SWASAN – CAPTIVATED FOREVER!
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
ALL CHAPTER LINKS : All Parts here
CHAPTER LINK : Chapter 7
War is imminent
Sanskaar was waiting for Saket and leave when he noticed Swara at one corner of the hall. The crowd was sparse as all the officers had gone home to their family or to the headquarters. He saw that she was alone, No sign of her brother or her companions.
She was looking almost as pale as her salwar. Her earlier smile and sparkle had deserted her. After a moment’s hesitation he made his way toward her and offered her his arm without a word.
Swara (looking up at the man) : Oh! Mr Maheshwari!
She tucked her slender arm in his and they walked towards the refreshments area.
Swara : I thought the Singhanias could use some time with Rohan. They are in a great deal of distress.
Swara : Do you think they’ll all be killed?
Sanskaar (gently) : No.
Swara: That was a very stupid question. Some of them will be killed. Maybe many.
Sanskaar : Yes.
He handed her a glass of water when she said no to juice. She sat down, her hands trembling. Sanskaar looked at the
Singhanias annoyed. He understood the love for their son and the need to be with them, But how could they forget their young charge? After all, The Oberois had entrusted them with Swara’s safety.
Swara : I’m glad Rudra is safe in Punjab. I don’t know what I would do if any of my brothers were there right now. I can’t imagine anyone so close to me in such a dangerous profession.
Sanskaar : What about Captain Rohan? Is he not close to you then?
Swara looked directly at him but did not admonish him for impertinence.
Swara : He is dear to his family—and to himself. And yet he is caught up in this madness that humanity seems prey to. Before he left, He begged me to wait for him and to grieve for him if he dies. I… I could not say no. How can I? It would have been so selfish and cruel.
Sanskaar (softly) : Did you want to say no?
He had often wondered if she felt an affection for the boy. He was unworthy of her—a conceited young fellow who showed no sign of growing up into a mature man.
Swara : Today that question has no meaning. Everyone’s too emotional. But… Marriage is for life. I have always been determined not to choose hastily and not to allow my hand to be forced. It is very easy to fall in love, I believe. I am not so sure it is as easy to love.
Sanskaar : What do you mean? Emotions have no place in love?
Swara : Love is not ruled by emotions. Love is liking and companionship and respect and trust. Love does not dominate or try to possess. Love thrives only in a commitment to pure, mutual freedom. That is why marriage is so tricky. There are the marriage ceremony and the marriage vows and the necessity for fidelity—all of them suggestive of restraints, even imprisonment. Men talk of life sentences and leg shackles in connection with marriage, do they not? But marriage ought to be just the opposite—two people agreeing to set each other free.
Sanskaar again marvelled at this young human.. Barely twenty one, yet so smart.
Sanskaar : I don’t know if anyone will agree with you, Shona!
Swara : That’s because you haven’t understood. Anyone who does not intend to keep sacred vows should not make them. Married couples should set each other free to live and learn and find personal fulfillment. They are not two sides of a coin or two halves of a soul. They are two precious individual souls who have joined their freedoms to make something more glorious, more challenging, of their lives.
He was not sure whether to think her foolishly idealistic or wisely mystical. But he was fascinated by her. He had not expected that they would have a conversation like this tonight of all nights.
Sanskaar : You wish for a marriage like this?
Swara : Yes! I don’t care about the age, wealth, health or anything that may make us hesitate. If I find someone who’ll set me free, I shall be with him or wait for him.
Would the typical very young lady make much of a distinction between being in love and loving? Would many ladies of any age state categorically that love and possessiveness could not exist together?
He had not even made that leap of understanding himself.
She was right, though, was she not? Would there be so many unhappy marriages if there were no such distinctions?
Swara (smiling) : My family seems to have good luck when it comes to their spouses. My brother loves his wife and my sister her husband. Om recently had a baby girl.
Sanskaar (smiling) : So, Only Omkara Singh Oberoi is married?
Swara : Yes! And Ragini, My sister. Laksh loves Ragini to bits. She has two kids, A boy from Laksh’s earlier marriage and another one born two years ago.
Sanskaar : What about your eldest brother?
Swara : No.
She shook her head.
Sanskaar (thinking) : Did Shivaay love Tia? Had he been prepared to love her all his life? To remain faithful to her? I doubt it. Shivaay seems incapable of love.
Sanskaar : But you don’t love Rohan Singhania. But you didn’t tell him no?
Swara : I didn’t tell him yes either. I will have to say a firm no when he returns. I don’t know why this matters anyways. I did not come here to think about love and marriage. I came here to see how things are.. How they could be. I don’t want to return to Kolkata yet. What about you? What are you going to do?
Sanskaar : I’m going to stay here. I may not be part of the military. But I can still help and be useful.
Swara : I would like to make myself useful. You cannot imagine how helpless I feel in a situation like this. If I had been somewhere else, I doubt it would matter to me. But now.. I wish to help.
Sanskaar : I am staying in Number 20, Parkview Lane. Please come there if you’re in need of anything.
Swara (half smiling) : Thank you, Mr Maheshwari. I believe I have been prattling. I tend to do that when I feel passionately about an issue. I feel passionate about war.
Sanskaar (smiling) : As you do about love. (whispering) The wars will get over. And your dream of love will surely come true in time, Shona. You will be happy again.
Swara (looking at him) : What about you? Any dreams? Any hopes?
Sanskaar : I am too old for dreams.
Swara : One is never too old, Mr Maheshwari. I’m sure you have some dreams, or life loses its focus, its passion, its very meaning.
Was that what had happened to his life? he wondered. He felt ancient. He felt so tiringly wise.
Reshmi : Swara!
Swara turned to her friend who looked as though she’d been crying. She cast herself into Swara’s arms, and they hugged each other tightly.
The next day saw many families leaving for their homes in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Gujarat.. Everywhere. The Singhanias and Swara weren’t part of them.
Swara had spoken to Shivaay and promised to stay safe and return once Rudra was back. She assured him that she wouldn’t do anything ridiculous and that he shouldn’t worry. Though he wasn’t happy, Shivaay had finally relented.
Common sense told her that she should go as soon as possible, even if doing so meant traveling with near strangers. But it was hard to behave with common sense under such dire circumstances. The fact was that she could not bear to leave. She had acquaintances and even a few friends among the officers and their wives. Most of the latter were remaining. Why not she, then? How could she leave and not know what happened to any of those acquaintances?
She had spoken the truth to Shivaay. Even so, she hoped that Rudra would not return from Punjab in time to send her on her way today. Perhaps by tomorrow there would be more news from the front. Perhaps the hostilities would all be over by then and she would not need to leave at all.
Rudra had still not come by midday.
During the afternoon, restless and wanting to leave the house as quiet as possible for poor Reshmi, who was suffering from a bad migraine, Swara obtained permission to visit Mrs. Raichand, wife of General Raichand.
It was while she was taking tea with Mrs. Raichand that she heard what at first she took for distant thunder. But Mrs. Raichand smiled rather tensely when Swara expressed the hope that there would be no torrential rain to increase the discomforts of the troops.
Mrs Raichand : That’s heavy guns, Swara. Not the sound of rain.
Mrs Raichand : it’s far away, but you can feel the vibrations, Can’t you?
Swara nodded but felt herself tremble anyways.
Swara half expected that Rudra would come for her before it was time to leave. But she walked home with only her maid for company.
Rudra had not returned yet.
During the night they were kept awake for a long time—and Reshmi’s sufferings were considerably increased—by the almost-incessant rumbling of wheels on the street, combined with the clopping of horses’ hooves and the occasional shouting of men’s voices.
They were not to be alarmed, Mr Singhania called from the corridor outside the bedchambers. The commotion was merely that of a long train of artillery on its way to the borders.
Not be alarmed? Swara, who was standing at her window, a shawl about her shoulders, shivered.
Where was Rudra? she wondered.
Where were the officers she knew?
By the following day it was too late to leave even though Reshmi emerged from her room looking like a heavy-eyed ghost to assure her mama and papa that the migraine attack was not as severe as some others she had suffered and that she was ready to travel at a moment’s notice.
Early in the morning a troop of officers had ridden through Srinagar from the direction of the front—Swara had been awoken yet again by the noise—shouting to everyone they passed and to the sleepers inside the houses that all was lost and a crushing defeat had been suffered. But they had not stayed to answer anyone’s questions.
They left panic in their wake.
Almost all the remaining visitors and many of the permanent residents were hastening to leave the city into which ravening soldiers might be pouring at any moment. At the Singhania household all trunks and bags were packed and all was ready for departure after an early breakfast.
But there was an unexpected complication. When Mr Singhania sent for the carriage and horses and the baggage coach to be brought up to the front door, he was informed that everything on wheels had been requisitioned by the army for the conveyance of supplies to the front. No matter how much the man ranted and raved and threatened and cajoled and was prepared to bribe, it quickly became apparent that indeed there was no conveyance to be had. There was no way of leaving that day unless they were prepared to go on foot, taking with them only what they could carry in their hands and on their backs.
That, of course, as Mrs Singhania pointed out in a voice that expressed more outrage than fright, was out of the question.
And so they were trapped in Srinagar.
Swara, although she felt undeniably afraid, was glad.
Reshmi staggered back to bed.
It began to rain in the afternoon.
There was a dreadful thunderstorm through the night—a real one this time—and the rain was torrential for hours on end. It was impossible to know exactly where the armies were or what the meaning of yesterday’s distant guns was. But as Swara lay curled up in bed, resisting the urge to cover her head with the blankets and try to block out the sound, she found that it was not difficult to imagine the misery of the men trying to find shelter and rest where there was none to be had.
Swara was worried about Rudra. She was also concerned about Reshmi, who was still suffering miserably with her migraine attack. Mrs Singhania was almost beside herself with distress, partly over her daughter’s indisposition, partly over the threat to her own safety, but mainly over the uncertainty of her son’s fate.
Mr Singhania ventured out to find what news was available, though there seemed to be far more rumor making the rounds than hard fact.
The rain had finally stopped, and Swara, obtaining permission from a distracted Mrs Singhania again went to Mrs. Raichand’s house.
The wives of the regiment’s officers often gathered there, she had discovered, and on the whole they tended to be far more sensible than most other people, much less given to panic and belief in every sensational story that presented itself in place of reliable news. They were all gathered together on this particular morning. Swara was relieved to find that they received her warmly as if she were one of them, not as an unwelcome intruder.
Shortly after midday the guns of the heavy artillery began firing again. They were closer than they had been the day before yesterday. It was impossible, after the first startled moment, to mistake their constant pounding for thunder.
The ladies spent a couple of hours sorting the medicines and other supplies they had gathered during the past day and a half, and rolling bandages. They talked quietly and even laughed as they worked, but Swara, who joined in as busily as anyone else, could feel the tension and the taut fear that pulsed beneath the cheerfulness as they all tried to ignore the significance of what they did.
How difficult it must be, she thought, to be a wife whose husband stayed in constant danger year after year.
They were interrupted by voices on the road saying that they had lost all. The armies were turning back and reaching the border.
Panic seized many of the other spectators. But Mrs. Raichand took Swara firmly by the arm and led her back inside the house. She shut the door behind them.
Mrs Raichand : I don’t know if that’s true. but there will be many wounded and in need of medical help. I am going to the borders to help them. I think you should go home, Swara.
Swara : Oh, Mrs Raichand, I want to help. Please don’t argue with me. I believe you are going to need every pair of hands available within a short time. As for Mrs Singhania, she has Reshmi to tend and Captain Rohan to worry about. She knows I am with you.
Mrs. Raichand did not waste more time on words. She simply nodded briskly and reached out one hand to squeeze Swara’s.
Mrs Raichand : We will go as far as the border, then.
Like I said earlier, Please just go with the unrealistic settings.. I have no idea how far Srinagar is from the border or about the dangers the place faces. Indulge my work and forgive any mistakes made.