The winter sun was trying to peek through the façade of clouds, making an effort to light up the gloomy garden. Rashmi, sat at her favourite spot in the house, the quiet corner overlooking the blooming marigolds and germaniums hidden by the thickening veil of clouds. “The Mansion”, once resplendent in the glory of the English crown had reverberated with music, rustle of silks, mingling of perfumes and noisy chatter every weekend. Nobility had walked down the winding driveway of the mansion. Today, in deep contrast it was as silent, dingy and unkempt as Rashmi, the only heir to the property. She continued to live out of her glorious past, a legacy forcefully accepted. Despite her detestation of grandeur, she had to make this her home lest her surviving memories be pushed into oblivion by the vagaries of time. Her father had been the favourite Diwan in the Viceroy’s service and the returns were attractive. This mansion, cocooned in the Kasauli Hills always remained her family’s favourite destination. After her father’s death, being the only surviving child, she had to say ‘yes’ after the will deed pronounced her owner and custodian of the family’s wealth and property. Nobility and its charm could never play down her wish to rise up to an individual identity, she kept pushing herself out of the comforts around her, much to the dislike of her parents and joined the freedom movement on the first opportunity. Her resolve had been termed as insidious. This path she had chosen had irked her father but she was relentless in her pursuit of an identity which came with recognition of her revolutionary poems and essays. Such had been the past!
As Rashmi slipped in and out of thoughts, she leaned her frail back against the equally frail wall of her quiet corner, staring at the wall size painted picture of her parents surrounded by vanity. Once again the past overpowered her and she went back to the time she had worn her favourite French hat and walked into the lush carpet of The Ritz in London. Introducing herself as Rashi to the reception desk, she had not felt an inch of hesitation. Using her father’s connections had been easy, but for what cause was known only to her and the group she was working with. Rashmi, errrr….Rashi confidently stepped into Room 206, offered her hand to the waiting gentleman and did not waste much time in accepting the offered drink. It was the drink that did the trick because it was not she who sipped it, but the gentleman. He had been evading the revolutionaries for long, the root of many of them being behind bars, quite a few killed but Rashmi, errrr….Rashi had volunteered to ‘handle him’ and as she stepped out of Room 206, adjusting her hat, she smiled, she had nailed it, proved herself by her own name and not by the grandeur of her family!!
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