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‘I talked to the matron,’ she said, her eyes dewy.
Raj was now convinced that the matron must have heard about him visiting her in the private ward. She was to be put on probation and they would be forbidden from going near one another ever again. He held his breath in anticipation.
‘They are sending me to a convalescent home in Rome.’ Norah covered her face, no longer able to hold back her tears.
Raj slowly stood up. ‘But why?’
‘They believe I’ve exhausted myself here. They think that the slower pace there will treat me better,’ she mumbled, burrowing her face in her hands. ‘And it’s not of much use having me here.’
‘Rubbish.’ Raj’s volume increased. ‘Absolute rubbish. How could they do such a thing? Rome won’t do you any good.’
Raj, filled with confusion and rage, began to pace back and forth by the side of her bed. He stopped and sat back down when he saw Norah waving for him to be quiet.
‘You can’t go. Please don’t go.’ He leaned forward and clutched her hand under the cover of her blanket.
‘Please,’ he implored, his voice cracking.
A monstrous wave of hopelessness washed over him. Never in his whole life had he felt as powerless as he did now. Neither of them had the strength to say anything. They both began to feel again the weight of the responsibility they had towards their posts.
Deep down, they knew it was not in their power to question orders. They had an obligation to go where they were told and to do what they were told.
Norah picked up the book about Capri from her bedside table and defeatedly opened it, turning a page.
‘I don’t know what I would do if you left…’ Raj was about to add the word ‘me’ but managed to catch himself. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He felt his eyes getting wet, and to save himself embarrassment he removed himself from the ward without another word.
That night was awful, not because of any physical pain Raj was experiencing, but because the very thought of Norah going away consumed him. They hadn’t known each other for very long, he knew that, but he also knew she was special. They were special.
He didn’t sleep, or if he did, he slept very little. His mind was working overtime, planning ways for them to actually be together after the war. She was from England, no doubt she’d want to return to be with her family and friends. He was from India and longed to be close to his mother and his friends. He was silly to think this could be anything more after the war. And if he knew that, why did he allow himself to fall in love?
About Raj & Norah: The True Story of Love Lost and Found in WWII
This biography of Peter R Kohli’s parents, Rajendra Singh Kohli & Norah Eggleton, is set during the tumultuous time of WWII. The story begins in 1939. Twenty-year-old Indian student, Rajendra Kohli is studying chemistry at college in England, when war breaks out. He decides to enlist for the war effort against Germany and joins the British army. After his heroic actions on the front left him severely injured, he finds himself in Naples for recovery. There, he meets Norah Eggleton, a nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.
It is love at first sight, and in each other’s company, the young couple momentarily forget the devastation that surrounds them. But as quickly as their story begins, it comes to an abrupt end- Raj is sent to London, Norah is posted to a hospital in Rome. They despair that this is the end of the road for them and part with a heavy heart. Until, one day, several months later, when Raj is on a ship back to India, he sees a figure walking toward him…
Raj & Norah is not only a thrilling account of love found, lost and reclaimed in the midst of war, it is also a story of two extraordinary individuals battling against their circumstances and what fate has in store for them – one that will captivate and move readers around the world.
About the Authors:
Growing up in New Delhi, Peter R. Kohli fell in love with writing at an early age. After immigrating to the US from England in 1977, he worked in Corporate America for many years. It was after leaving the business world in 2016 that Kohli returned to his first love: writing. In addition to Raj & Norah, he has written a number of short stories that he intends to have published as a collection.
‘Norah, is everything all right?’ he whispered as he dropped the book on the bedside table and dragged over a chair to sit close to her. He was worried that she had changed her mind about going on a holiday with him.
It was her sickness talking and she was delusional, he thought. Why would she want to spend a whole holiday with me anyhow? He prepared himself for the worst.