Thanks all for your comments. I am posting the next part now. Since it was weekend I could post daily, but I might only be able to post on alternate days on other days. Please forgive me in case of typos or spelling mistakes. I haven’t had a chance to proofread all of the parts the way I would have liked to. Thanks for reading
Sanskar reached a farmhouse that was located some distance away from Kolkata city along with his bodyguards. It had been impossible to leave the house unaccompanied these days and the person he was meeting had asked him to come with his security and even offered to send Sanskar some of his.
A servant opened the door even before he reached it and escorted him to a room that opened up into a garden. The person he was here to meet was already there by the bar in the room. He nodded at Sanskar and asked him to get comfortable on the lounge chairs that lined the room.
“Do you want anything to drink?” the person asked
Sanskar shook his head. The person walked over towards Sanskar with two glasses in hand. They seemed to have whiskey on it on the rocks. He kept it in front of Sanskar before going back and getting a bottle of mineral water for Sanskar “Just in case if you feel the need” the person said before adding “Don’t worry it is not whiskey. It is just apple juice. Helps with the illusion doesn’t it? I am trying to avoid whiskey these days. Aditi doesn’t like it if I drink and I am trying not to do anything that will make her upset”
Sanskar looked at Ranveer “You said you wanted to talk about something”
Ranveer took a sip of the apple juice looking pointedly at Sanskar making him a bit uncomfortable “I did not want this marriage to happen.” Ranveer said after a minute
“Why didn’t you do something about it then?” Sanskar asked him
“I tried to” Ranveer said looking critically at Sanskar “I knew about you and my Kaka’s daughter. Everyone in that room that day from your family and mine, knew. They all decided to brush my concerns aside and push through with it”
“She has a name. Swara. She was your sister too” Sanskar reminded him
“Relations aren’t based merely on blood. They are based on emotions, feelings and bonding. I have always had only one sister, Laddo” Ranveer told him bluntly
“Is that what you wanted to talk to me about today? Is that why you called me? To tell me that you were not happy with this marriage but couldn’t do anything about it?” Sanskar asked him
“No. I called you here today to tell you that it doesn’t matter what has happened. If you aren’t going to be able to truly make this marriage work, then I want to know now. I don’t want Laddo to go through any more pain. You won’t have to worry about safety of your family or any backlash. I will ensure that there is none. It is better if this ends now and Laddo comes back home rather than spend a lifetime in misery” Ranveer told him
Sanskar looked at him startled. It was everything he would have wanted and hoped for. But his family flashed before him. They would never allow it. Should he even worry about them? Hadn’t they used him as a pawn? But what if Ranveer couldn’t come through? What if Lucky and Uttara came under risk. His Maa and Mom’s crying face flashed before his eyes. Could he take the chance? Could it really go for it? Hadn’t Ranveer failed in even getting his objection over the marriage listened to? He had an internal battle waging in his mind between the safety of his family, his own wishes and his anger at what they had made him go through.
Ranveer didn’t disturb him while he was going through this. After what seemed like a while Sanskar looked back at him, having made up his mind “Ragini is now the bahu of Maheshwaris. We are married. I will take care of her. You don’t need to worry about her” he told Ranveer
“Don’t make promises that you cannot keep” Ranveer warned him “I cannot take tears in my sister’s eyes. I have seen her go through enough, standing by being helpless. I am not going to do that now anymore. Take the offer and move on”
“I stand by what I have said” Sanskar told him
Ranveer narrowed his eyes and looked at Sanskar for a long while. Sanskar met his eyes unflinchingly. Finally, Ranveer nodded.
They sat there for a while in silence. As had been happening lately, Sanskar’s mind was filled with questions. Ranveer could help with those, a voice in his head said. But could he risk it? He wasn’t sure. Without intending to, Sanskar picked up the glass of apple juice and took a sip himself.
“You seem like you have something on your mind that you want to talk to me about” Ranveer said looking at Sanskar
“I want to know what happened to Swara. Who was responsible for this?” Sanskar asked
“Is that the price of my sister’s happiness?” Ranveer asked him
“If you know about Swara and I, then I am sure you know I was there that day. I feel partly responsible. I need to know what happened that day and why.”
Ranveer looked at Sanskar for a few minutes before asking “What do specifically do you want to know? You were there after all, as you have said yourself”
“Who was responsible for hurting her?” Sanskar asked
“LAPD caught the person who shot her. His name was Dough Jenkins. He was one of the bikers at the pub you went to. They caught him a couple of blocks away with this gun. It was an automatic pistol. He confessed. He told them that she had a fight with him in the bar” Ranveer raised his eyebrow and Sanskar as he said this “He was pissed off about that. He has a couple of drinks and had left the pub only to realize he had left his mobile behind in his state. He came back to pick it up when he bumped into her and things didn’t go smoothly. He lost it and emptied the entire magazine into her.”
“What happened to him? Is he in prison?” Sanskar asked
“Let’s just say Kaka took care of him for hurting his daughter” Ranveer told him plainly
Sanskar was lost in his thoughts for a minute before something stuck him “This doesn’t make sense. Didn’t Ragini get attacked in UK at the same time? How can it be that Swara was attached by a biker at the same time as Ragini?” he asked
“You only wanted to know about Kaka’s daughter and I told you about her.” Ranveer said looking at him pointedly
Sanskar looked away, a whiff of guilt flowing through him before he looked back at Ranveer. “I want to know what happened that day” he said firmly “I know that it cannot be a coincidence that both were attacked at the same time. This biker story doesn’t make sense. What happened in UK that day?”
“Why don’t you tell me what you know of the incident that happened in LA first and then I will tell you what happened in Cambridge” Ranveer told him.
Sanskar looked at him for a second and then nodded. “We were at the pub, waiting for a friend of Swara’s. He messaged that he couldn’t come. We decided it was time to leave. I went to get the car. When I was driving it back I saw….” Sanskar paused for a second composing himself as the scene flashed before him “I saw that Swara was on the side of the road in argument with someone on a bike. I couldn’t see his face. He was wearing a helmet. I was worried and parked the car. Before I got out, I heard shots. I looked over to see Swara had collapsed. I tried to run towards the biker and catch him but he rushed past me before I could grab hold off him. I rushed to Swara, she was convulsing. And then……” he trailed off shutting his eyes tightly.
Ranveer gave him a few minutes to compose himself. Sanskar opened his eyes, he picked up the glass of the juice and drowned it, wishing he has something stronger instead.
“Tell me about UK now” Sanskar told him
Ranveer nodded “It was Monday morning in UK. As was Laddo’s regular schedule, Raghu kaka her bodyguard had driven her to the college. Her other bodyguard Sundar and left his post despite my warnings, to pick me up at the airport. I had gone to UK at that time to surprise Laddo” he explained “As was the case always, they had stopped by her friend’s place to pick her up on the way. Laddo got out of the car and went to ring the door when Raghu kaka saw a biker speeding towards them. His face was covered with a helmet. As he came closer, Raghu kaka spotted his gun. He rushed out and covered Laddo just in time as the person shot at her. Raghu kaka took all the bullets meant for Laddo but one of those hit her. By the time I landed and called her, I was rushing to the hospital instead of her campus. Raghu kaka succumbed to his wounds” Ranveer told him somberly
“Both were shot at, by bikers wearing helmets” Sanskar said after a bout of silence “This cannot be coincidence. Surely it had to be some plan to attack both of them”
“Before we decide on what is coincidence and what is not, let us go over some facts” Ranveer said, seeing Sanskar nod he continued “What happened to that girl was at a pub which had a lot of bikers. Bikers with bikers and helmets and guns. She had an argument with the person more than once. Now you said you heard the shots, correct?” Ranveer asked Sanskar for confirmation “LAPD then caught the person with an exhausted automatic pistol. The ballistics and tests on the gun matched the bullets found on her. They found gun powder residue on his hands”
Ranveer paused for a minute before he continued again “Now about what happened in UK. It happened in broad daylight in the middle of student residential area. Laddo wasn’t in the habit of visiting pubs frequented by bikers not did she pick up fight with any of them. The biker was riding a high speed bike. He not stop his bike but speeded it up along the lane. He took out the gun while riding it, shot at her and drove away without stopping. It happened in the matter of couple of minutes at most. He had a silencer on his gun. No one heard anything or would have realized anything had it not been for Laddo’s friend opening the door around the same time and seeing them collapse. The bullets that were recovered from Raghu kaka’s body were specialized high velocity precision plastic head spritzer bullets that are not usually used in pistols and need specialist pistol to make it work.”
Ranveer let the information sink in before he asked “Now tell me what do you think? If there is a coincidence in this, tell me which one do you think is the coincidence?”
“So you are telling me it was a case of Swara being in the wrong place at the wrong time whereas with Ragini it was planned attack?” Sanskar asked him
Ranveer just tilted his head but didn’t respond.
Sanskar softly said “Swara wasn’t someone in the habit of visiting biker pubs or picking up fights with bikers”
Ranveer raised an eyebrow as if to ask Sanskar are you really hearing yourself after what we have just discussed.
“Look you are making Swara into some lewd girl in all of this. She wasn’t like this. She spent her entire life not even getting the love of her entire family, outside her parents. It seems she wasn’t even seen important enough to have the protection and bodyguards. I don’t understand how you can point fingers at her.” Sanskar said trying to defend her
Ranveer leaned forward a bit “Are you sure you even know her that well?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sanskar asked him feeling offended
“Saying that she was my Kaka’s favorite daughter is putting it mildly. Did you really think that she would not have the protection no matter where she was?” Ranveer asked him leaning back in his chair again “As for the other things that you have said, let me give you a bit of background on the family, especially since you have decided you want to hang on to this marriage. If at the end of this, you feel you want to free my sister and save her from misery, I would welcome it. And if not and if you want to continue with this, I hope this will at least give you some understanding into my sister”
Sanskar felt almost chastised. He knew Ranveer clearly didn’t like Swara and that there would be a shade of that bias coming through in whatever he heard now. He knew he had to take it with a pinch of salt, but there was also a part of him that had been feeling left unnerved by the gaps that existed right now in what he seemed to know about Swara. Not that it mattered, he knew what he needed to when he fell in love with her. This wasn’t going to change his view on her.
Ranveer started speaking “Dadaji has always been the whole and soul of the business and Dadi that for the family. My Baba and Kaka were both close to each other and respected their parents a lot. When it was time for Kaka to get married, Dadi chose Janki Maa for him. They were married and very happy during those initial days. They were going to have a child of their own. But then things changed. Kaka got the notion of getting into movies and met a woman. He got so carried away in her that he started ignoring his wife and unborn child. Baba found out about Kaka’s affair and warned him. He tried to drive some sense into Kaka, remind him that he was already married, but he was so obsessed with the woman that he wasn’t willing to see the reality. Janki maa, despite her pregnancy, always visited the temple. Looking at her condition, Maa would go with her on these occasions. On one such occasion they had been to temple together and were just returning, when Maa saw Kaka with that woman. Before she could prevent Janki Maa from seeing his, given her condition, the worse happened. Janki Maa saw them. The way they were, it was clear that the woman was pregnant. In the moment of shock, Janki Maa lost her footing and fell down the temple stairs. She was rushed to the hospital, but by the she had lost the baby and was in a critical condition herself”
Sanskar had heard a version of this before, but now he had been given the details of the incident too.
“When Dadaji came to know about the details, he ordered Kaka to end the relationship. But Kaka told him that he wanted to end his marriage and marry the woman instead, that she was carrying his child. Dadaji warned Kaka that Janki Maa was always going to be his bahu and beti. If Kaka ended the marriage and left her, Dadaji would disown Kaka and declare that he only had one son. Kaka would lose all his inheritance. The marriage remained but Kaka continued his relationship with the woman stating that she was the mother of his child. He built a new house for her and spent most of his time there. Janki Maa remained the bahu of the family while the other woman enjoyed being the wife without being married to Kaka”
Ranveer looked at Sanskar as he finished explaining this. For some reason Sanskar felt that Ranveer was trying to make a point there and send him a subtle message about his sister.
“Kaka was rarely at home other than those afternoons when there were some meetings to be held in another part of the house and on some rare nights when he was ordered to, by Dadaji and Dadiji. Dada and Dadi wanted Kaka and Janki Maa to have a child of their own. They thought that once the child came, Kaka might realise his mistake and treat Janki Maa right and things would become alright. When Laddo was born, everyone was happy, more for Janki Maa. She had a tough pregnancy without her husband being around much and despite the care from Maa, Dadi and the rest of the family, there was a void in her life that none of them could fill in. Laddo helped fill some happiness in her life. But things didn’t go as Dada and Dadi hoped and my Baba had to become her Baba too since she Kaka was never around.”
For the first time since meeting her, Sanskar felt bad for Janki. Without meaning to, his mind flashed back to yesterday with Shekhar Gadodia was missing because of some meeting. Was this someone related to what Ranveer was saying?
“Laddo and I have grown up together. I have been around her since her birth. Did you know someone tried to kill her when she was about three?” Ranveer asked Sanskar. Sanskar gave a tentative nod remembering what Adarsh had told him “My Baba was with Janki Maa and Laddo at that time. Maa was pregnant again and she could travel. Baba considered Janki Maa as his younger sister. He wouldn’t let her go alone. When Laddo was attacked, he saved her but he was killed at that time. My Maa could not bear the news, she collapsed and went into shock. She lost the baby. She went into depression after that and started getting sick more often and then passed away. I was about 9 then. Janki Maa took care of me, becoming my Maa and Baba just like she had done with Laddo”
Ranveer looked at Sanskar and asked him “You asked me about why I have only one sister right?” he continued, without waiting for Sanskar to respond “It is because it has always only been Laddo and I. We have been together through everything, just us together”
Sanskar looked away feeling a bit ashamed at having shot that question at Ranveer sometime back. True he didn’t know the details then, but he still couldn’t help feel bad for it all the same.
“You said that Kaka’s daughter had been kept away from the family and its love, right?” Ranveer asked Sanskar “Why do you think Kaka wasn’t with his family most of the time beyond those meeting and some rare nights?” Ranveer shot at him “You guessed it, huh?” Ranveer said looking at Sanskar’s expressions “Well let me tell you something more. Those rare nights that Kaka was around in the house, most of them, he was drunk. And on those occasions, he called Janki Maa by that woman’s name and he called Laddo by his daughter’s name”
Sanskar had been peeved initially when Ranveer referred to Swara only as Kaka’s daughter. He had also been confused why he said that since Ragini was also Shekhar Gadodia’s daughter as well. Now he realized why Ranveer had said those things.
“You spoke about protection for Kaka’s daughter, didn’t you?” Ranveer continued “She always had bodyguards. She had them since before Laddo was attacked as a child, because Kaka was worried for her. Dadaji added the bodyguards for Laddo after she was attacked. Raghu kaka had been protecting her and looking after her since she was 3.”
After hearing Ranveer, one thing was clear to Sanskar and that was that Shekhar Gadodia had been a bad father to Ragini and a bad husband to Janki Maa. But Ranveer had said nothing to change his view of Swara and that made him feel stronger in his conviction about what he knew of her. She couldn’t be blamed for her father’s shortcomings.
“Where were Swara’s bodyguards when she was attacked in that case?” Sanskar asked
Ranveer gave him a mocking smile before answering “They were nearby. They had been ordered to maintain some distance so as not to cringe her style. By the time they rushed over, she had been hurt. They were one of those who helped her and called for the ambulance. Kaka was very unhappy with them. Let’s just say they won’t be able to make him unhappy again, he ensured that”
“Now let’s talk about my offer. What are you going to do?” Ranveer asked him bluntly
“I thought I already told you my answer” Sanskar told him plainly. He wasn’t risking his family. He would keep Ragini happy, even if they wouldn’t be husband and wife in the real sense. There was also no question of him cheating on her like Shekhar Gadodia had.
Ranveer picked up his glass and threw it at the wall in a fit of rage. Some bodyguards rushed in hearing the sound of the glass. He waved them out. He pinched the bridge of his nose before looking at Sanskar – glaring at him more like it. “My Laddo will not be another Janki Maa. If you cause her any harm, any hurt, I will forget that you are her husband. Do you get that?” Ranveer warned Sanskar.
Sanskar nodded “Are we done? Or are there any more threats that you want to make?” he asked
Ranveer shook his head seeing Sanskar’s reaction “You keep my sister happy and I will ensure that there are no threats towards you or your family from anyone including me”
Sanskar stood up, as did Ranveer, and then left the farmhouse.
“I am sorry Laddo. I know you would never be okay with this if you found out, but I had to do it. I cannot see you go through anymore pain” Ranveer said to himself
Precap – friends?
Links to previous chapters
Credit to: Azure