Lavanya had been married for over five years when she discovered she was pregnant. Not in a long time had she felt such joy – the kind you want to share with the rest of the world, the kind that makes you want to shout from rooftops and your heart suddenly feels inadequate to contain it. They had been trying for years but in vain and Harsh had started getting impatient. She had almost started dreading her monthly ritual of shedding eggs, his look of disappointment – as if it was her damn fault! When the lab reports confirmed her worst fears, Harsh threw a massive fit. What an irony, a man who sported his virility like a badge of honour had sperm so weak that they couldn’t even finish the race.
Whether it was medical science, their persistence or simply a miracle, Lavanya would never know, nor did she care. All she knew was she had a life blossoming inside her. Someone who she could call her own... on whom she could lavish all her unspent emotions... She wanted to fill that void in her heart with love, she wanted to heal and God knows how long she had waited for that.
Lavanya was in the second trimester of her pregnancy, when she got that strange phone call. First silence and then sounds of sobbing at the other end of the phone – not the soft, sniffling one but a gut wrenching one – the type that fills your heart with dread. She was Sumita, PR officer in Vardhaman industries. Harsh had been sexually assaulting her for months...he would call her to his office, take her out for official dinners, insist she accompany him for out-of-town tours. First it was fear of losing her job and then shame that had stopped her from discussing it with anyone but now she’d had enough! Could Lavanya help her out?
Strangely Lavanya took the news rather calmly – she felt neither anger nor loathing for her husband. She had never loved him to feel let down.
October 3, 1998 – The news channels were in a tizzy, they were busy airing the sleazy sex tape of Harsh’s hairy naked ass stooped over an unidentified girl. All they could hear was sounds of heavy breathing and her cries of protest. Harsh Vardhan, scion of Vardhaman empire – sought after by the rich and the powerful, a respectable member of the high society whose meteoric rise in the business world was stuff that legends are made of – was in reality a scumbag. What a colossal shame!
Next morning there was complete mayhem outside the Vardhan bungalow, with the otherwise peaceful lane chock-a- block with media vans, reporters scurrying around like excited mice and women’s rights groups shouting slogans lustily. When a member of the staff ventured out to take the dogs out for a walk, news reporters pounced on him like thirsty bloodhounds.
For the first time in his life, Harsh had become a prisoner in his own house. But he was far from feeling repentant. On the contrary he was fuming – livid at the media’s intrusive ways, annoyed that his close friends had not risen to his support. He was angry at everyone but himself – typical!
Lavanya surprised him with composure and it was at her suggestion he called a press conference. That evening, it was not Harsh Vardhan but his wife who appeared before the sea of reporters and the sounds of frenzied flashbulbs. With her noticeable baby bump and misty eyes, she cut a touching picture as she took to the dais. I know for a fact that my husband is innocent. This is a conspiracy by his rivals to bring him down and we will not let them get away with it! I have information that the CD was doctored in a lab in Patiala and will soon furnish proof. Our legal experts have already filed a defamation case against channels for airing the offending footage. And I humbly request you all from refraining from salacious speculations about my husband’s character.
But before the reporters could sit down to compose the fresh breaking news for the day, they had a shocker waiting for them. Harsh Vardhan had just been admitted to Vedanta’s Intensive Care Unit after his wife found him unconscious in his study room: he had suffered a near-fatal paralytic attack.
When he was finally discharged from the hospital, his daughter Smridha was a bonny baby of nine months. Harsh didn’t even have facial expressions to articulate his joy – all he could do was caress his only child with his eyes. Paralysis had rendered his limbs and vocal chords useless and doctors had expressed very little hope of his recovery. Harsh Vardhan had the rest of his life to sit and stare from his wheelchair.
13 years later it was from his wheelchair he was seeing his wife collect Business Network’s Indian of the Year award, 2011. Ever since she had taken over Vardhaman enterprise, their turnover had escalated from 65 to 2000 crores. But it was with her social activism that she had endeared herself to the nation – reaching out to thousands of oppressed women, providing them with education and financial assistance to be independent. Today as she went up to the stage to collect the award, she looked radiant. It’s because of my husband’s unflinching support and my daughter’s love, I am what I am. Tonight I feel like the luckiest woman alive. As she finished to a thunderous applause, Smridha ran up to her and encircled her with her arms, her eyes filled with love and pride. But, it was the woman who hugged Lavanya warmly that sent a cold chill down Harsh’s heart – wasn’t it that bitch, Sumita?
Even after all these years, Harsh hasn’t been able to get rid of that niggling doubt. Lavanya had poured him a peaty single malt to celebrate that successful press conference. It did taste unusually smoky and smelt slightly odd. And, then he had blacked out.....