Hey guys…….Bela is back with the second last part of this Two Shot?
It has been two months since that incident. And I must say, my life has changed completely.
About a month back, I was called to the police station. Ragini was worried for me and so, tagged along. On reaching there, we were informed that my lost goods had been found! Apparently, a business rival of mine had hijacked the ship bringing the loads and stolen the goods. He waited for a month for the affair to cool down and then started looking for buyers. Soon, he did find a buyer but unfortunately for him, it was the same man who was supposed to buy the same goods from me. He reported it to the police and so, I got my ‘maal’ back.
While I had been relieved on hearing the news, Ragini had been ecstatic. She shook hands with the inspector and smiled beautifully at the buyer who positively drooled on seeing her. My patience was sorely tested and I decided to charge higher than the initially settled amount as a payback for this. And so, now, everything is back in order.
Ragini and I, we are best friends now. In fact, Ragini is my first real friend in this world. And the best one. She understands me perfectly well. Even though she can be scary and annoying at times, and in those situations, I use my sarcasm to control her. There is transparency between us. We share everything with each other now. We don’t hide anything and we don’t lie. But I must admit that she is better at it than I am. Sharing my thoughts and opinions with someone has relaxed me. I am more optimistic and less stubborn now. I look at things from many perspectives.
For weeks now, congratulations have been pouring in from all my ‘contacts’. I have been able to sell the stocks at a higher price than what I was about to sell it at before. I cited the reason for the price hike as ‘recovering the cost bared to pay the interest’. Due to Ragini’s statement in the media that I had undergone ‘mental and emotional torture’ due to that scoundrel’s deeds, the public had a great sympathy for me. The stocks were bought faster than before, even though they were more expensive. When I praised Ragini for her smartness, she winked at me and said, “Isse kehte hain ek aurat Ka emotional atyachar!”
I had laughed and gifted her a box of chocolates which the greedy woman ate all by herself, without even sharing one piece! Huh. Who does that?
My relationship with Ragini is strange. I haven’t completely opened up to her yet. I don’t think I will be able to. Not because of the way she is but because of the way I am. I still felt like strangling her at times when she became too much of a headache. But since my realisation that she was the only one I had in this world, I have become more protective of her now.
We bicker a lot. She insults me and then, I insult her back. She insults me more and I insult her even more. Then she brandishes her weapons and looks at me sinisterly. And the matter ends there.
I have never had a friend so I don’t know if this is what happens between two friends. But even if it doesn’t, I don’t care. Because I am happy. Yes, HAPPY. It is such an amazing feeling when you are in the office and you know that you need to go back home early because there is someone back home waiting for you, someone who listens to you a lot and talks even more. Someone because of whom, the house seems like a home.
Once we were able to overcome our initial hesitations and start talking, I realised that Ragini wasn’t really what she seemed like. She is a chatterbox. She can talk nonstop for hours. In fact, I have to make some sarcastic comment in order to stop her nonsense before it stops my breathing!
“L…..u…c….k…….y…!” Ragini called out in a singsong voice. I sighed in resignation. She has coined this nickname for me. I don’t know why. But I kinda like it. It is a bit intimate. Everyone calls me either Mr. Maheshwari, Sir or Boss. A few of my older business associates call me Lakshya. Only she calls me Lucky. She sings my name out whenever she is coming and that is an alarm for me to prepare myself mentally for the nonsensical chatter that is going to come soon.
She hopped into the room breezily. I turned to her. “I was wondering why the house was so silent. I was trying to think why you were so quiet. Do you have a fever or something?” I asked her sarcastically.
“I just entered the house. I had been out for some shopping!” She said and plopped down beside me on the sofa. She sat with so much force that I was displaced from my position and thrown up in the air. I looked at her with my eyebrow raised. She smiled sweetly at me.
“Shopping? What for? The clothes are already tight on you? Ragini, I had warned you that it would happen soon, with you stealing my nutrition as well!” I said to her with a smirk.
Ragini has a habit of taking morsels of food from my plate. She just reaches over on the pretext of taking the water jar and scoops out a bite of what I am eating. Initially, it irritated me and she did it for fun. Now, it is more of a ritual. A habit.
While I was thinking of this, I didn’t notice the way Ragini’s eyes darkened in anger and her face turning red. Had I noticed, I would have been able to save myself. Alas!
“You didn’t just call me fat, did you?” She asked in a quiet voice. I turned to her and belatedly detected the signs of the coming storm. “Umm…no. I called you……..developed!” I uttered stupidly.
Ragini glared at me. I smiled back. And got a punch on my ribs. I howled in pain while she sat back with a satisfied air about her.
“One day, I am going to go to the police and lodge a complaint against you with charges of threatening, attempt to murder, intimidation, harming and causing physical injury, physical abuse, causing mental trauma, domestic violence and a lot many more cases.” I told her, rubbing my ribs to ease the pain.
“And the police would laugh at you and inform you that you are one of the many men in this world who are suffering the same fate!” She replied casually. I huffed in annoyance and sat beside her.
“So what did you buy?” I asked her. “A birthday card, a limited edition watch and a photo frame which is going to be filled soon.” she replied.
I scratched my head. Whose birthday? Her birthday isn’t due for a month. I know because I am planning a surprise. Don’t ask me what it is you fools, it is a surprise for my wife! Her father? They share a strained relationship since that night but I wouldn’t put it past her to try and bury the hatchet. Swara? Nah. That’s stupid. Then…………..
I looked at her questioningly. “Sanskaar.” She replied.
What? Sanskaar? Sanskaar Singhania? Swara’s husband?
“I know you are confused. Sanskaar and I are really good friends. Actually, Sanskaar and I know each other from childhood. He was my best friend. Later, he chose to do business management while I chose medicine. So we kind of drifted apart. He met Swara at a party and they fell in love. It was a secret for a long time. I knew though. What I didn’t know was that they were planning to elope. I don’t understand why. Dad wouldn’t have refused such a brilliant proposal for Swara……..”
An uncomfortable feeling gripped me. Of course, she doesn’t know why Swara had to run off and get married. And Sanskaar didn’t tell her the reason too. I don’t know why he never told her. Maybe he thinks that she already knows…………..
Oh shit! What if he realises that she doesn’t know. What if he tells her so himself? No! Ragini can never know the story behind our marriage. I would have to stop her from being in contact with Sanskaar.
“What are you thinking?” She asked me. “Nothing. I was just wondering that it is so ironical that he was best friends with a girl and married her half sister.” I replied.
Ragini smiled wryly. “Add to this irony that he knew that I liked him more than a friend and didn’t share a good relationship with Swara. He knew that if compared, Swara had lived a way better life than I did.” She said.
F***! Ragini liked him more than a friend? Romantic feelings? That bl**** jerk! Was he blind? He chose SWARA over Ragini? Seriously? A part of my mind reminded me that I had also almost gotten engaged to her but I shut it up with the logic that I didn’t know about Ragini that time. With Sanskaar, it is different. He was best friends with Ragini and yet, ditched her for Swara? I was convinced that he had no brains.
Well, it is good for me though. I met Ragini and married her. Take that!
“And what are you thinking NOW?” She asked me.
“His loss, my gain.” I replied without thinking, still basking in the glory of having a better wife than Ragini’s EX crush.
“Really? You think that I am a gain?” She asked me softly. I realised what I had said. And I didn’t regret it a bit. I actually realised that Ragini was the best thing that happened to me. Since she has arrived, my life has changed for the better. It is like, she is my lucky charm. I smiled at her and nodded, telling her that she was my lucky charm.
“Thank you. That is probably the best thing that anybody ever said to me.” she replied with tears in her eyes. I felt bad for her. I hugged her tightly and she sobbed lightly, ruining my shirt but ruling my heart.
“Happy birthday Sanky! Kaisa hai? Am I the first one who wished you? Obviously not, Swara must have done it already! What? She didn’t? Why? She isn’t at home? Where could she be at midnight? Partying with friends and staying over at Dad’s place? Huh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But don’t worry Sanky boy……Ragini is free. Why……….”
I don’t know what possessed me but I felt something strange on hearing Ragini talk to that buffoon so happily. And so, I did something very unexpected. And very stupid.
“Ragini darling, come back to bed!” I screamed. She had been standing just a metre away so I was sure that Sanskaar could hear me. And I think it worked.
“No, no Sanky. It isn’t like what you think. He is just kidding. No. Sanskaar, you aren’t disturbing anything. No. Arrey………accha theek hai. Okay. Have a good day, I will meet you in the evening. Bye. Take care and Happy birthday once again!” She cut the call. And looked at me angrily. “Why did you do that?” She demanded to know.
I shrugged my shoulders with a smirk on my face. She looked at me with narrowed eyes. I smiled sheepishly. A smile came on her face as well. We looked at each other and then burst out laughing.
While she laughed, I looked at her. It felt so amazing to see her laugh because of me. I felt so proud that I made her laugh. And I felt very annoyed if someone else did that too.
With a jolt, I realised that what I had been experiencing was jealousy. I was freaking jealous! I was jealous because MY friend Ragini was happy with someone else. I realised that I was jealous because that meant that I didn’t have any exclusive effect on her. I was effing POSSESSIVE! Oh shit!
I looked at her. She was babbling on about how cool this was and what would be his reaction. I think it is okay to feel this way. She is my first friend, after all. It is natural to feel so about her. And then, Ragini is worth it because she is a really good friend. And sometimes, good friends are too good to be shared.
“I am going to Sanskaar’s place tonight. He is holding a lounge party. It is a couple’s thing. Can you come? Puhhlleeasssse?” She whined.
Party at Sanskaar’s place. Meaning that Ragini and Sanskaar would be together in each other’s company. Meaning conversation. Meaning ‘How’s your life, I didn’t expect you to marry him’ type of a conversation. Meaning that Ragini would come to know the truth. Meaning that everything would be finished. Meaning that I need to stop Ragini. Meaning that I can’t do it. Meaning I have to go to ensure that all of the above doesn’t happen.
I made a show of thinking hard and then reluctantly agreeing, lest she wonder why I am so enthusiastic. She smiled brilliantly and hugged me. “Get ready by 7.” She whispered in my ear and then went away.
Sanskaar Singhania. Just wait and watch. I won’t let you come in between us. You defo not gonna get a chance to talk to her alone tonight. I will be watching her like a hawk.
I got ready in a blue jeans, white button down shirt and a black leather jacket which I didn’t button up. As usual, the upper three buttons of my shirt were also open(I got a bod, so I got the right to flaunt!) I wore my black leather shoes and a my silver Rolex watch. I put on some cologne and checking myself out in the mirror, I went downstairs to wait for the lady.
The said lady, who is already gorgeous, took her hotness to another level. She came downstairs after an hour in a royal blue off shoulder dress which clung to her body, showing all her curves and ended just a few inches above her knees. The strap that was on one shoulder was studded with diamonds and silver glitter. She wore large silver hoops in her ears and even had a silver bracelet on one hand. She wore silver stilletos and carried a silver clutch in the hand that didn’t have the bracelet. Her hair was up in a high ponytail and she had smokey black eyes with a shimmer of silver on them and a swipe of blue eyeliner. Her lips were painted deep red and weren’t glossy. Her nails had been painted to match her lips.
To say that I was hooked would be a gross injustice to my feelings. I was bowled over. I had been staring at her with my mouth open and the drool came out when I saw that the dress was backless. Damn, she is hot! Very hot. Very very hot. Very very very………………….
“If you are done checking me out from all angles possible, shall we make a headstart?” She asked me with a smirk. I came down to the earth and nodded mutely. I took her hand and saw my given diamond ring of our marriage proudly sitting on the ring finger. On an impulse, I kissed her hand gently and muttered, “You look gorgeous!”
The woman blushed again (Oh God! What is her problem?) and stuttered a thanks. She hooked her arms with mine and together, we went to the party.
The Singhanias are a rich family who have an added flaw of showing off badly. Specially Mrs. Sujata Singhania. She is a walking jewellery shop, I swear! The amount of bling on her always does something to my eyes. Ragini had been carrying her gifts while I carried a big bouquet of orchids which Ragini informed me, were the birthday boy’s favourites. Well, he wouldn’t be enjoying my wife’s company so let him have SOMETHING on his birthday! The bouquet was my gift.
We saw Sanskaar at the entrance, receiving his guests with detachment. His wife was beside him, trying to cover up his disinterest. As soon as he spotted Ragini, Sanskaar brightened up and the big smile on his face vanished as soon as he saw me just beside her, holding her waist.
“Happy Birthday, Sanky boy!” Ragini chirped and hugged him. She presented her gifts to him and he took it all with a wide smile. I was tempted to give him a punch right on his nose as a birthday gift but the thought of Ragini stopped me. Pushing all my jealousy and irritation aside, I stepped forward and offered him the bouquet. “Many Many happy returns of the day.” I wished him. He scowled at me and replied in a clipped tone, “Thank you.”
Well, well! I hid a smirk and turned to Ragini. “You don’t want to be standing here all night and prevent your friend from completing his duties towards his other guests, right?” I asked her pleasantly.
Ragini smiled at Sanskaar. “Obviously not! Sorry, to hold you for so long.”
“Hello, so nice of you to come! Please enjoy the party. It is a pleasure to have you here.” Swara’s voice came. Ragini stiffened. I turned to look at the insolent woman.
She was dressed in a sleeveless red dress which showed ample cleavage and ended till her mid thigh. The part below the waistline of her dress was draped stylishly in a transparent red net which went on till her feet and the back had a trail too. Her hair was up in a messy bun(which wasn’t messy at all) and she had painted her lips and nails the same colour as that of her dress. While Ragini had silver accessories on, Swara had gold. Gold studs, gold bangles, gold hair comb etc. Must have borrowed it from her mother in law, I snickered and thought. Anyways, she didn’t look half as gorgeous as Ragini. Because she is Swara, not Ragini. And Ragini is Ragini. Need I say more?
Ragini smiled at her sardonically. “Pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Singhania!” She said sweetly. “We are glad to be able to join. It has been such a long time since Sanskaar and I enjoyed each other’s company. There is so much to catch up with.”
I felt sorry that Ragini’s wish of ‘catching up’ would remain unfulfilled because of me. But so sorry Ragini. I have to do this.
I place my hand on Ragini’s back and said to Swara, “Nice to meet you again. I look forward to a great time tonight. We are all such fans of your abilities as a host!” The best thing about me is that people don’t get half of the time whether I am genuinely speaking or just being sarcastic. And this situation was no different.
Swara smiled with fake sweetness and for a moment, I could see the proof of her relation with Ragini. Her face at that moment reminded me of the moments when Ragini smiles in the same manner. I was horrified.
I nodded to the hosts and nudged my wife forward gently, who started walking ahead. I followed her.
“She looked amazing, didn’t she? Those studs! And that trail! That is so original. Truly, it will become a trend soon. She is a fashionista!” Ragini whispered in awe.
“You look a thousand times better. She may wear the stuff and yet, the grace and poise that you maintain will always be unmatched.” I replied in a heartbeat.
Ragini looked at me. “I look better than Swara? Really?” She asked innocently.
There was something in her eyes which I couldn’t understand. But that didn’t matter to me. Understanding unspoken words is not my cup of tea. So I focussed on what had been said. “Koi shak?” I asked her. She smiled that beautiful smile and in that process, my heart somersaulted.
The entire evening, I was busy in stalking Ragini. I stuck to her all the time. When she asked me why I was clinging to her, I replied that I had no wish to associate with these people, who had ditched me during my hard times. And that I enjoy her company. Both of the reasons were true (let us not ponder over the main reason for now), and so the right emotions came out with them. Ragini looked at me sympathetically and allowed me to remain beside her.
I guess it was my presence beside Ragini, or Swara latching herself to him, which made Sanskaar stay away from my wife majorly. Once or twice, he approached her but my presence bothered him. He asked me to excuse Ragini and him for a moment but Ragini, who was feeling so much for me, told him firmly that I wouldn’t be leaving her side throughout the night, on HER bequest. Anything wished to be discussed could be done in my presence. And so, my plan was a success.
When the dance floor opened, I escorted my wife to the centre. Sanam Re started playing.
Ragini and I dance superbly together. Mainly because at home, sometimes, we enjoy by playing music and dancing randomly together. It is a great way to pass time and have a lot of fun. So I have learnt to dance with Ragini’s instruction on Character Dheela, Sheila Ki Jawaani, Chikni Chameli and Gandi Baat while Ragini learnt the steps taught by me on Desi Boys, Dhating Naach, Palat and DK Bose. And together, we have choreographed random dances on Kaala Chashmaa, Saree ke Fall Sa, and many such songs and couple dances on many others. And Sanam Re was one of them.
It was amazing. The dance. I know because everyone’s eyes were stuck on us. And because I felt a huge amount of energy. Each touch, each line, each eye contact passed current through my entire body. I didn’t even seem to be dancing consciously. It was happening in a beautiful daze. My dark skin blended with her light one to produce fluid motions to the romantic song. I didn’t even care about the expressions. The distance we always maintained while dancing at home seemed to have vanished. We were pressed together. And that contact gave me shudders of pleasure. I have never experienced this before. It is out of this world. I felt so alive.
When the dance ended, there was a thunderous applause and Ragini and I bowed gracefully together. I escorted her to the bar and ordered a drink for both of us. Ragini was looking at me strangely. I tried and avoided her.
That didn’t go on for long however. We had just taken a sip or two when I saw her father approaching her. I indicated to her with my eyes to stay mentally prepared. She raised her eyebrows in confusion. I turned towards the bar and while turning, I muttered, “Your dad.”
Ragini’s eyes hardened instantly. Her jaw set firmly and I realised that I would be having a great show in some moments.
“Ragini, Lakshya. So nice to see you both. I hadn’t expected you two to turn up. Ragini, sweetheart, you look gorgeous like always!” He said. I raised my eyebrow at the very formal and well practised speech that he was sprouting out.
“I doubt my husband has given you leave to use his first name. He rarely does so. Did you, Lucky?” she turned to me and asked. I shook my head slowly, eyes darting between the father-daughter duo.
Shekhar Gadodia stiffened and narrowed his eyes at Ragini. She glared right back. I didn’t want her to say or do something which would cause her immense pain and regret later, so I decided to intervene.
“Ragini, aren’t you hungry? Dinner has been served already, I just saw the hostess signalling for the doors to the dinner room to be opened. You have an important surgery tomorrow, you need to sleep early.” I said to her, hoping she would take my hint. She didn’t. Obviously.
“Don’t speak in between us Mr. Maheshwari.” Shekhar said to me in a steely and cold voice. I didn’t mind it but apparently, Ragini did. She snapped at her father, “HE is not coming in between. YOU are!”
“You are talking to your father like this for THIS man? Come on Ragini. I am your FATHER. Your dad. I am sorry for what happened that night but trust me, I was helpless. Later, I realised my folly and even offered money to him, but he refused!”
Ragini looked at me. I stiffened and glared viciously at her father. “I did it because taking money from you would have been an insult to my wife and the cause for which she stood up with her dignity. It was done sentimentally.” I replied in a cold voice.
I felt my hand being grasped tightly. I looked down and saw Ragini’s hand entwined with mine. It was a small reminder that we were together. Always.
“Lakshya, I am feeling hungry. Shall we proceed to the dining area?” she asked me tightly. I nodded and placing my hand on her waist, escorted her.
It was a buffet so Ragini and I filled our plates and went to sit. I drew out a chair for her and then seated myself. We picked up the cutlery and I started carving the lasagna while she played around with her risotto, staring into space. I was not going to tolerate it so I took a spoonful of the rice out of her plate and made her eat it. She smiled at my action and then, taking a bite of my lasagna, brought it near my lips and just as I was about to open my mouth, she pulled her hand back and ate it herself. I laughed at her antics.
“Well, I like you doing this here. At least the world will realise what a cruel wife I have who is stealing my nutrition!” I remarked sardonically.
“And it is so sad that they won’t get to know that I am forced to make a new recipe for you every weekend to satisfy your hyperactive taste buds!” She replied in a sad manner, obviously faking it.
True that. I love her cooking. It is so yummy and so comfortable. She made Rajma Chawal once and I ate four bowls of it. She made a cheesecake the next week and found the empty bowl inside the refrigerator the next morning. She made raviolis once and never got a bite of it herself. Such is my love for her food. I crazily look forward to the days when the doctor comes inside my study with a tray and says, “Guess what is it today?”
Despite our light banter, I could sense throughout dinner that Ragini was upset. And THAT made me upset. I resolved to do something about it.
“Do you like tiramisu? Or mudcake? Or Gulab Jamun? Or blueberry tarts? Or a plain boring butterscotch mousse?” I asked her.
She shook her head at every dessert’s name. I knew that would happen because I know that none of them are her favourites.
“Those are the desserts for tonight here. And since you and I both have no preference for any of them, I suggest that we leave from here and get an ice cream of our choice from outside.”
Ragini’s eyes shone with happiness and she quickly finished her meal. We took our leaves hastily and I drove us to a parlour which was still open. Ragini ordered an Almond Caramello for herself while I ordered a mint chocochip with assorted fruits and nuts ice cream for myself. Rather than sitting there, we went outside and I took her to a beach where we finished our ice creams with the soothing sound of waves and the gentle breeze blowing.
Ragini was sitting on a rock near the water while I was sitting near her feet on another rock. I looked at her as she looked out into the sea, her hair released from the pony tail and blowing backwards freely. The breeze around made the air cool. I took a spoonful of my ice cream and fed it to her. She swallowed it.
“She died in front of me. My mother. She died right in my arms.”
I gasped. I didn’t know that! And judging by the way she said, I could make out that this was the first time she was disclosing this to anybody.
“Maa and Dad separated when I was six. It had been a year and my mother had hoped that he would come to fetch us back but he didn’t. Gradually, Maa got used to this reality. She tried to become self independent. She was a great cook so she wanted to do something like catering etc. When I was seven, one night, she took me out with her to watch a movie. We had been on her scooty, which she loved. While coming back, some car hit us and we had an accident. I was just hurt on my legs and hands but Maa suffered a head injury. I begged, Lakshya. I begged those people to take her to the hospital. But they fled. I begged to every person who passed by to help us but no one did. And then, losing hope, I went to my mother. I reached at the correct time, she was taking her last breath. I took her head in my lap and there, in front of my eyes, my mother took her last breath.”
Tears were rolling down her eyes and even I felt a wetness on my cheeks. In the months that we have been together, I have learnt to respect Ragini for her morals and strong character. And now that we are so close, I know that it is all due to her mother. To know that this woman in front of me, who keeps so many people happy, had to suffer so much in her childhood is horrible. That this woman, who saves so many lives everyday, couldn’t save her own mother causes me immense pain for her.
I took her hand in mine and squeezed it tightly. She laid her head on my shoulder and I let her stay there, wishing that this action gives her the comfort and strength that she needs which I won’t be able to give to her. Not because I don’t want to. But because I don’t know HOW to.
We stayed like this for an hour or more, basking in the feel of the cool breeze hitting our faces and seeing the gentle waves. It was very soothing. Twice, Ragini splashed a handful of water on me and both the times I retaliated by spraying the water that went to my hair on her. We played, chatted, fought and joked. We walked along the beach too. She was shivering a little so I took off my jacket and covered her with it.
We went back home and when we reached, I turned around to find Ragini sleeping soundly beside me. I didn’t have the heart to wake her up. So I carried her to the house in my arms and laid her on the bed and tucked her in. She was smiling so freely in her sleep that it brought a smile on my face too. I went out of her room. Just as I reached the door, I turned around to take a last look at her. She was snoring softly. I shook my head with a smile and closed the door behind me, whistling the tune of Banjaara.
Aahaaa……….this two shot is becoming an SS?????
Can’t do anything, I love to write ?
Just the last part remaining. Promise.
Finale: Lakshya surprises Ragini on her birthday, Raglak realise their love. Ragini learns the truth of her marriage and is shattered. Lakshya goes deewana in his love.