“What is sit? What is it?” Gopal’s eyes lit with joy when he heard the baby cry. “Tell me doctor Sahib, why are you quiet? Is, is it a girl”? The doctor remained quiet. “Yes I knew it! I just knew it! Had to be a boy!” exclaimed Gopal’s mother. “I had told her during the fourth month of her pregnancy, when she was eating a lot of spicy food, it was a sign! Oh! Where is the light of my house doctor sahib, where is my daughter? It’s a boy isn’t it?” She chuckled!
“No”, the doctor said.
“It’s not a boy it’s not a girl then what is it? Is it a ...”, before gopal could complete his sentence the doctor nodded his head.
You are joking doctor, I didn’t mean to, what the hell is going on here? I want to see my wife. I want to see the baby.
“Mr Gupta I know what you are going through but your wife needs rest”.
“You know what I am going through? you know eh? You know how much money I had to spend, how many tests, operations later Rekha conceived, nine years after our marriage, and now you tell me she gave birth to a godforsaken…”
“Mr Gupta, this is a hospital”. “You can’t stop me from seeing my wife” he screamed and barged into her room.”Gopal” she murmured as tears rolled down her eyes. “This is not my.. This is not mine”, he screamed pointing towards the infant whose first words were those of his father disowning him! “Gopal” she murmured again, this time with shock, “the doctor said its because of the excessive treatment you made me go through, he was”, before she could complete what she was saying Gopal’s mother barged into her room and started screaming at her, “first you give berth to this thing and then blame my son! God should have left you barren. Oh Durga! What shame this woman has brought to the family! Where did I go wrong with all my offerings? Aamaar pran niye nao Ma, niye nao!!”
It was the thunderous applaud that brought Rekha back to the present. It had been twenty one years since that day when kamal her son was born. Gopal had agreed to stay with the “cursed woman”, as she was famously called by her mother in law on condition that the “thing” be done away with. Rekha had made up her mind. She was traditional, not weak. She went to stay with her parents.
She sat in the midst of crowds and parents wondering, for the umpteenth time, why had the doctor not explained to gopal that kamal was a boy despite his physical condition? Had his education not overcome his backwardness? She had moved to her parents place but her life there as well was soon made miserable. Gopal had spread the word. Taunting sympathy of her relatives seemed undying. Relatives said they were sorry. “Sorry? Sorry for what? Is my son blind? Is he mentally disbalanced? can he not talk?” rekha would tell them. “Look at her!! Humph!! Very educated! This is what happens! She wants us to tell her what is wrong with her so called “son”!!
Her father soon gave in, to the mob mentality. Rekha had had enough. She left kolkata and shifted to the adjoining Kharagpur. Kamal grew up to be a handsome young man. The sounds of applause grew louder. Rekha peeped up from the fourth row of the auditorium of one the countries best engineering institutes, to see Kamal receive his degree. “That’s my son” he told the woman sitting next to her, when the Dean announced Kamal’s name, adding that he topped his batch.
Not many people knew where Rekha and her son came from and why in twenty one years of their stay in Kharagpur no one ever came to visit them. Rekha did call her masi once sometime back to ask about "Baba". Her "Masi" had informed her about Gopal’s second marriage and after a year about his third futile attempt. She had cried the first time, but on the second she asked "Masi" to “wish him luck”. She had realised by then that Gopal was not worthy if her tears.
Kamal finished his MBA and found himself a job. He also found someone else!
After lifting his mother off the ground, after showing her his appointment letter he touched her feet and said, “There is something else I want you to know, I want you to meet a friend, a very special friend, I want you to meet Neil”. Rekha froze for a moment. She would probably have not reacted this way had kamal shown any kind of sighs earlier. He was not into sports, which is beside the point, not all men are born Federers!! He did not have a girl friend, yes, but she had often caught him eyeing Mrs Sharma’s daughter at weddings!!
“Neel!?” beta I did not think,, you never told me,,do not take me wrong but I ,umm”. “Maa!!” he smiled. “Neil, neelima girl!” they had a good laugh after that. Rekha though had something else on her mind.
“She will be here any moment Ma”. “Shona, sit with me here for a while, I want to ask you something. does Neil, I mean neelima know about,,aah,”.
Kamal chuckled real loud this time and seeing his mother amazed said, “No Ma! Contrary to what you may have in mind, I have not gone mad. Neelima is a very different girl, from the ones in the overdramatic soap operas that you are so used to seeing. You ask her the same question and see what she says. My only request. Don’t faint after her reply!!”.
And Rekha well, she did not faint; infact did quite well, when Neelima told her straight, “Aunty, who cares! It’s so much easier to live with a man who is man enough to accept facts and not cheat people. I mean who would have the (yes the forbidden “B” word was used) to proclaim to a girl about such a thing!! "
Yes, they got married soon after and Rekha became a proud grand mother of two adopted grandchildren!!