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As he stood in front of his door, Nishant prayed that his wife would be in a better mood. The baby thing was tearing them apart. When was the last time he had seen his wife smile?
Photo by Nihal Karkala on Unsplash
Veena got into the lift. It was a festival day, and the space was crammed with little children dressed in bright yellow clothes, wearing fancy peacock feather crowns, and carrying flutes. Janmashtami gave her the jitters. She kept her face down, refusing to socialize with anyone.
They had moved to this new apartment three months ago. The whole point of shifting had been to get away from the ruthless questioning by ‘well-wishers’.
“You have been married for ten years! Why no child yet?”
“Have you checked with the doctor? Is something wrong?”
“Keep a fast on Tuesdays. Feed cows. Must be the previous birth’s sin.”
“Eat vitamins. You are too thin! Dieting? That’s why no baby!”
Veena and her husband, Nishant, had been college sweethearts. They were married for a decade and had been trying for a baby for the past six years. Initially, they had been relaxed. As they grew older, pressure mounted. Relatives, friends, and neighbours had only one question to ask.
When are you giving us ‘Good News’?
They went for tests, and the results had been devastating. The doctor suggested fertility treatments. Three gruelling cycles of IVF were unsuccessful. Veena endured the mood swings, the pain, and the heat flashes; yet her womb remained stubborn. She kept blaming herself till the worry started eating her from inside.
Had she drunk too much coffee? Had she participated in too many sports? Has she waited too long?
When the pointed questions became more painful than the IVF failures, she sunk into depression. Nishant had suggested adoption, but she wasn’t able to reconcile.
Wouldn’t that mean that her body had failed her? She had perfect grades, a perfect job, a perfect home. Wasn’t adoption akin to quitting? What would people say?
They fought for months. That’s when Nishant suggested a change of scene.
To start afresh.
The clanging of the lift bell awakened Veena from her rumination. She alighted and walked up to her flat. The door of the opposite apartment was open. As Veena looked up, she noticed with a grimace that SHE was there. ‘SHE’ was the elderly grandmother who kept looking at her, hoping to initiate conversation.
Veena had ignored the woman most of the time. Once, that old crone had had the audacity to turn up at her doorstep and offer her snacks. Must be another gossipmonger, waiting to spread rumours. She shook her head and closed the door politely.
Presently, the elderly woman was drawing a giant white Rangoli in front of her apartment. The door of the house was open and revealed little white footprints, that lead from the entrance, all the way indoors, as if a little child were walking. Veena sighed.
A reminder of what she didn’t have. How many Janmashtamis had she fasted in the hope that she would be blessed? Every year, she saw the most adorable children dressed like little Krishna. Why couldn’t one of those be hers?
Her glance had lingered a second too long. The old lady looked up at her.
“Why don’t you come in and have some tea with us?” she asked.
The lady hobbled up to Veena, and reached out for her hand. She felt a sudden calm.
“How do I address you? How do you speak Hindi so well?” she asked curiously.
“You can call me Gowriamma. We are from Chennai, but my husband was posted in the navy. I have travelled all over India and can speak many languages. It will be nice to chat. Come, dear.”
Veena followed Gowriamma indoors. The air was rich with the scent of rose water, and incense. Her eyes fell on the pooja room in front of her. Elaborately decorated with flowers and lights, it housed Gods of every shape and size. At the center of the room was a cradle with a little idol of Krishna in it. Seeing this, a lump formed in Veena‘s throat.
Gowriamma rolled a straw mat on the ground, and Veena sat down on it. She offered her some tea and fried snacks.
“Tell me about yourself!”
‘I’m Veena. I moved in here recently with my husband. And before you ask, I don’t have any children.”
“I wasn’t planning to ask.”
“Really? Every woman looks at me as though I am incomplete or a damaged piece of goods. It hurts!” she burst into tears, relieved to voice her insecurities out loud.
Gowriamma kept silent, until Veena gained her composure. Then she spoke softly.
“Every woman is a manifestation of the divine mother Goddess. She is complete in herself. She encompasses the entire cosmos. Who are we judge what is complete and what isn’t?”
Veena sniffed through her tears.
“IVF didn’t work. My husband has given up. I feel useless.”
“Why do you define your worth by your ability to conceive? What is the connection?”
“I…I…everyone looks at me with pity. I hate it!”
“Do you want to be a mother?”
“Yes. There is nothing more that I could want.”
“Then why not consider adoption?”
“What do I know about the child I’m going to adopt? How do I accept the child as my own? What about their gene pool?”
“Let me tell you a story.” Gowriamma began.
“Once upon a time, in a village, a woman had given birth to a girl. But due to a mix-up, her baby got switched with a baby boy.”
“Like in a hospital mix-up?” Veena asked curiously.
“Something like that. The woman wasn’t aware that this boy wasn’t her son, and she raised him with utmost love and affection. The boy was a prankster initially but grew up to be a real charmer and a valiant warrior. He managed to kill a cruel king and reclaim his kingdom. In reality, the boy was a royal, the nephew of the king he slew. Today, we worship this boy as a God. The boy’s uncle had been a monster. Yet, the boy was a God. People do not remember the woman who gave birth to him. It is the woman who raised him that is remembered and revered.”
“But, didn’t the woman miss her birth-child, over the child she raised?”
“Ah, but she birthed him too. Perhaps not from her stomach, but from her heart.”
Veena pondered over this. Why did this story seem familiar? Suddenly it dawned on her.
“This is Yashoda’s story. Krishna’s mother!”
“Yes, Yashoda was the mother who raised Krishna, even though it was Devaki who gave birth to him. However, Nurture overrules nature. He could have been a tyrant like his uncle. But he didn’t turn out that way- instead he is worshipped, even today. The love you give to a baby will shape their character and future. And who knows whom you are bringing home? Perhaps, another Krishna?”
Gowriamma’s words touched Veena’s heart.
“There are many children out there waiting to find loving parents. Why don’t you bring joy to one of them, rather than going through the agony of repeated medical procedures? Ultimately, what you decide is your choice. There are no right and wrongs. May you find the happiness you are looking for.”
Veena did not know for how long she sat there. Something in her shifted. When it was time for her to leave, Gowriamma gave her a gift- a baby Krishna in a miniature cradle. This time, Veena didn’t feel the sting. She felt something flutter in her chest. Something she had not felt for a long time.
Nishant prayed that his wife would be in a better mood. The baby thing was tearing them apart.
When was the last time she had smiled?
He stood in front of the apartment and rang the doorbell. The door swung open, revealing lights and decorations. He was startled. Usually, it was locked, dingy, and gloomy.
Had something happened?
Veena was wearing a purple saree, and her hair was tied up with jasmine flowers. She looked stunningly beautiful. She sat in front of their pooja room, where she had set up a little Krishna figurine and was praying to it.
“Veena, if you want another cycle IVF. Let’s go for it. I can’t bear to see you unhappy,” he blurted out.
She shook her head.
“No, Nishant. Let’s adopt, like you suggested.”
“Are you sure?”
Veena looked fondly at the Krishna figurine that had its arms stretched out to her. Soon there would be the pitter-patter of little feet. Their baby was waiting out there somewhere. People could keep their opinions and tips to themselves.
She would bring her baby home and be the perfect mother to them.
Image source: CanvaPro
Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...
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