Chapter 18: Heroine


Dear readers who are not aware of ‘Indian’ meanings: Unlike what most of you might think, here in our country heroine isn’t commonly used to refer to someone who did something heroic—an act of courage, for instance. Here the word usually denotes ‘looking stunning’.

It’s derived from our usage of ‘heroine’ as an alternate of ‘actress’—in common parlance we refer to our female movie stars as ‘heroines’. So, effectively, when someone calls you a ‘heroine’, what they are saying is that you look as gorgeous as their favourite celluloid goddess.

Flattering, I know.

September 7, 2012

6:30 pm

Like I said earlier, this is my first outing after the birth of my son, and it’s no big deal since it’s just a routine visit to a gynaecologist. But it is a big deal for me because I can wear something nice after 6 months of breathable loose fitting attire, and 7 days of feeding gowns.

Yes, yes, I know, I do hijab—I wear an abaya, which you can call a modern burqa. But I wear all kinds of nice dresses underneath it –and at home where obviously I’m not in hijab. Yes, I know, nobody gets to see them except my husband and me, but that’s a whole philosophy I’m not going to delve in right now. Suffice it to say that I dress up for myself. Chiefly for myself, because it makes me happy to look in the mirror, and like what I see.

There’s this new dress my mom brought for me, it’s a body hugging pink and white lycra-esque kurta with pink leggings that I couldn’t wear during pregnancy because it wouldn’t fit over my belly. This is what I’m going to wear now, underneath my favorite maroon abaya. I slip the kurta over my head.  Et voila! It’s a great feeling to be able to get back in the clothes you like. And the best part is: I don’t look like a stick-insect anymore. The curves are all in the right places…ahem!

And then Sajjad barges into the room because it’s always his job to ensure that we’re not late for our appointments. Whatever he’s about to say dies out on his lips.

And this bursts out instead:

“Meri Heroine!”

A sparkle in his eye and a real, broad, wondrous smile.

I always complain to my husband that he doesn’t compliment me often enough. (Well, he’s a man of few words, generally…so…) But this spontaneous fountain-burst beats all of it!

Life suddenly feels ‘reassuringly normal’. Again.

Chapter 10: Happiness is…


Happiness is ever-changing and ever-elusive. You cannot know it until you feel it. Happiness is a walk in the breeze… happiness is a drive in the rain… happiness is a midnight date… happiness is a moment shared.

May 14, 2012

We are in Aligarh. Sajjad is sitting before me on the bed. We’d been away from each other for about 15 days because I came here to meet my mom. He hasn’t felt his baby’s movements yet; when I was with him they were too light to be felt on the outside. He has his hand on my belly as his eyes search my face with anticipation.

BUMP!

That was a huge one!

I’m delighted to see the astonished, wondrous, childlike grin on my husband’s face. He laughs out loud. He is amazed… It’s a moment we’ll cherish forever.

June 15, 2012

This baby is gonna be a really naughty one. Lord knows how she/he manages to do it, but every so often I feel 4 simultaneous kicks (or whatever they are) at 4 different places in my tummy!  There’s hardly a moment when this little one lies still….!

My sister says she can actually see him/her “swimming around” in my tummy! I know what she means, the bulge often seems to “glide” from one end to another… the doctor says these movements are so visible on the outside since I’m so thin and there’s been no fat increase whatsoever on other parts of my body.

June 25, 2012

It’s post-dinner and me and my husband are talking our daily walk around the park. I love these walks with him. Love the wind in the trees, flapping our clothes and sweeping our hair…love the moon beaming gently down on us…love holding his hand and talking softly…  In a way, it’s been a good thing I’ve taken time off from work—with our busy schedules we’d never have got time for these leisurely everyday strolls. It’s moments like these that make life beautiful.

July 14, 2012

It’s raining hard in South Delhi. Monsoon has arrived in all its glory. Sajjad has come back from work sometime ago. He takes my hand.

“Wanna go for a drive in the rain?” he smiles at me.

Yes. Of course. Would I say no?

He’s backing up the car to bring it right to the door so I don’t have to get wet. Our neighbor comes out of his house. “Coming from somewhere?” he asks.

“No, going for a drive!” I giggle.

“In the rain!?”

“Yes…”

But obviously, lost in our fancies we had forgotten that we’re in Delhi, not the Garden of Eden and rains here mean just one thing: Traffic jams. But I have Michael Schumacher for a husband and I could trust him to find the best routes away from the traffic.

Never loved rain so much….

July 21,2012

12:00 a.m.

We’re having dinner at Comesum, the all-night restaurant near Nizamuddin Railway Station. Hadn’t even heard about this eat-out until today. Sajjad’s trying hard to make this right for me, to assure me that nothing’s gonna change between us.

Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps it will. But what won’t change is what happiness is….

Happiness is US. Whether it’s BOTH of US, or THREE of US. Happiness is “Us”.

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{Read from the beginning }

(For more good things about pregnancy, read http://thegoodandthegood.wordpress.com/)

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 1: The tempest brews


Dec 26, 2011

10:00 a.m.

I’m running up a flight of 100 steps, taking two at a time, as usual, late for office and trying to make up in speed for what I’ve lost in a delayed start. At the top, my heart rate quickens manifold, banging like a hammer in my ears. I have to grab the railing and catch my breath…a good 2 minutes lost. I’m lost too, I had so far prided myself on being able to run up the stairs without a care; can’t seem to understand what went wrong. Time’s ticking away though, and I have that metro train to catch.

2:00 p.m.

The three of us –Shruti, Sagar and me– are sitting in the cafeteria with our respective lunchboxes, ready to trade morsels of home cooked food. I know what I have in mine–Sabzi of beans and potatoes with three rotis–I packed it myself. I’m starving. But as soon as I open the box, a wave of nausea hits me as I take a whiff of the food. “Umfff!” I clamp the lid shut.

“What’s wrong?” Shruti looks at my green face quizzically.

“Dunno, maybe the food has gone bad… the smell is making me want to throw up.”

“Let me see,” Shruti takes the box from me, ever the mothering, scolding one. ” Food’s perfectly alright, it’s just your excuse to skip lunch again…you’re gonna disappear soon if you don’t eat.”

I’m staring at the box now and another wave of nausea hits me.

Sagar, as always, is eating in complete silence. He seems to sense something amiss and prefers to be silent.

“Shruti,” I whisper dazedly, “I think we need to get a home test kit.”

Descending from the steps of the cafeteria, I text Sajjad. ” I hope you know that I’m going to kill you if this turns out to be what I think it is.”

10:00 p.m.

I’m reading the instructions on the kit. Sajjad sits next to me, sufficiently chastised. I am, however, more at peace.

“Well, after all, its been a year since we got married, and we’ve had a lot of fun together…it won’t be so bad…,” I’m telling myself more than I’m telling him. I always wanted more time with him, more things to do with him; he had been the single biggest dream I ever had.

“And anyway,” I continue,” It’s God’s will. He could have done this earlier and that would have been really bad…I’m sure I can cope with it now. I’m at peace and i’ll accept it with grace,” I know this is just me trying to make myself feel better, trying to accept the inevitable. But at some level I do feel calm inside.

Sajjad is silent. The way he mostly is. I know he’s listening.

“Well, let’s wait for morning. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe I just have food poisoning!” I feign cheerfulness that I don’t truly feel.

Dec 27, 2011

9:00 a.m.

I’m in the washroom with Sajjad. I think I’m at peace. We watch the small rectangle with beating hearts. One line. The control line. Two lines.

I’m pregnant.

I thought I was at peace.

I’d always seen in movies that women break into tears of joy and men swing their wives up in arms on learning that they have new life coming. I did break into tears. But they were tears of shock. Of dread. Of dismay.

And they were tears of wrath–wrath that I unleashed on the man that I loved most in this world. Wrath of having my dreams washed over, wrath of having my carefully created magic universe destroyed.

And wrath at all those who had wanted this to happen.