SWASAN – MR MAHESHWARI AND I
Heyy, It’s Anjali back with the next chapter!!!
Thnxx for comments and to my silent readers….
THIS IS A SUPER LONG CHAPTER!!!! HAVE FUN!!!
Swasan argument…Swara says she will never let him marry Ragini…They are invited to Darjeeling…
ONE WEEK LATER – THE MAHESHWARIS’ COUNTRY MANSION IN DARJEELING
Sanskaar sat in his private office and study alone looking at the guest list. It was clear that the list was purely made to get the children married. There were totally 14 girls invited, Each more lovely and wealthier than the last, and 12 men invited. So that, including his sister and brothers, there would be a total of 15 men and women. 15 pairs!!!
He had not been surprised to see that an invitation had been extended to the Gadodias. His mother had mentioned—several times—how much she liked Mrs. Gadodia.
His mother, He thought ruefully, was not known for being subtle. She clearly wanted a Gadodia bahu! So be it…He’d actually felt a resigned sort of satisfaction upon the sight of Ragini’s name on the list. He was eager to propose to her and be done with it. He did feel guilty about what happened with Swara, but there seemed little to be done now unless he wanted to go to the trouble of finding another Sanskaari bride.
Which he was in no mood to do. He had made a decision, And he was sticking to it. He had stuck to this rule in business deals as well, And had always been successful. So he saw no reason to delay Especially as he did not have long to live. He had spent the last 5 years shirking the marriage trap, but now saw no sense in waiting.
He was going to marry, Make sure his family, wife and children are taken care of, and die. Exactly like his father and uncle had done, before succumbing at the ages of 29 and 42 respectively.
The only thing he had to do was avoid Swara Gadodia! He could not be in her company. Whenever he was around her, He lost his sense. Because that elusive spark—the one so noticeably absent with her sister, whom he intended to marry— crackled and burned so strongly it seemed the room ought to be as light as day.
And so he couldn’t be around her. He couldn’t be around that maddening lily scent and not know the secret of the fragrance. He couldn’t look at her eyes quivering with desire or anger or happiness and not stare at her all day!! He couldn’t look at her lips moving and not think about how it would feel on his lips.
He couldn’t stop thinking about her. Every conversation of theirs was branded into his brain. And this TERRIFIED him. He wanted a wife who he wouldn’t fall in love with. Who would take care of his family and children. A person, with whom he could call his best friend. Someone who wouldn’t complicate matters when he died.
And that person wasn’t Swara Gadodia! Being with Swara confused him like hell. He would marry Ragini! That was final!
He HAD to avoid Miss Gadodia!
But he also had to apologise to her. She deserved one.
It wouldn’t be easy, since the last thing he wanted to do was humble himself to that woman, but the whispers of his conscience had risen to a dull roar, and he knew she deserved the words, “I’m sorry”.
She probably deserved more, but Sanskaar was unwilling to contemplate what that might be.
Not to mention that unless he went and spoke to her, she was likely to block a union between him and Ragini to her dying breath.
He had to take some action. They were in Darjeeling, Where Sanskaar had spent the first 10 years of his life. His house, Venus Park, renamed by Uttara after the Roman Goddess of love, was one of the most picturesque and romantic places that he owned.
Built in the early 1900s of warm yellow stone, it sat comfortably on a wide green lawn, surrounded by eighty acres of parkland, a full ten of which were flowering gardens. Later in the summer the roses would be out, but now the grounds were carpeted with grape hyacinths and the brilliant tulips his mother had single handedly planted.
Sanskaar out the window, where ancient elms rose majestically around the house. They shaded the drive and, he liked to think, made the hall seem a bit more like it was a part of nature. There were several ponds, a creek, and countless hills and hollows, each one with its own special memories of childhood.
And his Bade Papa!
Sanskaar closed his eyes and exhaled. He loved coming home to Venus Park, but the familiar sights and smells brought his uncle to mind with a clarity so vivid it was almost painful. Even now, nearly eight years after Edmund Bridgerton’s death, Sanskaar still expected to see him come bounding around the corner, Uttara screaming with delight as Dp carried her on his shoulders, so that she wouldn’t think about her own father.
The image made Sanskaar grin. Dp had never bothered about how it would like to others, despite Sujata’s rebukes that he was spoiling Uttara!
Sanskaar walked in front of a portrait of his Bade Papa!
Sanskaar : Bade Papa! Will I ever live up to your achievements?
Sanskaar turned away from the portrait and crossed over to the window, watching the expensive BMWs’ and Audis’ pull up the drive. The afternoon had brought a steady stream of arrivals, and every conveyance seemed to carry yet another fresh-faced young lady, her eyes alight with happiness at having been gifted with an invitation to the Maheshwari house party.
His mom and Ma didn’t often elect to fill the country home with guests. None of the Maheshwaris spent much time at Venus Park any longer. Sanskaar suspected that his mothers suffered the same malady he did—memories of their husbands around every corner. After all, they had passed away here.
With a weary sigh, Sanskaar leaned heavily against the window frame, trying to decide whether or not he wanted to pour himself a drink. He was staring out over the lawn, his eyes focusing on absolutely nothing, when a cab decidedly rolled down the drive.
This would be the Gadodias, Sanskaar realized. Everyone else on the guest list was in possession of an expensive car and driver. Only the Gadodias would have had to hire a cab for the long distance, Though he knew they had a Santro.
Sure enough, when one of the footmen, dressed in stylish powder-blue livery, leaped forward to open the door, out stepped Ragini, looking exquisite in a simple pink top and black jeans. Sanskaar was not close enough to see her face clearly, but it was easy enough to imagine. Her cheeks would be soft and pink, and her eyes would mirror the cloudless sky.
Her mother then emerged. As she stood next to Ragini, Sanskaar realized how much they resembled each other. Graceful and petite, he could see that they held themselves in the same manner. The tilt of the head was identical, as were their posture and stance.
Finally, Swara stepped down. And Sanskaar realized he’d been holding his breath.
She didn’t move like the two other Gadodia women. They had been dainty, leaning on the footman, putting their hands in his with a graceful arch of the wrist.
Swara, on the other hand, practically hopped right down. She took the footman’s proffered arm, but she certainly didn’t appear to need his assistance. Wearing a blue and red shirt, She looked confident. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she stood tall and lifted her face to gaze at the facade of Venus Park. Everything about her was direct and straightforward, and Sanskaar had no doubt that if he were close enough to gaze into her eyes, he would find them utterly forthright.
But once she saw him, Those eyes would be filled with disgust and hatred towards him. Which was what he deserved. One didn’t mess like that with a woman like Swara Gadodia!
As he saw the Gadodias interacting, He realized something. They were a true family, comfortable in each other’s presence, and there was a warmth one sensed in their faces when they conversed. It was especially fascinating since he knew that Sumi and Swara were not blood relatives.
There were some bonds, he was coming to realize, that were stronger than those of blood. These were not bonds he had room for in his life.
Which was why, when he married, the face behind the red ghunghat would have to be Ragini Gadodia’s.
Swara had expected to be impressed by the grandeur and size of Venus Park. Instead, she was mesmerized. The place was so enchanting. Venus Park seemed almost cozy. It seemed a bizarre word to use to describe a house with surely fifty rooms, but its fanciful architecture and its warm appearance almost made it seem like something out of a fairy story, especially with the late afternoon sun giving the yellow stone an almost reddish glow. There was nothing austere or imposing about Venus Park, and Swara liked it immediately.
Ragini : So beautiful, Isn’t it?
Swara : It is so hard to imagine that awful man owning something as enchanting as this. It makes spending a week here almost bearable.
Raginii laughed. Sumi scolded, but couldn’t resist giving an indulgent smile. The footman came to take their luggage and left.
Sumi : You should not say such things Swara! Anyone might hear you. It is really discourteous to talk like that of our host…And before you tell that Mrs Maheshwari is the host, (as she sees Swara protesting) ,Let me tell you. This house is in the names of Sanskaar Maheshwari. So technically, He is our host.
Swara : Fine. As we enter the doorway, I will be nothing but sweetness and light! I shall be the epitome of good behaviour. (she waves her arm dramatically)
Sumi (skeptically) : You? But the sweetness and light applies to the gardens as well, Miss Swara Gadodia!
Swara : Offo Ma! I won’t do anything wrong. I won’t even meet the man. It is such a huge house. I will be on my best behaviour.
Silently she thought : As long as he stays from Ragini.
The three entered the house, which was as splendid inside as outside. As she entered, Swara didn’t know why. But she felt at home. She felt as though she belonged here. Within this house’s protective and cozy walls. She shook her head clear of whatever nonsense she was feeling and went inside to greet the elder Maheshwaris.
As they moved forward, Ragini whispered in Swara’s ear with a cheeky smile.
Ragini : Pyaari behna! Sweetness and light begins here.
Swara ( whispering) : I would hit you if we weren’t in public.
Annapurna Maheshwari noticing them came forward.
Annapurna : So glad you made it, Mrs Gadodia.
Swaragini take her blessings.
Annapurna : May you live a hundred years. How lovely to see you, Sumi! And you, Swara beti!
Swara : It was an incredible honour to receive your invitation. How could we not attend? And that too, It’s the country. It feels simply lovely to escape the city pollution and atmosphere.
Sujata came to them. She smiled listening to Swara’s words. Sumi introduces Ragini to them as they hadn’t met her before.
Sujata : So, A town girl at heart? Aren’t you, Swara?
Swara (laughing) : I guess, Mrs Maheshwari! Kolkata is awesome, and always worth a visit, but I do prefer the woods and fresh air of the countryside.
Sujata : My son is the exact same way. He spend his time in the city. But I know the truth. He loves it here especially.
Swara (doubtfully) : The business tycoon?
Sanskaar was a universal flirt. Flirts’ natural domain was the city. How could he like the country then?
Annapurna : Yes, Sanskaar! We lived here almost exclusively when he was a child. We went to Kolkata often, of course. I do love to attend parties and balls, but never for more than a few weeks. It was only after my husband passed away that we moved our priSumi residence to town.
Ragini : I’m really sorry for your loss.
Annapurna : That is very sweet of you. He has been gone for many years, but I do still miss him each and every day.
Swaragini looked at their mother with a lump in their throats. Swara remembered how well Ma and her father had loved each other, and she knew that she was in the presence of two other women who had experienced true love. And suddenly she felt so very sad. Because Sumi had lost her husband and both the Maheshwaris had lost theirs as well, and …
And maybe most of all because she would probably never know the bliss of true love herself.
Sujata( wiping her eyes) : We are becoming so nostalgic. Please feel free to treat this place as your home. If you have any discomfort or queries, please do call us.
Sumi and Ragini nodded their heads, and turned towards their rooms. Swara was about to turn when,
Swara : Actually, Mrs Maheshwari! If I could…
Annapurna : Haan! Bol beta!
Swara : I was wondering if I could explore your flower gardens. I saw them and I really wanted to go inside.
Sujata : So you love to garden?
Swara : I do! But I am not very good. I can recognise the works of an expert though.
Annapurna : These gardens are Sujata’s pride and joy. When we used to live here, She wouldn’t let anyone, even our regular gardener enter. HE used to get so annoyed with her.
They laughed. Swara grinned, instinctively warming to the older women.
Sujata : Swara! Please go and rest now. The guests are still arriving, so I am a little busy today. But I will give you a full tour later. If you wish to explore the gardens, Please go ahead. No need to ask for permission and all…
Swara nodded and took their leave to go see the gardens.
Sanskaar emerged from his study and came to his mothers.
Sanskaar : Was that the Gadodias?
Though he knew very well it was. But his offices were too far down the hall for him to have heard anything the quintet of women had actually said, so he decided that a brief interrogation was in order.
Sujata : Such a lovely family. They’ve been brought up very well.
Annapurna : I decided to add them at the last minute. I had to make manu changes in the list to accomodate them. I added three gentlemen at random so that our numbers will be even.
Sanskaaar pondered this. His mothers were indeed desperate to have the Gadodias join the house party if it meant inviting random people. This was a Maheshwari house party. Not just anyone were invited.
Sujata : I think you’ve met the two sisters right?
Sujata : They’re really nice sanskaari girls. I find them really delightful. Sure, they aren’t rich. But, but I’ve always maintained that when choosing a spouse, fortune is not as important as character, provided, of course, that one isn’t in desperate straits.
Sanskaar (glinting mischeviously) : Are you about to point out that we’re not in “desperate straits” ?
Sujata (haughtily) : Don’t mock me beta! I merely point out the truth. You should be down on your hands and knees and thank Bhagwan every day that you don’t have to marry an heiress. Most men don’t have the luxury of marrying their loved one, you know? Due to financial problems…
Sanskaar (kissing both his mothers on thier cheeks) : I would rather thank my mom and Ma! They raised me…Which I know wasn’t an easy task…
Annapurna : Badmaash….Where are you going now?
Sanskaar : For a walk.
Annapurna (suddenly interested) : Really?
Sanskaar (bewildered) : Yes! It’s been so long since I came to Darjeeling. Thought I’ll explore the gardens for a while.
Sujata : In that case, Go to the flower gardens. The early species are just beginning to bloom, and it’s simply spectacular. Like nothing you can ever see in Kolkata.
Sanskaar nodded and headed towards the flower gardens.
Sujata and Annapurna watched his retreating form. Sanskaar’s interest in the Gadodias was most intriguing.
Sujata : Jiji, Sanskaar’s definitely interested in the Gadodia girls. But which one? Swara ya Ragini? Humein pata lagana padega!
SOME TIME LATER
Sanskaar slowly strolled round through his mom’s gardens, admiring the flowers and enjoying the cool breeze while the sun was shining. Just then, he heard the light sound of a second set of footsteps on a nearby path. This piqued his curiosity. The gardener was on leave and the guests were resting. He frankly thought he was alone and was savouring his solitude.
He turned toward the direction of the footfall, moving silently until he reached the end of his path. He looked to the right, then
to the left, and then he saw …
Why, he wondered, was he surprised?
Swara stood under a wooden arch, dressed in a purple dress which blended with the purple hyacinths and irises growing around her. He stood staring at her peaceful and happy face. She bent down to smell a dutch tulip.
Sanskaar : They don’t have a scent.
She straightened immediately, her entire body reacting before she’d turned to see him. He could tell she’d recognized his voice, which left him feeling rather oddly satisfied.
Sanskaar : They look really amazing. But they don’t have any fragrance.
Swara stood staring at him for a long time. Finally,
Swara : Ohh! Thank you.
Sanskaar : These are some of my mom’s favourite flowers. She always grows a bunch wherever she is.
Swara : They are really lovely. I’ve never seen tulips growing from the ground before. Only in bouquets.
Sanskaar stared at her. He bent down and dug up a tulip.
Sanskaar : Here you go, Miss Gadodia!
Swara looked at him surprised, then took it from him.
Swara : Thank you, Mr Maheshwari!
Sanskaar : I’m shocked, Miss Gadodia. I had donned all my armor and was expecting you to hit me or at the very least, shout at me.
Swara : I promised Ma I would be on my best behavior.
Sanskaar burst out in laughter.
Swara : Ragini had the same reaction.
Sanskaar : Does good behaviour constitute arguing with the host?
Swara : There was some debate over whether or not you qualify as our host, my lord. After all, the invitation was issued by your mother.
Sanskaar ( raising a brow) : But I own the house.
Swara : Ma said the same.
Sanskaar (grinning) : Is this killing you?
Swara (confused) : What is?
Sanskaar : Being nice to me.
Swara : It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Sanskaar : But it’s not the hardest thing as well, right?
Swara (blurted out, seeing his intense gaze) : I don’t like you, MR Maheshwari!
Sanskaar (amused) : Yes. You’ve said that before. I didn’t think you did.
Swara started to feel very strange, much like she had in his study, right before he’d kissed her. Her throat suddenly felt a bit tight, and her palms grew very warm. And her insides—well, there was really nothing to describe the tense, prickly feeling that tightened through her. Instinctively, and perhaps out of self-preservation, she took a step back.
Sanskaar looked at her amused to the core.
Swara (unthinkingly) : You shouldn’t have picked this tulip. Your mom grew them with so much care.
Sanskaar (shrugging) : It didn’t feel right that Ragini gets all the flowers.
The prickly feeling grew thousandfold at that statement.
Sanskaar : She’ll anyway blame Laksh, the naughty one, for this.
Swara : I should think less of you for this statement.
Sanskaar : But, you don’t?
Swara (shaking her head) : But, It’s not like you can fall anymore in my eyes.
Sanskaar : Ouch! I thought you were supposed to be on your best behaviour?
Swara : Not when there’s no one around to hear. And you vertainly don’t count.
Sanskaar took a step in her direction.
Sanskaar (in a low voice) : I thought I should be the only one who did.
Swara’s insides began to tighten again. She lowered her eyes, not wanting to meet his gaze.
Sanskaar : Miss Gadodia?
She looked up. Her stomach flipped.
Swara (wanting the conversation to turn back to normal) : Did you want something, Mr Maheshwari? Why did you come find me?
Sanskaar : I didn’t, actually. I was walking and I heard your footsteps. But now that you’re here, I did want to say something.
Swara began climbing a nearby staircase which led to the terrace garden. Sanskaar followed her.
Sanskaar : MISS GADODIA! I AM SORRY!
Swara was so shocked she slipped from the stairs and fell straight into Sanskaar’s arms. They tumbled down the few steps and landed with a thud on the grass, Sanskaar lying above Swara, her eyes closed.
Sanskaar just stayed in that position, looking at her
frightened expression. He slowly removed the loose hairs that were covering her face. His hands slowly came down until he was holding her waist throught the fabric of her dress.
Swara slowly opened her eyes and saw him staring at her.
Finally, they got up and straightened themselves.
Swara (not wanting to think about what just happened) : Did the great Mr Maheshwari just apologise to me?
Sanskaar( breathing heavily) : I owe you an apology for my behavior the other night. I was very rude.
Swara ( her head still spinning) : You want to apologise for the kiss?
Sanskaar (thinking) : Kiss? I didn’t even think about the kiss. I was thinking more of the unpleasant things I told her after the kiss.
Sanskaar : Er, yes! (lying) The kiss. And for what I said, as well.
Swara : I accept your apology. But this does not mean that I approve your request to marry Ragini!
Sanskaar : I never thought that you would.
Swara : You did kiss me.
Sanskaar : You too kissed me.
She closed her eyes and opened them.
Swara (determinedly) : The fact is that it did happen. So, Whether you marry Ragini, regardless of your reputation, I would always be between you, no matter how inconsequential the kiss may have been to you. You can’t take it away.
Sanskaar wanted to taunt her. But seeing her face, he let it go.
Besides, she had a good point. The kiss would always be between them. Even now, with her cheeks pinkened by embarrassment and her lips pursed with irritation, he found himself wondering how she’d feel if he pulled her into his arms, how she’d taste if he traced the outline of her lips with his tongue.
Would she smell like the garden? Or would that maddening scent of lilies and soap still cling to her skin?
There was only one way to find out, and doing so would ruin his chances with Ragini forever.
But as Swara had pointed out, maybe marrying Ragini would bring with it far too many complications. He after all couldn’t be lusting after one’s sister-in-law.
Maybe the time had come to search out a new bride, tedious though the prospect may be.
Maybe the time was right to kiss Swara Gadodia again, here in the perfect beauty of Venus Park’s gardens, with the flowers grazing their legs and the smell of lilac hanging in the air.
PRECAP : GUESS???
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Credit to: Anjali