Chapter 5: New Rituals and a li’l love


Feb 14, 2012

This is our second valentine’s day after marriage.  Normally I’m the super-enthusiastic, let’s-do-this-let’s-go-there types, but when you’re throwing up at least 6 times a day and feeling dizzy for the most part, all you want to do is lie back on the bed and groan. (The first Pregnancy Workshop I attended at my hospital revealed that I was the ONLY one out of about 40 women who was experiencing such severe nausea and fatigue. Hallelujah.)

So nowadays I have to be dragged from bed to go anywhere. But here’s the silver lining: although I can’t eat a bite of home-cooked food, every time we go out to a restaurant, my appetite returns and I have fun. Thank Heaven for small mercies!

This time, we’re celebrating our Valentine’s Day by having golgappas together. Not at some roadside stall, though—that’s forbidden for me right now— we’re at the food court of The Great India Place. (For my blogger friends—Golgappas are tiny edible balls filled with potato pieces and lip-smakin’ spiced up water.)  Mmmmmmm….. Golgappas…. Even the thought makes my mouth water.

“Hey… chunnu is eating golgappas for the first time!” Sajjad grins at me.

“yeah…” I grin back. “I think she likes ‘em.”

Chunnu is a gender-neutral term for ‘little one’ and that’s what we’ve always called our baby, even when I was not pregnant. And this is a new ritual we’ve created: everytime I eat something new, Sajjad exclaims delightedly over it, reminding me that chunnu is trying out all this new stuff! And everytime I watch an animation movie—and I watch lots and lots of those—he asks me whether the baby likes it!!

So, I’m quite sure my chunnu likes golgappas. How can she not! I’m crazy about them….

For my V-Day gift, Sajjad gets me a fluffy, feathery, heart-shaped pillow that says ‘I LOVE YOU’.    How sweet is that?

I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a diamond ring. But the thing is, I’m not the diamond-ring types. I’d much rather have something fun, cute and imaginative, than something expensive and mundane. Or, if my husband really wants to spend that much money on me, I’d much rather he took me on a vacation to some exotic locale where I’d see the magic of a living world.

Who needs another stone?

And this pillow remained my best friend particularly for the entire duration of my pregnancy –supporting my bump when it began to grow, helping me sleep on my side. (As it is, I couldn’t sleep on my back from the very beginning coz of acute back pains even before the bulge appeared.)

And, of course, Sajjad would remark –“Hey, chunnu has already started using a pillow!”

(Read from the beginning)

Chapter 4 : The Reluctant Mother


I’ve been going on and on about how I’m not in love with this baby. How I’ve hated the world since I became pregnant. Perhaps I’ve given out the impression that I never wanted to be a mother at all. Well, that’s not the case. I like kids. Kids like me too. I wanted a couple of my own, definitely. Sajjad and I would have a lot of fun thinking up baby names, talking about the games we’d play with her/him, keeping nicknames and imagining our life with a new one.

But here’s the catch—I just didn’t want one right now, so soon.

Don’t know about other places, other countries and other cultures, but here in India most people think that getting married=having children. Everyone expects you to become pregnant the moment you get married, if not the next day then the very next month, at least. Woe unto you if you want otherwise.

Relatives, acquaintances, in-laws—especially in-laws—will beat the crap out of your brains asking you about the “good news” and why it’s taking “so long”.

And if you tell them the truth—that it’s taking so long because that’s how you want it—then here’s the well-meaning advice: “If you keep delaying you’ll regret it later. There are so many childless couples who regretted their family planning afterwards.”

Ouch! That hurts. Hurts terribly.

So the more people keep bugging you about it the more you hate the idea of ruining your happily married life.

Yes, I said ruin.

A lot of people think that the only purpose of getting married is to produce children. Not me. Like I said before (Chapter 2), for me marriage is all about companionship and cherishing each other. Yes, you do have children, but –and let me write this in bold—IT IS A BY-PRODUCT OR A PROGRESSION OF MARRIAGE, NOT ITS PURPOSE. What I wanted from my marriage was for the two of us to have a lot of ‘alone time’ together, doing all the things we liked, having those perfect romantic dinners and romantic holidays before a third person came along to share every single moment with us. That’s something that would have happened eventually, but I wanted to have a lot of buffer time before that, so I could look back with satisfaction and think—“Yes, I did all that stuff I wanted to. Now I’m ready to welcome my baby.”

But that didn’t happen. And when the shell dropped, for some inexplicable reason, I got the feeling in my head that I HAD LOST AND THEY HAD WON. All those people out there who couldn’t believe that a love marriage was not going wrong somehow, that we were so blissfully married and my husband was not being the restricting, oppressing mullah they had imagined him to be; all those people who had been waiting for something to go wrong; all those people who had wanted me to feel trapped instead of liberated with my marriage, had won. THEY HAD WON AND I HAD LOST.

And that right there is why I hated the fact that I had an unplanned baby on the way.

I NEVER HATED MY BABY. I resented my pregnancy; I resented the whole world, but I NEVER RESENTED THE BABY.

I felt sad for her…or him.

Yes. I felt sad for this tiny, precious little being who ought to be in a happy mother’s womb, a mother who would be overjoyed to have her/him and would have a whale of a time thinking what fun it would be.  I wanted to give my baby that kind of mother.

I cared for the baby. But I couldn’t be happy.

(Read from the beginning)

Chapter 4: Knock-Knock… @ 144 beats per minute


Jan 14, 2012

9:30 a.m.

I’m at the hospital for my first ultrasound—the TVS, or Total Vaginal Scan, to be more precise.  It’s one of those countless, hugely embarrassing exercises that you are subjected to during the course of your pregnancy. But the reason this TVS merits a mention is here is not because of it embarrassing nature.

It’s on this page because this is when I say “Hello…” to my baby for the first time.

It’s when I hear that sound.

Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock………..

Now, this isn’t like the twin bump-bump, bump-bump of your heart (that your palm feels across your chest) or your spouse’s (that you love to hear across his chest). It’s a steady, thumping knock-knock-knock-knock-knock…. Like a super-fast engine rushing ahead…. in fact, the super-fast little baby in a huge rush to reach its destination.

The sound fills my ears, it fills the room, and I am wonderstruck.

This, this precious moment, is my first pleasant contact with my baby. After days and days of whining, moping, crying and cursing (the world, not the baby!) this knocking gives me one little moment of simple, wondrous pleasure.

“Hello, little one…”   I feel happy.

My first thought, of course, is that Sajjad isn’t here to share this with me. He’s waiting outside and I wish and wish and wish that I’d called him in. I make a mental note to ask him to come inside with me the next time. He’s gonna love it.

Here’s what the report says:

Early live intrauterine pregnancy of approximately 7 weeks.  Heartbeat : 144 beats per minute.

That’s one helluva speed for that teeny-tiny heart, little one!  I can see you’re in a great hurry to be here….

Chapter 3: Fasten your seatbelts, please. It’s gonna be a long and rickety ride


Here are the top safety instructions given to me at the beginning of my ride:

1. No eating in restaurants (because I am prone to stomach infections)

2. No road travel (because roads in India aren’t exactly something to be proud of )

3. No lifting heavy loads (that’s a no-brainer)

Jan 1, 2012

The Jaipur Literary Fest is a much awaited event in the world of bibliophiles. For the first time in my life, I’m going to attend it. I would get to meet so many of the authors whose voice I had heard in their narratives, whose worlds I had lived in through their pages…and I have lived in those worlds much more than I have lived in my own, perhaps….

The event is just a couple of weeks away now and I’m overjoyed at being asked to cover it. My time to go places has just begun. I’m making reservations to get to Jaipur by train. Until, of course, I’m hit by a sickening wave of nausea, and then another sickening wave of the truth.

I have this wonderful, much desired, much awaited thing in my hand, and I have to let go. I cannot attend the literary fest. Because a) there are no train reservations available and I cannot travel by road and b) even if I did get there I would most certainly have to eat “outside” food.

There goes the literary fest and any other assignment that involves travelling. My time to go places …. has stopped abruptly.

Jan 6, 2012

5:30 p.m.

I’m writing an editorial — that’s my usual job. I love my job. I’ve said that, haven’t I ? So I’m doing what I do, I have my eyes fixed on the screen and my fingers typing with demonic speed and my mind churning out one edit-worthy thought after another. Until.

All of a sudden, mid-edit, my mind goes for a spin. My eyelids swoop shut. I cannot get the sleep out of my eyes. I cannot think. I complete the rest of the edit with the thumb and forefinger of each hand forcing open each eye.   Every thought takes twice as long to form itself and every sentence takes twice as long to be typed. As soon as I’m through with the edit, I hand over the completed page to my boss. And ask permission to go home immediately. I think I would drop down to sleep just standing up.

On the way home, twice I almost fall out of the open-sided autorickshaw, because I have dozed off.

Jan 9, 2012

11:30 a.m.

It’s already my time to reach office and I’m in bed. Can’t go to work. Too weak to get up from the bed. Sajjad is already off to work, having given me my usual glass of hand-squeezed orange juice and an egg. (That’s pretty much all that I can bear to eat) He’s being such a dear about this….

I have to inform my boss… hate having to send in a ‘leave message’ every other day. I send the message. Immediately go off to sleep again.

Jan 20, 2012

Threw up twice in office. Had to literally run to the washroom from my seat. Seem to faint with weakness on my way back home.

Jan 22, 2012

There were two women in my office who gave birth to pretty, healthy babies before I even knew I was pregnant. They kept working almost till the eighth month, took maternity leave and came back to office after a few months. There are women all over the world who do just this, and so I had been reassuring myself that I could, too. Until, of course.

Until my body grew so weak that I couldn’t get up from bed even if someone was ringing the doorbell. Until my brain got so fatigued that I was sleeping most of the day as well as most of the night. Until something went so wrong in my brain that any strain on my eyes for more than half an hour at a stretch — reading, working on the laptop, watching TV– started giving me splitting headaches… headaches where I writhed on the bed, clutching my head and screaming in agony… headaches where I wished for a hammer to break my head and end all this once and for all.

Whoever said that pregnancy was a beautiful, wonderful, ethereal experience should definitely get his/her head examined. Or maybe, they were just plain lucky.