On the morning of Independence Day. the roads were deserted and Shiv could drive the tractor down from Alwar to Jaipur in just two and half hours. He had planned to surprise his sister Vandana by making this sudden trip. It had been a year and half of her wedding to the family of rice merchants in Jaipur. During this period, Shiv had come only once to meet her during rakhi last year. His younger brother Raj had probably fallen asleep at the rear end of the tractor. After losing both his parents within a period of six months, Shiv had single-handedly taken up the responsibility of his younger siblings. His father, a poor farmer who toiled in other’s fields hadn’t left behind a single penny.
Shiv started working odd jobs eighteen hours a day to finally buy a piece of land for farming. He had been saving up for Vandana’s marriage simultaneously. Raj had started helping him on the fields. After Vandana got married, the brothers started pulling up money to purchase a tractor. The microfinance firm had lent them a tractor loan three months back.
His heart had always been set on meeting his sister but it was she who kept encouraging him to focus on his work instead. She had always been very proud of her Dadbhaisa (elder brother). He was relieved that she had been married to a decent family that cared about her happiness. That’s what she always told him.
Shiv looked at the boxes of sweets that Raj had bought for Vandana and her in-laws. They had reached the destination. He parked the tractor on the opposite road of the lane where lay Vandana’s marital home. Waking Raj up, he washed his face with the water from the nearby municipality water tap. There were three to four people who were probably on their way to celebrate the day through flag hoisting.
The car had been stuck in the middle of the road long enough to create a heavy traffic jam near the dockyard. The local inspector examined the two dead bodies inside the car. It looked like a case of a sudden heart attack though he kept wondering about the possibility of it happening to them simultaneously.
Only after the ship had moved farther away from the shore did she sigh a breath of relief. Breastfeeding her month old baby, she ran her fingers over the bag full of Indian currency that was meant to secure their future. She whispered to the baby,
“Since you were conceived through surrogacy, the people who paid for my womb had come to take you home last night. Legally, I couldn’t refuse, so I added the deadly medicine in their cups of tea. We had barely traveled for half an hour before both of them succumbed to death this morning. I managed to get on board with you unnoticed. Now you, me and the money will always be together.”
There’s an assortment of toys lying at various corners of my apartment. From soft toys to remote-controlled gadgets suitable for his age group, the soon to turn three-year-old cherishes every single purchase. Until a certain point, his favorite play items were pieces of paper, empty cartons, and discarded boxes. His next favorite became the huge collection of soft toys that were mostly accumulated as gifts. But the preferences shifted at every phase of growing up.
However, if there’s any toy set that has maintained the consistency of being his favorite for a year now, it will have to the plastic kitchen set meant for kids in the age group of 2 – 5 years. Other than the fact that we get to eat some delicious items cooked by him, this set also has a high sentimental value for him. It was gifted to my son on his second birthday by our cook who saved up money so that she could give him a gift.
Today is India’s 72nd Independence Day. Decades back, there were ample opportunities to move out and make a more developed country my home. But I chose to stay back for reasons close to my heart. Despite the number of years, it pains to see that my motherland is still shackled by quite a few regressive thoughts and practices. My son and his kitchen set are not mere toys in our household. They stand for our thoughts in trying to bring a change in the tiniest of ways, It is our way to break the taboo associated with gender stereotyping or casteism.
I woke up this morning with a bad migraine. The wall clock announced the time as 6 am. Looking at the toddler sleeping beside me, I felt guilty. Yesterday had been an extremely depressing day for me. The editing part of the first novel has been pending for quite a while. The boy had been falling sick quite frequently for the past one month. Last week he had come down with viral flu and had to be confined inside the house for the whole week. Yesterday he wanted to go to the nearby play zone quite badly. Fear of an infection again made me discard the idea. When every mode of trying to make him understand failed, I yelled at him. My son is generally a very sensible kid and so, I try to be as gentle with him as possible. The sleepless nights for the past few days and the slack in my working schedule finally got on my nerves and I vented it out on the hapless boy last evening. I regretted it immediately and apologized to him. I don’t think he even remembered the incident when I put him to sleep last night but I stayed up feeling extremely annoyed with myself. Few drops of tears ran down my cheeks at this moment as I ruffled his hair. That’s when I saw the writing on his magic slate. It read,
Today is your last day on Earth. You have ten hours left and so go ahead and do whatever you want to.
The countdown to say goodbye has already begun.
P.S. – This is not a joke.
I read the message couple of times to ensure that this was not a prank on me. I tried deleting it by pressing the delete button above the writing area on the slate. The words were still prominently visible. It took me a while to understand what was happening. I was going to die and had only a few hours to savor my last moments on this planet.
Looking at my toddler and husband sleeping peacefully, I started shedding silent tears. Oblivious to the grief ahead, they were cuddled up. To get a grip on my emotions, I decided to walk out of the room towards the balcony. My father had arrived here a couple of weeks back to spend some time his grandson. I saw him reading the newspaper in the sitting room while passing through this area. After my toddler started school, I rarely had the luxury of spending time appreciating the beauty of nature. But today I decided to relish every single moment.
My husband and I have always grabbed the slightest of opportunities to travel to the unexplored destinations. During our first road trip from Mysore (Karnataka, India) to Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu, India), we were exhausted after traveling for nine hours. As we got down near the reception, this is the first sight that greeted us beyond which lay the cloud embraced hills.
The row of flower pots arranged symmetrically added to the beauty of the place. During our three days stay there, we realized that almost everything about the resort followed an alignment in the pattern of rows. The planning of cottages or placing of chairs and flower pots were evidence to our conclusion.
At times, I wish I knew how to arrange my life into a neat and symmetrical pattern of rows since chaos seems to be a permanent guest here.
Every morning Col.Joshi walked to the nearby park and sat on the bench gazing at the serenity of the lake. A year after retiring from the Indian army, he had discovered this place. Most of the faces here were familiar to him yet he avoided them today as he loathed the sympathy in their eyes. Besides this was his time for planning the day, especially if the date meant a trip to the court.
It had been five years since the night of his daughters’ demise. Death by accident had been the verdict by the investigating officer. But he knew better. Her in-laws had exercised political influence and were granted bail immediately after he lodged a case of murder against them. Despite evidence of years of domestic abuse, the courtroom drama stretched endlessly.
Friends and family had assumed that he would give up after losing his wife last week. But they were unaware that he was actually preparing himself for the court hearing today for he had resolved to bring justice to his dead daughter.
This was one of the first articles on my blog and in the category of parenting. The beginning of my breastfeeding journey had been full of challenges and giving up would have been an easy and convenient option. But I could never compromise with the health of my baby and thus went on to create some amazing memories and a strong bond with my toddler through the twenty-eight months of breastfeeding journey. I decided to repost this article because it is still as relevant today as it was when I penned it down for the first time in August 2016.
This article was originally written on August 3rd, 2016 as a FB post and updated here on 14 Sep 2017, a day after I created this blog.
Since this week is known as the breastfeeding week, I thought it to be the apt moment for sharing my breastfeeding journey. My son was born on 22nd Sep 2015 in Kolkata . I had an extremely complicated c-section that went on for 2.5 hours because of a horrible mess up by a junior anaesthetist. She kept trying epidural anesthesia for seven times through spinal injections though the end result was a delivery involving general anesthesia. The irony was that my husband who is a doctor by profession used to work for the same group of hospitals in Bangalore at that point. After the delivery, the days were full of nervous excitement as a new mother.