SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
Swara learns about Sanskaar’s past
That night, No one spoke a word about Swara’s decision or about Sanskaar Maheshwari.
Everyone was determinedly cheerful. Om and Gauri were planning to return home within a few days. They wanted Swara to accompany them.
Gauri : Swara! We wanted to go home and bring dadi here as well. Om thought it would be well if we stay here for the next month or so. Why don’t you come with us? Om can bring dadi here but we’ll stay there for two weeks or however long you want. The change in scenes will be good for you. Besides, your nephew would love travelling with you.
Ragini and Laksh had come over later. Swara knew Laksh was worried that Ragini was moving about so much with her pregnancy which made Swara feel guilty. What a mess she had caused.
Ragini : Swara! Shivaay and Laksh want to start some project together in Mumbai. So, They were suggesting we move to Oberoi House in Juhu for two months. I can’t go to London right now anyways, So I was going to accompany them. Why don’t you come with us?
Shivaay had approved of this idea and had appealed to Swara about it.
Shivaay : Ragini would have company and Laksh would be glad that she’s being taken care of. Or do you want to go somewhere else? US? You could visit Laila Dadi Bua.
Swara looked around her family.
Swara : It looks like I have too many choices. I don’t have any idea of my decision.
But all these plans had one thing in common. No walks along Howrah Bridge, No shopping in Salt Lake City, No sightseeing near Victoria Memorial… Nothing in Kolkata, in fact.
Swara had overnight become the pariah of the city and everyone thought of her as absolutely disgraceful.
And now, Even though it could redeem her in the society, She had refused to marry Sanskaar Maheshwari. Why had she done so?
It was a question that nagged at her for the whole of the rest of the day. She believed that she loved him. After hearing his account of what had happened five years ago and realizing the terrible injustice under which he had been living for years, she had been even more sure of her feelings.
Why had she refused, then?
Had she expected him to be more persuasive, to assure her much more forcefully of his love for her? But she did not play games like that.
Perhaps she had been right to do what she had done. There had been altogether too much turmoil in her life this spring. How could she make a rational decision about something as momentous as marriage? And perhaps she did not really love him. Perhaps it was only friendship and gratitude after all—and sympathy.
She was only twenty anyways. Even if she longed for love, She didn’t know if marriage was suitable right now.
She thought of the last kiss they had shared in Srinagar and her heart gave a mournful twitch. She might never see him again. And even if she did, next year or the year after, they would perhaps merely nod politely and distantly to each other, like strangers.
She could not bear it.
Why had she refused him?
Swara sighed and forced herself to take deep breaths until her mind was no more running to conclusions. She emptied her mind and tried to grasp the reality.
She had refused him. He belonged in the past and the past was done with.
But her traitorous mind kept going back to the moment where he had been about to ask her to marry him. She had stopped him from forming the question even.
She had stopped him from asking because she feared that her questions might never be answered otherwise. Questions that she desperately wanted answers for, but those same questions frightened her.
She got up from her chair and looked at the night sky beyond.
Since when had she been afraid to face truth? Since Srinagar, when she had denied to herself about the reality of Rudra’s death?
When had she been afraid to ask questions, even when she knew that the answers would crush her? Since this morning?
Since when had she become a coward, cowering here in her room, preparing to go home to Oberoi House or to go off to the Bareilly or US, pretending that it was good sense and a growing maturity that had held her back from committing herself to a betrothal this morning?
Love was a hollow thing—and essentially a nonexistent thing—when the object of it was not what one had thought him, when he never had been.
If Swara had been a child, She could have wept herself asleep until her pain had fled with the water. She could have thrown a bunch of stuff around and broken them.
But, alas, she was no longer a child.
Yes, She wasn’t a child and that meant… That meant she had to stop hiding and ask her questions, even if she feared the answers.
The next morning, Swara stepped out of her house and started her car to go to Maheshwari Nivas. Gauri was busy with the packing, Om had had a meeting and Shivaay was at work. Though Swara would have liked the courage and comfort she would have had from them, She was strangely thankful to be doing this alone.
If she met anyone she knew on the way, Swara would behave with the utmost dignity and decorum, leaving no trace of how much they could hurt her.
But just as Swara found a parking spot down the road, She got down to find Mrs Singhania and Reshmi standing in front of her. Swara felt like hitting her head. The Singhanias lived in the same road as the Maheshwaris.
Mrs Singhania sneered at her.
Mrs Singhania : Look, Reshmi! Even respectable streets can be made ugly if rotten fish are there.
Swara : Good morning Mrs Singhania. Hello Reshmi!
Her friend darted her one agonized look and would have stopped, Swara believed, but her mother caught her by the sleeve and dragged her onward.
Swara would have been amused by the whole episode if she had not remembered the nature of her errand. She hurried onward and knocked on the door of Maheshwari Nivas before she could lose her courage.
She learnt that Sanskaar’s mother had gone out but Uttara was there, as well as Sanskaar.
Uttara (surprised) : Swara! Please come in. Sit down. Would you like something to drink or eat?
Swara smiled and refused. She looked at the elder, pretty girl in front of her. She must be in her late twenties. Swara knew that Uttara had some sort of online business venture, but she wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
Swara : I think you must be surprised as to why I’m here.
Uttara : Maasi will be sad that she missed you. But yes, we were disappointed when Sanskaar told us you didn’t want to marry him. I really thought you both would be perfect together.
Swara : So you never judged him? For the incident?
Uttara : The recent one? Or the one that happened five years ago? I don’t blame him for either one. No, none of us blamed him except my uncle. None of us expected him to react as he did.
Swara : I would like to talk to Sanskaar.
Uttara looked surprised again, though she had good reason to. But she recovered and nodded at Swara.
Uttara : I will ask him to come here. I’ll be just a moment.
She exited the room and Swara gripped the edge of the sofa so that she wouldn’t feel like bolting from the room.
Sanskaar entered, a moment later. His face was marred by a frown as he watched her.
Sanskaar : What’s happened? Did someone insult you? Did Shivaay tell something?
Swara : Nothing is the matter. I want some answers, which is why I’ve come.
She stood and walked until there were at least three things in the way between Sanskaar and her.
Sanskaar (nodding) : Ask your questions then.
Swara : The first night.. The night you were introduced to me, Why did you dance with me?
His eyes searched hers for a few moments.
Sanskaar : You’re the loveliest woman I’ve ever known or seen. Was it any wonder I wanted to be introduced to you?
Swara shook her head.
Swara : Even so… There is something false about this. Try honesty this time. You danced with no one else that evening. Did you know my identity before you asked to be presented to me?
A faint half-smile played about his lips and eyes.
Sanskaar : I did
Swara : And you were not repulsed to know that I was the sister of Shivaay Singh Oberoi?
Sanskaar : Obviously not. I danced with you right?
Swara : But WHY did you do it?
Even now there was a part of her that hoped she might be wrong. But she knew she was not. She just needed to hear him say it.
Sanskaar (softly) : You never take the easy route, Do you? It would have been best if you had not come here, Shona… You should just accept the easiest explanation and the illusions of life. But you cannot, Can you? I waltzed with you, Sweetheart, because you were the sister of Shivaay Singh Oberoi.
Swara moved forward and kept her hand on the sofa head, clutching it tightly.
Swara : Persephone Gardens?
Sanskaar : Because you were his sister.
Swara : So you wanted to shame me? You wanted to demean me?
Sanskaar : Not at all. I meant merely to single you out for marked attention and perhaps even a little indiscretion so that the gathered ton would gossip about us and word would get back to Kolkata and to SSO.
It felt almost as if she had not guessed the truth, as if it were assaulting her now for the first time. She felt almost numb with hurt. She remembered allowing him to flirt with her there and flirting right back at him, feeling in control of the situation and in control of him. She remembered the kiss she had allowed.
She had not understood the game at all. She had come nowhere close to winning it.
She had been no more than a puppet on a string.
Even then she was tempted to leave it at that. But he continued to look at her from his place in the middle of the room, and he continued to smile that half-smile she had seen so often in Srinagar and thought teasing and attractive.
Now she knew it was a smile of contempt for her youth and her ignorance and her lineage.
Swara (her eyes flashing) : So, The escort to Mrs Raichand’s everyday? The support against the Singhanias? The comforting and strength when Rudra’s news reached me? All the time scandal was growing about us, and all the time you were my friend. My oh-so-dear friend. The funny thing is that I thought myself so mature for my age. I was impatient of others of my own age or even older who were less bold, less in control of their own destinies. I was deceived. Shivaay used that word yesterday before you came back to town and I would not listen to him.
She was clinging with both hands now.
Sanskaar looked at her with a sad expression, but she could find no other hidden expressions. No outrage or satisfaction that she had been duped so easily by him.
Sanskaar : You are right. I have deceived you horribly and made all sorts of plans. But everything stopped after the gardens. I had stopped plotting against you. After the meeting in General Khanna’s house in Srinagar, All I ever wanted to be was your friend.
She walked towards him when she realized that he might believe she was cowering there. She snorted.
Swara : What about that night? The night I told you about Rudra, The night you comforted me, The night we—
Sanskaar : No, Shona. I…
Swara’s hand shook violently and before she knew it, Her right hand had connected with his cheek.
Swara (in anger) : Yes, Haan, Ofcourse. Don’t you dare try and lie to me, Sanskaar Maheshwari. Whether it’s in English or Hindi or any other stupid language, It won’t help you.
Sanskaar made no attempt to soothe the redness in his left cheek as he merely kept his hands to his sides.
Swara spoke again, her voice softer but her tone laced with steel.
Swara : You have used me. You pretended concern, affection and friendship when you didn’t mean a word of it.
Sanskaar (nodding) : Maybe I didn’t.
Swara : The meet in the park? The garden party… It was just ideas to make Shivaay suffer, Wasn’t it? Not to mention the engagement party… Did you lure me away on purpose? Did you ask me to dance on purpose? WAS ALL THIS A PLOY TO DEFEAT SHIVAAY? Why were we overcome with passion while we waltzed and so were found conveniently locked in each other’s arms? You planned it that way.
He continued to look steadily at her.
Sanskaar : Yes, I planned it.
She lifted her left hand and slapped it across his other cheek. And then she gazed at him as he winced but made no move to defend himself, her nostrils flared, her lip curled with disdain.
Swara : How triumphant you must have felt— Knowing that I believed you. I trusted your word yesterday. Your entire story…. You gained my sympathy even though you wrecked my life. You wrecked Shivaay’s life. You wrecked Om’s, Gauri’s, Ragini’s and Laksh’s. You played with all our lives I let you go to enjoy the memory of all your triumphs. I set you free. Free, Oh God.
She covered her face with her hands and tried to calm herself down.
Sanskaar (softly) : Right, Shona.
Swara (glaring) : Wrong, Sanskaar Maheshwari. (pointing down at the floor) Down on your knees. Propose once more. I have changed my mind. Ask your question.
His head tipped to one side again, and the half-smile returned to his eyes.
Sanskaar : You want the satisfaction of refusing me cold bloodedly? You want me to bear the humiliation of your denial? Is that to be my punishment?
Swara : Wrong once more.
Sanskaar looked at the vision of beauty in front of him. Though she was furious and her nose was all flared up, She still looked like an angel.
Sanskaar (thinking) : My Shona!
He went down on one knee before her and lifted his eyes to hers, taking both her hands in his own as he did so. The amusement had gone from his face. He looked at her with what just yesterday she might have interpreted as tenderness.
Sanskaar : Swara Singh Oberoi, Will you forgive this man who used you and marry him? Will you provide him this great honour?
She mustered all the considerable haughtiness of which she was capable and gazed down at him, not even trying to mask the contempt she felt. She kept him waiting. She savored the moment. Finally. she nodded her head.
Swara : Yes, I will.
Sanskaar froze and looked at her warily. He got slowly to his feet.
Sanskaar : You said yes? You’re going to marry me and make me pay for my sins the rest of my life?
Swara : I have accepted your marriage offer. I have no intention in this world of marrying you.
Sanskaar’s brow cleared and he looked at her with admiration and pleasure.
Swara (holding his shirt and pulling him closer) : You thought to go free. Your revenge nicely wreaked on all of us. And I was to creep off from Kolkata in disgrace. Not so, Mr Maheshwari You must have forgotten that I am a Oberoi I am not finished with you yet. And I will not slink away and hang my head merely because I was too stupid and too naive to spot a criminal. You are my betrothed. You will shower me with attentions and tender devotion until I decide to set myself free.
Sanskaar smiled, A true smile that made Swara squirm even though she nearly hated him. He kept his hands on her waist and looked at her.
Sanskaar : Very well, Shona. While you try to take your revenge on me, I will do my best to convince you that I deserve your forgiveness.
Swara gave a disdainful chuckle and stepped back.
Swara : Don’t be too sure of that, Mr Maheshwari. I will make you fall in love with me, and then I will break your heart. I’m going to make you so crazy for me that you won’t be able to live a day apart from me. And then, just when you least expect it, I will leave you and your world will be filled with darkness.
Sanskaar (whispering) : What if you’ve already done the former?
Swara : No.. You’re merely captivated by me. The day you are head over heels in love with me, The world as you know it will fail you. You wanted your revenge. This is mine. You will be captivated forever as I make you enter hell for eternity.
Sanskaar’s eyes smiled.
Swara let out a sigh.
The door opened.
Annapurna : Swara beta! Uttara told me you were here. Are you alright? Has Sanskaar troubled you in any way? I was not pleased with what happened that night.
Sanskaar drew Swara’s arms through his and smiled at her in a way that might have turned her weak at the knees just a day or so before.
Sanskaar : Ma! Swara has finally agreed to marry me.
Swara smiled dazzlingly at his mother.
Swara : Sanskaar has just asked me to marry him, and I have said yes. I couldn’t find the strength to say no.
She looked up at him, and right there, with his mother watching and exclaiming rapturously, he lowered his head and kissed her on the lips.
Not to be outdone, Swara kissed him right back.