Rishan walked into the room where his mother Jaya was rocking the infant to sleep. His sleep deprived state was evident to any on-looker. Jaya signalled Rishan not to make any sound lest the baby wake up. The last time that the Bose family had re-adjusted their schedule and routine to accommodate the needs of a new-born was twenty-eight years back when Rishan was born to Jaya and Arun Bose. Rishan decided to tip-toe out of the room. His retired Professor father was sitting in the porch, lost in thoughts.
“Baba, the process is going to take much longer than we could anticipate. The only positive factor is that both sides of the family have confirmed their unwillingness to take up this responsibility.”
Looking at the unkempt state of his son, Arun felt a wave of tenderness. In the last couple of days, his son had grown responsible much beyond his age.
Arun spoke, “This was expected. Imran Pasha and Neeta Chaubey had secretly married against the wish of their parents in their village in Haryana three years ago. They had to immediately flee to Kolkata to escape from their families who had attempted killing them after coming to know of their truth. Imran used to drive a taxi while Neeta worked as a cook when I had stumbled upon them being harassed by the local goons in Park Circus area owing to their inter-religion marriage. Just four months in this city, they barely understood the local language then. I couldn’t leave them in that state when I knew that Neeta’s life was in grave danger surrounded by hooligans. Soon after , Imran became our driver and man Friday while Neeta started taking care of the household chores and kitchen. At 58, it was getting difficult for me to drive down to my institute everyday while the arthritis pain had made your mother immobile. In a couple of months, they had become the inseparable extended part of the family. Sometimes I would wonder about how we survived without them until then.” Rishan felt that reminiscing about his favorite people was Arun’s way of coping up with the situation.
“When Neeta told your mother that she was expecting, Jaya immediately got another help to take care of the household work so that Neeta could take rest. She took care of Neeta like her own kid. When Neeta gave birth to a baby boy one and half months back, both of us felt as if our grandson was born. That was how attached we had grown towards them. Now I can’t even look at this little one without tearing up.” Arun’s eyes had welled up with tears.
Rishan looked sad. Their life had been perfect until that fateful day a week back. It was on his insistence that Imran had taken Neeta in their car to visit the Dakshineswar Kali temple in the city. She had confided in Rishan about secretly making a wish to perform puja at the temple for the well-being of their baby. Imran had wanted Neeta to recover first since she had a complicated delivery. But he couldn’t say no to Rishan who was more like a younger brother to both of them. They had visited the temple and performed the rituals. On their way back, the car had been hit by a truck heads on. Neeta had succumbed to the brain injury on the spot while Imran battled for his life in the hospital until leaving for his heavenly abode yesterday.
The little boy, oblivious to his fate and events had been happy to lap up the love and affection of Arun and Jaya but he seemed to be the happiest whenever Rishan was around. It had always been that way ever since Neeta made Rishan hold the baby for the first time. They had developed an unusual bond. But every time that he was hungry now, we would start crying for his mother, waiting to be breastfed in the warmth of her lap. After finishing the burial customs last evening, Rishan had realized that he had fallen in love with that tiny bundle of joy. He couldn’t bear to be separated from the little one. He had tracked down both Neeta’s and Imran’s relatives through Iran’s phone to inform them about the accident but no one showed up. For both the families, they had been dead years ago. They were not interested in raising a baby of mixed blood. Rishan couldn’t bear to give away this tiny soul to an orphanage. Instead he had made up his mind to adopt the baby.
While announcing his off-beat decision at the dinner table, he was surprised at the support extended by both his parents towards his choice. They had equally grown to love the baby. Arun had however pointed out the difficulties and delays in the process. As a child born out of inter faith marriage, the adoption was definitely going to be a difficult one. Added to that was the fact that Rishan was still unmarried though he had a high-profile, well-paying finance job.
The proceedings of the next day had been as his father’s predictions. He had been handed over a bunch of forms at the Central Adoption Resource Authority office. The waiting period could be as long as six months. He was to return in two days with the filled up application and requisite documents for submission. While mentioning the name of the child in the register, Rishan had been stumped. The naming ceremony was scheduled for next month by his parents. Until then all of them had chosen to address him by multiple pet names. Rishan thought of what Imran and Neeta might have done in his scenario and wrote ‘Iqbal Shlok’ in the box against name of the child.
Iqbal’s wails were loud enough to break his reverie and make Rishan dash towards the room. His mother was failing at comforting the scared soul. Rishan took the baby in his arms and started humming his favorite song while cradling him gently. The tears had stopped. In a while, baby Iqbal had slept feeling secured and protected in Rishan’s strong arms. As he kissed the baby goodnight, Rishan had realized that he had already taken his first step towards becoming a father and it was by choice. The legal process expected ahead was going to be tedious and tough, but he had decided to bear it all for his son. Rishan cuddled Iqbal while covering his tiny frame with a blanket as he closed his eyes to finally have a good night’s sleep.
This post is the first entry to the Write Tribe festival of words (24-30 Jun 2018) #write bravely.