“You can go in now.”
Mrs. Nalini Vartak went past the receptionist into the consulting room.
Dr. Mrs. Ganatra smiled at her.
“Do come in!” she said, “Please be seated.”
Mrs. Ganatra asked,
“So, what seems to be the trouble?”
Nalini remained silent for a long time.
“Doctor is it possible….” And again she kept silent. Dr. Ganatra waited patiently.
“…..Is it possible that I….”
Now Dr. Ganatra thought that she should help out,
“ What’s the trouble? Missed periods? Excessive bleeding? “
“ No. This month I missed my period. But the feeling is so much like………like being pregnant…..that.”
Dr. Ganatra laughed.
“You think you are pregnant?”
“Yes,” said Nalini relieved, “I am almost sure.”
“How old are you?”
“Fifty eight!”
“Okay. Come, lie down there in the usual position. Shantabai, please help her.”
The nurse who had come in discretely helped Mrs. Nalini Vartak. After the exam and the screening test Nalini was sitting facing Dr. Ganatra.
“Yes.” Dr. said, “Your guess is mostly correct. You are pregnant. But, we will wait for the test any way, till then, I cannot officially treat you as pregnant. You will want an abortion, of course?”
“What?” Nalini almost shouted, “Why?”
“Oh! I am sorry.” Dr. Ganatra was shamefaced.
“I thought…..Your son is getting married next week, isn’t he? You yourself gave me the card last week.”
“So, I thought……in this age. But if you think differently……”
“Don’t be so apologetic doctor,” Nalini said, “Actually, I haven’t thought anything at all about it. I myself am so astounded. Maybe what you say is correct.”
“Anyway, let the result of the test come. With the instant kit, the result is positive. But we would like to confirm in the old fashioned way. And then you think over it. Take your own time.”
“Okay. Thanks doctor.”

Nalini was pensive. Is this the way people will think? Is there such an “Of course!” about it? She had not thought about it. What will Sujit, her son say about it when he knows? Does he need to know? Anyway, she didn’t feel as if it was something to hush up. She was waiting for a rickshaw, when a car glided by her and stopped. It was Shridhar, Shridhar Patnaik. He leaned over and opened the door.
“Get in. I will drop you.”
She got in.
“How strange!”, she said as the car started moving.
“We had met about eight months back!”, she said, “Like today, unplanned!”
“Ya!” Shridhar said, “Drop you home?”
“No.” she said, “Do you have time?”
“Yes. Plenty. Till evening if you want.”
“Like last time I just want to clear my mind. Last time you really helped!”
“Oh really? I didn’t know that. I just spent about a couple of hours with an old college friend!”
Some minutes passed.
“Let’s go to this farm-place. It has newly come up and it’s good they say.”
“Did you have your lunch yet?”
“Then let me give you lunch there.”
When the car glided through the gates of “Manas Farm Resort and Restaurant” on Sinhagad road, there was a slight drizzle.
But as soon as they got out of the car the drizzle stopped. Everywhere it was green. The air was heavy with the scent of growing things. Nalini was thinking of the strange coincidence. Last time she was in a sort of quandary, and by accident she had met Shridhar, her most trusted friend from college days. And they had spent about 2 hours together, and that had calmed her and solved her difficulty.
The resort had the usual fixings. There were very few people, it being a working day. There was the turbaned village fortune-teller.
“Let’s see what the future olds for us!” Shridhar went to him.
“Panditji, hamara bhavishya batao!”
The turbaned Panditji took his hand. Traced the lines on his palm.
“You will help a friend. You will win a lottery and there is a chance for you to go abroad soon.
In job, there will be tension. Your partner will try to deceive you in business but you will emerge triumphant. Next month is very good for you financially!”
“Okay! Now me!” Nalini said.
He took Nalini’s palm.
“You are in trouble. You are in dilemma. Undecided about something – Duvidha mein hain aap _ You must have had 3 sons and a daughter. If not, in your palm, 3 sons and a daughter are indicated. You will turn towards philosophy. You should go on a long pilgrimage soon. All your honorable duties and commitments will soon be over. You should always do what your heart tells you and never listen to others. That way lies fortune for you. Next year, your family will be financially so prosperous that you will wonder about it.”
Then there was the mehandi-the henna-artist. Nalini got her left hand coated with intricate henna design while Shridhar waited patiently. This was instant mehandi. Within two minutes it was removed but gave a deep red color.
Then there was “ hurda”, the cobs of jowar roasted on charcoal and eaten with dry red hot peanut chutney, jaggery and thick curds.
Both of them enjoyed everything and wandered around wrapped in their own thoughts. This non-intrusive companionship was what she had liked about Shridhar right from the college days.
Shridhar had a swim. She tried her hand at the potters wheel and made two beautiful vases. The potter baked them and she looked proudly at the glazed end product and gifted one to Shridhar, who delightedly received it. Now both of them were hungry. They ate lunch. Then after a few minutes rest, Shridhar dropped her home. It was past 3.30 p.m. by then.

At five, her husband, Mr. Mukund Vartak, owner of Vartak Plastics, came home from the factory. She made tea for him and he told her about his day.
“Sujit’s in-laws called,” he said,
“They seem a bit orthodox. They want us to attend a puja day after tomorrow that they have arranged to appease some planets in his horoscope. I tried to get out of it, but they won’t take no for an answer. So at last, I capitulated. Remember, day after tomorrow, at about 11 o’clock. I will come directly from factory. You be there.”
“Okay. But don’t worry about that. After all, their daughter will be coming to live in our house. Our son is not going to live at their place!”
“Don’t be too sure! Remember how Samir’s wife took him away from us!”
“That was different.”
“When are they coming for Sujit’s marriage?”
“Two days before the marriage.”
“As usual, they will be….”
“Staying at hotel Shreyas. But don’t be so hurt! In all other things you make yourself out to be so modern! Even Sujit has indicated that he may want to live separately after his marriage. But Sunita wants to live with us, her in-laws! She being from an orthodox family.”
“She already dotes on you! I have observed during all these pre-marriage ceremonies.”
“Yes! Doesn’t she? I like her very much. She is like a daughter.”
“What about Nanda?”
Nanda was their daughter, already married.
“She is coming after 3 days. 4 days before the ceremony and her husband and son will come on the wedding day.”
“Good! I haven’t seen them for a long time.”
The comfortable evening lengthened in the night. Nalini looked at the new vase on the shelf beside the stereo speaker and wondered whether she should tell her husband that she was pregnant. Then decided against it.
“Let it be confirmed officially,” She said to herself, “As Dr. Ganatra would have said!”

Nalini decided not to tell anyone till the wedding was over. She let the hullabaloo of the wedding settle down.
But she felt good. It was good to be a woman. It was good to be a female. And it was definitely very good to be pregnant, to be carrying a live being, growing day by day, inside her, planted there by a man she had loved so much over so many years. Even at this age it felt good. When young, she had enjoyed all her three pregnancies very much. There was such pleasure when she suckled the kids at her breasts. It was such a glimpse of heaven. A glimpse of selflessness of a mother. A glimpse of something divine. But still, she was very worried about what to do, or what she would have to do if commanded by the circumstances. Her new daughter in law, Sunita, was a gem of a person. But she was very conventional. She might be shocked to know that her mother in law and father in law still..........
Still she had time. Doctor Ganatra had told her to take the decision within a month. The abortion would become more and more difficult after that. In fact it was quite clear that she wanted Nalini to get rid of the pregnancy there and then. Nobody need even know. Ganatra knew the Vartak family very well. Mukundrao Vartak was a well-known public figure.
And then one day, after coming home early from his office, Sujit said to her,
“Mama, let’s go to your room. I want to talk to you about something.”
Nalini looked at him. He looked angry, irritated.
When they were in her room, he said,
“Mama, I know about what has happened. I came to know about it accidentally. A nurse at Dr. Ganatra’s clinic happened to be my friend. She told me everything. Mama, why are you postponing it? Have you told papa?”
She looked at her own son, amazed.
“Postponing what?”
“You know what mama, don’t pretend.”
“But I am not postponing anything. I have not decided yet what to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what I say. I have not decided anything. Whether to give birth to the child I am carrying or whether not to give birth, I haven’t decided yet.”
“You mean, you may give birth to the child?”
“Yes! I may!”
“Mama, you are mad! I will tell papa. You must abort it. And that too quickly. Before there is talk about this all over the town.”
“Sujit! How can you say that! Hasn’t the child any right to life?”
Sujit remained silent. Finally, he said,
“ I am surprised that you even think of arguing about this. Don’t argue mama, let’s tell papa and get it done with tomorrow itself.”
“And I am surprised that my own son, who considers himself modern and a preacher of personal freedom, is talking to his own mother like this!”
Sujit got red in the face. He stormed away from the room.

When she told her husband in the evening, his instinctive reaction was joy. Then after the situation sank in, there was worry. Finally, after a long pause, he came near her, kissed her tenderly, and sitting on the bed, made her sit in his lap.
“What do you want?”, he asked. He knew her very well.
“You tell me what to do.”
“No. You are the mother. The decision must be yours.”
Then she told him about Sujit’s reaction.
“He is young.” Mukundrao said, “ He is unnecessarily afraid of the publicity and things, I am afraid for you. And also for the child. What does the doctor say?”
“She says I am quite healthy and won’t have any problem. The child would be normal too, given the past record.”
“But we took all the precautions. How did it happen?”
“Don’t know. It just did!”
She put her hands around his neck and kissed him, saying,
“I am so glad you took this so easily.”
They made love.
He made love to her very tenderly.
She glowed.
“Whatever decision you take, I am with you. You don’t worry about our kids. They will come round. And don’t worry about what people will say, I can handle all that!”

In the night, she was thinking. Two years back when their other son had quarreled and separated from them she had gone in depression and she had never come up from it. For one and a half year she had taken anti-depressants. But the fact of being pregnant had lifted her out of that depression. Suddenly life had become meaningful. She remembered the afternoon at Manas. The green smells of germination and life being born everywhere. In the mild glow of the night-lamp, she looked at the beautiful vase she had made with her own hands. She looked at her husband sleeping by her side. She remembered his robust voice, saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of all that!” And she decided. She was going to give birth to a beautiful child of this handsome man sleeping by her side. She felt all the tension drain away from her. She slipped in a dreamless deep sleep.


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 13.03.2011

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