It was a cold, very cold night. The young lady was tossing and turning in pain on her bed. This was going on for the last three days. The baby was refusing to come from his mother’s womb. Yet, the doctors won’t operate her because there was a serious lack of anesthetic and cesarean birth was a rare operation that time. Certainly a costly affair that this lower middle class family coudn't afford. Besides, being a government hospital, it was under-equipped. There was no way but to wait for the baby’s wish.
Perhaps the baby sensed, it would be too hard for him to adjust to the world, perhaps he was not satisfied with the world where he would spend his mortal life.
Suicidal missions were not heard of that time but the mother of the young pregnant lady was cursing the baby – he was determined to kill himself and his mother, almost as if in protest.
His would be uncles were pacing restlessly in the almost filthy hospital yard. Taking turns to be present there. Making sure that the tiniest of the difficulty won’t hurt their dear sister, one of eight siblings. The elder son of the family worked in a x-ray clinic, assisting the radiologist in taking photographs and developing the films. The one younger than him would work as a collection agent for a bank earning 2 per cent commission on the proceeds collected daily. The elder one would cycle fifteen miles to reach his job. The younger one would spend twelve hours of his day cycling the town and collecting daily current account deposits from the traders. Between two of their earnings rest the entire burden of their family. They had to marry their sisters and secure a bit more comfortable career, and if possible, marry themselves.
The boy’s grandmother and aunt from his father’s side were patiently waiting for their grandchildren. They were sure it would be a boy, because it would have been a disgrace to have a girl child. Imagine the strain on their loved son’s finance to brought up a girl and to marry her off!
The grandmother was bit anxious for their daughter-in-law but she was sleepless over her grandson. No harm shall befall him. Her family should not sacrifice the child to save their daughter. If they had to choose between one, she will fight till death and make sure that the child was saved. They will arrange one more girl for their handsome and able son. He after all, was in a government service! And was a science graduate!
The father of the kid, meanwhile, was coming to office regularly at a distant land. More than a thousand miles away from where the mystery was unfolding. He was least bothered about whether it would be a daughter or a son. He loved his wife, though he didn’t acknowledge it, but he knew that. And he was anointed by the holy rhymes of Wordsworth and Shakespeare. He was one of the few in his batch, who would read English books and worse … understand them and enjoy!!!
But it’s a disgrace to be at your wife’s side during the childbirth. There was no insult more in this world then to show love to your wife. His mother would kill him if she comes to know that her son has fallen for a woman whom he got to know for little more than a year. Besides, he couldn’t stand his sister's taunts. Although they were from the same town, they never met each other before marriage. His mother told him whom to marry, the girl was told a groom has been arranged for her ... and they were husband and wife in months.
Being one’s woman’s side was a shameful act for both the man and the wife. But he wanted to be in the hospital, he almost decided to, but all his modernist thought was defeated by his fear of termed as an “hen-pecked husband.”
The child was troubling the mother for the last three days, but may be he took some pity on the poor lady and started kicking his mother, demanding to come out fast, as his habit would turn out to be, he would want to do everything in a hurry. Even if that would mean half of his thing remain unfinished.
The lady started crying loudly as the pain intensified, doctors and nurses crowded once again to her. The doctor being a man in his sixties and the head nurse none other than the boy’s grandmom from his father’s side. For she was the head nurse of the hospital. She was from a royal family who dared to marry someone much poorer and run away from her family to settle in this town of Gaya, Bihar. But when her husband passed away, she did all sorts of odd jobs to raise her four kids and to educate them before specializing in delivery cases and become a midwife in the hospital.
After draining the frail mother all her energy, the child finally emerged in a bloody state. The grandmom, also the head nurse, promptly noted down the time and place. “10.45 PM, Gaya, Bihar.”
It would need the doctor to beat the child real hard on his butt before the child would start breathing, filling his little lungs with the smell of all sorts of medicines.
The horde of just-now-became family would then hear a cry very similar to that of a cat’s meow … meow …
They would erupt in joy!!!
The grandmom would rush out from the delivery room to hug her counterpart, the mom’s mom. “Congrats didi!!! It’s a boy! It’s boy!” The old ladies then would hug each other in joy and cry together! The baby was healthy and the mother safe too!
The boy’s complexion was Lal (red)! Pinkwash! He was the first son in her family. Now her husband’s family would survive and the lineage preserved. The proud grandmom claimed her first right in naming the baby of her family. She named her “Laltu.”
The elder brother of the new proud mom (still dizzy and unsure what’s happening around) would jump in triumph. He would empty his pockets and throw the money to the other nurses who demanded money for the good news. His best friend would immediately dispatch to the telegram office to send a telegram to the new proud father, sitting in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
One neighbour present in the hospital would rush to the girl’s house to give the good news hearing which the youngest son in the family, still in school would declare he won’t go to the school and won’t touch his books for seven days because he was “very happy”, a state of mind which he preferred to be often rather than being having “stomach ache” going to school.
Precisely twenty-nine years after that human drama enacted in Gaya, Bihar, the child would write this piece sitting in Mumbai, Maharashtra, wishing himself a happy birthday and thanking the family, his greatest strength, to stand beside him all the time.
And would silently apologise to his mother for troubling her so much and would whisper “Maa, I love you.”