Short Story: The Child

Rana Preet Gill

Rana Preet Gill

“The boy is not coming to work today” she told me glibly and moved away banging pots and pans in the kitchen cupboard. I must have looked visibly upset by this new piece of information thrown my way so casually as I wiped my face with my fingers deftly catching hold of beads of sweat. I was running the ladle round and round in the large tumbler when she noticed that I was not even listening to her.

“ The boy is not coming to work today” She shouted a bit louder than usual and I ended up burning my hands as they touched the hot contours of the tumbler. She was quick in action and within no time she was sitting in front of me with burnol in her hand while blowing my hands cold with the warm air she exhaled from her mouth in short bursts. I watched her antics for some time but then I peeled my fingers away from her touch and pushed myself a little farther. She was sitting on the edge of the bed a little too close. She must have sensed it because she skirted away from the room.

“Arre Burnol to deti ja” I shouted behind her but I could hear the sound of running water  gushing in full speed now. “Zara dheere se!” I shouted at her with an uncalled vehemence and she did stop for a moment but soon she started it again and now the clatter in my mind overpowered the outside noise and I was submerged into grief of my own. I looked at the bed, half of which was covered with leaflets. Every time a ray of hope flickered I deposited myself in front of my god in the garb of a white coat and felt demurred by my own inadequacies. I have been married for ten years now and every single day for the past seven years has been spent in the hope of a child. A child of my own!

The first three years were like a breeze of fresh air when none of us wanted a child and we enjoyed our making out sessions with a fresh gusto every time.  I was not the kind of woman who would have jumped into the sweet world of doodling and whiny kinds in the first year of marriage. I did not hate kids but I did not love them enough to jump into the band wagon to make one soon enough. Waiting for those three years was a bad decision! I should have known back then but how did I know the time would never wait for me. Rakul would harbor this grudge against me in the coming years. Our joint decision to delay the baby was suddenly turned into my one-sided act of refusal as I was dubbed as the one who did not want kids in the first place.

A battery of tests indicated a blockage in my fallopian tubes. The doctors told me that though the embryo gets conceived but because of certain inexplicable reasons it is not able to lodge itself in the rightful place that is uterus. As a result, miscarriage happens. I do not understand all this biology of child bearing. I do not know my body is complicated whereas conceiving a child is the easiest thing in the world for some. I never knew that my world would spin around visits to the infertility clinics until I was diagnosed with this strange sounding disease.  For me it was a disease but the doctors tell me that it was a minor aberration that is usually cured by medicines or procedures. But for some strange reason in my case both failed to work. Rakul has not been supportive in this whole fiasco. I wish he was! At first, I used to harangue about the same, about his lack of apathy but slowly life settled into a routine and all the brouhaha around the baby settled into a calm acceptance of life being made to trudge without the endless charades of minding a little one, cooing him to sleep in my sturdy yet soft hands and the pleasure of kissing him a million times. Life was good but it was devoid of all these pleasures.

Things between me and Rakul were not out rightly bad but they were not pleasant either. We still went for the movies though we did not held hands. We still went for the get- togethers with our mutual friends but we did not have much to converse with them. They would be always worried about things that sounded alien to me. Talks about nappy rash, sore throats, vaccinations, school admissions dominated and the air felt heavy and hung with disappointments and disgruntlements of those who had the most prized possession in the world, kids! I would have done anything in my capacity to don the beautiful kaftan of motherhood but God kept me bereft of this emotion only to add a jewel in the form of Aman in my life very soon.

He was a young boy of five who lived near the tenement of our household help whom we affectionately and conveniently called Bai. It was a recognition of some past karmic connection at first sight. I knew this boy was meant to augur the start of a new hope in my life. I knew he has initiated something that would be difficult to sniff out soon. In a family of ten he lived a life of utter neglect and I knew that his absence in a brood would not make much of a difference. I knew they would easily let him go and in lure of money the family would happily let me adopt him but Rakul had to be kept in loop about this whole development.

That day when amidst wine and canopies I brought up the issue with Rakul he was livid. “If it is not my blood it would not happen” he thundered and brought his glass heavily on the table leaving me with negligible hope and no options. I looked outside the frame of the window that sealed the house to outside noises. The façade of a home was empty right then with not even the subtlest of movements creating a rustle but my mind, pregnant with thoughts and desires was shedding copious amounts of tears. My heart cried for the child who was waiting outside the confines of the safe existence, for my love and devotion without which he will wilt and would not grow and achieve this full potential.

I tried talking to Rakul again but every time this conversation was initiated he hissed in anger and sprayed venom at me. I did not know how this talk reached Aman but he started calling me Mummy some days when Rakul was not around. The bai must have told him about my inherent desire to adopt him and take him up as my son. He was quick to act on my thoughts and adjusted well with this new framework of relationship trying to play the part of the son I never had. Though he was employed in my home as domestic help I rarely asked him to do anything. I only told him to sit and study in one corner of the drawing room. He was given no tasks to accomplish. The bai started treating him as my prized possession giving him whatever he demanded to eat. She knew I would be more than happy with her kindness and in turn would reward her suitably. And soon Aman turned more demanding trying to make inroads in the house by venturing into other rooms.

While Rakul was greatly peeved by my accordance of special treatment to the boy he did not show it. But he did not treat him any good. For him the boy was still a household help so he would often ask him to do something or other for him. The boy, my boy grown comfortable in this home while just lying around, eating and sleeping would desist these little transgressions on his freedom. I did not think he could make out much from the study books I provided him because he would often slip into my bedroom and watch TV while I was in the lobby or kitchen or the washroom. Rakul had not come to know about these little freedoms the boy was accessing in his absence. But one day I was left shell shocked when I saw him rummaging through my clothes trying to find something as I stood a little away from him wondering what he intended to do.

“Aman, can I help you?” I asked him hiding my annoyance. I was not expecting him to do the same even if he was my own boy.

“Mummy, bukh lagi hai.” He smiled at me and stopped his search for some time. I could not smile at him at that moment. My lips tried to curve upward to give a hint of smile but my faith in him was a little shaken. I did not dare say anything to him to break the sanctity of the relationship as he resumed watching TV sprawling on my bed claiming my space. I sheepishly went towards my closet and adjusted my clothes whom he had so disparagingly scattered, the folds disturbed and even my panties and my bras were scattered in the closet. I looked at him angrily but he did not even care to apologize.

I was about to say something but then suddenly I suffocated my words in their own tracks. I was thinking of adopting him and what if this little act of accusing him of stealing breaks his heart whereas I did not even know he was doing it. He might have been looking for something to eat. I called Bai and poured my anger on her by scalding her with my words.
She immediately turned more servile and brought a variety of snacks for Aman to gorge upon. I patted his head lovingly as he ate with a voracious appetite despite the fact that he was always eating whatever he could lay his hands in the kitchen.

And the next month when the expenditure of the kitchen was being calculated I was astonished to find that it had sky rocketed. I tried to hide the details from Rakul but he grew suspicious when he saw the monthly statement of my ATM card. He called me from the kitchen one day and we had a heated discussion on this matter. My head throbbed, my insides ached and I vomited what little I ate that morning. I fell unconscious not before I challenged Rakul, “Aman will live in this house or I will kill myself before your eyes.”

When I woke up, the strong chlorinated smell nauseated me. The retching continued and the nurse helped me to throw up in bedside pan. “Congratulations, you are expecting!” Said the nurse shyly. And life was never the same. That ride from the clinics to home was comforting and full of possibilities. As I reached home bai was sitting ashen faced in front of the gate.
“I went to buy groceries, locked the door. Someone broke the lock. I checked the rooms. Your almirah is a mess. I think he took the money and I think it was Aman.”

The color of my face, a pinkish hue was not transformed by this little alarming piece of information. I smiled coyly, “Let him go. We will buy new locks.” And as a I walked inside my home with little steps placed at careful intervals placing a leisurely hand on my womb the bai looked at me perplexed and resumed her work in the kitchen.

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