SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
Swara and Sanskaar go in a cable car
The next morning, Rudra knocked on the door of the Singhania House in J and K. He spoke to Mr Singhania privately before Swara came downstairs to greet her brother.
Swara (happily) : Rudra! How are you? You didn’t come and meet me yesterday.
Rudra (hugging her) : I’m sorry. I was busy with the embassy. Mrs Singhania, Good morning. I hope you are well? Reshmi, A pleasure to see you, as always.
Reshmi and Mrs Singhania smiled and nodded their greeting.
Mrs Singhania : Rudra beta! You’ve come so early in the morning. Any special reason?
Rudra : Ji! The circumstances doesn’t look good or safe. I have spoken to the Dixits. They are leaving tonight for Kolkata and have agreed to take Swara back with them. They will also have place for Reshmi, should she wish to go back home.
Swara stiffened, and Reshmi stared with wide-eyed dismay at her mother.
Mrs Singhania tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and looked troubled.
Mrs Singhania : I am grateful for the offer beta, But should there be a war or any attacks, I would like my family close with me. And I cannot like the idea of abandoning Rohan in his hour of need. Besides, I cannot believe the situation is so desperate.
Rudra : I understand, Mrs Singhania. But I would sleep better knowing Swara was back at home with Shivaay. Please start packing, Swara, and be ready by 6.
Swara : Oh please! I don’t want to leave, Rudra.
Rudra (astonished) : Swara! You know that it might not be safe. What if something happens?
Swara was conflicted. She knew that her brother wanted her safe and sound. She was scared. She’d be a fool if she weren’t. But her fears were not focused upon herself. Somehow it seemed cowardly to leave.
And though she was not in love with Captain Rohan or any of the other officers of her acquaintance, nevertheless she knew them and cared what happened to them. She felt sick at the thought of being sent away.
Swara: I’m not going, Rudra.
She could be very stubborn when she set her mind to it, as all her family knew.
Rudra (sighing) : Swara, I want to speak to you alone. Come to the other room.
Mrs Singhania : Don’t trouble yourself. Reshmi and I need to be looking at some other matters anyways.
As they left, Rudra glared at Swara.
Rudra : What is wrong with you? You know it might be dangerous. Shivaay, Om and Ragini will be furious. Call them and convince them if you can. But you have to go back, Swara.
Swara : Come on bhai!
Rudra rolled his eyes. Swara only called him bhai when she wanted him to accept her statement.
Swara : Please. I promise.. I will leave as soon as the danger is close. I’m sure Mrs Singhania knows her priorities. She will never put Reshmi in harm’s way. I will wait until that moment, Rudra. I will trust them to make the right decision. I was sent here in their care, after all. Don’t play elder brother, Rudra. Just be my brother. I cannot leave now. I cannot.
Rudra saw that his sister was shaking and made her sit down.
Rudra (gently) : Is this because of Rohan? Do you like him after all? Have you both done something you shouldn’t have?
Swara : No! There is nothing between Rohan and me. Please Rudra, i don’t want to go. In two days, General Raichand is having a meeting where everyone is allowed to attend. I’m sure he will tell us all there is to know about the military situation.
Rudra : But by then, The Dixits would have left.
Swara : So what, bhai! There will be others with whom I can go if it becomes necessary for me to go at all. Please, Rudra?
Rudra made an exasperated sound.
Rudra : Swara! You’re the youngest among us. Our princess, Our jaan. Why couldn’t you have been the most obedient too? Very well, then. We will see what happens in two days. I hope I don’t regret this for the rest of my life. It goes very much against my better judgment.
She hurried toward him, clasped her arms about his neck, and kissed him on the cheek.
Swara : This is why you’re my favourite.
Rudra (drily) : I’m your favourite because I am not strict like Shivaay or Omkara. And you’re sure you don’t have feelings for Rohan?
Swara (rolling her eyes) : I do not love or even like like Rohan Singhania. Are you satisfied?
Rudra : I suppose I am. But it would be an even bigger relief if you were. At least, No one will gossip about you and Mr Maheshwari. Speaking of which, Have you seen him again? Has he flirted with you?
Swara : No Rudra! He hasn’t.
That was not strictly true. She remembered the cable car. But his manner had not been in any way flirtatious or his words loverlike. He had not once called her Shona or looked at her with those lazy eyes and that half-teasing, half-mocking smile. At least, Not until the last minute.
Instead, he had been good enough to treat her as a person rather than as a silly, delicate girl. She was so tired of being treated that way. He was the only man in J and K—with the exception of Rudra—who had been willing to admit the truth of the military situation to her.
Rudra : That’s good. Now, I will talk to Shivaay tonight and tell him everything. I just hope he hasn’t learnt about Sanskaar Maheshwari.
Swara : Are you going to tell him?
Rudra : Not if I can help it. Now, Why don’t we go for a house boat cruise or something else. I haven’t spent much time with you lately.
Swara (smiling) : That would be lovely. I suppose you don’t have time for me because you finally have a job? You have better things to do than run after your sister?
Rudra (chuckling) : I always had better things to do than run after you, My little sister. Now come on… Let’s go.
The next day, Some news arrived that the Northern-most border had been attacked and few soldiers had not survived. This created a flurry of tourists rushing back to their home towns, even though the tourists in the city still had no extraordinary sense of urgency to leave.
The meeting at General Raichand’s house was still scheduled. It was touted to be a grand affair with many majors, brigadiers attending and even Major General Sachin Sharma was rumoured to be present.
There was to be music and refreshments. For all matters, It was to be another party. Swara was annoyed that a serious meeting could be considered so cavalier.
But fortunately, perhaps, for Swara, Rudra had been sent unexpectedly to Punjab on embassy business and was not expected to return until the day after the meeting. She simply had to attend it. There was a sense of urgency focused upon the occasion.
Ofcourse it was possible that all this might just be another false alarm and nothing was to happen. There would be no bloodshed and the borders would be safe.
It was more probable, though, that this was no false alarm but that the armies were amassing for what would prove to be a deadly battle.
It was the 21st century.
It was the age of technology.
It was the age of democracy and peace.
Swara (thinking) : Yet people are not safe. What is it about power that makes one forget what they learnt from history? War turns us into animals. Why do we prefer it then?
Under these dire circumstances, It was the general opinion that no one would be present for the meeting. But Sanskaar was surprised when he saw that General Raichand’s courtyard was filled with people.
The gentlemen present were talking heartily about some things and it seemed as though the battle was the farthest thing in their minds. The ladies sparkled as if there were nothing more important in life than dancing and no place more desirable in which to do it than their current location.
But appearances could be deceptive. Sanskaar, having met General Raichand, sought out a group of his male acquaintances and found that they were deep in conversation over the military situation.
The borders were expected to fail any day. War was approaching faster than the speed of light. No one knew if the peace negotiations were working. The Delhi Parliament was being annoyingly tight-lipped about their discussions with the UN and Pakistan.
The sounds of animated conversation and laughter rose even above the lively music the orchestra was playing. The rhythmic tread of dozens of feet performing the steps of a country dance underlay the hubbub.
Sanskaar caught sight of Swara, smiling brightly, vividly lovely in a white salwar that shimmered in the twilight. She was conversing with Rohan Singhania and seemingly had eyes for no one but him.
Sanskaar had not expected to see her. A number of families, especially those with children and young female members, had left for the greater safety of Punjab or for home itself during the past couple of days. He would have expected the Singhanias to have more sense than to remain when there were two young ladies in his household as well as his wife, though of course there was his son to make them all reluctant to leave. Swara had probably felt that reluctance too. It was a wonder, though, that her brother who was attached to the embassy had not insisted that she leave.
There was something brittle, almost desperate, about her smile.
He had not spoken with her since that day when they had spent some time in the cable car alone. But he had thought about her a great deal. She had all the almost-unconscious arrogance of the Oberois, but she was also intelligent, forthright, and honest—all qualities that he admired.
She was also attractive as well as classically beautiful. Despite the innocent way she had kissed him in the Persephone Gardens, she had stirred his blood.
Truth to tell, he was beginning to feel guilty. His hatred of Shivaay Singh Oberoi and his desire somehow to make him suffer had not been assuaged by the way he had singled out Swara Singh Oberoi for dalliance and gossip.
But he did feel that perhaps his actions had been small-minded and he had begun to regret them. The best he could do tonight, he decided, was stay away from her.
Sanskaar (thinking) : Leave her alone. You cannot use her as a pawn in your revenge. I am nothing like Shivaay. I have principles and scruples. I may have meant her harm till now, but no more.
Swara had not thought that she would be able to laugh and talk to everyone tonight in the face of a dooming catastrophe.
She had thought such behavior inappropriate, disrespectful, unfeeling. Yet she was quite incapable of behaving any other way. And if it was any consolation to her, everyone else was doing the same— Reshmi, the officers of their acquaintance, everyone.
It was the merriest gathering she had attended all through the carnival.
It was also the saddest. Somewhere deep down she was aware of the terrible fragility, the tragically ephemeral nature, of human life.
She had danced once with Rohan, had stuck by his side during the meeting and had conversed with him later. By nightfall, The news had spread that the first set of barricades of the border had been trespassed and the second set was on the verge of collapsing. Orders were being sent for all the army and air force to assemble at Jammu Military Point immediately.
Swara’s smile had not faltered. Neither had anyone else’s.
She felt a strange, almost desperate tenderness for the captain—perhaps because everyone expected that they would make a match of it and he was always so eagerly attentive while she had felt nothing for him since their arrival in Srinagar but a mild irritation—and sometimes not even so very mild. Tomorrow he would be going into deadly danger. Tomorrow he might be going to his death.
She turned to him now as he held her hand.
Rohan : Swara! I will be leaving early tomorrow. But now worries. We will send those men packing. I’m glad I can finally show why I belong in the army.
Behind his boastful words, she thought, there must be a terrible fear.
Rohan : I will make Ma, Papa and Reshmi proud of me.
He hesitated a little, then drew her to the corner of the room.
Rohan : I also wish to make you proud of me. I… I want you to care for me. I want you to wait for me? If anything happens to me, I wish to know that you will grieve for me. I wish to know that there will be no one else in your life.
She tried to ignore the flaring of irritation she felt when she heard those words. She smiled at him and focused her attention on him. If he needed her company and her admiration tonight, then she would not deny him. There was so little she could do.
But, He was asking for some promise, for something that of course she could not give. But how could she say a firm no, silly as his words would have sounded to her under ordinary circumstances? These circumstances were by no means ordinary.
Swara (gently) : I will pray for you, Rohan, but please don’t talk about dying.
Swara (thinking) : Have I made a false promise here? Does he think that I accept his betrothal? Or at least would be willing to? What have I done?
A sudden announcement asking all officers to report at the military headquarters brought their conversation to a stop. Swara looked at Rohan, whose features were slightly pale and asked him to go and spend time with his family.
After he left, Swara heard a ringing sound that could not be coming from anywhere outside her own head. The air she inhaled felt suddenly cold in her nostrils. But she pulled herself together with a determined effort. This was not the time to indulge in her hysterics. She had wanted to come here, to be a part of history, to be in the thick of the action. She had wanted to know all about it firsthand.
Now that knowledge was almost overwhelming. She wondered if future generations would learn about this event and wonder how military men and their women and families could have danced and made merry on the eve of such disaster.