We are at chapter 10 already. Since weekdays have began, updates will be on alternate days. sorry about that. thanks so much for all your comments and love. please forgive an typos or spelling mistakes. i don’t get time to proofread these chapters. – Azure
Sanskar entered his room to see Ragini putting away freshly ironed clothes in his wardrobe. She had lost a bet with a him a couple of days back and had to take care of his wardrobe and clothes for the next one month.
“I have been looking for you everywhere” he told her as he entered
“Why?” Ragini asked, while continuing to arrange the clothes
“I need to talk to you” Sanskar told her “Can you come and sit here for a minute?” he asked pointing to the edge of the bed.
Ragini looked at him for the first time since he entered the room. His face was serious as was his tone. She walked over and sat down beside him
“Sanskar?” she asked “What is wrong?”
“I am going to meet Swara’s mother, Sharmistha today” he told her looking in the eye
Ragini sat still for a minute before nodding
“I didn’t want to go and talk to her without letting you know before” he told her with utmost sincerity “But I really need to go and meet her”
Ragini nodded, resting her hand gently on his “You didn’t need to let me know about it beforehand” she said gently with a small smile, even though Sanskar could see it didn’t reach her eyes.
“I did. I really did” Sanskar said softly “I need to find out somethings that have been bothering me for some time and only she can provide me the information”
“Then go do it” Ragini told him sincerely “Don’t worry about anything”
The prospect of going out there to meet Sharmistha was making his stomach churn. It was uncomfortable for more reasons than one. What if he didn’t find out anything there and it was a dead-end? He didn’t have any other avenues to clear the doubts he was having over his own knowledge of Swara. But what if she had information that made things worse?
Without meaning to he blurted “Will you come with me?” Then realizing what he had said as soon as it left his mouth, he quickly added “Don’t! Just forget what I said”
Ragini rubbed his arm gently seeing him worried “As a friend, I would have come with you” she told him gently “But as a daughter, I cannot”
“I know that Maa would not be angry with me if I did, or even hold it against me. But I know she will be hurt” Ragini said softly
“I know. I don’t want you to come either” Sanskar admitted
“What are you worried about?” Ragini asked him gently
Sanskar looked at her for a while, remaining silent, before he spoke about his fear “What if I find out that I didn’t really know Swara completely?”
Ragini looked at him for a while before gently saying “You know Maa always loved Baba. Even after she found out about….” Ragini trailed off “It didn’t change how she felt. I always wondered why. But then she told me that when she loved him she didn’t do it with the expectation that he would be perfect. And he wasn’t. If his being perfect wasn’t the premise of her love, how and why would it change when it was shown that he wasn’t. I still don’t completely understand it” Ragini told him “May be because I haven’t experienced it myself, but if the premise of your love wasn’t knowing her completely, in and out, it won’t matter even now”
Sanskar nodded. He left the room, making his way to Shekhar Gadodia and Sharmishtha’s house, his mind asking him – what was really the premise of his love for Swara?
Sanskar reached at Shekhar’s Gadodia’s second house. It wasn’t as large as his family house, but it was no less grand. He had come unannounced. A maid asked him to wait in the private meeting room, while she called the mistress of the house, Sharmistha. It seemed that Shekhar Gadodia was out of the house. It served Sanskar well, considering that he wasn’t keen to meet him.
As Sanskar sat in the room, he saw photos of the family lining the wall. Swara standing out prominently on those. They seemed to be happy memories, vacation pictures, birthdays and just casual portraits. He walked over to glance at them up close, when he heard the door open. He turned around to see a middle aged lady dressed in Bengali saree walk over to him. She certainly looked younger than what her age must have been. She was graceful and still has a beauty about her, which would have meant she must have been much more beautiful in her youth, beautiful enough to make Shekhar Gadodia to leave his pregnant wife, even if she hadn’t driven him to. He could also understand where Swara got her beauty.
He joined his hand bidding her Namaste “I am Sanskar. Sanskar Maheshwari” he told her softly, though he had already given his name to the maid who let him in.
Sharmistha gave him a gentle smile and signaled him to sit down “I know who you are” she said
They said down in silence for a few minutes. Sanskar wasn’t sure what to say to her or even what and how to ask her anything about what was bothering him.
Finally, she spoke gently “What would you like to have?” she asked
“Nothing” he told her sincerely
“It wouldn’t be right to receive a guest and not offer them anything” she said, calling her maid and ordering some tea for them. Sanskar wasn’t a tea drinker but he didn’t correct her.
“I wanted to come over to pay my respect to you for Swara’s…” he trailed off, not realizing what else to say
Sharmistha nodded “She spoke a lot about you, you know” she said
Sanskar looked at her startled, but didn’t say anything
“Shona, my beautiful beautiful Shona. My stubborn princess” she said with a smile “She was full of life and mischievous and stubborn” she said sniffing a bit “Always had a way of getting her way with that beautiful smile of hers”
Sanskar nodded with a gentle smile of his own. She had her way of getting what she wanted. One of the things he, quite strangely, liked or at least didn’t get offended about when it came to her, despite it being extremely inconveniencing at times. She was high maintenance alright, but she had a way about making him do it without fighting against it. She kept him on his toes, right from day one. He had never chased anyone as much as he had her.
“We were very happy when she met you. She said how you would take care of her and her wants.” Sharmishtha said with misty eyes “She was hoping you would propose to her soon. We were going to talk to your family about the alliance, once both of you agreed” Sharmistha explained
Sanskar looked at her mutely. He wasn’t sure how to react to that comment. True he had wanted to propose to Swara at some point in time, sooner than later. He loved her after all and he wasn’t fooling around. But he felt a bit taken aback by Sharmistha taking about it when he and Swara hadn’t even started discussing the topic, more because Swara had made it clear that her theater work was a priority for her just then. To add to it, his current reality made it very awkward. True he never wanted the marriage, but the reality was that he was married right now, and to Shekhar Gadodia’s other daughter – to Ragini. Talking about what could have been, when Ragini was back home, felt uncomfortable.
“She was really full of life” Sanskar said, trying to move away from the marriage topic
“Oh my Shona was life itself. Where ever she went she spread her twinkle and spark around. People just came alive around her. She was very beautiful, my Shona” Sharmistha said, a bit emotional
The main served them tea and left. Sanskar picked a cup up and sipped it quietly, unsure of how to proceed.
“You know she had so many boys trying to get her attention. She was ethereal beauty, but she chose you” Sharmistha said “Said he is a true gentleman. Knows how to treat a girl.”
Sanskar nodded and gave her a small smile “She was very interested in her theater work” he said, changing the subject again
“Shona was a star. What did she say, yes, Diva! She was a diva” Sharmistha said with pride, despite her still misty eyes “She had a bright future. Of course she was willing to give that up. She knew yours was a traditional Marwari family. My Shona knew how to manage her relationships” she added “You must be missing her a lot too?” she asked him softly, sadness showing through her eyes.
Before Sanskar to answer, Shekhar Gadodia walked into the room “Misty, Kamla said we have a guest” he said before his glance fell on Sanskar.
Sanskar got up and joined his hands wishing Shekhar Namaste. Ideally, he would have been excepted to touch Shekhar’s feet, but after the way the man had clearly been treating Janki Maa and Ragini, he had no inclination to do so. He had seen the numerous happy family photos in the room, many featuring a smile Shekhar Gadodia, when he knew very well that Ragini most likely didn’t even have any.
“Shekhar, you have come” Sharmistha said, quickly wiping her eyes “Sit. Look who is here” she said with a soft smile
Shekhar Gadodia nodded at Sanskar and sat down on the chair but didn’t say anything.
“We were talking about Shona” Sharmistha told him touching his hand
Shekhar looked at her and then sharply at Sanskar
“I came to offer my condolence” Sanskar told him “I should have come sooner, but with everything that was happening….” He trailed off
“Shona was Shekhar’s life” Sharmistha said looking at Shekhar “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her” she added sadly
Sanskar looked at the man. He sat there stoically
“You remember Shekhar, when she wanted that latest iPhone and wanted it immediately. How you got one of your contacts to buy it in US and fly with it to India for her” Sharmistha said, running her hand over his arm
Sanskar felt odd, as though he was infringing on their private moment.
“And when she wanted to go skiing in summer, do you remember Shekhar?” she said tearing up “He immediately arranged for a holiday to New Zealand, for her to enjoy the snow” Sharmistha explained
Sanskar gave her a tight smile and a nod. He never felt as strong a desire to leave right then. It was decidedly awkward.
“I need to do something” Shekhar said and walked out of the room, without a look towards Sanskar
Sharmistha looked at him walk away sadly before turning to Sanskar “He misses he very much. Both of us do”
Sanskar nodded in understanding “I should probably leave now”
“You don’t need to. Do stay” Sharmistha told him “It was nice to meet you after everything Shona had told us”
“May be some other time” Sanskar said “I am supposed to be back home. They are expecting me” he said making an excuse
Sharmistha gave him a sad smile, but didn’t try to stop him further.
Sanskar managed to reach home in time for lunch. After lunch, as he retired back in his room, in more comfortable clothes, his thoughts went back to the meeting that he had with Sharmistha. He had been feeling out of whack since coming back from visiting her and he couldn’t explain it.
Ragini saw him and realized that there was a lot weighing on his mind. To lighten the mood, she went and sat on the bed in front of him. Pulling a fringe of her hair, creating a fake mustache out of it, she said, in a masculine voice, one that mimicked Sanskar’s style “Why don’t you buy me a drink? I can buy you the next one”
Sanskar looked at her as though she had lost her mind “What are you doing?”
“I am trying to play you” Ragini said “Couldn’t you recognize?”
“Why exactly are you doing it?” Sanskar asked confused “Don’t you have enough project work to do?” he asked her pointing to her iPad.
“I am bored” she said making a face
“So you decided to mimic me?” Sanskar asked. Ragini nodded “You are crazy; do you know that?” Sanskar asked her. But she just shrugged. Sanskar shook his head “You don’t look like me” Sanskar commented
Ragini leapt from there, opened his wardrobe and wore one of his jackets on top of her saree “How about now?” she asked.
Sanskar looked at her critically, or pretended too. His jacket was too big for her and the shoulders were dropping, while sleves were completely hiding her hands
“You look like a shrunken pigmy version of me” Sanskar said looking amused. Ragini rolled her eyes “If you are me, who am I supposed to be?” he asked
“That drag queen date of course!” she said as though that was the most obvious thing “That is the only sort of women you can impress”
“What!” Sanskar exclaimed and leapt on her, trapping her on the bed, holding her arms over her head “That is the old women, I can impress, huh? I will have you know I have impressed a lot of women”
“Were they blind?” She asked as she tried to pull her hands out from where he hand trapped them
“Blind!!” Sanskar exclaimed “I will show you blind” he said ticking her
Ragini burst into laughter, pleading him to stop until she had tears in her eyes
“Idiot!” she told him when he finally stopped
“Do you want me to start again?” he warned her
“No!” she said widening her eyes. This wasn’t what she had expected when she thought of cheering him up. While she didn’t want to let him know, her wound while almost completely healed, was still tender and the violent laughter had caused a bit of pain for her.
“So you admit that I can impress girls?” Sanskar asked her
“Only under duress. I am yet to see it” Ragini said
Sanskar shook his head “What do you want me to do? Go to some pub and impress girls?” He let go off her hands and hit her head lightly. He laid down next to her even as she was recovering from the laughter “And what was that all about? You promised you wouldn’t bring the drag queen bit up. How could you do that?” he asked her annoyed
“I didn’t bring it up in front of anyone else. It’s just the two of us here right now” Ragini told him
“Is that how this works?” Sanskar asked, now turning on his side, resting his head on his elbow “I have an question to ask about your adult store incident then” he told her
“What about it?” Ragini asked confused “I told you everything there was to tell”
“Not everything” Sanskar told her “I want to know what you bought in there”
“I am not telling you” Ragini told him
“You cannot get out of it now. You were the one who brought out the drag queen episode” Sanskar told her with a broad smile
Ragini rolled her eyes and muttered something
“What?” Sanskar asked
“Fur covered hand cuffs” she said embarrassed, covering her face with her hands
Sanskar let out a loud chuckle “What did you do with it?” he asked
“We gave it to Jason for messing with his coffee” Ragini said, before blushing and adding “He and his girlfriend thanked us for it, later”
Sanskar burst out laughing
“Idiot” Ragini shot at him, hitting his arm
Sanskar poked her in the waist in retaliation, but she let out a yelp, holding her waist
“Ragini!” Sanskar asked worried
Ragini’s eyes teared up a bit
“Ragini, what is wrong?” he asked again
“It is nothing” she said, trying not to make him feel bad. But Sanskar persisted “It is the bullet wound. It was almost healed completely now, but sometimes it still feels a bit tender”
“Where is it? Can I see it?” Sanskar asked soberly
Ragini was a bit embarrassed to show it to him, but looking at his concern, she finally relented. She moved her saree pallu a bit to reveal a star shaped pinkish mark on her waist. It had been usually covered by pallu and not visible to anyone.
Sanskar felt guilty for poking her in the waist and causing her pain. He gently touched the wound “Does it hurt?” he asked her tenderly
Ragini shook her head
Sanskar looked back at the wound, a lump forming in his throat and the thought of how she must have gotten it. “It must have been really painful” he said looking at her
Ragini nodded “It was. It could have been worse. If it hadn’t been for Raghu kaka” her voice caught in her throat “He saved me. He took all the bullets that were meant for me”
“Except for this one” Sanskar said softly
“Even this one” Ragini said, as her eyes teared up
“Ragini” Sanskar said softly, holding her and hand giving it a gentle squeeze before letting it go “You don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to” he told her gently
Ragini shook her head “It is okay” she said “It is just that I miss him you know” she told Sanskar “He really cared for me like his daughter”
“The doctors at the hospital said I was really lucky. This bullet lost its velocity as it went through him, before hitting me. If it had been a direct hit, it would have been much worse”
“I am glad he was there to take care of you and protect you. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if he wasn’t there” Sanskar told her, feeling a bit emotional himself.
They were quiet for a long while, before Sanskar spoke “How long will it take for the wound to heal completely?”
“Probably a week more” Ragini said “After that I will still need to take the tablets for some time, but I can stop the cream”
Sanskar nodded. They lay there on the bed for some time, letting silence envelop them before Ragini got up “I better get back to the project” she said as she took his jacket off and put it back in the cupboard, before going to the coffee table and working on the project.
Sanskar nodded, getting back to the book he was reading. He glanced at Ragini for a second. He realized, belatedly, that she must have done the drag queen drama to distract him from the weird mood that he had gotten himself into since visiting Sharmistha. She had made him smile, made him laugh even and then what had he done in return? He had hurt her and then brought back bad memories. He sighed, he didn’t like seeing her pensive the way she was right now. She looked good happy, smiling, laughing her beautiful laughter.
“You know there is still something that I don’t know about that adult store incident” He told her
She looked up from her iPad, looking confused
“What was the color of those hand-cuffs?” he asked with a smile
Ragini blushed and broke into a smile of her own “Hot pink” she said before going back to her work
Sanskar smile looking at her. He was happy that she had been distracted from those sad memories.
As he returned to his book, his mind wandered back to the meeting Sharmistha again. There were decidedly a lot of things awkward about that meeting. The topic of his and Swara’s marriage at the forefront of it all. It wasn’t that he minded the talk of his and Swara’s marriage, it was more that he was awkward about it being done in the context of his current reality. He glanced at Ragini once. When he had gone there, there had been no doubts about him being a married man and married to Ragini – Swara’s step sister at that.
As he thought more, words and sentences, just stood out. ‘We were very happy when she met you’, ‘We were going to talk to your family about the alliance, once both of you agreed’ and ‘Of course she was willing to give that up. She knew yours was a traditional Marwari family’. What did that mean?
He remembered Adarsh bhaiyaa saying that they knew about him and Swara right from the beginning. He recollected Ranveer telling him that everyone in that room, who was discussion his and Ragini’s marriage was aware of his relationship with Swara. What did that mean?
He had met Swara as Sanskar Mehta not as Sanskar Maheshwari. Did she know that he was a Maheshwari and not Mehta? Or could it have been that she didn’t know about it, just like him and only the family knew? But they why would Sharmishtha say that they were going to talk to the family? Why would she say that Swara knew his was a traditional Marwari family? And if she knew who he was, why didn’t she way anything to him? Was she waiting for him to come out and tell her own his own? And how long had she known it? Did she know it right from the beginning? If that was the case, why not pull him for his lie right then?
Sanskar ran his fingers through his hair. He was left feeling more unsettled than when he started this quest. He was left feeling even less sure of what he really knew of Swara. It there was one reality that was staring him starkly right in the eye, it was that she knew he was Sanskar Maheshwari but he wasn’t sure who Swara Gadodia was anymore.
Precap – Ashu
Links to previous chapters
Credit to: Azure