The soft melancholic violin music filled in all the corners of that empty hall. The soulful music could lure anyone to stay and listen to the feelings blended in that.
Rathi’s graceful hand playing the chords flawlessly. Her slender fingers danced on the strings and she had a small smile on the corner of her luscious lips while hearing the music. Her attention on the tune doesn’t let her big eyes to be open, it’s shut to dwell in her music world. Her perfectly trimmed-thick eyebrows raise and falls according to ups and downs in the music.
Her messy hair fell on her face, shoulders and till her torso but that doesn’t show her less attractive. Her ivory skin glowed in the dimmed lights that hanging on top of her head. The brown maxi dress that she wearing is perfect on her lean figure.
Once she finished that piece, Rathi heard a clap and she opened her eyes to reveal her mild red mixed brown orbs and it’s glimmered in delight.
The most attractive part of her face is her eyes. People who look at her eyes always ask this question whether she’s wearing a contact lens and they will have an amazed expression when she tells that’s her natural eye colour. Rathi always wonders from where did she get these eyes.
“Good Rathi, you played well this time.” Her middle-aged music teacher Mrs Geetha appreciated her.
“Thanks,” Rathi’s sweet voice gently came out with a smile.
“You now become a professional violinist,” she complimented.
“I guess so,” Rathi felt happy inside because this is something that she wished to hear from the age of ten, where she tries to play Sister Mary’s old violin in the orphanage. That time it sounded so horrible but now she finally made her dream come true.
“You worked hard and I can see it. By the way when you’re going to Mumbai?” Geetha asked folding her hands.
“Probably next week,” Rathi sighed.
“Do you have any idea to return back here?” Geetha asked narrowing her eyes.
“No, I am thinking about starting a new life there,” Rathi replied cautiously.
“Okay, best wishes,” Geetha smiled adjusting her glasses.
Placing the violin in her bag, she got up from her seat carrying it.
“See you tomorrow,” Rathi said before walking out.
She came out from the dim corridor and stood to see the dark clouds crowding up giving the signs of heavy rain.
As she guessed the rain started to pour once she is out of the college building. Thankfully she had an umbrella that has protected her lover from the rain yeah, Rathi used to address her violin as Lover. It was there with her in all the times, she used to kiss it before going to sleep and she adores it madly since she bought that with much difficulty, starved for two days to convince her Nanny to buy this.
The wind blew heavily and she couldn’t walk in the rain and took shelter at the bus stop nearby.
She’s wet and cold. There are some people standing beside her for the bus and she glances at them to find any known face but She doesn’t know anyone and stood there silently seeing the puddles. In usual days Rathi will be dropped on her class by their driver but today their car was on a repair. People here are anonymous to Rathi and friends are nowhere because of being protected like a president’s daughter.
That time her phone started ringing. She saw her Nanny’s name in the caller ID. Rolling her eyes she attends the call.
“Where are you? It’s raining outside!” She shouted at the top of her lungs.
“I know, I am waiting for the bus,” Rathi replied cutting of her annoyance.
“Come home soon or get a taxi,” she told strictly.
“I will be there in ten minutes,” Rathi replied politely seeing the bus approaching.
She hangs up the call and got inside with her bag and dripping Umbrella.
She got a seat and looked at the rain through the window. In just a week she is getting out of this place, she will free from this caged life. No more rules, abuses, and nightmares. She left out a sigh of relief now itself thinking about the awaiting freedom.
Rathi was an orphan, she stayed in a small orphanage located in the eastern part of India until the age of twelve. Then on one fine day, she was adopted by a wealthy Malayali woman who looked kind and sweet.
Rathi thought she is really lucky since no one gets adopted from that orphanage, it’s something rare. But Rathi’s happiness was half-lived when she learned that kindness is only in her appearance, she is like Hitler’s half-sister and Idi Amin’s cousin sister. If a person wants to become a dictator he has to get lessons from her Nanny, Ms. Shankari.
She’s an unmarried woman now in her late sixties. Rathi inherited her surname Nethran and living as Rathi Nethran in the old bungalow full of silence and darkness. There are few servants working in the house but they don’t speak properly to her.
After Rathi came to Kerala, her life until the age of twelve slowly faded away from her memories, she couldn’t remember anyone’s face except the names. She remembers only a few glimpses such as when Sister Marry gave the violin in her hands and playing in the seesaw with her fellow orphans. She forgot the language she learned there.
She doesn’t know how that happened. Perhaps the cruelties that she faced in the after years made her forgot all those things.
Being a victim of mental and sometimes physical abuse until now Rathi was always quiet and socially awkward. She was grown up following strict rules that were drawn by Shankari.
Those are weird but she was compelled to do it-- Rathi was homeschooled since she came here and it continued until she completed her high school. She hates it in one way for totally caging her in the house but at the same time, she likes it for being tutored by excellent teachers so she had good knowledge in the subjects. Her favourite subjects are history and mathematics. She wanted to be an archaeologist but that only stays as a dream till now.
Other than Violin, Rathi has also learned Bharathanatiyam for one and a half years. Shankari took this decision without asking Rathi’s concern but she’s happy to learn something new. A middle-aged woman will come to her house to teach that. Rathi is a fast learner and learned everything from her quickly. Then Shankari stopped the training when the teacher suggested for the Arangetram (debut on-stage performance of a former student of Indian classical dance and music. This first performance follows years of training).
Shankari has forbidden her from going to the temple and celebrating the holy days in the past eighteen years. It’s not like Shankari is an atheist. She does worship someone secretly. She prays at midnight chanting in a weird language on specific days in the year. She won’t compel Rathi to join her and never explained that prayer the next day and Rathi dare to raise a question or else she knew how severe the punishment will be.
There was an incident that happened in the beginning when she came here. Rathi wanted to go out to play and very stubborn in her decision but Shankari strictly prohibited it, she slapped her and shouted Rathi to never raise her voice at her.
All the abuse started from there. She was spanked, beaten and pinched whenever she has done wrong in the perspective of Shankari. So over the years, Rathi learned how to please her for her own peace.
She was obedient and followed whatever she told. Now Shankari has improved from being a tyrant to a strict mother yet there’s no love in her heart at all. She doesn’t know why Shankari even adopted her? What’s the purpose?
To look after her wealth after she dies is what Rathi guessed and believing that till now.
Rathi never experienced the true love of someone and her heart is tired of yearning it. Shankari sometimes addresses her as ‘dear’ but she has her reasons to call her like that. She wants Rathi to obey her commands and first starts that with a sweet tone then only she will show her true colours when she doesn’t follow it.
More than food, clothes, and luxury life Rathi wanted a bit of love but there’s no one in the world to give it. Perhaps she’s detained to get it.
There are things that Rathi has never done, she doesn’t know how to swim, she doesn’t know how to talk to a guy and she’s closed to watch movies and other entertainments. To simply describe she’s no equal to the girls of her age. Being twenty and having less knowledge about the outside world has tempted her to escape out of this place.
She learned about the world after joining college. Shankari first said no to the idea about learning violin, then out nowhere she voluntarily enrolled Rathi in the two years course and also gave an old phone to communicate.
I have been living under the rock! Rathi exclaimed mentally when she learned about the internet, social media and much more.
Seeing the people who’re enjoying their life turned Rathi to live like that. So she has been searching a way to get out of this and then through Mrs. Geetha it happened. She got a chance to meet Madhav Kishan a well-known film music composer from Mumbai who came to their college to interact with the students. That time Rathi played the song which she composed in her free time.
He was greatly impressed by her skill and offered her to join him as one of his assistants. Rathi said yes there itself and got all the details from him. She is preparing to leave, consciously not get caught by Shankari. She couldn’t think what will happen if she finds it out. That old woman will kill her for sure.
Now all she needs is money for the train ticket, Rathi is planning to steal it from Shankari’s locker but if that doesn’t work out then she has to ask Geetha’s help and thinking about explaining her life is what giving shivers to Rathi. She doesn’t want to show her life is miserable. The past, she wants to bury it without any traces before leaving from here.
She got down on her stop and saw Shankari and the driver Mani were waiting beside their car. That cold-hearted lady had an unsuitably concerned expression on her face and when she saw Rathi, she huffed in respite.
Though she is in her late sixties Shankari looks like a fifty-year-old woman. She’s tall, lean and has less grey hair for her age. She must be beautiful when she is in Rathi’s age. But why she didn’t marry? Among all the doubts this is one important question that’s on top. Shankari has relatives, she talks to them on phone often privately. She never opened about her family who raised her this arrogant.
“Get in the car,” she coldly ordered and Rathi got inside. Once they were in- Shankari covered her in a blanket like a concerned mom.
Rathi wasn’t surprised. She does care about her, kind of in a different way.
They didn’t talk until they reach home. This usually happens because they both hate each other from the bottom of their hearts. The car stopped before a big long-standing bungalow. They got down and Shankari had nervous mixed fear on her gestures.
The interior of the mansion was painted in white and furnished in wood. There are several rooms and has an infrastructure of ancient times. There’s a small pond behind the house which Rathi not even stepped her foot in. But today Rathi saw a change in the setting. The house is brightly lighted up, warm, cleaned and looked so fresh. This was the first time she’s seeing the mansion like this.
Rathi gazed at Shankari and understanding her she said-- “We are having guests but you don’t have to meet them now.”
“Okay,” Rathi agreed without asking another word.
“You stay in your room and your dinner will be served there. Don’t come out unless you’re called, understand?” she told that as a minor warning.
“Yes,” nodding her head ‘yes’ she walked on the stairs having a curiosity to know who that guest is. And how many people? Since Shankari mentioned ‘them’
Perchance is that him? Rathi doubted looking at the rooms while making her way to her room.
Shankari has a cryptic relative which Rathi doesn’t know anything about that person except that’s a man. He used to send gifts for her and this Violin was the first gift that she received from him.
Shankari was fixed in her decision about buying a violin and Rathi determined not to touch the food until she buys it for her, then unexpectedly a doorbell rang in the evening. A delivery guy called Rathi’s name and handed this gift in her hands. She opened it with tears and saw her Lover for the first time and that mysterious man introduced in her life on that same day.
Then he used to send books and expensive jewellery. The last gift he sends was the pearl bracelet that she is wearing in her hand. She loves it so much and hangs in her wrist every day.
Caressing the only red pearl knotted along with the white pearls in the bracelet Rathi took a glance at upstairs. There’s no sign of people in there? Are they staying on the same floor? She examined the rooms before entering her room.
The ambience is unusually dead silent, giving an eerie touch in the air. Rathi closed the behind silently and looked around her room.
The place she hates the most in the world is the place she spends most of her time, her room. She despises it, completely. There’s nothing that she loves! Except for a small window at the top for the light, there’s no window in her room. It’s like a dungeon.
The house has so many beautiful rooms with big windows but then again the generous Shankari has the heart to provide only this cell to her adopted daughter.
‘Embrace everything that comes in your way.’ Thinking that quote Rathi stayed in here for eight years.
There’s a large bookshelf at the right-hand side of her bedroom, besides that a dressing table. A small bed that’s big for her petite frame was on the left side, an air conditioner right above the bed. The bathroom was lavishly furnished with a bathtub.
She doesn’t own a laptop or any other gadgets but she knows how to operate it since Shankari has one and she occasionally lets Rathi use it for her studies and will sit somewhere near watching what she is doing. That’s terrible but Rathi had no other choice, she got a life where she couldn’t decide anything.
She never thought about leaving this house until three months before. Not a single day, Shankari frightened her telling that she would be starved to death, or men would rape her and throw her in the ditch if she gets out of this house. Innocent fifteen year old believed the threats and lived as a flightless bird. She thought living a caged life is better than death.
But when she’s offered to come to Mumbai she’s banged with a thought that she has been living a prison life and got new confidence and determination. The world won’t be filled with people like Shankari. There will be good people too.
Out of all the stories that she read in her life. Harry Potter was the one that’s close to her heart. She could relate to that main character because she’s living with an obnoxious caretaker. Rathi wished to have magic powers like Harry and wanted everlasting friends like Ron and Hermione. The thing that inspires the most in the book is how Harry finds the light in his dark path.
Then life has taught her that it occurs only in the fantasy world. Her path has no light at all and she embraced the dark. She used to love dark and silence. It’s peaceful than the fuss in the light. Even darkness has a bright side, which she identified after living in it.
Rathi sat on her bed to remove her shoes. She didn’t turn on the lights. Removing her wet clothes one after one she laid on her bed in her underwear which was not wet. Exiting an exhale slowly closing her eyes Rathi thought about how to steal the money. It’s not very easy and there’s a high risk of getting caught.
Her thoughts disturbed all of a sudden, Rathi got up from her bed hearing a rolling sound above her head, as something dropped on the floor. She looked up speculating the guest is staying above her room.
Once the noise is off her eyes fell on the mirror opposite her, Rathi has a perfect body, smooth skin, and curves. Her black hair stood till her hip and on the left side of her hip, there’s a big birthmark in a brownish tint. It doesn’t have a proper shape more like three irregular half-circles arranged one after one. Rathi usually won’t wear clothes which reveal it. She avoids wearing saree because she is kind of ashamed to show it. Shankari has seen this while changing her clothes when Rathi fell sick.
She took a step towards the mirror. The meaning of her name is there in front of her. She’s indeed looking like a goddess of love and desire.
Who named me Rathi? My dad? My mom? Orphanage? She thought.
Rathi always confused about her origin, sometimes she comes to the conclusion that she might be a Malayali. But once Shankari said that her father was a Tamilian which she learned in through the details they’d given about Rathi and in that there are no details about her mother.
“How could that possible? I feel like I am a Malayali?” Rathi asked her doubtfully.
“Your mother might be one?” she blurted out but in the next moment,
“Don’t talk about your parents. They are dead,” Shankari coldly replied and ended that conversation, permanently.
Till now there’s a mystery lies about her birth and her parents. But Rathi no longer wanted to go back to her past. She belongs to a human race that’s enough for her. Sometimes she wishes to see her parents but what’s going to happen after that? She will end up crying for the people who were no longer in the world, she believes they are dead and wants it to be like that eternally.
She wore the nightgown from her wardrobe and sat on her bed. The sudden knock on the door gained her attention.
Opening the door, Rathi saw Chandran standing with a tray full of food plus with a coffee.
“I’ll collect the dishes and Madam want you to get some sleep,” he said in his robotic voice. He won’t speak other than what he was told.
There are no female servants in their house, all are men above the age of forty.
“Okay,” Rathi nodded her hand and let him in.
He placed the tray on the bed and walked out glancing the removed clothes on the floor. Rathi immediately put that on the laundry basket and sat to have her dinner.
Today the taste was better and the fish curry was delicious. Rathi is fond of non-vegetarian like Shankari and they share another similar thing, that they both are allergic to lobster.
But they also share another one similarity which Rathi has never seen properly, the photo that Shankari and Rathi took last year was placed on the table beside her bed, roots the answers for all the puzzles in her life.