SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
Sanskaar and Swara are caught in public
Swara felt a myriad of emotions when she met Shivaay’s expressionless eyes. First, She felt guilt. Guilt that she had put her happiness ahead of her sorrow. She had wanted to waltz even though she was supposed to be grieving for Rudra. Her second feeling was intense embarrassment. Shivaay and half of her friends and acquaintances had seen her in a deep embrace with Sanskaar Maheshwari. Her third feeling was elation. He must have feelings to match her own. Her fourth feeling was anger. How dare Shivaay walk in on them like this as if they were naughty, wayward children. Actually, all four feelings washed over her almost simultaneously.
Swara (haughtily) : Shouldn’t you knock on the door first, Shivaay?
Shivaay stared at Sanskaar’s arm, which was protectively held against her bare waist. He did not remove it. Shivaay ignored her question.
Sanskaar : I have already asked for Swara’s hand once, Shivaay! If you approve, I shall approach you tomorrow again. I’m sure you agree that this is not the place or time to discuss all this.
His voice was cold, his tone clipped. There was almost no trace of his slight American accent. Shivaay’s face was a mask of icy control.
Shivaay : I must say, You certainly managed to outplay me… For now.
Swara : That’s ridiculous. We were just dancing and then we kissed, by mutual consent.
Shivaay turned his eyes on her. Had she really said they were just waltzing and kissing?
But before Shivaay could say whatever he had been about to say, the door opened again to admit Ragini. She looked from one to the other of them with raised eyebrows.
Ragini : I expected Sanskaar to be half unconscious and blo*dy by now, but I’m glad you managed to restrain yourself, Shivaay! Congratulations, you two! You’ve managed to make this party and this night infamous. On the other hand, Mr Maheshwari, Were you really kissing my sister? That is absolutely shocking. Shivaay, you are looking as if you had swallowed a whole iceberg. Swara, you look like Lady Macbeth. I would remind you all that tonight is in honor of Tanya and Deepam and I will not have it become a circus show. I am her bhabhi and you would be wise to listen to me now.
Sanskaar : Right you are, Mrs Gadodia! I just informed Shivaay that I am ready to marry Swara and that I shall formally ask again tomorrow.
Ragini (nodding) : I’m sure both Shivaay and Swara have lots to say about that decision, but it won’t happen tonight.
Swara : This is all nonsense. It just happened.
Ragini : I know, Sweetheart and I agree. It is nonsense. Yet, At the same time, It is deadly serious.
She walked near her sister and grasped her elbow firmly.
Ragini : Our society frowns upon this and they are sure to show their ire on you. We are free to choose our lives and not be beholden to society, but we must be ready for seclusion. Even the Oberois are not spared from gossip and slander. It is time to put a bold face on this newest sensation. We will go back together, Swara, and take a turn or two about the room, just as if nothing untoward had happened. Use your Oberoi face. It is a distinct advantage in situations like this. Smile. Do it.
It had always been difficult not to be swept along by Ragini when she was at her most formidable. On this occasion Swara did not even try. She left the room without even a glance at either of the two men, and smiled.
She was half aware that Shivaay came out after them and fell into step behind them.
The next morning, Swara watched Sanskaar get down from his car and walk purposefully inside the mansion, no doubt to talk to Shivaay. She sat on a couch near the window, her hands wrapped around her knees which were drawn up before her.
She had deliberately withdrawn here so that she could be alone to compose herself for what was coming.
She needed to compose herself. Her mind and her emotions were in turmoil. They had all wanted a piece of her, either last night or this morning. All had had an opinion or some advice to offer, or both.
Their aunt, Pinky had called last night from Bangalore. She had been scathing in her insults and had told Swara that she wasn’t worth being part of the Oberoi family. She had chosen some choice words that made Swara want to die from the inside out.
Ragini had given her opinion last night as they walked around the room.
Ragini : Well! This certainly is a big mess. I wasn’t particularly good when I met Laksh, but we certainly never had to face gossip such as this. Rudra was right when he spotted you dancing at the gardens. A piece of advice, though, Swara. The man is devastatingly attractive—I’ll admit that. But be an Oberoi to the end. Om married soon but he did find his love, As did I. Don’t accept his marriage proposal tomorrow unless you are quite, quite sure that he is the one and only man with whom you could think about spending the rest of your life.
Her sister-in-law Tanya also spoke to Swara.
Tanya : Mr Maheshwari is a charming and kind man, Swara. And he must have been an excellent friend to you in Srinagar. I cannot blame you for wanting to waltz with him tonight, Swara. I know I would have been miserable if I had been forbidden to waltz with Deepam. Do you love him? I think you must if you allowed him to kiss you. How I long to see you as happy as I am.
Even Gauri had had something to say.
Gauri : When Om and I married, He hated me and all that I stood for. Though I was prepared to be a dutiful wife, I didn’t love him either. It was luck and fortune that we fell in love with each other. We might just as easily have been miserable for the rest of our lives. Do be sure, Swara, that if you marry Sanskaar Maheshwari, it is not because of this renewed scandal but because you know you can find happiness with no man but him.
Om hadn’t said much. Just that he would always support his sister and that he’d be there for her, whatever she decided, Scandal be damned.
Shivaay had waited until this morning – after Swara had spent a sleepless night. He had knocked on her door and stared at her as he entered and sat on one of the chairs present. And of course she could not make it easy on herself—she had stared right back at him.
Shivaay : Don’t worry, Shoru.
Swara had looked at him in surprise. Shivaay hadn’t called her that in years. Her eyes welled with unwelcome tears and she fiercely pushed them away.
Shivaay : You’re my sister and you’re an Oberoi. Gossip won’t kill my influence in Kolkata. I will allow Sanskaar to meet me and discuss about marriage but you will have the final say. I won’t say that I like him. I do want you to say a firm no.
There were to be no major recriminations, then, no blistering scold? She twisted her hands in her lap, almost disappointed. It was easier to deal with Shivaay when she could defy him over some issue.
Swara : I don’t see any reason to answer in the negative.
All through the night she had wondered if he loved her. She was almost certain that she loved him.
Shivaay : He has been playing you, Swara. He doesn’t love you. In fact, He hates me.
Swara looked at him cross.
Swara : That’s unfair. It is you who hate him even though he didn’t do anything. You are being unreasonable.
Shivaay looked at her calmly. Swara went on.
Swara : I asked you before and you did not answer. I have asked him and he evaded my question. Why do you hate him? It has nothing to do with me really, does it? You knew each other before—before his exile.
Lengthy silences never seemed to disconcert Shivaay. Swara refused to let the one that followed disconcert her either. She looked steadily back into her brother’s eyes and waited.
Shivaay : Sanskaar Maheshwari forced a girl and then robbed her. His father, Mr Durgaprasad Maheshwari then told him to get out of the house, even the country and never return.
Swara grasped the edges of the sofa completely shocked.
Swara : WHAT?
Shivaay : Her betrothal was supposed to be announced that evening. It was to be a surprise to everyone. But Sanskaar was found on her bed along with her.
Swara’s mouth was dry. She tried to lick her lips with a dry tongue.
Swara : Maybe the girl was fine with him. Maybe they loved each other?
Shivaay : SHE didn’t love him. She was going to marry someone else. That person was still ready to marry her. But she didn’t want to anymore. She disappeared from society and now stays in her estate the entire time. Never married anyone despite position, wealth, and beauty, all of which she possessed in abundance. Her life was ruined.
Swara got up to her feet.
Swara : I don’t believe it. We all know how stories become distorted and exaggerated in the telling. How do you know that what you have told me is true?
Shivaay (softly) : I was the man to whom she was to be betrothed. I was one of three men—her father and Mr Durgaprasad Maheshwari were the other who burst in upon them in her room. Too late, as it turned out.
She stared at him, transfixed. Shivaay had once been almost betrothed? And had been so horribly hurt? By Sanskaar Maheshwari? It was too dizzying to be digested all at once.
Swara : Perhaps you misunderstood what you saw.
Shivaay : Hardly.
Swara : It happened five years ago.
Shivaay : Yes.
They stared at each other, her eyes stormy, his silver and ice cold.
Swara : Did you love her?
Shivaay’s gaze never wavered.
Shivaay : No, I did not. But do you forgive him for his act just because I didn’t love her?
Swara shook her head.
Swara : No, I would never forgive a man who took forced someone for his own pleasure. But…
Shivaay : But nothing. I would never have allowed such a man to talk to my little sister. But he has maneuvered his way very cleverly into your affections and into such a public position that I am forced to allow him to propose you. Since I will not forbid him to make you an offer, I cannot forbid you to accept him. And if I tried, I am well aware that you might then feel obliged to defy me by eloping with Sanskaar. But what I can do is trust you to make the right decision about your own lifelong happiness.
She looked at him for a long moment before he had nodded and left her room.
And so she sat on the window seat, knowing that Sanskaar had arrived, that even now he was in the library with Shivaay discussing marriage. She did not know how long such matters took. But some time within the next half hour, or the next hour at the longest, there was going to be a knock on her door and she was going to have to force her legs to carry her back down to the library. She was going to have to face him.
The man who had ravished the woman Shivaay had perhaps loved, despite what he said. They had been caught in bed together. The woman’s words and subsequent actions would seem to confirm that she had not given herself willingly.
The man who had flirted with her, Swara, quite outrageously and extravagantly before Srinagar.
The man who had supported her and given her his protection and companionship and friendship in the days following the battle.
The man who had comforted her and introduced her to his kisses after learning that there was no more hope of Rudra’s having survived.
The man who had brought her home to the comfort of her family.
The man she had been growing to love, the man she had believed was growing to love her.
Did what had happened five years ago nullify all her instincts about him, all her feelings for him?
He had apparently forced a woman. She could not believe it of him. But how could she not? Sanskaar had been there and he was not the sort of man who would deliberately twist evidence.
Swara had never been so confused in her life.
The summons came after forty minutes, when her maid scratched on her door. Swara jumped with alarm and then got to her feet and brushed her hands over the skirt of her jeans. She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.
Sanskaar Maheshwari was going to have some explaining to do.
Shivaay had kept Sanskaar waiting in a visitors’ reception room for twenty minutes before having him admitted to the library. There had followed a brief, cold meeting in which business had been discussed as if there were no personal element involved in the terms.
Shivaay had made no bones of the fact that he had advised Swara against accepting the offer. But finally he had risen and left the room, leaving Sanskaar to stare at the bookshelves.
All night he had been feeling cold satisfaction.
And all night too he had been trying to ignore a heavy feeling of guilt. In his obsession with getting revenge on Shivaay he had allowed himself to become almost as bad as they had all supposed him to be five years ago. Almost as bad? Worse. Tia had brought about her own shame. Swara had not.
He turned and clasped his hands behind his back when the door opened again and his Shona stepped past a footman and came into the room.
She looked composed, he thought, though her face was devoid of all color. Her shoulders were back and her chin lifted. He frowned when he recalled that embrace they had shared last night. He had not intended that. It had not been part of the plan. He had intended that they be caught waltzing together in private. It would have been quite enough to fan the flames of a dying scandal.
The embrace had happened of itself.
She came toward him and stood a mere two feet away, her eyes lifted steadily to his. Had he expected timidity? Blushes?
Swara : I want to know what happened five years ago.
Ah. Shivaay had told her, then—his version at least? It was likely. What surer way was there to persuade her to reject his proposal?
Sanskaar : And what do you want to know?
Swara : Did you force the girl? Did you do it?
Sanskaar sighed and turned away from her.
Sanskaar : If you want to know the simple answer, Then it is no. I have never forced anyone nor do I have any wish to.
Swara : I don’t think the “simple” answer will be enough. If you didn’t do anything, Why were you found in her bed with her? Why did she accuse you of forcing her? She refused your marriage offer. She refused to leave her estate. I do know the facts of what happened, you see. I want you to explain to me how you could not have been guilty.
He sighed and clasped his hands at his back. She now knew the worst, which was just as well. He did not really wish to marry her, did he?
It certainly would not be in her best interests to marry him. He had achieved what he had set out to do . . . and truth be told, the victory was hollow. Revenge was a foolish, immature motive for any action. It never solved anything but merely deepened hatreds. Shivaay had been a victim too. He sometimes forgot that.
He was aware though he did not turn that Swara had crossed the room away from him until she stood behind the desk, gazing out the window.
Sanskaar : The woman was my neighbour and Uttara’s friend. I suppose I was even a little infatuated with her after we grew up—she was rather lovely. But I was too young for her. Besides, I was a friend of Shivaay’s—at least, I hoped to be admitted to the inner circle one day. One day, he began to notice her and soon he thought of making her his bride. He never told anyone, except for Tia’s father.
Swara : I never thought Shivaay had any wish to marry.
Sanskaar : The Raichands were immensely rich and influential. A match with his daughter would have elevated both the families’ ranks. Shivaay wanted to surprise you all on the day Tia’s father threw a huge gala. I think you were in US at that time with your sister. Only your brothers were present at that time.
Swara : I don’t think they knew it either.
Sanskaar could see from the corner of his eye that Swara had sat down on the chair where Shivaay had been sitting a while ago.
Sanskaar : Tia didn’t want to marry Shivaay. I’m sure about this. But her father and your brother were powerful men. She had no option of saying no. Her father was strict with her about that.
Swara : How do you know all that?
Her eyes met his across the room, wide with what might be anger.
Sanskaar : She told me. We were talking during the party and she told me that she didn’t want to marry Shivaay. She was quite distraught. She told me her betrothal was to be announced after supper and then her marriage would be inescapable. She told me she would rather die. She begged me to help her.
Swara’s eyes flared as she asked him to continue.
Sanskaar : I told Tia to go and talk to Shivaay. That he would be understanding. I suppose, to tell them quite firmly that she would not go through with the marriage. I do recall offering to go and have a word with Shivaay myself even though I was hardly a close enough friend of his to presume to do this. The next thing I remember is waking up with a start when the door to her room crashed open and Shivaay came thundering in, followed closely by her father and mine.
Swara (her eyes wide) : You were on her bed?
Sanskaar : I was there with the buttons of my coat undone. Tia was crying and screaming. She too was disheveled. I sat there blinking wondering what had happened.
Swara : I suppose I can guess the rest of the story. You couldn’t remember what had happened and thus Tia’s story was believed and you were condemned? Did you have that much to drink?
Sanskaar turned back again, not wanting her to see his torment. Ofcourse it was a ludicrous tale. It was the story in half the shows and movies these days. Why would it believable in real life? That was why Sanskaar had not made a huge attempt to protect himself. After all, No one would believe him.
Sanskaar : Did I force her? Did something happen by mutual consent? I have no idea. I don’t even know if something had happened between Tia and me. I think I was drugged because I’m sure I hadn’t drunk too much that night.
He rested his head on one of the bookshelves. This certainly was a strange marriage proposal. But then he supposed that he had been half expecting it. It was something of a relief to have it out in the open between them.
Swara got up and came and stood in front of him.
Swara : Well, This story shows that Shivaay had a reason to hate you. But why would he say that you hate him? Did he believe you had done it out of hatred for him rather than love for her?
He laughed softly and turned to look at her. Poor Swara—she had been only a child when it had all happened. She should not have been dragged into it at this late date. Would he ever forgive himself? He doubted it.
Sanskaar : Shivaay left the room and I followed him trying to make things right. Trying to make him understand, but Uttara was standing downstairs in tears and by the time, I could leave her, Shivaay was gone. I went home after listening to everyone’s rants and scoldings that night. My head was still pounding and I fell asleep. I knew that my father would make me marry Tia now. But when I woke up next morning, It was to see my father look at me with extreme disgust. He told me that Tia’s family heirloom – A gold and diamond bracelet had been stolen and she blamed me.
Swara (frowning) : NO! This is ridiculous. You would never steal from someone.
Sanskaar (a small smile lighting his features) : Thank you Shona. But I had seen it. It was on the floor when I was about to leave the room. Shivaay almost stepped on it. He stooped and picked it up and set it on a table and then I followed him out. I told my father so the next morning and persuaded him to let me go to Shivaay so that he might confirm my innocence. I found him at the club surrounded by basically the same group of mutual friends as the night before. I blurted out my request for all to hear, and he raised his glass to his eye again and asked if anyone knew the impudent puppy standing in the doorway. After that he ignored me and I slunk away—I was a very young and foolish man in those days, Shona. My father called him, but he sent back a curt reply claiming that he knew nothing of any bracelet. And so, you see, my disgrace was compounded. I stood accused and condemned as a so called rapist and as a dastardly thief. My father did what he felt he had to do. He asked me to never show my face in front of him. He didn’t want to be associated with me at all. I was to leave India and the Raichands wouldn’t report me to the police. I was devastated by my own father’s distrust in me so I lost all hope of finding the truth and left three weeks later, once I finished packing.
She stared at him for a very long time.
Swara : I believe you.
Sanskaar felt strangely close to tears. She was the only one who had not laughed at his face when she heard the story. She did not resist when he possessed himself of one of her hands and raised it to his lips. She was the only one who truly believed him. She was also the very one he had betrayed.
Swara : I believe you but I believe Shivaay too. He had seen with his own eyes and he believed that to be true. I suppose he could have been gracious over the matter of the bracelet, but he had no reason to think kindly of you. But I believe you were innocent.
Sanskaar : Thank you, my Shona. But now that the story is out, Will you let me propose?
Swara : No.
Sanskaar (surprised) : No?
Swara : No, Mr Maheshwari. I don’t want you to ask me.
Sanskaar : Why not, Shona? Don’t you wish to marry me?
Swara : I am just twenty. I have no need to think about marriage just yet. Besides, We ought not to consider marriage when the offer has been forced upon you and the answer upon me. We should not let society dictate to us what we do with all the rest of our lives. It is absurd.
Sanskaar : Maybe society and I agree on this occasion.
Swara : It’s too much. Too much has happened. You are my friend, Sanskaar even though we may have kissed. I am fond of you, just as you are of me. But that’s not enough for marriage.
Sanskaar : Love.
He smiled ruefully at her.
Swara : It’s the latest news right now and they’ll insult both of us to the core. I see no reason why we can’t brave it through. It won’t last. It doesn’t give us any need to marry.
Sanskaar : And so?
Swara : So… I think I’ll go meet my dadi. She’s staying with Om and Gauri. I’ll go back with them and you.. You should focus on improving your status here. Show that you’re respectable. Resume the life of which you were robbed five years ago. We should both do what we wish, unencumbered by a commitment we may regret.
Swara was setting him free? Shouldn’t he feel elation then?
Sanskaar : Will we ever meet again?
Swara : I’m sure we will. But it will never be the same between us again.
He still had her hand in his. He raised it to his lips again and held it there. He tightened his hold on it as he closed his eyes
Sanskaar : My Shona! You’re breaking my heart.
And the foolish thing was that he felt as if he spoke the truth.
There was a light tap on the library door before either of them could say more, and it opened to reveal Gauri Singh Oberoi, looking both apologetic and embarrassed.
Gauri : I’m sorry, but Shivaay bhaiyya was growing fidgety outside and I thought it would be better if I came to see to you two. Continue talking and I’ll go and reassure him.
Swara : No! That’s alright, Gauri. Sanskaar is leaving.
Gauri (confused) : He is?
Sanskaar : That’s right. I should leave now. Goodbye. Goodbye Swara.
He saw Swara close her eyes and then open them again looking straight at him.
Swara : Goodbye, Mr Sanskaar Maheshwari.
There was nothing else to do as Swara went out the library towards her room and Sanskaar walked out, both of them not daring to look at each other, both of them feeling wretched.
PRECAP : Swara asks Sanskaar to marry her
I know.. I know… It’s an age old plot that I’ve used… And not even a realistic one at that. But… Just bear with me please… I’ll try and make it interesting for you later 🙂 🙂
So, Finally the secret is out. What do you think? More questions? Or has everything been solved?
SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!