SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
Swara misses Sanskaar… Sanskaar returns home
The next few days in Chandipur were busy ones for Sanskaar. He had tenants to visit in his massive estate, See to the land, make sure that his plantations there were thriving. He then had to go over the budgets and make sure the accounts were right. Uttara had been managing it all these years and it was immaculate but he continued to check them.
It gave him something to do.
Sanskaar felt uncomfortable and uneasy in his own home. Whenever he had thought of coming, he supposed he had thought of returning to everything and everyone exactly as he had left them. He had thought of returning to himself as he had been.
But everything had changed, himself most of all.
He resented it. He deeply resented it. But after a few days he realized that he could not simply return to India and continue with the life that he had led before. Because he had come home, he could not go back. He was a man caught in limbo, belonging nowhere and to no one.
Not that he had any particular reason to complain. His mother in particular doted on him. Every morning they would have breakfast together and she would pour her lavish love on him, conversing about daily matters and such.
One day, he asked about the neighbours.
Annapurna : Most of them have left Chandipur. They prefer Patna or Kolkata. No one likes the country anymore. Adarsh recently bought the Guptas’ place adjacent to ours. He, Parineeta and the kids will shift there once the renovations are complete.
Sanskaar (quietly) : What about the Raichands? Have they visited you, Ma?
He hoped they had not. Hopefully, Anil Raichand wouldn’t learn of his returning to India and therefore not come look for him.
Annapurna : Anil passed away two years ago, beta. Did I not tell you that?
Sanskaar looked at her and shook his head no. She knew she had not, of course. It was not something she would have mentioned.
Annapurna : Since his wife died years ago and his son is settled in Brussels, Anil left the house and estate to his daughter.
Sanskaar looked sharply at her. Anil Raichand had had only the one daughter.
Sanskaar : Tia? Does she still live here?
Annapurna (calmly) : Yes, She does. In fact, I think you should talk to her. She lives barely ten minutes from you. You will meet her sooner than later. Why not put everything to rest? All that happened was a long time ago.
He stared mutely at her. Yes, a long time ago indeed—all of which time he had spent in exile. Did she seriously expect that he could forgive and forget and simply let bygones be bygones? He had known Tia since childhood. He, his brother and Uttara had played with her. And then she had betrayed him so horribly.
Oblivious to his inner turmoil, His mother continued speaking.
Annapurna : She’s still Uttara’s best friend. You cannot ignore her existence entirely.
Sanskaar : Is she married?
Annapurna (shaking her head) : No! She never did get married. Beautiful as she is, she has never found the man who will please her. Promise me you will talk to her.
Sanskaar clenched his fist and spoke, the words coming out harsher than he intended.
Sanskaar : No Ma! How can you expect me to think kindly of her? I will not go and talk to her.
It hurt that his mother accepted her as a neighbor with such calmness and had not discouraged the friendship between Uttara and Tia. It hurt that Uttara had not spurned her friend. Had it mattered to no one that he had been cut off from their lives almost as effectively as if someone had put a bullet through his heart? Had they imagined that he was enjoying himself staying away from them?
But even within the confines of his own head his complaints were beginning to sound annoyingly self-pitying. He got to his feet, kissed his mother’s hand, and excused himself to go about his day’s business.
The old life was gone, never to be retrieved. It was time he carved a new life for himself. And that new life involved a journey to Kolkata in the near future.
But he wasn’t sure when he would go.
He had been home for a week when Harshit Saini came to call on him. Harshit was one of the neighbors who had been absent as he was in Kolkata—he had arrived home just the day before. He was a few years older than Sanskaar, but they had nevertheless shared an easy friendship in the past.
They settled down in the study, each with a glass of scotch in his hand.
Harshit : Sanskaar, My boy. I see you’ve been getting ready for another scandal.
Sanskaar frowned and raised his eyebrows.
Harshit : Kolkatan society is abuzz with rumours of you and Shivaay Singh Oberoi’s sister. There are rumours that you wanted her hand in marriage but Shivaay refused you because of your past. There was some sort of altercation with him, was there not, before you went away?
So, It had happened, then, had it? They had not escaped the gossiping tongues of the malicious rich society.
Sanskaar : I did meet Swara Singh Oberoi in Srinagar and I escorted her until Shimla. She needed to leave hurriedly as she had to give the news of her brother’s death to Shivaay Singh Oberoi.
Harshit sobered up a little and frowned.
Harshit : Poor guy. Rudra Singh Oberoi was a very good lad, and so charming to everyone. There was a small funeral service a few days ago but soon, the Oberois are going to have a grand remembrance ceremony. I think it was some custom started by their grandfather. It’s supposed to be a happy event, I guess. I wouldn’t know.
Sanskaar merely nodded, not really paying attention to his words. But then, Harshit mentioned Swara and Sanskaar gave his full attention to him.
Harshit : I think that is an excellent excuse for Swara to not go outside. The rants are cruel outside. Did you really dance with her alone in the middle of a garden, Sanskaar? Whisk her away with you when the Singhanias would have brought her home to Kolkata? Kiss her in the middle of a street in Srinagar? Finally, You left her alone in Kolkata to shoulder the vicious gossip.
He appeared to find the idea amusing as he laughed down into his glass and swirled the contents before tossing them back in one swallow.
It was every bit as sensational as Sanskaar had guessed it might be—perhaps more so. Dancing alone with her in the middle of a garden indeed! Kissing her in the middle of a street! Whisking her away . . .
He wondered how much she was suffering from the scandal.
Why was it a scandal, He would never know. In this day and age, This was routine. But in the view of the patriarchal and antiquated Kolkatan society, Swara would definitely be under censure. His guess was that she would snap her fingers in its face and lift that chin of hers and those arrogant eyebrows and invite it to do its worst. But of course she had her brother to deal with now, and that gentleman would not be amused.
He changed the subject, and the visit continued for another half an hour before he walked down the driveway to the gates with his guest. He walked back, alone with his own thoughts.
It was time, he realized. He went to his mother’s room, alone and reading a book. She set aside the book and smiled at him.
Sanskaar : Ma! We will go to Kolkata as soon as possible. How soon can you and Uttara be ready?
Annapurna (her eyes shining) : Oh beta! We can be ready as soon as you want. My son will accomany me this time. How wonderful! I was never more happy in my life.
Sanskaar knocked on the door at Oberoi Mansion a few days after the remembrance ceremony of Rudra Singh Oberoi. The door was opened by a footman serving in the house and Sanskaar asked to see Shivaay Singh Oberoi.
The house was quiet. During the five minutes he waited—or was kept waiting—there was no sign of anyone except one uniformed man who stood silently on guard. And then the footman returned, nodded, and invited Sanskaar to follow him. He led the way to a downstairs book room, impressively male, its four walls lined with filled bookshelves from floor to ceiling, its large oak, leather-topped desk dominating the far end, plush leather chairs and sofa arranged about the high marble fireplace.
Shivaay was seated behind the desk. He did not rise as Sanskaar advanced across the room, but he did watch him every step of the way with his hooded silver eyes. The room had been arranged deliberately thus, Sanskaar thought—so that servants or family members called to account for some misdeed or and lowly employees or unwelcome guests would be made to feel all their lack of power as they approached the presence of the man who had an abundance of it.
Sanskaar fell, he supposed, into the category of unwelcome guest. There was a strong temptation to lower his eyes to the carpet beneath his feet as he approached, but he fixed his eyes upon his erstwhile friend instead and kept them there. He would be damned before he would feel cowed even before he had uttered a word.
Sanskaar (casually) : SSO!
Shivaay : Sanskaar Maheshwari! What brings you here?
He did not invite his visitor to be seated. It was a very cold-blooded ruse to make him feel like an unequal as well as an unwelcome guest, of course. Sanskaar acknowledged his understanding of that fact with slightly pursed lips and a half-smile.
Sanskaar : While you have been mourning for your brother, I heard that there was gossip floating through the society about your sister, Swara and me. Apparently, she has been bearing the brunt of vicious and false rumours.
Shivaay stood, his cold and stiff facade not fading.
Shivaay : I think you’ll find out that I know what’s happening with all my family members. Now if you have nothing else….
Sanskaar smiled and placed his palms on Shivaay’s desk. He pressed firmly and assessed the man who sat down once again. Once, He had admired Shivaay’s control over everything in his life. He seemed to do it without changing a single expression or raising his tone. His intense stare was more than enough and his calm countenance was more intimidating the loudest shout from some one else.
Sanskaar had wanted to be like Shivaay himself, had even tried to imitate him. He had been a rather silly puppy in those days. They had never been particularly close friends. He had always been the junior hanger-on, the very young man who had not yet discovered either his own strengths and weaknesses or his own identity. He was no longer to be intimidated by someone who was, when all was said and done, but a man.
Sanskaar : The gossip also includes me. I helped Swara as much as I could after the chaperones, who YOU appointed failed her. I spent some time in her company in Srinagar, first because we moved in the same social circles, and then because she had been abandoned by both her chaperone and needed the protection of someone who could ensure her safety.
Shivaay (softly) : YOU, ensure her safety?
Sanskaar : I escorted her to Shimla and would have brought her safely to Oberoi Mansion here if you had not been in Shimla. But, Yes, for a few weeks I was in her company far too frequently to avoid the gossiping tongues of those who thrive upon such seeming indiscretions.
Shivaay : Indiscretions? Why were you even with her when you know who she is? You should have known General Raichand or General Khanna or anyone else actually would have offered her more protection than you would have. She is Shivaay Singh Oberoi’s sister. They would have taken care of her.
Strangely, Sanskaar had not thought of that possibility at the time. But it was surely true. Shivaay certainly had enough influence to make sure his sister would be taken care of. Also General Raichand had Rudra in his employ. He wouldn’t have let anything happened to Swara.
Sanskaar (smiling somewhat ruefully) : While that may be true, I can’t change the past and for all your power and wealth, You can’t either. Now, Tell me, How I can put the rumours to rest? I can marry her if you want.
Five years ago he had wondered if Shivaay’s austere, handsome frame housed a heart or if the arteries and veins that fed it ran with ice water instead of blood. He wondered the same thing now as he felt himself the object of a cold, expressionless stare.
Shivaay : Swara SINGH OBEROI will not be broken by mere gossip, Sanskaar Maheshwari. Neither will she ever be, under any circumstances, associated with you.
Sanskaar’s hands left the table, his lips tightening.
Sanskaar : That is your decision. What about Swara? What if she feels differently.
Shivaay : Your offer isn’t worth her opinion. She will never say yes.
Sanskaar did not move. How it must irk Shivaay even to have felt obliged to grant this interview. How it must gall him to know his sister the object of unsavory gossip, her name linked with Sanskaar’s. For a few moments Sanskaar savoured his own satisfaction and toyed with the slight temptation to deliver the final nail to the coffin.
She desires me. She kissed me. What will you say to that, Shivaay Singh Oberoi?
But he didn’t.
Their kisses belonged to them alone and he was not prepared to share it with anyone else.
Sanskaar : Kolkatan society is savage and putrid. They will never forgive Swara if she doesn’t make amends for her “supposed” transgressions. You would risk that over my offer for peace?
Shivaay : She is 20 years old. She has no need to worry while I’m there for her. She does not need to marry just because some comments are being thrown about. Even if she needed to marry, I have many offers to consider, yours not being one of them. Good bye to you.
Sanskaar nodded and half smiled at the man before turning and striding from the room, past the footman, who stood to one side of the door. There was still no sign of anyone else in the hall, except the same guard from before. He wondered if Swara would be informed that he had called and made an offer for her. He rather expected not.
Sanskaar walked out of the house and opened the door of his new car. He got inside but didn’t start the car.
Now he must consider his next move.
There did not have to be a next move, of course.
Shivaay had been annoyed and must find some way of dealing with the scandal that was still raging through the drawing rooms of Kolkata. He had refused an offer of marriage for his sister. So had she—she had been quite firm about it when Sanskaar had hinted about it in Srinagar.
But it was not finished, Sanskaar thought as he started the car and drove past the Oberoi driveway.
He was not finished with Shivaay.
And not with Swara Singh Oberoi herself, either.