Thanks so much for your wonderful response to the last update. This is the next one in the series. This is a super long updated and I have tried to crunch in a lot of bonding time for RagSan. I hope it doesnt end up feeling like too much of a overload or boring episode. Sorry if it is. I have tried to give a little bit of glimpse into their characters in this one.
Sanskar had returned home from his meeting with Ranveer half an hour back. He had changed into comfortable clothes and was sitting on his side of the bed, with a magazine in his hand, but his mind wasn’t on the magazine. His head was playing and replaying the conversation that he had with Ranveer.
He glanced at Ragini, she had been working on her project on her iPad pro. Had he not known what he knew about her family now, it would have thought it impossible to believe that she could have been through so much. While as a brother Ranveer was bound to feel his sister’s pain to be stronger than it really was, Sanskar had seen the honesty in Ranveer’s eyes when he had spoken. Even if she had gone through an iota of what Ranveer mentioned, it would have been debilitating for any normal person, but the Ragini that he had seen in front of him was truly resilient if she could go through all this and still come out not broken.
Sanskar remembered their wedding night when he had been what could only be called rude to her. Hearing that couldn’t have been anything but a shock and yet she had responded to him calmly. She had stayed composed all through it and he on the other hand had been jerk of the first order. Not just on that night but on most occasions. He felt ashamed of himself. How could he forget that she too must have been forced into this marriage? That she too would have had no say. There might have been someone in her life too, for all he knew. But he had been too absorbed in his own hurt and anguish to pay and heed to anyone else’s. He needed to apologize to her for his behavior. That was the only way he was going to do reduce some of the guilt he felt coursing through him right then. And it was the right thing to do. Except, he had no clue how to even begin.
He took a deep breath and glanced at her again. “How is your project going? You have everything you need to work on it?” he said trying to be causal about it and bringing a safe topic.
Ragini looked at his startled, as if she hadn’t expected him to ask that or be bothered with her or her project. It didn’t help with the feeling of guilt that was bubbling through him just then. After a minute she responded “It is going well. I still have a lot to do but I finally have everything I need” She gave him a small courtesy smile before adding “Thanks for asking”
Sanskar nodded. His mind was going over the next set of questions he could as her. Finding one, he spoke again “How are you finding working on iPad pro?” he asked pointing towards the device “I have been considering buying it for someone but some of by colleagues weren’t all that impressed”
“Oh it is really good!” Ragini added with a lot more ease than her first response “When I tried it out at the Apple store for a few minutes, I was really impressed. I bought it immediately. I cannot believe how easy it is to do all the sketches and plans on this one” She looked down at her iPad before looking back at him with a smile asking him “Do you want to try it?”
“I don’t want to interrupt your project right now” Sanskar told her
“It is not problem. You can try it now” Ragini offered extending the device towards him
“May be later, if it is alright with you.” Sanskar replied
“Sure. You go ahead and use it any time you want” Ragini told him choosing not to push things too much when things weren’t all that great between them.
Silence prevailed again and she went back to her project while he went back to pretending that he was reading his magazine. Great you missed an opportunity to say sorry, idiot! He chided himself. He looked around and what else he could talk to her to open the conversation again when his eyes fell on her bags.
“Have you unpacked?” he asked her loudly, startling her, before he repeated his question again softly
Ragini shook her head
“Why?” he asked
“There was no place where I could put my things” she said tentatively.
He looked back at his wardrobe. Wow! He had really had been a jerk. True he was in no state to think about such modalities, but it must have been awkward for her. “I will get one of the sections emptied for you” he told her. She thanked him for it and was about to go back to her project when it he cut in “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” he asked her
“Actually, I was going to, in a day or two, if we hadn’t spoken about it right now” Ragini told him with a tentative expression on her face
“Actually, let’s not wait for it. I will empty it for you now” Sanskar said, getting up from the bed and going towards the wardrobe
“You don’t need to do it right now” Ragini said getting up from where she was siting near the coffee table.
“No, it’s okay. I will do it now” Sanskar said opening the wardrobe door. He paused for a minute before closing the door and turning towards her “Actually, can we talk before that?” he asked her
She gave him a tentative nod. He signaled her to sit on the edge of the bed and he sat on the other side. She sat down slowly.
“I don’t know where to begin, so I will get straight to it” he said softly before looking her in the eye “I was a bit of jerk towards you on our, well, on our wedding night. Actually I was more than a jerk. I was angry and frustrated at the situation and I took it all out of you. I didn’t really give any thought that you would have been forced into the marriage too. That you might have someone in your life do. By the way do you? I mean did you?” Sanskar asked stopping his blabber in the middle. Seeing her shake he head, he continued “Right. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I was a thoughtless dumb rude idiot. You can add a few choice words of yours to this. You would be justified to”
Ragini was looking at him with wide eyes by now, not at all expecting this
“I see I have surprised you with this. Kinda tells me how bad I have been. Well basically, I just wanted to be sorry. I don’t know if I deserve to be forgiven, but, well yes, I am really sorry for the way I have been behaving” he said looking at her expectantly, waiting for her response
“It is okay” she said softly
Sanskar cut in before she could finish the sentence “No it is not. Please don’t say it is. I know I have been a complete ass”
“Since you are already admitting it, I forgive you” Ragini said, a small smile creeping along the corner of her lips
Sanskar nodded before what she said sunk in “I guess I deserve it” he said with a small smile of his own
“Ragini, I don’t know what is on your mind about the future. I mean, what do you want to do now?” Sanskar asked her sincerely “I was meant what I said about not being able to truly give you the place and rights of a wife. I wasn’t lying about that, even though I did a horrible job at conveying it” he admitted again, before continuing “Look divorce is not something on the cards from my end, but if that is what you want, I will support you with your decision. You deserve to have a proper life of your own not this compromise”
“And what about you? You don’t deserve a proper life?” she asked him
Sanskar shrugged “I don’t think I can have one, well with Swara…you know. And with anyone else it would be the same compromise”
“So what do you want to do?” he asked her again
“I cannot look at divorce. It will make matters worse between the families, no matter how much we try to avoid it” Ragini told him honestly
Sanskar nodded. He had felt the same way which was partly the reason why he had responded the way he had to Ranveer.
“So what now?” Sanskar asked. Ragini shrugged her shoulders, unsure herself “If we are going to be in this, the least that we can do is find a way to be civil and friendly towards each other” Sanskar said looking at her. Seeing her nod, he added “So can we be friends? Would you be okay with that?” Ragini nodded again. Sanskar extended his hand towards her and said “Hi, I am Sanskar Maheshwari”
Ragini looked at him confused
“If we are going to be friends, let’s do it the right way” Sanskar explained her offering his hand again
Ragini shook his hand with a smile “Ragini Gado….” She shook her head adding “Maheshwari”
Sanskar raised his eyebrow “Gado-Maheshwari. That is an odd name to have”
Ragini smiled more brightly at him, hearing his comment “I am Ragini Maheshwari”
Sanskar shook her hand with a smile of his own. It was strange that something as simple as a wrongly mentioned name would help them break some ice between them.
Sanskar got up and opened his wardrobe, taking out a couple of hangers loaded with clothes and piling them on the bed. Ragini was startled seeing the mess he was making. Before she could say anything, he went back to get the next batch, while saying “So Miss Maheshwari”
“Its Mrs” Ragini corrected him as he turned towards her with the next batch
“What?” he asked confused
“It is Mrs Maheshwari, not miss” she told him
“Right!” he said before adding “Poor soul”
“Who?” Ragini asked
“The husband of course”
“Why the husband?” Ragini asked him
“Well because after marriage all husbands are poor souls”
“But I thought I was your friend. Don’t I get any loyalty and preference here?” she asked him
“How do you know I am not friends with him as well? Besides we have just not become friends, I barely know you”
“So now?” Ragini asked. It was been a pleasant surprise to see him interact so nicely with her.
“So I guess we should get to know each other” Sanskar said rolling his eyes
“Well I don’t have a lot of experience with this” Sanskar said mockingly “but I have heard that people usually do that by asking each other questions”
“Okay” Ragini said
“You go first.” Sanskar told her “ And what exactly are you doing with my clothes?” Sanskar asked
Ragini looked at the clothes she was folding “I am helping you with this”
“Why? I can do it on my own. I was staying by myself for the past 6 years, you know” Sanskar explained
“I am sure you can, but it is faster if two people do it” Ragini answered
“Okay.” Sanskar agreed “ask your question”
“I need time to think” Ragini told him
“This isn’t any exam. Just ask whatever is on top of your mind” Sanskar said rolling his eyes at her
“Fine. How did you get to be so sarcastic?” Ragini asked making a face
“Nosey annoying siblings, mischievous mothers and irritating friends” Sanskar replied immediately, looking pointedly at her as he said the last part “Now my turn. What do you like to do in your pass time?”
“Spending time with Ashu” Ragini said with a bright smile “And just sitting and chatting with my friends for hours on anything under the sun, sipping a cup of coffee. Oh! And reading books”
“Is that your friends in uni?” Sanskar asked her, getting her nod “What did you like about those chats?”
“It was just that I was me. Just me there.” Ragini said “I don’t know how to explain it” she said pausing for a minute to find the right words “All of them were my friends because of who I was. My background, history, family, didn’t really matter. We liked and cared for each other just the way we were. I don’t know if I am explaining it right” Ragini said softly
“I understand what you are saying” Sanskar said softly. He knew. After being away from the family, that was the first unplanned positive surprise that he had encountered during those days at his uni. Back in Kolkata, he had been to the best school, one where all the rich kids went. They knew each other’s background and financial status and friendships were often based on that rather than on who you were. Most of the time, it felt like an act, because you had to behave a certain way as was expected in accordance to your status.
“What do you like to do in your free time?” Ragini asked
“Copy cat! You stole my question!” Sanskar teased her
“We never made any rules that I couldn’t ask you the same question” Ragini said raising her eyebrow
“Fine. You got me there on a technicality.” Sanskar said shaking his head “I love to play tennis. If I have free time, that is where you will find me, on a tennis court”
“What made you choose architecture?” Sanskar asked her
“I like how it is about making people’s dreams come true” Ragini said with a soft warm smile on her face. Seeing Sanskar’s questioning expression, she explained “People have so many dreams associated with having their own house. I like how architecture helps fulfil those. I like how you can help them turn a house into a home. Add those spaces that they can create beautiful memories in”
Sanskar was silent for a minute as he stared at the girl in front of him. She was really something else. Here she had been through a lot. She had some bad family memories and she was trying to make happy memories for everyone else. There was a look of satisfaction about her as she said it.
“Okay, my turn now” Ragini said breaking his thoughts “your reason for becoming architect?”
“You are really lazy aren’t you? At least come up with some original questions” Sanskar told her “My reason isn’t as profound as yours” he told her
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” she told him
“Fine” Sanskar said “I wanted to become architect to build solid structures that would stand the test of time. See nothing profound about it”
“Actually that is really nice”
“Nice? How?” he asked
“Well if the houses are solid, how would their dreams survive? How would those space create memories if they aren’t sustainable? If you think about it, for those dreams to come true, they need a house with those spaces to create memories and a solid structure that will keep them protected always” she explained
“Do you put a positive spin on everything?” Sanskar asked her
“I try. What is the point of putting a negative spin anyway?”
“What if reality is negative? Would you fight it then?” Sanskar asked
“Fighting reality doesn’t work” Ragini said almost somberly “It only adds to more pain. But once you accept reality, it can be liberating. Reality just blends into the background then. It is only when you realize you are banging against a wall, and stop, that you start searching for the door instead” Ragini said almost lost in thought
Sanskar was forced to look at her and let the words she said sink it. Was that what she was doing when she was pursuing her architecture degree at Cambridge? Trying to find the door out of her reality?
Ragini came out of her thoughts and looked at Sanskar “Sorry. That was a bit too much I guess. I made things too serious”
“Don’t be sorry. I liked what you said” he told her honestly. It was strange but he had never had these kind of conversations with his brothers or even with Uttara. Well Uttara was too young to have such conversation anyway. He had always been uncomfortable with their business and the shady world, ever since he found out about it. He had broached the subject with his brothers but he always felt a bit out of sync with them. It was strange then to have some of her thoughts connect with him so much. May be that was because she had similar feelings about the business? Whatever it was, despite the seriousness of the topic, it actually felt good.
They folded and put the remaining clothes in another section of the wardrobe as they went about it silently.
“You know what is the best way to lighten things?” Ragini asked feeling a bit guilty for ruining the pleasant comradery that was building between them
“Talking to Ashu” she said walking over to the phone and dialing the number. She asked her Bhabhi to pass the phone to Ashu and put it on speaker, as she said on the bed and laid the phone down in front of her. Sanskar laid down on his side of the bed, propping his head on his elbow.
“Laddo!” Ashu screamed into the speaker, making both of them smile
“Hi Buddy!” Sanskar said
“Kaka?” Ashu asked
“You Kaka is here with me” Ragini said sending a smile towards Sanskar
“Where is my Yo-Kai?” Ashu asked “You had promised”
Sanskar smiled brightly “It is on its way buddy. I have ordered it already. I should get it in a day or two. I will drop it by your place”
“Promise?” Ashu asked
“Promise” Sanskar asked him
“Laddo, did you have chocolate without me” Ashu asked her going back to what Sanskar now recognized as his standard questions
“No Baby. Can I ever have them without you?” Ragini asked him in a cute voice
“Promise?” Ashu asked to confirm
“Promise” Ragini said assuring him
“Maa, you go. I want to talk to Laddo” Ashu said on the phone. Ragini guessed that he was pushing Aditi Bhabhi out of his room.
“Laddo” Ashu said softly
“What is it baby?” Ragini asked. It was clear that something was bothering Ashu
“It a secret” Ashu said
“Cross my heart, I won’t tell anyone about it” Ragini said, as though that was their standard private way of communicating. Sanskar wasn’t sure if he should leave. Ashu was quite for a long time. “Ashu?” Ragini asked
“Kaka didn’t promise” Ashu told them
Sanskar looked confused.
“Kaka you have to cross your heart, otherwise Ashu cannot tell us his secret” Ragini explained to him
“Kaka doesn’t know anything!” Ashu muttered on the phone
Sanskar was amused by it, but made the promise all the same.
“Okay, go on now buddy” Sanskar told him
“Laddo. You know Pinky in my class, right?” Ashu told her
“Hmm. What did Pinky do?” Ragini asked him
“She is my girlfriend” Ashu told her
“Hawww! What about me then?” Ragini asked expressing mock anger
“You are my girlfriend outside school. She is my girlfriend at playschool” he explained as thought it was the most obvious logical and common place thing
“Way to go buddy!” Sanskar told him “You are going to be a chick magnet”
“What is that?” Ashu asked
Ragini threw Sanskar an amused look at she bit her lips to avoid bursting out in laughter “Yes Kaka, what is that”
Sanskar gave her a pointed look before saying “It is a magnet with baby chicken on it”
“Why is the baby chicken on it?” Ashu asked
Sanskar gave a helpless look to Ragini. Deciding to help him out this time, Ragini asked “Ashu, first tell me how did Pinky become your girlfriend”
“She told everyone in the class that I was her boyfriend” Ashu said
“And you didn’t correct her?” Ragini asked
“She gives me two chocolates everyday” Ashu said as way of explaining
“What Ashu is saying is that, the way to man’s heart is through the stomach” Sanskar added
“Laddo” Ashu said again. This time his voice was a bit nervous and soft
“What is it Ashu? What is wrong?” Ragini asked a bit worried about him now. She guessed this must have been what he really wanted to talk about.
“You know the cat at the play school?” Ashu asked quietly
“You mean the fat one?” Ragini asked
“umm hmm. It had 5 babies. It was a mommy cat” Ashu said
“That is nice, isn’t it?” Ragini asked. Ashu was quiet for a long time “Ashu?”
“Laddo, will Maa also have 5 babies?” Ashu asked in a small voice. Ragini guessed that must have been what was bothering him all this while
“No Ashu. It is different with your Maa. The cat had 5 babies. You Maa wont. Don’t worry” Ragini told him
“How? Cat was also mommy na” Ashu asked
“There is difference in cat mommy and your Maa. Trust me. Your Maa will only have one baby” Ragini assured him
“Promise Ashu” Ragini said. Sanskar was looking at all this amused.
“What about Sammy’s mummy?” Ashu asked
“Is Sammy worried as well?” Ragini asked
“umm hmmm. His mummy is going to have a baby too!” Ashu told her
“Don’t worry Sammy’s mummy is also different from cat mommy. She will not have 5 babies” Ragini told him
After a few seconds of silence, in which Ragini was convinced, she had calmed Ashu down, he spoke again “What about you Laddo? Will you have 5 babies?”
Sanskar’s elbow slipped at he hit the pillow while Ragini let out a startled “What?”
Sanskar let out a chuckle “You never know” Sanskar said jokingly
Ashu heard it and his voice almost broke “Laddo, you will have 5 babies?”
“No I won’t” Ragini said glaring at Sanskar “I am not like the cat either” she told Ashu
“Promise. In fact, I won’t have even one” Ragini said trying to calm him down
“You won’t have a baby?” he asked
“I have you, na? My Ashu baby” Ragini said
“But I am Maa and Baba’s baby. When I asked Baba where do babies come from, he told me that when a boy and a girl get married, they come husband and wife and then they have a baby. You are a girl. Kaka is a boy, you are married and are husband and wife. So you will have a baby” he told her
Ragini touched her head trying to figure out the best way to respond to him. Sanskar stepped in trying to help, especially after his cat comment. Salvation for his error in their recently formed friendship.
“Not every husband and wife have babies. Remember Adarsh Kaka and Pari Kaki. They don’t have any baby” Sanskar tried to reason
“Why?” Ashu asked
“Well because Adarsh Kaka was fighting to your Kaka” Sanskar said. Ragini gave him a look, but he just shrugged his shoulders
“So if someone is fighting to Kaka they don’t have babies?” Ashu asked
“Yes! That’s it” Sanskar said feeling satisfied that he had sorted the mess
“But Kaka you cannot fight with yourself. So why will Laddo not have a baby?”
“ummm” Sanskar said, trying to reason with this
“Kaka, you don’t know anything” Ashu said after a few minutes “I will ask Baba to talk to you. He will tell you where babies come from”
“Yes Ashu. Good idea” Ragini told him
“Okay I have to go now. Bye” Ashu said before cutting the phone
Sanskar and Ragini let out a breath of relief.
“This was meant to lighten the mood” Sanskar commented
“I know. Usually he does. This is one of the weird ones” Ragini said from where she had sunk into the bed tired. “This was really embarrassing.” Ragini admitted
“I have had worse” Sanskar commented before he realized what he had said
“So what was your most embarrassing moment?” Ragini asked as she caught it
“I am not telling you” Sanskar said
“Come on. I thought we were getting to know each other” Ragini said with a smile
“Remember the practice that you started of asking the same question as I was asking” Sanskar asked her “Well that applies here. If I tell you my embarrassing moment, you have to tell me yours”
“Let’s skip it. Just forget the question” Ragini said quickly going back towards the coffee table and sitting with the IPad in front of her.
“That was quick. Now I am intrigued.” Sanskar said with a teasing smile. He went towards the door and bolted the door
“What are you doing?” Ragini asked
“I am locking the door so that no one can come in and hear this” Sanskar said before going and sitting by the edge of the bed “I have never told anyone about this so this cannot go out of this room, or you are dead” Sanskar warned her
“But I cancelled the question. You don’t need to answer” Ragini protested
“Oh! You are protesting a bit too much! I want to know about this now. And once you have asked the question, there are no take backs” Sanskar told her
“But” Ragini tried to cut in
“Nopes. No going back now. This better be good” Sanskar told her “Phew!” he said taking a deep breath “I had gone to a club with a few friends in the first year of the grad course” Sanskar started
“You are not going to let me get out of this are you?” Ragini said cutting in
“Not a chance” Sanskar told her before continuing “Well anyway, we placed a few bets. One of those was that I had to go and try to woo a girl that they would pick and get her to buy me a drink. I agreed to it. They pointed me to someone. It was an African American girl. I went to her and let’s just say, I said a few cheesy lines. She didn’t talk, but I could gather by the end of it that she was impressed” Ragini nodded. Considering she wasn’t getting out of it, she might as well enjoy it “At the end of it, I asked her ‘how about she buy me a drink’ for a change and I could buy her the next one. That is when she spoke and shocked the hell out of me. She was basically a he”
“What?” Ragini said with a smile “You tried to flirt with a man?”
“I told you it was embarrassing. My friends pulled my leg for it for weeks. Still do. Those idiots knew it was a drag queen and pushed me into it” Sanskar said shaking his head
“Your friends are funny” Ragini said
“They are a riot” Sanskar said making an annoyed face before rubbing his hands “Now it’s your turn”
“No please Sanskar” Ragini pleaded
“No. Not hearing any excuses. Come on. I told you my most embarrassing incident. That was pretty bad, let me tell you” Sanskar told her
“Fine” Ragini said feeling nervous “My friends and I were at this face that we frequented. We had just finished shopping and the boys in your group were a bit pissed off having to carry all the bags, so they pretty much made us get the drinks for all. Jason and Mark where the one who made the most ruckus over it. One of my friends Megan was annoyed because of it. She saw some salt shakers nearby and added salt in their coffee. Lots of it” Ragini said “Cat, that is Catharine, and I helped her. We were a bit annoyed as well, to be honest”
“Jason and Mark drank their coffee and well the reaction wasn’t good. They lunged at us and we ran out of the café around the street. To hide from them, we entered into the first shop that we encountered. We hadn’t see it before, but right then we didn’t have much thought in mind. We saw a door and we entered. They rushed past the shop and that we when we realized where we were”
“Where were you?” Sanskar asked curious. Ragini mumbled something. “What?” Sanskar asked
Ragini looked at him with a sort of helpless look on her face which made her look all the more innocent as she said “Adult shop”
“What?” Sanskar said letting out a snort
“Don’t laugh it was scary. We tried to leave the place but the owner was some scary looking Eastern European or Russian lady. She wouldn’t let us leave without buying something.” Ragini said still feeling scandalized
“Did you buy something?” Sanskar asked trying to control his laughter from bursting out
“We had to! We didn’t have a choice” Ragini told him, her eyes widening remembering the incident “But that wasn’t it”
“It wasn’t!” Sanskar asked pleasantly surprised
“We realized we had left our bags and wallets at the café and the lady wouldn’t let us leave without buying something. In hindsight, we should have suggested one of us leave and get the money, but we were scared. Then I remembered I had my credit card in the pocket of my jacket and we paid for it and got it” Ragini told him “But the worst was that the card bills were all paid for by Ranveer Bhai. I had to call him and tell him what happened”
Sanskar’s eyes widened and he burst out laughing. He couldn’t control it anymore
“Don’t laugh. It was really bad” Ragini said
Looking at her childlike expression, he said “I am sorry. Go on. What did Ranveer do?”
“He burst out laughing and told me that from next time onwards I should take Raghu Kaka and Sundar with me, even if it was adult shop. He told Raghu kaka and Sundar the same thing as well” Ragini said, before her expression softened “Raghu Kaka and Sundar…” she trailed off
“Were protecting you” Sanskar said
“How did you know?” Ragini asked
“I guess based on what you just told me” Sanskar told her, avoiding mentioning the real reason of how he knew about them.
They were silent for a bit before Ragini went back to working on her project and Sanskar went back to reading his magazine.
Precap – overheard conversation
Link to previous chapters
Credit to: Azure