Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Diary – A Short Story



As I'd said here, I'm posting the short story The Diary below:

The Diary

Today is our thirteenth wedding anniversary. The thought left me numb the whole day, making me physically and mentally inert. I kept wondering whether she remembered or had forgotten, leading a blissful life with her new husband. Though it didn’t hurt as it did a couple of years ago; I had never imagined that we’d end up like this.

The unscheduled call from Priya was reassuring, as usual she just asked: “How are you Appa?” Her speech was so clear that I couldn’t imagine her face while listening to her. Maybe, I felt like that because her mother had remembered that it was an important day in our lives, which made me very happy. Even otherwise, I always look for improvements in Priya, however small they are.

The memory of Nirmala Auntie’s sullen face is still vivid in my mind. She had insisted that we both go to her clinic to discuss the ultra-sound scan report. She began with the history, saying that she was only a glorified midwife at the time of my birth some thirty years ago; just prescribing iron and calcium supplements for pregnant women. “The times have changed, now we depend on these things to decide the fate of a life even before it begins to exist as such,” she was saying looking into the report. I felt that she wished to change its content by the intensity of her gaze; “I think we should terminate this pregnancy -,” she was saying this while looking at the blank wall behind us. I couldn't gauge the seriousness of the statement at that moment but the shrillness in the response to her utterance from my wife surprised me. A simple “What is wrong...?” had a shattering effect. I always thought that she was the most pragmatic woman one could find on the face of earth. Nothing could move or shake her. For her everything had to have a logic and rationale. You'd learn to see the things happening around you with a clear perspective that is not effected by your emotions was her constant refrain.

Afterwards, whatever went on in Nirmala Auntie's cabin had a dreamlike quality for me. I couldn't register their conversation though I'd see their lips moving and their faces taking odd shapes as they spoke. Though, some words like chromosomal defect, Down's syndrome, mentally retarded and abnormal stuck in my head. “I wish to have this   baby.” “You see, it is not the nine months of pregnancy but the time after the baby is born; the struggle will begin then and it won't end soon. It will be lifelong. Anyway, both of you discuss this – we've got some time. It is up to both of you to decide.” Those were Nirmala Auntie's final words before we left her that day. We had not known that there was something called pre-natal detection of deformity in the foetus. Our impression was just that this fancy gadget was to know the gender of the baby before it is born (which is legally banned as leads to female foeticide). But, the modern day gynaecologists insisted on using this fancy gadget at least three or four times during the pregnancy saying that it was just to insure that everything was normal with the baby. And, above all it is an expensive affair.

I waited for a couple of days for her to initiate discussion on the topic. But, she’d become unduly silent after coming back from the clinic and even had extended her leave from work, which happened very rarely. Sometimes I felt like giving her a jolt just to bring her back into this world. At last I broached the topic asking her when we will go in for abortion. I just got a look in response that ordered me to stop. But I persisted; making a case out of whatever scratchy memory I had of Nirmala Auntie’s talk. I was prepared for a full blown argument and had the conviction that by the end she would see the practical side of it and turn around. But, I think I'd misjudged the maternal instinct in her as the only response I got was a grunt or a 'hmm'. “Everything will work out, we've to make it work”, was the lengthiest reply from her. My patience had started to wear off. I was feeling agitated in spite of myself and blurted out; “these kids look cute on TV and their stories make Reader's Digest worth reading”. But, what proved to be the final nail in the coffin of our relationship was my question; “How can we love an abnormal baby?” I never thought it was a harsh or inhuman question as it was made out to be. I had just voiced a practical concern. Still, it drew us apart.

It was utter disbelief and shock for me; I'd expected same kind of approach from her. Anyone knowing her well would have thought that she will go for abortion. She always claimed that she cannot be an irrational sentimental fool that guys like me expected her to be while I was chasing her while doing my MBA. She was my senior by a few semesters. As a single child bought up with lot of aspirations – parental as well as her own. She hardly had any friends out of the campus, knowing her life outside. Initially, I was interested only in casual flirting. But, her repulsive attitude intensified my desire to know her. Again, it took me lot of effort to take the relationship to the next level; there were always conditions; I shouldn't be childish, there was nothing called love whatever I was feeling was just a brief fascination and it shouldn't hamper our studies as our parents had invested their hard earned money for our future. And, unlike me she could stay aloof or distant she desired as if she had nothing for me. It used to make me insecure that she may not have anything for me. But, it didn't matter to her a bit; 'take it or leave it' was her only consolation. So, the onus was on me.

A few months before her final exams I gathered the courage to propose to her and made her read the last paragraph of Vikram Chandra's Commonwealth Award winning book Love and Longing in Bombay:    I might ask her to marry me. If we search together, I think, we may find in Andheri, in Colaba, in Bhuleshwar, perhaps not heaven, or its opposite, but only life itself. She just ruffled my hair in what I believed was a show of affection and told that we'd wait and see what life has got for us outside the campus.

    And, to put it simply as they say in the most abused cliché that 'the rest is history'.

People advise me to move on, to search for a new life-partner as if my heart is a moss infected water tank that can be cleaned with bleaching powder and filled with fresh water. Maybe, I'll be able to do it in future (as I've started writing this nearly after nine years. Had stopped it on the day we went to meet Nirmala Auntie to discuss the first scan report). But, as of now I don't feel fully detached from Priya and her. Though, I can smile without a reason when I wake up in the morning as I used to do before. The guilt has virtually subsided and I've got semblance of a balance and as of now that is the best I can do as far as moving on is concerned.

*********


This story was attempted as an exercise for Kochi Writers' Club, an informal gathering of friends with aspirations to write in English, in this exercise we had to use a passage of literature and I opted for the last lines of Love and Longing in Bombay by Vikram Chandra.

PS. A few posts I'd written about pre-natal detection of disability and other such things here, here and here.

5 comments:

Alexis said...

Great story and very nicely written. Do it often.

nilu said...

Great finally you polished it to perfection, good to see you active and keep more of these coming

Amrita said...

Well done Paresh, very good story

Tme said...

Really good paresh.....expecting more stories from you.."..

Eat Pray Love Journey-Anju Menon said...

Wow , an excellent read . Very well written . I wish it had continued to a fully fledged story , however I loved it ��. Beautiful , keep writing more .