Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Swara’s enjoyable but hectic weekend ended a little quicker than what she had planned. Greg’s work finished a day earlier and he picked up the children on Sunday night instead of Monday morning. He said it would make it easier for him to get to work on Monday morning as well.
With the kids gone, Swara did give going back to work a thought but then decided to take the morning off as originally planned and use that time to get the house back in order. That decision lasted until Ragini rang and informed her that she was having a very bad time with her morning sickness and didn’t think that she make it to work. With Ragini away, it meant that there would be no one in their section until the afternoon. Swara knew she could only do one thing and that was to go in.

At 7.45 am on Monday morning Swara was seated at her desk with her coffee mug beside her as she worked through her e-mails. She printed the ones that needed action. Saved the important messages and deleted the rest. Then she quickly sent Sanskar a thank you note. It was short and polite. Nothing in it gave any indication of the turmoil that was within the writer.
It read “Thank you for the beautiful flowers and the words. Swara.”
Then she got back to work. At a quarter past nine, Lucky walked in and detailed Ragini’s horrid weekend. He also brought a folder from Ragini.

“Sanskar will collect this from you sometime this morning.” he said. Then he left after thanking her on behalf of Ragini.
As Swara put the folder in her in-tray, she heard a sound behind her. Presuming that Lucky had returned she turned towards him, but it was not Lucky who had walked in. It was Sanskar.
Dressed in navy trousers and a pale blue business shirt, he had finished off the effect with a matching tie that complimented both items. He always looked incredibly handsome but for the first time, Swara was prepared to acknowledge it to herself. Swara had always admired Sanskar, the way he worked and the way he treated his staff. But it was her own reaction to him that she was suddenly more aware of now. The missing heartbeat and the nervous feeling in the stomach, it
was all there. That bouquet of flowers had changed everything for her. ‘What is wrong with you?’ she admonished herself. ‘You are twenty-eight years old, not some silly teenager having her first crush. Steady yourself Swara, you are moving onto shaky grounds’ Despite her warning to herself, she was still not able to ignore her new awareness of him.

“Here already? Ragini said you were having the morning off to be with your kids.” he
“Ragini rang and as Greg had taken the k..kids back last night, I thought I would come in.” she replied.
“Um..Lucky said he had left the Galodia file with you. I am glad you came in early. With Ragini away; I will need your help on the Galodia project. Ragini said you know all about it.”
Sanskar was looking directly at her as he waited for her answer. He noticed that she either had not heard the stress he had put on the words ‘your kids’, or she was not going to clarify things for him. Then he wondered why he wanted clarification in the first place.

“Yes, I am loooo..king at it no…ow.” her stutter was worse than ever. Her hands were shaking.
‘Oh hell Ragini’, she thought, ‘I will never get through this day’.
Sanskar continued to look at Swara, annoyed at this turn of events. Then noticing her nervousness, his eyes suddenly softened. So this was why Ragini was so protective about her. He could see the tremor in her hands. At first he was going to leave Swara to deal with Suraj Galodia. Suraj was a good client but he could be a bit curt and abrupt. Ragini had strongly objected and had asked him to conduct the meeting himself. Now he was glad he had agreed.
“Look, I know you hate meeting people so I’ll speak to Galodia, but I do want you to be there beside me just in case he has any questions. Let me have a quick look at the notes and then we’ll take the stuff over to my desk. Galodia is already there so we don’t have much time.”
Sanskar continued looking at the papers, hoping that would ease her nervousness. Swara heart began pounding. She knew this sensation well. The difficulty in breathing, the feeling of nausea, the perspiration on her face and claustrophobia! Her doctor called it a panic attack. She could hear Sanskar’s voice but nothing made sense. She knew she had to sit down soon or she would fall. So close was she to fainting. There was no way she could attend the meeting.
She wouldn’t even be able to make it to the door, forget going past it. She knew she was letting Sanskar and Ragini down, but there was nothing she could do about it except wish that she had not come in either.
The sensations grew worse as she felt her head swim and her body sway. Sanskar seemed to sense that something was wrong and looked up from the notes. He saw her move slowly around the desk, holding the edge until she was safely in her seat. Within seconds he had gone to the kitchen and returned with a glass of cold water. He saw her try to stop her unsteady hands from spilling he contents.
‘Lord hell’, he thought, ‘this was not going to work.’ Swara was a mess. He would
have to handle this as best as he could. Again he thought ‘No wonder Ragini would never let Swara attend any of the meeting.’

“Are you all right? Look, forget I asked you to come. You stay here. I’ll handle it. If I have a question, I will come over. I better get Lucky to come and sit with you for a while. You still look very pale.” he turned to walk towards the door.
The tears had started. Swara did not know if it was from relief at not having to face Suraj Galodia or disappointment at letting everyone down. A second later he was back by her side. He reached out to comfort her but she shrank from his touch and he withdrew his arms to his side.

Maintaining his distance, he squat down and said “Swara, will you be ok if I leave you alone for a little while. I have to go and see Galodia. I will be back as soon as our meeting is over. I’ll call Lucky or one of the girls to sit with you.”

“No ..I www..ill be all right. I am so…orry…” Swara let out in between tears.
Sanskar stood a moment. He saw the tears fall down her cheeks. She wiped them with the back of her hand. He noted that even now she had not taken off her glasses. ‘Oh hell’, he thought.
He better excuse himself from the meeting. She wasn’t his problem and his show of concern had not been wanted, so he asked himself as to why was he still worried about her? A minute seemed to have passed and she said “Ppl..ease. go…i will bbb.ee fine.”

He picked up the folder and was just about to do as asked, when looking up he found Galodia
standing at the doorway. With disapproval clearly written on his face, he looked from one to the
“I am sorry, I seem to have come in at the wrong moment.” Galodia said sternly “Look we can
make this another day.” Galodia hated being kept waiting and hated it even more when that
delay was because of a woman. If Sanskar was having an affair, that was his problem but Suraj
Galodia was not going to put up with unprofessional behaviour from anyone. The fact that he
was very fond of Sanskar made no difference to this policy.
Sanskar too was equally annoyed. Galodia’s tone clearly expressed what he was thinking. It was
clearly apparent that Galodia thought that he had caught them out. He would have to set things
straight later on but clarifying things at that moment would have been like adding fuel to the fire.
He continued to look at Galodia and noticed Galodia’s expression change. Galodia was not
looking at him anymore but at Swara with an unreadable but strange expression. Then he glanced
at Sanskar and back at Swara. That action irritated Sanskar for he knew exactly what Galodia was thinking.
It was transparent. ‘There was no way Sanskar would be involved with someone like Swara’. Sanskar wondered why this should upset him. It should have brought relief.
Sanskar was not wrong in his deduction. When Galodia had first appeared at the doorway, he had
only seen Swara’s bent head.Now he saw her properly. This girl was ‘a nothing’. There was no
way Sanskar would be involved with someone as plain as Swara. He had seen the women Sanskar had
previously dated. He had recently even heard that Sanskar had been seen with a stunning model.
He felt guilty at jumping to the wrong conclusion. This was no ‘office affair’. He would have
gone back to Sanskar’s office, but something about Swara held his interest. Maybe it was that
forlorn aura she had about her or maybe because she reminded him so much of his own daughter.
Swara in the meanwhile had calmed down considerably. Her palpitation had stopped as soon as
Sanskar had told her that she would not have to meet Galodia. The cold water had eased the pain in
her head but she still did not trust herself to stand up. She continued to look at the man standing
at the doorway. ‘If Sanskar would just walk out with him, everything would be fine’.
As if Sanskar had heard her prayer, he walked over to Galodia and said “Suraj we might as well
get back. I’ve got everything I need now.”
Sanskar knew well that courtesy demanded that he introduce Suraj to Swara but having witnessed
the panic attack, he now feared the consequence of the introduction. He began to move as if to
leave but instead of following him Galodia walked further into the room and in Swara’s
“So this is where your geniuses work.” All the while Galodia kept his eyes focused on Swara.
Sanskar could feel his annoyance grow. He was very fond of Galodia. Their relationship extended
beyond their business dealings. But Galodia should have followed his lead and left the room.
Unknowingly Galodia was going to aggravate an already delicate situation.
“Yes and unless we leave one of my genius alone, she won’t be able to live up to her reputation.”
Sanskar voiced in a hurry and hoped Suraj would get the message. Instead Suraj seemed more
adamant to stay in the room.
“With such a compliment it would be remiss if I left without meeting her myself” All the while
Galodia was moving closer to Swara.
Reaching her, he held out his hand. Sanskar looked apologetically at Swara and hoped she would be able to cope.
As soon as Swara noted that the attention had focused on her, all the earlier sensations returned.
Her breathing visibly increased, perspiration covered her forehead and her mouth began to go dry.

Sanskar was now angry but he was unable to display it for he could not establish the subject of his
anger. Was it Suraj? Ragini? Or was it Swara herself?
‘Hell, this was really no way to run a business’
Galodia continued to look at Swara and then suddenly looked around as if searching for
Pulling a sheet of butcher’s paper off the table he cupped it into a ball and taking it over to Swara commanded “Breath into this. Breath!” The voice was stern but strangely soothing to Swara. She did as she was told. “Now sit with your head tucked between your knees and breathe slowly. Very slowly.” She did that too.
Five minutes later Swara sat up. The colour had returned to her face and she looked better
“Ttthaank y..ou.” she whispered.
Galodia’s eyes welled up with tears. Sanskar was shocked to see a grown man get so emotional.
Galodia’s action to wipe the tears away did not go unseen either.
“Suraj Galodia.” Stretching out his hand, he introduced himself.
Sanskar recovered from his shock and made the formal introduction “Suraj this is Swara Bose.
Swara, Suraj Galodia.”
Swara shook his hand and was embarrassed by her clammy ones. Galodia did not seem to mind
but when he hadn’t released them straight away, Sanskar noticed that Swara actually pulled hers back.
“I will leave you gentlemen to talk. I have some work to do in the printin..g department.”
Without another glance she walked away towards the coffee room leaving Sanskar and Suraj
staring after her, noting her unsteady gait.
The two men recovered as soon as she was out of view.
“Sorry Sanskar. I guess I should have waited in your office”. Galodia apologies but his tone said
‘I am glad I came’.
“That is all right. How did you know what to do?” Sanskar questioned.
“My daughter had the same problem.” He answered as they began to walk towards Sanskar’s
“You have a daughter? I thought you didn’t have any children. Didn’t you say your wife and you blamed each other for not having a child?”
“No, we blamed each other for losing our child.” Galodia whispered
“I am sorry” Sanskar did not know how to proceed further.

“She left home when she was seventeen. We rarely heard from her and then one day the police knocked on our doors. It was too late for everything by then. Too late to say sorry. Too late to make amends. She was our only child you know. Margaret and I blamed each other for her death.
The pressure of it took its toll on our marriage and we both decided to go our separate ways.
How old is Ms Bose?”
“I am not really sure” Sanskar acknowledged.
“Does she have a family?” Suraj continued.
“She wears a wedding ring and I have seen her with two children.” Sanskar replied finding his
answer strangely dampening. Suddenly he realised where Galodia’s questions were going.
“Suraj, is she your daughter?” Sanskar asked looking straight into Suraj’s eyes.
Suraj was stunned by the question. “No Sanskar, as I said my daughter is dead and even if she was
alive, she would have been in her early forties. Ms Bose looks a lot younger than that.”
They reached Sanskar’s office and were soon immersed in work. The meeting went off really well
and Suraj was extremely happy with the progress. He asked for a couple of changes, Sanskar took
them back to Swara and the changes were successfully made within minutes. They agreed to meet
on the Friday to see the final product.
Sanskar bid Suraj goodbye and returned to his desk to take a call. The conversation was brief.
Another corporate company wanted Maheshwari Industriesto take over their advertising campaign.
Sanskar first instinct was elation but reality soon brought him back to earth. He had a major
problem on hand, one that would need his urgent attention. Ragini’s replacement would have to
be found quickly as she would commence her maternity leave in a few months. That would leave
Swara as head of the department. He had seen her go to pieces this morning. There was no way
she would be able to cope with the additional requirements. The success of his company
depended on the happiness of both the clients and the staff.
Though worried, he had to admit that he was intrigued by Swara’s past and her problems. He told
himself he would need to speak to Ragini. If anyone knew anything about Swara, it was Ragini.
Picking up the Galodia file he walked back in the direction of the Art’s department. As he took
the turn he stopped dead in his track. There behind the protection of the room divider stood
Galodia, quietly observing Swara at work. Sanskar stood a moment longer and then went back to
his office. He called the Human Resources department and asked for Swara’s file to be brought to
him. He assured the HR Manager that there was no problem. That due to the expansion of the
business he was looking at suitable staff to take over some additional work and as Ragini would
be going on maternity leave he wanted to check out Swara’s credentials. The explanation
sounded plausible and Steven, the HR Manager was in Sanskar’s office within ten minutes.
Sanskar felt guilty at his little lie but he really needed to know if there was a possibility that she
could be Suraj’s daughter. Suraj had declared her dead but then why was he so interest in Swara.
He almost felt a voyeur looking into her life. Her bio data was neatly typed. Her name was
Swara Bose. Her date of birth was 09 May. The year of birth made her just twenty-eight
years old. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved to discover her age or if he was even more intrigued
at Galodia’s action. He read on but apart from details about her education and qualifications,
there really wasn’t anything revealing in her Bio-data. She had done her schooling in Western
Australia and obtainer her degree in advertising in Kolkata . It was company policy not to ask if
people were married and she had not volunteered the information either. Ragini had been named
as her contact in the case of an emergency. From here he was back to guesswork. He noticed
Steven looking at him. To make the situation look realistic, he got up and photocopied her biodata,
flicked through her reference and certificates and returned the file. There were no
references before that first job in Kolkata.
Steven left taking the file with him. Like everyone else he knew Swara was a brilliant worker but
he also aware of her many drawbacks. He could not understand how Sanskar could consider her as
a suitable applicant. In his view, Sanskar would be better off getting someone new. Swara could not
even greet him without stuttering. Meetings and public relations would be out of the question.
Sanskar walked in the direction of Swara’s office. Galodia was no longer there and Swara was not
at her desk either. Blast! He had to return the file. Forced into leave it on her desk along with a
note, he walked up to it. As he placed the folder down, his eyes fell on the photograph. It was of
the children he had seen with her. He noted that both children resembled their father.
“Was everything all right?” Swara’s voice broke through.

Sanskar turned “Yes, actually better than all right. Galodia was very happy. Didn’t he come backhere?” he queried.
“No. Did he want something?” Swara gave a puzzled reply.
Sanskar noticed that the two sentences had been said without a stutter.
“I must have been mistaken. He seemed to have been heading this way.” Sanskar replied
“He didn’t come to this office.” she said and then after a moment’s hesitation inquired “Sanskar did you want to speak to me about the Galodia file?” She noticed the file lying on her desk.
Without answering her question Sanskar remarked “They are beautiful children. How old are they?”
“Ff.ii.ve and four” she stuttered back. Sanskar noted that she was also fidgeting, a sign that she was nervous.
“Who looks after them when you are at work?” he could not help asking
“Their father, I only get them on alternate week…eeends.” she replied.
“And you are happy with that arrangement?” he inquired
“More that hap..py. Every minute I get with them is a bonus.”
There was no bitterness in her voice. Sanskar wondered at the kind of marriage she must have had
and was curious to know as to what had ended it? Had she wanted it to end? And why had the
father got the custody of the children? But he knew these questions were too personal to ask at
this moment. As these thoughts were doing nothing to uplift his spirits, he decided to get back to
Realising that he was still holding the photograph in his hand, he quickly placed it back.
“I’ve left the file on your desk. Let Ragini know that Galodia will be in on Friday to finalise things.”
With that he was gone. Swara had a few sips of cold water. She had worked so well for the past
five years but now suddenly she could not be in the same room as Sanskar without feeling nervous
and shy. She again reminded herself to stay in her safe world. She recalled that Sanskar could not
wait to leave her car and now he had rushed out of the office. That was the reality and she would
do well to remember it.
Half an hour later she was once again busy working at her desk. An hour later she had not
moved. Two hours passed and she had completed one more job. She looked at the end product
with pride. She knew the clients would be happy. After the first couple of jobs, the company had
made it a pre-requisite that Swara do their work. She knew once again she would not disappoint
So engrossed was she at looking at her work that she failed to notice Sanskar walk by. He looked
straight ahead. Only those watching closely would have seen him glance at Swara. He was now
acutely aware of Swara’s presence, just as she was of his. He did not miss her standing by her
desk inspecting her work, nor the smile that had touched her lips.

‘She should smile more often’,he thought. And take those hideous glasses off. Surely she could find a frame that would be more complimentary to her looks.
‘What a pity that the outer package did not match her inner talent’ he thought. She would have been an ideal replacement for Ragini’s position. Swara knew what the clients wanted. This was an
amazing feat for she never spoke to the clients themselves. Ragini and Swara’s partnership was
brilliant. What a great pity it was all going to change!

Credit to: JANPA


  1. anshel

    i just came across here through a friend nd though i had known only aboul anjali mr maheshwri nd i iluvd urs nd i m planning to read it at one go

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