Neha is getting ready. Mummiji enters and asks, “ Are you getting ready Beta?” Neha casually answers the positive. Then with a pause and in an anxious tone asks, “Mummiji, do you think I should take Sony with me?” Without any hesitation and dreading the worst Mummiji discards Neha’s proposal and just casually says, “You just go and bring our son. It’s since six months we are going through the pain of this separation. And I ‘ve already told Sony that his dad is coming back from an office tour of abroad. He and I will be making preparation for our darling dad and we laughed a lot on this yesterday evening. Though Sony is not at the age to realize all these but we had a talk last evening”. Neha is much tensed today. Again she asks
—–Will it be all over Mummiji?
In a convincing tone Mummiji replies, “ Of course. Have faith. There’s nothing impossible.”
—–Is Papaji coming with me today, Mummiji?
Mummiji interrupts Neha in the middle and firmly says, “ Do as I say. Go alone. Once you two are at home , everything’’ll be fine. It’s my intuition and belief also.. Now hurry up and bring back my Sudhir. Don’t get late. You have to travel a long distance.”
Neha hurries up. Just then their driver Pushkar comes and confirms that everything is ready and they can start at once. Mummiji in an affectionate tone says Pushkar,
—— Listen Beta, drive carefully and pay full attention. Don’t stop to talk with anyone known or unknown. The windows should be pulled over.
Pushkar assures Mummiji about Neha’s security and Sudhir’s safe arrival at home. Mummiji pats Pushkar on his head and in a blissful tone asserts,
—–I know I can completely rely on you. You’re your father’s favourite. You also know this very well. Your Sudhir Bhaiya also depends on you more than his own blood.
Pushkar happily agrees and goes out to reach the car. Neha hugs Mummiji and asks for Papaji. Mummiji nods her head negatively.
—– No Beta, he’s not well you know. You start your journey. I’ll manage here.
Neha hugs and kisses Sony and hands him over to Mummiji. Neha thinks that perhaps Sony is asking for his father. Neha’s eyes become moist. She adores her baby and assures that she will surely bring back his father to him by the evening.
Neha is waiting in front of the billing counter. Neha gives a big sigh to see that her token number is 28 where the processing number of the token is only 10. Still a long time to wait, Neha says in her mind. All these six months she is visiting here on the weekends secretly as if some wrong doings are going on. She’s the only witness how Sudhir, her dear husband, started responding to the treatment and goes through the process like an obedient student with not a single scope of any grievances or allegations on any side. Neha has silently watched Sudhir without being noticed by him. Tears roll down her eyes. She is just to wipe it out suddenly she fills pat on her right shoulder. She startles and looks aside only to find her bestie Nirmala standing beside her. Neha becomes speechless firstly for this unexpected meeting after such a long time and secondly , she feels that she has been caught red handed. An unknown fear embraces her. Nirmala is also as much happy to see her. Overcoming the initial tension Neha only manages, “Nirmala!!!” The person on the other side is so much happy to meet her pal after such a long period that she hugs her tightly as they frequently did in their college days. When both of them have overcome the suddenness of the situation they choose a farthest corner to sit and have a chat with each other.
Nirmala has joined as a consultant in this institute only two months back. And what a coincidence for Neha to hear that Nirmala has been assisting Sudhir’s doctor Mr. Pravakar since then without knowing the fact that Sudhir is her bestie’s dear husband. Neha realizes that nothing is secret to Nirmala now. Suppressing any kind of fact or even trying to do such an act may worsen the matter.
Neha feels somehow shattered. She does not know how to manage this sudden outcome. The secret, which had been kept a secret only among four of them, has been unveiled to Nirmala.!!! Even Neha has not been exposed much to her parents. Neha dives deep into the ocean of thought when Nirmala gives her a shake, “Hey! I know you all are trying to keep Sudhir’s illness a secret from the rest of the world for his shake and may be to avoid social harassment. While assisting Dr Pravakar, I had to go through Sudhir’s case history and since then I knew that his wife visits regularly at the weekend. But I never could imagine that the very person might be you. Only a few weeks ago I learned it. But I didn’t get the courage to meet you.”
Neha eyes get moist. She softly asks, “ Do you know everything? I mean the reason behind Sudhir’s illness !!!”
—— Partially. But how did it all happen?
Neha breaks down, “ It’s all have to be. This is what we call destiny.”
Just then the ward boy hangs up the LUNCH BREAK board. It means that the bill clearance slip is to be despatched after the break. Nirmala notices this and offers Neha to have a cup of coffee. Neha agrees with no choice left. Ordering two cups of coffee for them these two childhood friends arrange a corner table for themselves and make themselves ready for a chat.
Neha goes on saying, “ You know NirmalaI’ve made myself dumb in front of my all relatives and friends during all these six months. Today I’ll pour my all heart to you. Because it’s getting difficult for me to hold further.” Neha hysterically breaks down. Nirmala tries to make Neha calm down.
——- Neha, Your fight has just started. Be strong enough. What were you doing since six months were confined up to you? Now you have to be with Sudhir not only virtually but literally.
——-Nirmala, let me open up myself to you. All these days I’ve been living like a corpse.
Nirmala, with a motherly affection, pacified Neha. Neha goes on,
——- We were happily married for two years, and planning for a baby. At the end of the second year, something uncanny we felt. We consulted the popular gynaecologists of the city. I underwent all tests, no stones remained unturned. But all my reports were normal, rather extremely fine according to my doctors.
——No it’s not that good. Doctors suggested Sudhir to go through some tests. Sudhir did accordingly and those tests confirmed that Sudhir is incapable.
—— Wait! Sudhir’s case history shows that he is the father…..
—— Yes, we have a son.
——- Okay. Then what happened? Didn’t your in-laws comment anything ?
——-Nirmala, my in-laws are very supportive and they are very open minded. They accepted the fact. They never let me down, and even stood by Sudhir. They also asserted that if we’re deprived of any heir, we should not worry. But we should live happily with each other.
——-It’s great to have such supportive in-laws.
——-Yes, I’m fortunate enough. But the problem was elsewhere. Sudhir could not accept the fact. He became irritable and started coming late at home. Mummiji explained a lot to Sudhir, but all in vain. Then we decided to go for an adoption. But again Sudhir refused. It was a very tough time for me. On one hand there was the pain of not being able to be a mother, and on the other I had to handle Sudhir with care. Then one day my gynaecologist suggested that we could take the help of sperm donor. She gave us the necessary contacts.
—— That’s very interesting!!!!
—— Yeah!!! Sudhir agreed. And after three months of tireless effort good news was in the air. I conceived and doctors counsel Sudhir that he had also fathered the foetus. I didn’t know how but it worked. Sudhir was back to normal life. We were happy again and time took us to the seventh heaven when after nine months Sony was born. Our family was complete.
——Then all these?????
——Sonu’s first birthday celebration was a grand celebration. Relatives and friends came. A long awaited get-together was that. That night still lingers in my mind. We were all very tired. I was busy putting Sony to sleep. Suddenly Sudhir asked, “Who might be the father of Sony?” Believe me Nirmala, I couldn’t trust my ears. Words fell short for any expression. Still I put on a smile on my face, controlled my tears and managed to say, “What a joke Sudhir!!! You’re Sony’s one and only father.” Sudhir remained indifferent to my answer. Rather he replied “ No, no, I mean whose sperm is there…..” I couldn’t take it anymore Nirmala and outrageously reacted, “ Stop it Sudhir!” Sudhir left the room instantly and I was devastated.
——–Oh!!! I could understand Sudhir’s psychological ups and downs.
———May Be! But again my family was at a stake. It was Sudhir’s iron determination that he must find out the truth. He frequentlyreduced his office and went in search of the real donor.
——— That’s very ridiculous. Didn’t you stop?
———- How could I? He stopped sharing anything with me. Only then we could realize that he has bunked his office when he returns early at home. Mummiji, Papaji both tried to make out some solutions, they even talked to Sudhir, but nothing worked. Then one day Sudhir came home in a dilapidated condition. We were frightened to see that face of Sudhir. Sudhir was dangerously silent. Not a single word did he utter. He was normal in his outward dealings—he took dinner, he changed and refreshed himself but without uttering a single sound. Next day he was more silent. Not in a mood to go to his office and made himself confined to bed.
——–Didn’t you ask anything? Didn’t you even try to make him speak?
——– A thousand times. But no answer. Even no expression. It seemed that we were pouring words into deaf ears. This went on for two days. Suddenly one morning he locked himself in the room, when I was busy with Sony in the washroom. We were clueless about this. The suddenness of the situation startled us. We called our driver Pushkar. He broke the lock of the door only to find Sudhir lying unconscious. He was immediately shifted to the nearby nursing home where he was diagnosed with severe mental trauma.
——— Didn’t you try to find the cause even after all these happened?
———- We did. And that was truly shocking. We had no ground under our feet.
———- What does it mean?
———-Sudhir was discharged from the nursing home. Then he was shifted to your institute. After he was shifted here, doctors suggested for a continuous stay for six months in this institute for his speedy and permanent recovery. The cost was also affordable for us. We agreed. After everything were finalized we frantically searched for the reason at home. We ransacked his locker, his office bag, files and every possible corners; and at last found the real cause of our sufferings.
——-And what was that?
Neha is in pool of tears. Nirmala senses the complication and pacified Neha, “ Leave it here. No need to discuss it.”
——-Nirmala, that Almighty has other plans for us. Where our thoughts and plans end, HIS starts; and this happened with us. Wouldn’t you like to hear who the donor is?
Nirmala has already sensed the complexity and the gravity of the situation. She tries to avoid it, but Neha again breaks down.
—-Okay Neha, speak up. Tell me everything. I promise I’ll be there always with you and for you.
—–Nirmala, he’s none other than my father-in-law, my Papaji.
Nirmala becomes speechless. She even forgets to blink her eyes. She manages herself and then answers with great difficulty, “Are you sure?”
—— Yes, Nirmala. The reports in Sudhir’s file confirmed the truth.
——- And your Papaji?
——- That night we brought the papers in front of him. He looked at the papers like a baby boy being caught by mother while doing some naughty assignments. Then he howled and cried and said, “I didn’t think such a day will ever come”. Then he narrated the whole incident. Here is his version.
“ It was almost six years back. Sudhir had been enrolled in the MBA programme after completing his engineering. Though the admission was done on the education loan, other expenses were there also. The expense was dreading me. Your Mummiji and I were 18 and 21 years old respectively when we got married. After graduation I joined my father’s garment business and married and within two years of our marriage we had lost our first child also. So when Sudhir came in our life we decided to provide everything for Sudhir’s better prospect. The more I tried to improve my business with the latest technology, the higher the cost of living increased. The profit from my business was not enough. Day by day it was becoming more difficult for me. On one end there was regular investments in the business, household expenses, rituals, social obligations and on the other end, there were the cost of Sudhir’s pocket money, hostel expenses, fooding and everything. The business was also in recession. I was left with no other option than to search for a part time job for some extra income. Before opening the shop at eleven in the morning, I started working as a data entry operator for a private firm in the morning shift on contractual basis. While working on the computer, once I came across the job of Sperm Donor. They were offering a good salary. I thought a lot. But necessity and obligation is something that can’t be ignored. My necessity won over my hesitation and I applied. As my age was forty-seven, I had to go through some tests apart from those normal and general tests abide by their rules and regulations. I never had the idea that I would get selected. But it happened and the handsome salary meet my every ends for those two years. After Sudhir got recruited with a prestigious salary I opted out myself from all those part time jobs. And that job of donorship remained a secret within me. Even your Mummiji was in dark about all these till today until my own son has gone through this. Ohh!!! What an irony!!!
There was a long pause. Nirmala couldn’t utter a single word. Suddenly Neha notices the time and hurries up to the billing counter. Yes, the next number is hers. She stands in the queue. Now she feels very light and relieved from within. She says to herself, “Perhaps I’ve not disobeyed my mother-in-law, but I think I need this. Otherwise this reticence was killing me. Don’t know what Nirmala is thinking Now! But she should say something to me. I really need her clinical advise! Not as a friend, but as a doctor.” The billing counter announces her name. Neha pays all the fees and everything is done smoothly and systematically.
Neha is about to enter Sudhir’s cabin, just then Nirmala stops her. Neha is surprised to see her at this time. Nirmala takes Neha aside,
——- Don’t even speak to anybody about our conversation, no need to reveal that we are friend and we’re acquainted to each other. And listen…..
—— I know Nirmala, but I think I need counselling. To go to Sudhir, to face him, to talk to him seem impossible now. I’m trembling from within. May be I am lacking the courage.
—— Don’t worry. You first overcome your fear and be normal as if nothing has happened. And call me at any time when you feel. But call me Dr. Nirmala in front of anybody else. I’ll be there always for you. ( Nirmala hugs Neha.)
After a pause of a second or two Nirmala says,
——Neha, I think you three should shift to a separate house. This is the demand of this situation. You should move with your son and husband before any embarrassing situation engulfs you.
——What’re you saying? Where shall we go? Sudhir is on without pay for these months. His office knows that he has gone to Mumbai for his cousin brother’s treatment. My Papaji’s sister’s only son is really fighting for life due to lungs cancer. But is stable now as it was in the initial stage when the disease was detected. We took that advantage of the situation for our sake. You know Neha we have also booked false tickets to entrust his office.
——- I can understand everything. But it would be helpful if Sudhir gets some time more to face his dear Dad. It’s just a few months that he has come across such a burning truth. I personally think this. Take your time. You say your in-laws are very supportive. Talk to them. Ask them about it, do it accordingly.
——- Thanks Nirmala.
Neha enters Sudhir’s cabin. The ward boy has made everything ready. Seeing Neha the ward boy leaves to bring the discharge file and the list of medicines. Neha hugs Sudhir and her eyes are filled with tears. Sudhir holds 1Neha tightly. Neha feels thrilled. She could feel that same secured touch that she has been missing since a year. Sudhir smiles and softly says,
—— Now I’m okay dear. Everything’ll be alright. I’ll make things like before. Now let’s go home. I’m eager to see my son, my parents. We’ll be happy together.
Neha couldn’t believe her ears. She wipes her tears away and gives a call to Pushkar. He comes and also breaks down in tears out of joy to see his Sudhir Bhaiya is absolutely fine.
Within three hours they are at home. Neha feels relieved to see that Sudhir is playing with Sony like a normal loving father. Even he is talking with his Dad normally. And Papaji is also normal with Sudhir.They are chating with each other. The whole family is in happy mood. Neha is preparing some delicacies of Sudhir’s choice. Mummiji is helping her. Neha softly says,
——Mummiji, how relieved it feels to see our dear ones happy again. May God bless our family and us!!”
Mummiji smiles and nods her head. Then she comes close to Neha and gives her a bunch of keys and says,
——- Neha, all these are the keys of my bedroom, my bank lockers, my safe , my cupboard. There is a file in my safe where there are important documents of house and bank. Keep these all in your safety. We’re going away tomorrow early in the morning.
Neha stands speechless.
——-Tomorrow morning? Sudhir and Pushkar are also going for two days to Mumbai you know. Sudhiris supposed to submit those used tickets to rejoin at office. How can l live without you all?
——-No Neha, They’re not going. We’re going only. That is, me and your Papaji. We ‘re going to live with Vasudha. She needs us. After her husband’s death her son was her only support to live. But now that is too at a stake. So We’ve decided to live with her. Moreover, Sudhir is your responsibility now. You should be his mentor and guide in every possible ways. And I know that you will prove to be an ideal wife. We are always with you. You can call us at anytime. We’ll come once in a year and you can also visit us.
——That means you all are leaving us for ever. And all for your son’s well being? Don’t I mean anything to You?
——-Beta, Sudhir is my son. But Papaji is my husband, my everything. The irony has left him no where. As you stand by your husband, Now I’ve to do the same. Your Papaji needs a break. May be I also need it. And Vasudha’s and our situation are complementary to each other. This is the irony of life. If that Almighty wants, We’ll live together again. Don’t worry. Pushkar is like Lakshmana to Sudhir. He’ll take good care of you all.
They hug each other. Pain in voice and tears in eyes both feel the warmth in each other’s cosiness. Mummiji sighs, “ Neha, you have fought your battle and on the way to win. My battle is going to begin from tomorrow. As a mother I have fought it. As a wife, it is just to begin. May God bless us all!!”
By: Moumita Saha