—– PART THREE —–
Six months, two weeks and three days back:
Swara gives a glass of paani to Ragini and helps her drinking as her hands were shaking from anxiety, she puts the cup on table and sits on the ground face to her pressing her hands in hers and assures her:
“- Ragini, don’t worry… nothing bad happened to him, I’m sure. Sanskar will bring him home”.
Swara’s voice was shaking remembering how much her husband was angry with her, she shivers recalling his menace in phone. She was angry with him too… but let’s find Lakshey first, then everything will be ok.
Getting up she lost her balance almost fainting, she’s supported by badi maa’s hand to not fall. Taking a deep breath, she closes her eyes a hand on her belly as she feels unwell. But she composes herself quickly reassuring them with a smile. Ragini frowns wondering:
“- Swara?… are you ok?”
“- ha ha, of course, I’m just… it was a day full of emotions”
Durga Prasad setting on his chair exchanges an eye lock with his wife, she agrees silently and asks Swara:
“- betha… go to your room to fresh up and change your clothes, you seem exhausted”
“- nahi badi ma, I’m really fine”
Ragini scolds her wiping her eyes:
“- please Swara… don’t give me more reasons to worry, please… or… or… I’ll call maa!”
“- NAHI!…” she remembers what Sanskar told her about her baba and what happened at baadi.
“- I mean… ok… I’m going up”
She hugs Ragini tightly hiding her own tears, looks to her badi maa begging her to take care of her sister then goes up to the room she didn’t enter since long weeks now.
Everything was at its place. Smiling at the perspective of the coming days , she passes to the bathroom.
Few minutes later, she returns back to her room feeling better as she finally succeeded washing all the sindoor which was covering her face. She wonders for a moment if it was good or not, all she knows is that what did Adarsh today was wrong and she was happy that nothing happened to Sanskar after the bad omen he predicted to her.
As she takes a saree from the closet, she frowns thinking about Laksh missing… Ragini wasn’t touched by sindour so much but then…
She slaps herself saying that she should take a break from her “jasous” outfits… Sanskar was right, Laksh has always done that, if he’s upset, he will take his time before returning back home.
She looks at herself in the mirror, with a simple fair blue saree, she was really pale as everybody noticed, but then it’s surely something normal in her case.
She puts her hands on her yet flat belly remembering days ago when the doctor confirmed her analysis results, she was pregnant at the second month already.
Her doctor smiled at her blushing face as she was wondering if it was at Maheshwari Mansion or in baadi… but her stupid smile faded when she thinks about her sister’s reaction, she remembers the shradh rites.
However, returning home, happiness wins over anything else. After a so long bad time, finally that tiny small life growing inside her will give them a reason to smile… to hope that tomorrow is always better.
At home, she avoided mum’s and Uttara looks fearing that they notice how much she was happy… she literally escaped any occasion to talk with her ma, she would notice something immediately. She waited for Sanskar return for what it seems to her like hours.
But then he comes home covered with bruises and injuries, she tries to control herself and not break down crying, wiping her silent tears, she gives him first aid cares listening to him telling them what happened between him and Laksh.
Then all of sudden, Sanskar announced his decision… breaking all ties with the Maheshwari family. What nonsense! They ARE Maheshwari family too… but before she convinces him, he swears on his life that it’s a final decision.
Even today, when all is almost returning in order, her heart aches hearing his words in her head… she sighs thinking that if she wasn’t so tired, she would be so angry with him.
She remembers what he said today on phone too, he must be so angry with her too…
She closes her eyes taking her head in her hands and contemplates for a moment the idea of lie down on the bed and take some so needed rest.
But she immediately scolds herself for being so selfish, Ragini is worrying for her husband, badi maa is suffering from Adarsh arrest, badi papa acts like he’s fine, but he has just got a big chirurgical intervention.
However, nothing will stop her today; Sanskar will know he’s being a papa whatever happens.
She looks back to the mirror trying to imagine her aspect in some months and grins idiotically again putting on her mangal sutra. She touches her neck where the heart pendant uniting their names used to be. Her bared wrists recall her bangels.
They were Sanskar’s gifts the day they… she blushes again the bed reflect in mirror echoing her untold memories.
“- at least, you’re not pale anymore Swara mummy” she says to herself.
Those gifts were precious to her heart, but saving badi papa was imperative.
After all, her real ornaments are this mangal sutra and the sindour she was putting on her forehead.
she hears her mother in law voice, Sujatta and Uttara has arrived and were telling the family what happened between Laksh and Sanskar.
Swara was on the top of stairs when her phone rings, it was Sanskar… she’s about picking up while going down stairs, but she freezes listening to Uttara who was crying describing how she tried to stop them in vain.
She goes down two more stairs feeling numb, her phone rings again, she checks it… Sanskar. She wants to pick up when she hears Sujatta saying that if Shekar didn’t stop him at the last moment, Sanskar would throw that rock on his brother’s head.
Voices after that faded at Swara’s ears… her vision blurred; she hears like far away the sound of her ringing phone collapsing on the ground and something about shocked Laksh taking his car.
She screams Sanskar’s name as she feels herself in danger, but the sound didn’t go out of her throat… then nothing.
Swara opens her eyes wincing in pain, she finds herself in a bed, she looks around to find that she’s in her bed… someone changed the sheets. She frowns at her doctor face sitting next to her.
She sees Ragini coming out of the bathroom wiping secretly her eyes, trying to sit up she screams of pain… there wasn’t a part in her body which wasn’t aching. She notices that she had been changed.
“- Ragini… did you change my clothes?”
“- Wait a second doctor! I’m talking to my sister”
Ragini comes close to her and caresses her hair silently
“- answer me, Ragini!”
She doesn’t understand seeing Ragini crying, someone else presses her hand gently, she winces again turning to her. She’s surprised to discover that she had a bandage on her head. Badi maa tries to compose herself saying:
“- betha, listen to the doctor”
“- badi maa, Ragini… why are you both so sad? it’s ok… I’m sure Sanskar will bring Laksh home…”
She sits up painfully in her bed, helped with Ragini who puts a pillow behind her aching back. She takes her sister’s hand in her and says:
“- you know them Ragini… how many times they fought before, but they are brothers…”
She recalls her sasu maa’s words about their fight and shivers. Then she remembers that instant and finally looks to the doctor.
“- don’t worry like that, doctor. I made worse falls than from some stairs in my home…”
“- Swara, listen to me. you fainted and this is why you felt in stairs… thanks to God your family was there and they called me immediately, in your weak state you could have died before reaching hospital due the important hemorrhage”
Ragini sits beside her and hugs her shoulders tightly, she looks to her and says:
“- nothing happened to me, don’t you see?… I’m fine, stop crying Ragini… tell her badi maa… doctor, don’t have such an alarming face, my sister is already worried about her husband”
“- please Swara…” pleads Annapurna crying too.
Helpless face to her refuse to listen to them, doctor asks Ragini to call Sanskar making Swara goes hysteric :
“- Nahi! Why don’t you understand!?… badi ma… no, Ragini don’t!…”
Yelling at her, she snatches the phone from her hand forcefully throwing it on the ground surprising the three women. She closes her eyes breathing heavily then opens them calmer… tears fill her eyes as she looks to both her sister and badi ma, she then takes the photo of her husband on the table beside her bed and hugs it wiping her eyes.
Addressing the doctor, she almost begs her:
“- doctor… try to understand … I’m not mad… I’m really fine, I have to be fine! And I’ll be … but… but… I just need to not hear you tell me what you want to tell me…bas that!”
“- Swara, we’re not talking about a sprained ankle… you…” the doctor was talking to her like to a small child holding her hands.
Swara takes off her hands closing her eyes for a brief moment and swallowing her tears to not break down, she opens them and smiles sadly before saying:
“- I’m not stupid, doctor… I know … it’s just…”
She closes her eyes again taking a deep breath then looks to her determined:
“-I know you saved me and thank you for that… but you have no reason to worry for me, I’m really fine… I’ll take rest, I’ll take all my medicines and my family is here… so please, just leave me now… please… ”
As the doctor tries to argue, she covers her ears and closes her eyes stopping her shouting:
“ – Nahi… I don’t want to hear anything ! please… Ragini… badi ma… please…”
Ragini bursts into tears taking her in her arms and tries to calm her:
“- don’t torture yourself like that, Swara…”
The doctor takes her suitcase and follows badi ma to the door, a servant accompany her while the old woman closes the door before returning back her words repeating in her head:
“Mrs Maheshwari, I don’t want to insist because Swara is very fragile at this state, she has to be kept out any kind of stress… physically, she’s weak and after her miscarriage she must take rest and eat properly to recuperate, mentally, she’s refusing to face what happened, passing directly to the “after” phase… it’s very dangerous for her, she needs to mourn, she needs to cry, to be angry… but more than all, she needs her husband”.
She sees Swara consoling her sister taking her face in her hands and sying:
“- Ragini… I’m really fine… why don’t you want to believe me? Why are you crying?… Sanskar is bringing Laksh home back and everything will be fine again… you’ll see”
Badi maa presses her shoulder and asks:
“- bas betha… bas… don’t keep all this big sadness for yourself! It will choke your heart”
Swara looks back to her and wipes her nose and cheeks, then holds Sanskar’s photo tightly closing her eyes. When she opens them, her gaze is empty and fixing an unknown point straight on, she says on a calmer tone:
“- why not, badi maa?… family was broken… aap and badi papa , under Adarsh bhaiya menace, were rejecting us… dadi ma obliged dad to divorce with ma, making me and little Ayush orphans, Ragini and Laksh made shradh rites for me and Sanskar… Sanskar was so shattered that in his anger, he swore to kill himself if I try to contact our family… then… then, in all that disaster, a small tiny happiness appeared to give me what I was losing… hope.”
She looks to Sanskar’s photo and caresses his lovely face with a sad smile before adding:
“- I was afraid that if I bring this light of joy in the middle of all that darkness it would be tarnished… faded… so I kept that happiness secret in my heart convincing myself that I’ll have plenty time later… when everything will be ok…”
She puts her hand on her belly, a single tear escaped her eyes to fall on Sanskar’s reflect in the photo she contemplates… she wipes it and has a small laugh adding like if she’s talking to herself:
“- I had forgotten that my happiness has always had an expiration date… ”
Suddenly, she seems alarmed to hear voices behind the door, badi ma reassures her saying:
“- I asked Sujatta to go to the mandir to pray for you and for our family after all what happened…”
At the moment she passes the door, Swara turns to the other side, puts Sanskar’s photo on the table and wipes her face inspiring. Ragini orders pillows behind and helps her to sit up comfortably.
“- Jiji… why no one is telling me what is happening with my poor bahu?… my poor choree… what happened to you?… you’re so pale… this bandage… what doctor told you?…”
She pushes Ragini to sit next to Swara on the bed abruptly and hugs her tightly making her wince from pain, she closes her eyes forcing herself to smile while badi ma asks admonishing:
“- Sujatta! Bas…”
“- why do you want me to shut up? I don’t know whose bad eye had touched our family…”
Sujatta as her usual was unstoppable; Swara takes her hands in hers and smiles to her reassuring:
“- Mum… don’t worry, I’m ok”
Really worried, her mother in law checks the bandage around her head and the bruises covering her arms asking:
“- what did the doctor say?… she lost so much blood… are you sure she doesn’t need to go to hospital?”
Badi ma was about telling her what has exactly happened when Swara replies shaking her head :
“- nahi mum… it’s ok, this is not my worst fall, you know…”
“- ha… that’s true!” replies Sujatta giving Ragini an eloquent look, Swara adds in hurry :
“- I just have a bad back ache, I’ll have to stay in bed for some days…”
When Sujatta hugs her again, her teary eyes beg shocked badi ma for forgiveness, Ragini turns away hiding her tears.
“- my poor child… Sanskar will hear me! It’s all his fault… if he didn’t try to kill his own brother, you wouldn’t be so surprised that you fallen in stairs…”
“- SUJATTA!! Shup… ”
Pressing her sister’s hand in comfort, Swara tries to change the subject by proposing to her mother in law to make a fancy diner celebrating the end of the bad times and welcoming back Laksh when Sanskar will bring him home.
Excited to the idea, Sujatta asks Ragini to stay with her sister to take care of her and Uttara to follow her to the kitchen.
Uttara hugs Swara giving back her phone and whispering in her ear on a malicious tone:
“- bhabi… I think Sanskar bhaiya is bahut… bahut… missing you”
Checking the number of Sanskar’s missing calls; Swara remembers herself about picking up descending stairs… she closes her eyes recalling her happy smiling reflect in mirror few hours ago and hearing again and again the same words repeating at her ears:
“if Shekar didn’t stop him at the last moment, Sanskar would throw that rock on his brother’s head.”… “if he didn’t try to kill his own brother, you wouldn’t be so surprised that you fell in stairs”… “Swara, if I survive today, our relation is over”… “congratulation Swara, you’re pregnant”… “one of you will lost the right to put sindoor, today”… “if anyone of you have contact with Mahechwari family, I’ll commit suicide”… “you wouldn’t be so surprised that you fell in stairs”… “if you loved me… you’ll be on my side”…
Tiredness has already plunged her in an agitated sleep letting her sister and badi maa arguing about her unexpected decision to keep her real situation secret.
— END OF FLASH BACK —
Sanskar was on the edge of the landing track looking in the darkness under his feet… it was like if they were suspended in the space, in the time. He was recalling that day events… discovering that Swara lied to him for days… when he asked her about Ragini’s call in the night, when he asked her where she was… not once… not twice… despite his promise, she even put herself in danger with her dadi ma’s goons… tears fill his eyes remembering her looking away when he was going to search Laksh… he chases them before returning to her and asks looking straight in her eyes:
“- you keep accusing me that when I’m angry, I don’t listen to you hai na?… I’m listening princess…”
Swara tries to look away but he puts a finger under her chin obliging her to face him and adds:
“- I wanted to listen to you that day when I called you for hours… but, you didn’t bother answer…”
She closes her eyes remembering the moment she fell in stairs, when she opens them tears blur her vision.
“- I wanted to listen to you that night when I came back home, when after explaining to the whole family all roads, isolated places, friends houses and transport stations I checked searching Laksh and researches dispositions I’ve taken for the next day, I worried to not see you… but you were sleeping!”
She gapes as he laughs ironically then approaches her face almost touching her. Frowning, he collects a tear from her eyelashes on his thumb and smiles sadly hiding his own tears:
“- my sleeping beauty princess…”
— SANSKAR’S FLASHBACK—
At the moment Sujatta tells him that Swara is fine, just sleeping to rest from the long day events, Sanskar stands up worrying, he refuses his mother’s proposition about dinner and Uttara’s one about his wounds.
He goes upstairs in hurry scolding himself for being angry at her and almost collapsing in Ragini who comes out of his room and closes the door behind her. He asks directly:
“- what’s going on with Swara?”
Seeing her state with tired face, teary eyes and disordered aspect, he breaths deeply closing his eyes and trying to find a coherent thing to say…
She sighs looking down griping at her mangal sutra and resisting to the threatening new wave of cries. He touches her shoulder and apologizes when she looks up to him:
“- I’m really sorry, Ragini… but please don’t lost faith, tomorrow police will start researches too and I engaged people to help us… I promise you that I’ll find him”
“- I know Sanskar…”
After a moment of silent unease, he puts his hand on the door knob and asks breathless of apprehension when he sees Ragini’s alarmed look:
“- Ragini, what’s going on with Swara?… what happened?”
She tightens her grip on her mangal sutra and says with a fake smile:
“- kuch nahi… so many things happened today… she’s tired… that’s all”
He frowns detailing her face like if he was waiting for some between line words to be read on, he shouts:
“- What nonsense!… Swara is…”
Suddenly, seeing Ragini glancing nervously to the door, he retires his hand from the knob tightening his fists feeling anger submerging him. He turns his back but is stopped by Ragini’s hand when he’s about going on:
— SWARA’S FLASHBACK—
Swara is startled in her sleep by Sanskar’s shouting voice, she hears him ask her sister about what is happening with her.
She winces moaning painfully as she’s trying to sit, she feels like decor is spinning around her and handles her head for a moment, supporting her weight on her other hand to get up from her bed but it’s too difficult, she’s about calling for help when she hears her sister assuring Sanskar once again that she’s not hiding anything from him with a trembling voice.
Alarmed, she remembers that she made Ragini swear on her mangal sutra that she’ll never tell anyone about what happened to her today.
If she had convinced bade maa easily making her think about family and the useless sadness this truth will bring to their house after all what they suffered from. Convincing Ragini has been so difficult. Her words were still echoing in her ears:
“- how can you do that to yourself? How can you do it to Sanskar?… you taught me that there is no good reason for lies… why do you torture yourself like that? All that sadness will choke your heart… Swara, you lost your baby! He was Sanskar’s baby too… he has the right to know… to share this sadness with you…”
Tears accumulate in her big reddened eyes when she recalls her answer :
“- if I couldn’t share that happiness with him… how can I share this sadness”
Sanskar’s voice drags her back from her memories.
“- if she doesn’t want to talk to me, she can say it clearly… in my face… SWARA!!”
“- Sanskar, nahi… it’s not that at all… I swear to you that she’s really sleeping… please…”
“- Really… excuse me to doubt! But since you became Swaragini again, your liar skills has decreased a lot!… SWARAAA!”
Frowning, Swara wipes her eyes and stands up abruptly a hand on the table beside her bed, the other on her mouth to mute her groan of pain, she has a rapid glance to her reflect on the mirror on the other side of her room, her beautiful image hours before is replaced by a ghost alike image, pale and teary with that horrible bandage on her head… she snatches it almost fainting, but takes support on the table again to make some steps… insupportable pain was wrapping her body but she hears her sister voice again, she was crying:
“- Sanskar, try to understand…”
Ragini begs him silently to understand how much Swara needs him, but she was helpless, her hand gripping her mangal sutra the weight of the secret her sister is making her hide is too big.
Sanskar looks to her crying and closes his eyes feeling guilty about her and angrier about his wife, he says trying to appear calmer:
“- I’m sorry Ragini, you have already so much to handle… I’m really sorry”
He joins his hands on his chest to apologize and turn away walking by his room’s door without entering, Ragini calls him back:
“- where are you going, Sanskar?… I was going to my room anyway…”
“- Nahi Ragini… the woman inside tonight isn’t my wife… she’s your sister… you’re Swaragini, I’m nothing… absolutely nothing…”
Swara hears his footsteps walking away… sustaining her weak body to the door handle just on the other side. When Ragini opens the door slowly wiping her eyes, she almost falls if she doesn’t support her.
Putting her in the bed, she admonishes gently her about her lack of care for herself:
“- why didn’t you call me, ha?… your frankly completely mad husband would kill me if he knows that I’m not taking care of his wife while…”
Forcing herself to smile, Ragini makes her take her pills helping her to drink as her senses were numb and hoping that she’ll fall asleep quickly. But Swara’s eyes were wide opened fixing nothing. She suddenly asks with a small voice:
“- you’ll hate me again too, hai na Ragini?”
The question shocked Ragini, Swara never talks about the past, about her faults, it sores her heart to hear the word “again”… she sits beside her and replies sincerely:
“- why are you saying that? Why would I hate you Swara? I never did… I never will”
“- because my frankly completely mad husband tried to kill yours…”
Ragini can’t hold her tears; she takes her face in her hands:
“- stop it, Swara… stop trying to make everything right… look at you, are you alright? Nahi, hai na? how will you help others if you’re not taking care of yourself?”
“-… so you’re angry with me too?”
Swara’s words are just whispers then all of sudden, her lost look focus on her sister’s eyes saying in a trembling voice:
“- Sanskar is so angry with me, Ragini…”
She lies on her sister’s lap gripping on her saree like a small child and says tears falling endlessly from her tired eyes:
“- nothing is right Ragini, dadi ma was exposed but baba tried to kill himself, we stopped Adarsh bhaiya but Laksh is missing and Sanskar is… is…”
She closes her eyes remembering all the day events then adds:
“- ha, I’m not feeling alright… I feel like… I failed… I failed as daughter, as a sister, as a wife… and… and above all, I lamentably failed being a maa…”
Crying, Ragini tries to console her in vain, Swara was missing her mother but refusing to face her now, she’ll not be able to hide her secret from her, so she just asks her sister:
“ – can you please sing for me?…”
Ragini wipes her eyes and caressing her sister’s hair, she closes her eyes plunging in the memories of those times they were just Swaragini…
“Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori…
Chandaniya chhup jaana re
Chhan bhar ko luk jaana re
Nindiya aankhon mein aaye
Bitiya meri so jaaye
Nindiya aankhon mein aaye
bitiyaa meri so jaaye
Leke god mein sulaao
Gaao raat bhar sunaao
Main lori lori
Ho main lori lori
Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori
Lori lori lori”
Cradled by her sister’s voice, Swara let’s go of her pain and cries badly for a long moment until won by her tiredness, she falls asleep.
— SANSKAR’S FLASHBACK—
After a shower in the guest room, Sanskar puts on a sport pants and search in all the drawers for a first aid box, some of his injuries were still bleeding. Not founding it, he decides going downstairs but passing by the open door of Laksh’s room he inspires deeply and goes there.
He lights up and goes directly to the drawer where he knows the box is in. when he takes it, he finds underneath a photo of him and his brother… duplicate of the one he used for shradh rites, he takes it remembering that day.
Then refusing to think about anything, he puts it apart and faces the mirror to apply a healing cream on the wounds covering his shoulders, neck, chest and forehead… looking to his fist, where a bleeding injury is covering his fingers he recalls his punch on the wall after his “conversation” with Ragini. Swara’s accusing look was haunting him.
Moments later he is at her door, but instead of entering, he sits on the ground his back to it. Wearing his brother’s tee shirt, he applies a sterilizing lotion on his hand wincing. Suddenly, Ragini’s singing voice startles him… this song she song for him when he was acting like a mad man… old memories of his brother’s care submerges him, melted with recent ones of hatred and accusations… Swara’s anger and her shattered state when she talked to him about his brother… slowly anger disappears letting the place to pain…
“- Swara…” he lands his head on his folded knees and cries.
— END OF FLASHBACK—
TO BE CONTINUED…