bouts of insomnia. Whenever she did get some sleep, she was seen sleep walking.
"This damn traffic drives me insane!!", said exasperated Aamir one evening. "And I am supposed to go back to the office to complete the contract papers. I think we should think about moving somewhere closer to work", he added. Maya, his wife, showed no interest in his frustrated outpourings and simply served him an early dinner and packed him off again around 8:30 pm. While going out of the building Aamir saw Mrs. Shrestha sitting on her large easy chair there on the dark porch and looking straight ahead into nothing. Her mouth was slightly open and her tall frame, covered mostly by her hair, was covered in the chair.
disclaimer : googled pic.
Starting his car, Aamir kept thinking of Mrs. Shrestha and felt very uncomfortable. However, soon heavy traffic distracted him. After a fairly long and aggravating time at the office, Aamir headed back towards home. The roads were almost deserted now, and only the street lights and stray doges were prominent.
As soon as Aamir parked his car and got out, he realized that Mrs. Shrestha was still sitting in the same posture he had left her in. In fact, but for the street light, he might not have noticed her. Walking past her porch, Aamir avoided eye contact.
"Hello, Mr. Acharya! Why are you so late today?", Mrs Shrestha's voice called out.Arjun greeted her reluctantly and said, "I got delayed at the office, Mrs. Shrestha. But why have you been sitting here since so long?""I am waiting for the taxi", she replied in a distant voice."Oh! Is everything all right?", asked Arjun concerned.
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Mrs. Shrestha rose from her chair and walked towards the stone banister behind which Aamir was standing. She leaned over, looked straight into his Eyes and said, "You see, I've hurt my neck and i need to get some medicine for it. Mr. Shrestha, as you know is down with fever."
Aamir heard himself saying, "If it is urgent, I can fetch the medicine for you. "I would be grateful if you could take me to 24 hours pharmacy near the medical collage", she said.
For a moment Aamir thought of informing Maya first. But somehow, he decided otherwise and escorted Mrs Shrestha to his car. Seeing Aamir leaving again at that hour, the watchman gave him a quizzical look while opening the gate. The drive was uneasy and cold. Whenever he looked at Mrs. Shrestha, he saw her staring ahead without any discernible emotion.
disclaimer : googled pic.
Just when they were about to reach the pharmacy, she suddenly said, "I am sorry but can we go back now? I don't think I need the medicine now." Aamir politely asked her if she was sure she was okay, and turned back towards home. On a drive back, they didn't speak at all. The watchman readily opened the gate. After he escorted her back to her flat entrance, "Thank you so much. I troubled you unnecessarily.""Its all right Mrs. Shrestha, I hope your neck is better now", he replied."Yes, it was only this thin, reddish eruption here, which seems okay now", she said while running her finger around her neck before walking back onto the dark verandah. Aamir stepped in the elevator, mulling over the whole affair. It was last thought in his mind even as he went to the bed later.
"Get up for god's sake, get up quickly!! the police are here", said Maya in an anxious voice. Aamir woke with a start and jumped out of the bed. They opened the main door to find the inspector and several constables bustling around. "Sorry, Mr. Acharya, you had to be be woken up so early. I am inspector Ajay Gupta", the man introduced himself and said, "I believe you returned very late last night. The watch man informs me that after parking your car, you again went out and then returned after a while?", he inquired."That is correct. But is this all about inspector?"
"You see, we want to know if you noticed anything suspicious around the Shrestha's flat when you passed by their front porch twice yesterday. You may be surprised to hear. Mr. Shrestha passed away two days ago in his bed, and Mrs Shrestha didn't inform anyone. His body was left lying in his bed, and last night around 8 pm, Mrs Shrestha committed suicide by hanging herself to the ceiling fan on the porch. Unfortunately, it seems no one noticed her hanging from there as it was quite dark", said the inspector.
Aamir felt numb shock. "When was she discovered?", he asked weakly."This morning when the daylight broke, the watchman saw her hanging from the fan. We will have to record your statement Mr. Acharya", said the inspector as he took his leave.
disclaimer : googled pic.
Many days have passed since the Shrestha's were cremated together by the residents of the building. These days, Aamir avoids getting back late at night or looking towards Shrestha's porch. The statement that the watchman gave the police nags him constantly. Watchman had narrated- "Aamir sahib came back alone in his car and then stood for a while near Shrestha's boundry wall. In a short while, I saw him driving out. Thinking that he must have forgotten something, I opened the gate. Within 10 minutes, he drove back, parked his car, went up to the entrance of the Shrestha's flat and paused for a while there, before getting into the lift. HE WAS ALONE ALL THE WHILE."