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!!!
Ragini falls in the lake…Swasan shout at each other
By that night, It was plain that though Ragini wasn’t traumatised or hurt, she hadn’t come off entirely unscathed. Her nose turned red, her eyes began to water, and it was apparent to anyone who glimpsed her puffy face for even a second that, while not seriously ill, she’d caught a bad cold.
But even while Ragini was tucked into bed with a hot water bottle between her feet and an Ayurvedic potion brewed up by Ma in a mug on her bedside table, Swara was determined to have a conversation with her.
Swara (demanding) : Ragini! What did he say to you on the ride home?
She sat next to her sister on the edge of the bed.
Ragini (looking at the potion with fear and disgust) : Who? And what the hell is this? Has Ma planned to poison me? Look, there is some weird fumes.
Swara (impatiently) : Ragini! I am talking about the idiot Mr Maheshwari! And don’t be a fool…Ofcourse it’s not giving fumes. It is steam. And why would Ma plan to poison you?
Ragini : It doesn’t look like steam (she sniffs the mug) Or smell like it.
Swara (gripping the mattress tightly so that her knuckles hurt) : It is steam. Now will you please answer my question?
Ragini (blithely) : Mr Maheshwari? Oh, Nothing…He was being polite. Just how do you feel and all that.
Swara ( doubtfully) : He was politely conversing with you while you were dripping wet?
Ragini finally took a sip, and gagged.
Ragini : What the hell is in this?
Swara took the mug and sniffed.
Swara : Probably all the herbs : Tulsi, omam..And i think she has added jaggery as well. But THAT’S NOT THE POINT. (Suddenly looking outside, where the curtain has been drawn) Is it raining?
Ragini : Perhaps. I don’t know…But it was cloudy in the evening. (she keeps the mug on the table) I will not have that. It will only make me sicker.
Swara goes near the window and peered out. It was raining, but only lightly, and it was too early to tell whether the precipitation would be accompanied by any thunder or lightning.
Swara : So what did he say?
Ragini : Who, Mr Maheshwari?
Swara felt like she could shake her sister senseless.
Swara : Yes, Mr Maheshwari.
Ragini (shrugging, clearly not interested in this conversation) : I don’t know Swara. I can’t remember. Not much. He asked for my welfare, of course. Which was only reasonable, considering that I had just been dunked in the lake. Which, I might add, was perfectly wretched. Aside from being cold, the water was most certainly not clean.
Swara cleared her throat. She had to ask a question she didn’t want to, but it was necessary.
Swara : Did he behave inappropriately with you?
Ragini (shocked) : Of course not, Swara! He was, in fact. a perfect gentleman. I don’t know why you are so interested. I can’t even remember half the stuff he said.
Swara just stared at her sister, unable to think that she could have been trapped in conversation with that odious man for a good ten minutes and it didn’t make an indelible impression on her. Much to her own everlasting dismay, every single awful word he’d said to her was etched permanently on her brain.
Ragini : By the way, I had a perfectly boring time with Mr Das. He is nice, but he hasn’t got a single intelligent thing to say.
Swara (smiling) : So he is not your scholar husband?
Ragini (shuddering) : Definitely not!
Ragini coughed. Swara moved next to her and rubbed her back.
Swara : I think you should have some more of that remedy. Ma swears it will make you feel better.
Ragini shakes her head. She puts her head down on Swara’s lap. They both sit like that for several minutes. But finally Swara cannot bear it. She had to ask.
Swara : Did he talk about me?
Ragini : You?
Swara (snapped) : No, some other me. How many other me’s do you know? Of course me.
Ragini (surprised) : Swara, There is no need to get so upset.
Swara : I am not upset……
Ragini : But, actually, he did not mention you..
Swara felt suddenly upset.
Ragini : He did talk a lot about Zozo though.
Swara looked at her in dismay. It wasn’t flattering to be passed over by a dog.
Ragini : I assured him that Zozo was really a good boy, and was charming and that I wasn’t angry with him. But Swara, Why are you soo interested in the man?
Swara : Ragini, I spent the entire afternoon with him. Trapped in conversation.
She hoped that this would be explanation enough.
Ragini : Good..Then you know how polite he is. And how charming. He’s also very wealthy and is devastatingly handsome. Swara, I think we should add him to our list.
Swara : List?
Ragini : List of possible people who would make good husbands. I think he and I would suit very well.
Swara (protesting) : But I thought you wanted a scholar.
Ragini( smiling) :Yes. But you yourself told me how unlikely it would be to find one in Kolkata. Sanskaar Maheshwari seems intelligent enough. I’ll just have to devise a way to discover if he likes to read.
Swara (viciously muttering) : I’ll be surprised if that boor can read.
Ragini (amused) : Swara Gadodia! Did you just tell what I thought you said?
Swara (lying) : No!
Because of course the man could read. He owned a million dollar company for God’s sake. But he was just so awful in every other way.
Ragini : You did…You are really awful Swara! But I do love you. You make me laugh.
A low rumble of distant thunder echoed in the night, and Swara forced a smile on her face, trying not to flinch. She was usually all right when the thunder and lightning were far away. It was only when they came one on top of each other, and both seemingly on top of her, that she felt as if she were about to burst from her skin.
To make Ragini understand and to take her mind away from the storm, Swara had to talk to her.
Swara : Ragini! Please, You have to put away Mr Maheshwari from your mind. He is absolutely not the sort of husband who would make you happy. Aside from the fact that he is the worst sort of rogue and would probably flaunt a dozen mistresses in your face…
Seeing the doubtful look on Ragini’s face, she continued.
Swara : He would. You’ve read about him in The Social, Ragini! In Deepa’s articles. You know what those society people have to say. The ones who have been on the social circuit for several years and know what’s what. They all say he is a terrible flirt and rogue. That his only saving grace is how nicely he treats his family.
Ragini : So that would be a plus, right? Seeing as wife is family?
Swara (groaning) : Koi ise samjhao!!! Ragini, A wife isn’t a blood relative. Men won’t hurt their mothers but they will hurt their wives. They will trample upon the poor girl’s trust and feelings everyday..
Ragini : Swara! How would you know this? Our papa was never like that and you don’t know anyone else.
Swara’s mouth fell open. Ragini had never questioned her sister before. Especially on such an important matter. Unfortunately, The only reply she had was
Swara : I just do!
Which, she had to admit, was weak even to her ears.
Swara (placatory) : Ragini! Do you really think you will like the man after you get to know him properly?
Ragini : He seemed pleasant enough while driving me home.
Swara : But he was on his best behavior! Of course he’d seem nice. He wants you to fall in love with him.
Ragini : You think this is an act?
Swara (happily) : Yes. Exactly. Between last night and this afternoon, I spent several hours in his company, and I can assure you, he was not on his best behavior with me.
Ragini (fascinated) : Ohhh! (breathlessly) Did he kiss you?
Swara (blushing and horrrified) : Of course not! Why on Earth would you think that?
Ragini : You were the one who said he wasn’t on his best behaviour
Swara : What I meant was that he wasn’t polite. Nor was he very nice. In fact, he was insufferably arrogant and dreadfully rude and insulting.
Ragini : That’s interesting.
Swara : Interesting? Ragini, it was horrible
Ragini : But why would he behave like that with you. He had to impress you to get you to recommend him to me. So why was he so arrogant?
Swara turned a dull red colour.
Swara : He said that he couldn’t help himself. He had to act that way with me.
Ragini stared at Swara. Suddenly
Ragini (laughing loudly) : Swara! This has to be the funniest thing I’ve heard all month. He couldn’t help himself? Oh God, How the hell did you act with the man?
Swara : There is no need to stay on the topic..
Ragini : Do you know, but he might be the very first gentleman we’ve met since we shifted a month ago that you haven’t been able to manage.
Swara’s lips twisted into a grimace. Mr Maheshwari had used the same word, and they were both correct. She’d indeed spent the entire month managing men—managing them for Ragini. And she suddenly wasn’t so sure she liked this role of mother hen she’d been thrust into. Or maybe she’d thrust herself into it.
Ragini (noticing Swara’s change in expression, turned apologetic) : Swara, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.I had no idea Mr Maheshwari had upset you so.
Swara : Ragini, I just don’t like the man. And I don’t think you should even consider marrying him. I don’t care how ardently he pursues you. He will not make a good husband.
Ragini sat thoughtful and grave for a few minutes.
Ragini : Well, Swara, If you say so, It must be true! I have certainly never been steered wrong by your judgment before. And, as you said, you have spent more time in his company than have I, so you would know better.
Swara (letting out a sigh of relief) : Good! Thank you Ragini! See, We will find a man better than Sanskaar Maheshwari for you.
Ragini : Or we could find a man for you. Are you even searching for someone Swara? Because I don’t think you are. You need a family of your own. You need someone to love you besides Ma and I.
Swara bit her lip, not wanting to respond directly to Ragini’s point. Because behind those lovely blue eyes and perfect face, Ragini was quite the most perceptive person she knew. And Ragini was right. Swara hadn’t been looking for a husband. But why should she? No one was considering her for marriage, either.
She sighed, glancing toward the window. The storm seemed to have passed without striking her area in Kolkata. Or fear in her heart. She supposed she ought to be thankful for small favors.
Swara (ignoring Ragini’s statement) : I’ll leave you now. Take your rest. And drink that remedy.
As she left the room, she heard Ragini’s reply.
Ragini : I’d rather die!
FOUR DAYS LATER –
Four days later, Ragini was dutifully drinking the remedy, although not without considerable grumbling and complaint. Her health had improved, but only to the point where she was almost better. She was still stuck in bed, still coughing, and very irritable.
Sumi had declared that Ragini could not attend any social functions until Tuesday at the earliest. Swara had taken that to mean that they all would receive a respite (because really, what was the point of attending any social event without Ragini?), but after Swara spent a blessedly uneventful Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with nothing to do but read and take Zozo for walks, Sumi suddenly declared that the two of them would attend Mrs Maheshwari’s musicale Monday evening, and—
—that was final.
Swara sighed and gave in. Her mom could be pretty strict at times.
And so on Monday evening, Where the Maheshwaris had invited the talented singer Lekha Manish to sing, Swara found herself wearing a netted green and silver sleeveless salwar. She wore a faded pearl set along with it, and her hair was made into a simple plait.
Mother and daughter set off in their cab, after saying goodbye to Ragini.
Swara (in the cab) : Everyone will be surprised to see us without Ragini.
Sumi : Perhaps. But you too were invited. And you are looking for a husband as well.
Swara held silent for a moment. She couldn’t very well argue that point, since, after all, it was supposed to be true. She then tapped the right one rhythmically against the seat for several seconds, until
Sumi : Good heavens, Swara, can’t you sit still?
Swara : You know I can’t
Sumi just sighed.
After another long silence,
Swara : Ragini will be lonely without us.
Sumi : Not at all. You know she has got three books to read. She won’t even notice we’re gone.
That much was also true. Ragini probably wouldn’t notice if her bed caught on fire while she was reading a book.
Swara (desperately) : Ma! The musicale will probably be dreadful. You remember the last one we went to…
Sumi (impatiently) : Swara! The last one we went to was by the family. This time, A professional Lekha Manish is going to perform. Now stop making excuses.
Sumi’s teeth were beginning to clench together, and so Swara vowed to hold her tongue for the remainder of the ride. Which wouldn’t be so difficult, after all, as they were presently rolling up in front of Mheshwari Mansion.
Swara : It’s…It’s huge….And so beautiful…
Sumi : Isn’t it? The Maheshwaris have always had this land, but their house used to be smaller…Later when Sanskaar become a millionaire, he renovated the place keeping in mind his family. He is always thoughtful when matters concern his family.
Thoughtful and Mr Maheshwari were not two expressions Swara would have thought to use in the same sentence, but she nodded nonetheless, too awed by the size and grace of the stone building to make an intelligent comment.
Swara had been inside enough grand Kolkata homes not to publicly gape at the obvious wealth and beauty of the furnishings, but even she was impressed by the interiors, decorated with elegance and restraint in the Adam style. Even the ceilings were works of art—done up in pale shades of sage and blue, the colors separated by white plasterwork so intricate it almost appeared to be a more solid form of lace.
The music room was just as lovely, the walls painted a friendly shade of lemon yellow. Rows of chairs had been set up for attendees, and Swara quickly steered her stepmother toward the back. Truly, there could be no reason why she’d want to put herself in a noticeable position. Mr Maheshwari was sure to be in attendance—if all the tales about his devotion to his family were true—and if Swara was lucky, maybe he wouldn’t even notice her presence.
On the contrary, Sanskaar knew exactly when Swara entered. He had been in his study, having a solitary drink before heading down to his mother’s annual musicale. His position as head of the Maheshwari Khaandaan and as CEO of MNC Maheshwari Pvt Ltd carried with it serious responsibilities. And so, He had decided to keep a room as his study so that no one would disturb him in there.
The study’s windows looked out over the entrance, however, and so he had been amusing himself watching the guests alight. When Swara Sheffield had stepped down, she’d looked up at the facade of Maheshwari House, tipping her face up in much the same manner she’d done while enjoying the warmth of the sun in the park. The light from the sconces on either side of the front door had filtered onto her skin, bathing her with a flickering glow.
And Sanskaar’s breath was sucked right out of him.
His glass tumbler landed on the wide windowsill with a heavy thunk. This was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t self-delusional enough to mistake the tightening of his muscles as anything other than desire.
blo*dy hell. He didn’t even like the woman. She was too bossy, too opinionated, too quick to jump to conclusions. She wasn’t even beautiful—at least not compared to quite a few of the ladies present int all the parties this month, her sister most especially included.
Swara’s face was a touch too long, her chin a hair too pointed, her eyes a shade too big. Everything about her was too something. Even her mouth, which vexed him to no end with its endless stream of insults and opinions, was too full. It was a rare event when she actually had it closed and was treating him to a moment of blessed silence, but if he happened to look at her in that split second (for surely she could not be silent for much longer than that) all he saw were her lips, full and pouty, and—provided that she kept them shut and didn’t actually speak—eminently kissable.
Sanskaar shuddered. The thought of kissing Swara Gadodia was terrifying, and yet,
He had had a dream about her.
It had happened after the fiasco at the lake. He’d been so furious with her he could barely speak. It was a wonder he’d managed to say anything at all to Ragini during the ride back to her house. Polite conversation was all he’d been able to get out—mindless words so familiar they tripped from his tongue as if by rote.
A blessing indeed, since his mind most definitely had not been where it should be: on Ragini, his future wife.
Oh, she hadn’t agreed to marry him. He hadn’t even asked. But she fit his requirements for a wife in every possible way; he’d already decided that she would be the one to whom he would finally propose marriage. She was beautiful, intelligent, and even-tempered. Attractive without making his blood rush. They would spend enjoyable years together, but he’d never fall in love with her. She was exactly what he needed. And yet…
Anthony reached for his drink and downed the rest of its contents in one gasping gulp. And yet he’d dreamt about her sister. He tried not to remember. He tried not to remember the details of the dream—the heat and the chemistry of it—but he’d only had this one drink this evening, certainly not enough to impair his memory. And although he’d had no intention of having more than this one drink, the concept of sliding into mindless oblivion was starting to sound appealing.
Anything would be appealing if it meant he wouldn’t remember.
But he didn’t feel like drinking. It seemed such the young man’s game, not at all attractive as one neared thirty. Besides, even if he did decide to seek temporary amnesia in a bottle, it wouldn’t come fast enough to make the memory of her go away.
Memory? Ha. It wasn’t even a real memory. Just a dream, he reminded himself. Just a dream.
He’d fallen asleep quickly upon returning home that evening. He’d soaked in a hot bath for nearly an hour, trying to remove the chill from his bones. He hadn’t been completely submerged in the lake as had Ragini, but his legs had been soaked, as had one of his sleeves, and Zozo’s strategic shake had guaranteed that not one inch of his body remained warm.
After his bath he’d crawled into bed, not particularly caring that it was still light outside, and would be for a good hour yet. He was exhausted, and he’d had every intention of falling into a deep, dreamless sleep, not to be awakened until the first streaks of dawn touched the morning.
But sometime during the night, He had grown restless due to hunger. And his mind was filled with all sorts of scandalous images. He hugging a woman, holding her waist, removing her saree’s dori…he running his hands through her hair…
And then just when he was about to kiss her, he saw the faceless woman and he saw her.
He saw Swara Gadodia!
He’d awakened in an instant, sitting bolt upright in bed and shaking from the horror of it. It was the best dream he had ever encountered. And his worst nightmare.
He’d stared at the ceiling for hours, first reciting the Hanuman Chalisa, then counting to a thousand, all in an attempt to keep his brain on anything but Swara Gadodia.
And amazingly, he’d exorcised her image from his brain and fallen asleep.
But now she was back. Here. In his home.
It was a terrifying thought.
And where the hell was Ragini? Why hadn’t she accompanied her mother and sister?
Just then, He heard the violinists stringing their instruments, signalling the starting of the musicale. With Lekha Manish.
He certainly couldn’t tell his moms this, But he and Lekha had dated for a while. Maybe he ought to consider renewing their friendship. If the sultry Delhi beauty didn’t cure what ailed him, nothing would.
Sanskaar stood and straightened his shoulders, aware that he probably looked as if he were girding himself for battle. Hell, that’s how he felt. Maybe, if he was lucky, he’d be able to avoid Miss Gadodia entirely. He couldn’t imagine she’d go out of her way to engage him in conversation. She’d made it explicitly clear that she held him in just as much esteem as he did her.
Yes, that’s exactly what he would do. Avoid her. How difficult could that be?
PRECAP : Sanskaar pins Swara to the wall. He brings his lips closer and closer………
Does Sanskaar kiss Swara??? 😛
Heyy guys, Thnxx for all ur comments, But please do comment more…I need at least 15 comments….
I uploaded chapter 6 and 7 today because I mostly won’t have time tomorrow…SO please wait till tuesday….