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“Don’t second guess yourself. I have always believed that ‘A child gives birth to a mother!’ and not vice versa.”
Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “With A Leap Of Faith”, and the story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is, it should have at least two well crafted, named women characters (we differ here slightly from the classic Bechdel test, in that we require these characters to be named),
The second winner of our May 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly as Prasad parked our car outside Snehalaya. He had insisted on driving today, and I had not protested. My hands were shaking and I had butterflies in my tummy. As I fumbled with the door lock, I realised that my fingers were ice-cold.
I was excited and nervous at the same time. I had not felt like this since my wedding to Prasad twelve years ago. The situation was similar. Back then we had embarked on a journey that called for mutual trust, affection and understanding. Today was no different. Today, we stood together on another threshold, another milestone of our lives.
We would be taking home a daughter. A daughter that my arms had been yearning for, and that would give our family a feeling of completion. Whose giggles and laughter would banish the silence of our home forever.
Ohh! I was waxing poetic, I thought with a nervous giggle.
Looking up, I saw Prasad, his eye lit with a similar excitement. Of the two of us, he was the steady one….my Rock. He had been patient, sympathetic and understanding for the entire ordeal of waiting for our daughter. The endless paperwork, the official rigamarole, the rounds of the social worker had sapped my strength, but not his.
There were times in the past 3 years, when I had despaired of ever being a mother. Would God never make my family complete? Would I never feel the trusting arms of a child around my neck, rushing towards me with complete trust? A soul who would need me to make her world whole? A little one who would seek me when she needed comfort, warmth, affection? Who would be miffed with me because I had to refuse her something, but still loved me in spite of it? Whose antics I would record on film almost maniacally, and would look at wistfully when she was all grown up?
A million things that a woman, a wife, a parent, a human longs for.
She waited within for us…..our child. We had decided to name her ‘Karuna’. That had been our “decided” name for our daughter. But she was 2 years old, and answered to the name Anu. So, Prasad and I had mutually decided that we would call her Anu and see how she liked the name Karuna.
We entered the office of Snehalaya, the children’s home that had been Anu’s dwelling as well for the past 2 years.
Shobhaji was waiting for us. Dressed in a crisp cotton sari, she seemed to me the epitome of some earthly form of a Godess-cum-teacher rolled into one. She looked after these children like her own with equal parts of discipline and warmth, and had been a part of the process of our adoption from the beginning.
Dimly, I was aware of Prasad asking Shobhaji if he could distribute the sweets that we had brought along, to all the children. Shobhaji nodded and rang the bell for a helper who escorted him to the dining area.
There was complete silence when he left.
Shobhaji said, “Mrs. Kumar?….Sunita? Are you okay?”
I looked up, unable to speak, my eyes full of tears, instantly regretting my lack of control, and wondering if Shobhaji would mistake my tears for cold feet.
Thanks to our past few months of our acquaintance, I was gratified when she immediately understood.
“Sunitaji” she said quietly, pressing a glass of water in my hand.
She had risen and was now sitting in the chair next to me, I realised. She held both my hands firmly in hers, seeming to not notice their iciness.
She pressed a handkerchief into my hand.
“Here…. I always carry a big handkerchief… a male sized one. Handy… for wiping away tears, especially for the caretaker of a children’s home!” She said with a twinkle in her eye.
I smiled weakly. “Sorry, Shobhaji. I don’t know what has come over me!” I stammered. “Ever since the final approval has come through, I have been like this….excited. And today, I am…I am…”
“A basket case??” She supplied helpfully with a straight face.
Seeing the teasing look on her face, I dissolved into a nervous giggle that soon became a wide smile.
“That’s better! I like to see a smile on ‘my’ parents’ face, even through their tears, especially when they take away ‘my’ babies.” She said firmly.
She continued after amoment, “Don’t think I don’t understand….Because I do! Over the past twenty years in this place, I have seen it all, the entire range of human emotion. Fear, hope, anxiety, joy, desperation….”
“Have you had a mother who has felt all of them in some proportion?” I ask with a touch of levity.
“Hmmm… sometimes! Sunitaji, talk to me!” said Shobhaji.
“I will be responsible for a life…. a child ….suppose I goof up? I mean…will I know how to soothe her when she cries? Suppose she hates the room we have prepared for her! What if she misses her friends here? Will she like what I cook? Suppose she dislikes me over time? Should I discipline or pamper her? Ohhhh…Do I deserve her…this beautiful child…”
Shobhaji was silent for a long moment. “Isn’t it strange that God never vets parents who give birth to children….they just float into parenthood….blissfully making mistakes and producing offspring that are at times, the scourge of humanity and yet, no one ever questions them…..Did you deserve that child in your life? ”
She looked irate as she continued, “But, perversely enough, we look over adoptive parents with a fine-tooth-comb…Their habits? Their income? Their work-hours? The caretakers in the absence of a parents?…and so on…perfectly good people who look to the system for a child to complete their family.”
“But I think it is a good system…to some extent.”I said.
“Yes…but it delays the process unnecessarily, and creates a defensiveness and doubt in adoptive parents. A doubt that I think all parents should feel, even natural parents, not just adoptive ones. Sunitaji, your doubt tells me that you will try to do your best!”
“I will try my best…but will it be good enough? I know nothing about mothering,” I say earnestly.
“Do you think anyone does? Motherhood is an instinct, a reflex. Don’t second guess yourself. I have always believed that ‘A child gives birth to a mother!’ and not vice versa. Adoption is having a child of your heart, Sunitaji. Open your heart and mind. Children respond to love with love.”
I am feeling calmer and stronger.
Shobhaji continues, “Out there in the dormitory, is a little girl who has gathered her things in a bag. It is a little bundle, for we cannot afford to have too many personal possessions for each child. But it is a symbol of her life till today…..And it symbolises also somehow her hopes, her dreams, for her tomorrow…and that she is willing to completely put herself in your hands. Take a leap of faith, just as little Anu is taking one. Somewhere you will meet in the middle and join your hearts to one another.”
She hugs me briefly and leads me out to where Anu is waiting. Prasad is holding her. They are waiting for me, I realise. My family! As I approach, Anu smiles tentatively at me. And I feel that smile light up all the dark corners of my heart.
Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations!
Image source: Flickr
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