The next morning Sanskaar was feeling somewhat refreshed, and if not quite his usual self, then at least better than he’d been the night before. Swara, he was horrified to realize, was still in the wooden chair at his bedside, her head tilted drunkenly to the side. She looked uncomfortable in every way a body could look uncomfortable, from the way she was perched in the chair to the awkward angle of her neck and the strange way her legs were held tightly against her hips.
But she was asleep. Snoring, even, which he found rather endearing. He’d never pictured her snoring, and sad to say, he had imagined her asleep more times than he cared to count.
He supposed it had been too much to hope that he could hide his illness from her; she was far too perceptive and certainly far too nosy. And even though he would have preferred that she didn’t worry over him, the truth was, he’d been comforted by her presence the night before. He shouldn’t have been, or at least he shouldn’t have allowed himself to be, but he just couldn’t help it.
He heard her stir and rolled to his side to get a better look. He had never seen her wake up, he realized. He wasn’t certain why he found that so strange; it wasn’t as if he’d been privy to many of her private moments before. Maybe it was because in all of his daydreams, in all of his fantasies, he’d never quite pictured this—the low rumbling from deep in her throat as she shifted position, the small sigh of sound when she yawned, or even the delicate ballet of her eyelids as they fluttered open.
She was beautiful.
He’d known that, of course, had known that for years, but never before had he felt it quite so profoundly, quite so deeply in his bones.
It wasn’t her hair, that rich, lush wave of brown that he had to resist the urge through run his hands through them. And it wasn’t even her eyes, so radiant and bright that it simply made you light up with warmth. It wasn’t even in the shape of her face or the structure of her bone.
It was something in the way she moved.
Something in the way she breathed.
Something in the way she merely was.
Something that was uniquely Swara.
And he didn’t think he was ever going to get over it.
There was nothing that could make him stop loving her.
Swara (rubbing her eyes) : Sanskaar?
Sanskaar blinked, then spoke in a throaty voice, hoping Swara would take it as a symptom of his illness.
Sanskaar : Hey!
Swara (smiling slightly) : You.. you look better.
Sanskaar (nodding slightly) : I feel better too.
Swara : Your mother will be pleased.
That stopped Sanskaar from staring at Swara. He tried to straighten himself, but was too tired to move a muscle.
Sanskaar : Did you tell her? Oh God! Please tell me you didn’t.
Swara (shooting him a strange look) : Well no, I haven’t. But they might start from Parna any day now. I don’t really think you can hide it from them.
Sanskaar (groaning) : blo*dy hell, Alright! But no one else. No one from the office, not my friends.. I don’t want people to keep asking me how I am.
Swara (amused) : Ofcourse. It’s stupid though.
Sanskaar shot her an unamused look, then questioned her. He glanced over at the windows. They were covered with heavy drapes, but he could see glimmers of sunlight peeking in around the sides.
Sanskaar : What about Mishti aunty? Won’t she be waiting for you?
Swara jumped to her feet so quickly that her hand slammed into the bedside table.
Swara : DAMN IT! OUCH..
Sanskaar : Are you alright?
She was shaking her hand out, trying to stem the pain.
Swara : I’m fine. But Ma is going to have a fit. She was expecting me back last night.
Sanskaar : Didn’t you call her?
Swara : Ofcourse I did. But she told me to move you to Baadi so that she can take care of you. (seeing Sanskaar’s dismayed expression) Oh you can calm down. I told her you wouldn’t be comfortable there and she agreed. But I was still planning on going back and coming after a while. She may be coming here now. Where the hell is the clock? There has to be a clock in this room. Yes, There it is.
It had been Laksh’s room; it still was Laksh’s room, in so many ways. Of course she’d know where the clock was. Swara was still talking, So Sanskaar focused and heard her mutter.
Swara (muttering) : It’s still early. Maybe I can go home before she plans on coming here…. Oh God.. What if she already left?
Sanskaar (confused) : Why are you panicking?
Swara (looking at him exasperated) : Didn’t you tell me you didn’t want anyone but your parents to know?
His lips parted. He had never dreamed that she would hold his wishes quite so close to her heart.
Sanskaar (quietly) : You would not tell your mother?
Swara : Not unless you wanted me to.
Sanskaar was touched. Swara was such a dear….
Swara (continuing) : As I told you, That’s stupid though. (All thoughts of her being a dear flew out of his head) But if you don’t want me to tell, I won’t.
Sanskaar nodded gratefully. Swara stretched, then drank some water. She slipped her shoes on.
Swara : I will go home now before my mother decided to bring physicians from Apollo. YOU (pointing forcefully at him)…. stay put.
Sanskaar (rolling his eyes sarcastically) : I am glad you think I am so strong, but I am only a normal human.
Swara : You will be the death of me, I swear. What a lousy patient.
Sanskaar : i live to entertain you, My dear!
It was just as well that he called out as she was walking down the hall, and he was quite certain that if she’d had something to throw at the door, she would have done so. With great vigour.
He settled back down against his pillows and smiled. He might make an annoying patient, but she was a crotchety nurse.
Which was just fine with him.
It wasn’t easy hiding his illness. The office and the society didn’t present a problem; Sanskaar simply turned down all of his invitations, and Swara put it about that he wished to settle in at his new home before taking his place in society.
The servants were more difficult. They talked, of course, and often to servants from other households, so Swara had had to make sure that only the senior ones knew what went on in Sanskaar’s sickroom. It was tricky, especially since she wasn’t even officially living at Maheshwari Mansion, at least not until Ma and Chachi arrived, which Swara sincerely hoped was soon.
But the hardest part, the people who were the most fiendishly curious and difficult to keep in the dark, had to be Swara’s family. It had never been easy maintaining a secret within the Gadodia household, and keeping one from the whole lot of them was, to put it simply, a blo*dy nightmare.
One day as Swara was eating breakfast at Baadi, Uttara began talking.
Uttara : Why do you keep going to Maheshwari Mansion everyday?
Swara replied, taking a bite of a paratha, which any reasonable person would have taken as a sign that she did not wish to converse.
Swara : I live there.
Uttara, however, had never been known to be reasonable.
Uttara (rolling her eyes) : No you don’t. You live here.
Swara looked at her pointedly, then spoke calmly.
Swara : That is still my house, You know.
Uttara (dismissively) : Of course it is. But you live here. There’s no need to go there everyday.
Swara : I think I’m going to kill her.
Uttara (confused) : Who are you talking to?
Swara : God! I’m taking His permission.
Uttara (snorting) : If He really gave permission to kill, I would have killed the stupid, greedy, miserable people in this world.
Swara just sipped her tea. Luckily, Her mother came at that moment distracting the two of them.
Mishti : Swara! You’re planning to go to Maheshwari Mansion after breakfast?
Swara nodded warily. Her mother clapped her hands.
Mishti (pleased) : Excellent! I will come too.
Swara’s jaw dropped. Even though Sanskaar was much better now, he would still most likely look dreadful. His skin—thank God—wasn’t jaundiced, but he still had that awful sickly air to him, and Swara knew that if her mother caught one glimpse of him she would be horrified. And furious.
Sharmishta Gadodia did not like to be kept in the dark. Especially when it pertained to a matter about which one could use the term “life and death” without being accused of hyperbole.
Swara (desperately) : Why?
Mishti (shrugging) : It’s been too long since I saw him. I just want to make sure he’s okay. Shall we go by noon?
Swara saw the time. It was only 9 now. She could quickly go there and warn Sanskaar and make things look less sickly.
Swara (quickly) : Why don’t you come later? Ma and Chachi are coming soon. I’ll have to see to the accomodations.
Her mother nodded and Swara got up, wiping her hands and mouth. She took her purse and phone. To her surprise, her mother walked her to the door.
At the door, She finally spoke.
Swara: Ma! Do you have totell me something?
Mishti (giving her daughter a long assessing stare) : What is your relationship with him?
Swara looked at her like she was crazy.
Swara: With who?
Mishti : Sanskaar.
Swara spluttered, which made Mishti give her a pointed look.
Mishti : It is not a silly question.
Swara (scoffing) : It has to be the silliest thing I ever heard. Sanskaar is my friend. My cousin by marriage.
Mishti : Doesn’t change the fact that now, he’s not. He’s not your cousin. He was your husband’s cousin, my dear.
Swara : Still… Good heavens, of all people… I can’t even imagine… Sanskaar!
But the truth was, she could imagine. Sanskaar’s illness had kept it all at bay; she’d been so busy caring for him and keeping him well that she’d managed to avoid thinking about that electrifying moment in the park, when she’d looked at him and something had sparked to life within her.
Something she had been quite certain had died inside of her four years earlier.
But hearing her mother bring it up… God, it was embarassing. There was no way, no earthly way that she could feel an attraction to Sanskaar. It was wrong. It was really wrong. It was… well, it was just wrong. There wasn’t another word that described it better.
Swara : Ma! Sanskaar is sick. That is all. And he’s almost recovered now. There is no other reason I go there. You can see that when you come.
Mishti (softly) : I can definitely see it… But I worry that you don’t.
The words puzzled Swara, but she couldn’t ask her about it as the car arrived. She got inside, waved goodbye to her mother and set off for Maheshwari Mansion.
Sanskaar was enjoying a few moments of peace and quiet—not that he’d been bereft of quiet, but dengue did little to allow a body peace—when Swara burst through his bedroom door, wild-eyed and out of breath.
Sanskaar (curiously) : Swara?
Swara (snapping) : What?
Sanskaar blinked. It was his experience that one should always proceed with caution when a female was in a state.
Sanskaar : Are you alri…
Swara: My mother is coming.
Sanskaar : Here?
At her nod, he frowned. It wasn’t an ideal situation but hardly something deserving of Swara’s feverish demeanor.
Sanskaar : Why?
Swara : Because she’s barking mad.
Sanskaar : Hey!
Really, He couldn’t allow her to insult his Mishti aunty like that. Swara rolled her eyes and scowled.
Swara : Support your Mishti aunty all you want, but she thinks…. she thinks that we are having an affair.
Sanskaar didn’t respond at first, then chuckled slightly, much to Swara’s astonishment.
Sanskaar : I’ve been here a week. Sick for half the time and still people believe in my prowess. My reputation clearly precedes me.
He closed his eyes to stop Swara from seeing the vulnerability beneath.
Swara : How can you joke about this?
Sanskaar : How can you not?
But of course she could never laugh about such a thing. To her it was unthinkable. To him it was…
Well, something else entirely.
Swara : It is horrifying.
Sanskaar just offered her a smile and a shrug, even though he was starting to feel a little pricked. He did not expect Swara to think of him in such a manner, but a reaction of horror didn’t exactly make a fellow feel good.
Sanskaar : So, What are we to do?
She blinked, and would have looked rather adorably befuddled if he weren’t a bit too annoyed with her to credit her with anything that charitable.
Swara (groaning) : I’m going mad. What will we do?
Sanskaar had had enough. He had some male pride after all.
Sanskaar (a bit sharply) : Enough Swara! This is us. Your mother will realize how foolish she’s being once she takes the time to think about it. You should calm down.
Swara (staring at him) : I told her that… but still, How am I supposed to calm down. You are…. I mean… it’s simply insane. I mean, look at you.
Now he had had enough.
Sanskaar ( in a soft tone) : Many women actually would die for the chance to be with me.
Her mouth, which had been hanging open after her latest outburst, snapped shut.
He lifted his brows and leaned back against his pillows. He smirked at her and she glared.
Sanskaar : I have always been loved by the women. They love my attention.
And he winked. WINKED! He knew that Swara understood that he was talking about his amorous activities.
Her face burned red.
He rather enjoyed the sight. He might love her, but he hated what she did to him, and he was not so big of heart that he didn’t occasionally take a bit of satisfaction in seeing her so tortured.
It was only a fraction of what he felt on a day-to-day basis, after all.
PRECAP : The mothers arrive
Hey, Sorry for the delay…
MMAI to be posted soon :* :*
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! It’s gonna be a yr since i joined TU and my family has expanded sooo much… i love knowing you guys.. Thnxxx for being there for me. LOVE YOU ALL!!!!