Maternity Leave (Hindi Short Fiction)

Hansa Deep हंसा दीप

Author: Hansa Deep

Translated by Rajni Mishra

 

   After delivery, the time that was passing with the little baby was like her days and nights were made for her. A sweet smile had started playing on her lips as she was turning three months old. She could see all her sleepless moments reflected in that smile. After working till the completion of nine months, she had taken leave– not taken rather, she was forced to take. Working on a high post gives a long list of responsibilities you can’t ignore even if you want to. Secondly, she loved her work so much that she wanted to work for some more days so that she could finish all her work before going on the long leave. She didn’t want the work to be disturbed during her absence.

   Even the last month of pregnancy had been very active. She didn’t feel the ninth month approaching in her busy schedule. Sitting on her chair as she was taking the decision for an important deal, the baby took her decision to come into the world. Labour pain had started. She checked the last message and confirmed that all the work had been done till then, before leaving for the hospital. Within four to five hours of reaching the hospital, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy child. Now, both husband and wife, Keith and Shiju were on cloud nine. Everything had taken place according to the plans. Owing to their capabilities both of them were the best at their workplace. The credit goes to their foresightedness.

Rajni Mishra
    Leaving the corporate world and entering the world of mother and child was very exciting for Shiju. Some of the starting days went in giving rest to the tired body and others, feeling the small hands and feet of the little baby.

    Her maternal instinct was evoked as she clasped the delicate parts of the baby to her heart. A feeling which made the word ‘mother’ meaningful. A world where the bond between the mother and child gets intense with every moment of the day.

   Now, the only music that echoed in the house was -the baby’s crying. Each and every corner of the house had given shelter to her things. Although she didn’t walk, her footsteps were heard on the floor.  She was very small but lying on the bed, she used to raise the complete house on her head. Her crying started every hour or half an hour, whether it was day or night. Sleeping, crying, feeding and excreting, these four were her favourite tasks and she was an expert in them and kept Mama engaged in all this. She didn’t understand that her mama worked on a high post in a big company. She commanded everybody there as a high command and this little baby had engaged this high-flown executive of a company around herself.

   She just smiled, while fulfilling the incessant demands of the baby; a meaningful smile which said that even a child knows the art of keeping someone around him. She looked at the child with love in her eyes, felt and heard her voice and understood that if you need to get your work done, you have to yell at the top of your voice. Yelling at such a high pitch will bring even the inanimate objects to you, leave aside humans. In the initial days, Shiju was very conscious and became alert to every sound of the baby but when this continued incessantly and didn’t seem to stop, she started slowing down on the baby’s calls.

   Then, the happiness of the perinatal period, which was at its zenith in the beginning, started subsiding with the passage of time, automatically.

    Her anxiety started increasing as the baby turned four months old. She started getting bored of changing nappies the whole day long. She started missing her old routine in between the bottles and diapers. She started missing the old days – taking out freshly laundered clothes from the almirah and getting ready for the office; meetings and emails; a long list of jobs to be done; dealing with big and small tasks one by one, the day used to pass so quickly. She remembered doing all the work efficiently. That comfortable table chair; the continuously ringing phones, those meetings– one after the other, such a busy time when it was difficult to find time, even to take a breath. The pleasure of working and the facilities of her post and salary kept haunting her mind again and again.

   Now the days being spent confined in the home started vexing her deeply. She wanted to hear many other things besides the voice of the baby – the sound of high heels touching the ground, the hasty running marathon to catch the train and discussing nature with some strange passenger in the hustle and bustle of people. She felt a stranger to her own routine. Her footsteps had become feeble at home. Now, she felt as if she was dragging herself between the kitchen and the cradle.

    She used to feel hungry, but her appetite was not the same as it used to be in the office. Her pale face and tangled hair spoke for themselves in the mirror. She started missing this and many other routine things. Everything had changed. Her small, cute replica was in front of her eyes who needed Mama’s attention twenty-four hours a day. Her mama’s qualified visionary mind looked far ahead into the future. A thought struck her mind again and again that, 
“Her promotion date will be shifted to next year due to one year leave.”
  “Her subordinates will come to her level.”
  “She had been the boss for years, now that status will be gone.”
   “She will lag behind in the arithmetic of senior- junior.”
    “This one year time will put her in the back row, completely.”

   Entangled in these thoughts her thinking started moving towards bigger issues and before the thoughts got a direction, the baby started crying again. Her irritation increased. She also wanted to fulfil all the needs of the baby but she was not at all disciplined, just started yelling. Shiju had started getting bored doing the same work one after the other. She liked the company of her baby but there was something which was pricking, not letting her relax. Anxiety was also increasing. She could sleep only in instalments. As soon as she slept, the baby put up her alarm of crying. It seemed she had decided neither to let Mama sleep nor think. Neither could she sleep nor concentrate on reading.
   She was fretting inside, ready to explode.

   Some days passed like this, and then her irritation started coming out in everything. In the end, one day her patience gave away and she exploded. The baby was innocent and didn’t understand anything, so Keith was the target. As he was getting ready for the office, she spoke to him in a hard manner, “I am tired of all this, my life has become non-productive completely.”

 “Your production is so big, you are raising the baby!”
    “You know, Keith, what my work means for me. I am not doing anything for the last four months. Going from this room to another room, from kitchen to bathroom. Now I want a change. I am missing my friends, my work.”
   “What are you saying? There’s still eight months leave left, Shiju.”
   “Yes, I know. This thought is troubling me more.”
    “We can go for a holiday, what do you say?”
   “Holiday!”
   She glared at Keith as if he had said something comic in a grave situation. “We can’t go on holiday with a four-month-old baby. Never.”
    “Why not? We can choose a place where the weather is alright.”
    “With a four-month-old baby?”
    “She’s our child. What if she is four months old? She will love the vacation. Let’s go to Hawaii islands.”
   “What about the weather there?”
    “It is the best these days.”
    “But”
    “No ifs and buts, you only give your consent. Rest will be done.”
    “We’ll be taking a risk.”
   “Every day you are taking a risk.” Shiju felt good when Keith said this romantically. She tapped Keith playfully, and said, “You’re just speaking without thinking, we will need the baby’s passport to go to Hawaii islands, what about it?”
   “Leave it on me, we’ll apply tomorrow. The passport will be in our hands in two to three weeks.”
    “You fill in the papers, we’ll submit them tomorrow morning.”

    The process of papers filling was going on, meanwhile, Keith had to go out of the station for an emergency meeting.

   Shiju had prepared all the papers, but she got stuck on one thing – father’s signature was missing on them. Keith had to leave in a hurry. What to do? A long time will pass if she waits for him. And the tickets are also not booked. Let’s check the deal of air tickets for the flights. She was amazed to see that the tickets were available at half the rate. If the tickets are not booked immediately, the charges will be doubled. She booked the tickets immediately, without giving a second thought. She thought that Keith would also get angry if she got late.

   When she gave the good news to Keith over the phone call, he appreciated her, “Wow, Shiju! This will be our most economical vacation at the most expensive location. We will not get a better chance to visit Hawaii.”

   Shiju was happy that she had made the most of the time she had. Now, only one thing was left, the passport was to be made. There didn’t seem to be any problem with it. Keith’s signature was not there on the papers, but it would be quite late if she waited for him.

   Normally, it comes in two weeks, but no risk was to be taken, so Shiju proposed, “I’ll do your signature.”

    “Are you sure, you will be able to do it?”

   “Yes, what’s in it, I’ll do” She answered confidently. She felt there was no necessity to think anything about it. No ifs and buts. They are just applying for their baby’s passport. They are her parents, what have they to think about? It would be stupidity to wait for Keith, the complete plan will fail if the passport does not arrive on time.

   With super confidence, she tried to make the letters like Keith once or twice and then sent the application. She sighed in relief at how cleverly she had handled the pressure of time. She started feeling proud of her cleverness and farsightedness. Keith also praised her, “Working in the corporate world, you have become an expert in making quick decisions.”

    Shiju felt elated

   Now she started preparing for the journey from Toronto to Hawaii Island with great enthusiasm. Now, she felt happy doing the baby’s routine jobs too. The wind of change was pleasant. They had to leave in just three or four days after Keith’s return. The intensity of going out of the home was so much that the suitcases started getting filled. There was a long list of the baby’s things too. This will be needed, this will not be needed! Only one thing was left till Keith’s arrival – the arrival of the passport. Everything else was ready for the journey, they only had to leave for the vacation. Everything was so well planned that no loophole was possible. A big smile came on their faces when they got information about a post from the courier service. Their faces were glowing with happiness at the thought of boarding the plane. At last, the long-awaited papers arrived.

    Both of them opened the envelope with great happiness. Their eyes broadened instead of smiles. This was an official notice, accounting for a forged signature. Keith and Shiju were stunned. Both of them were standing as if they had stepped on an axe and their feet were bleeding badly; they felt somebody had pulled the Earth beneath their feet, and they were dangling in between.

    “Forged signature? I am your wife, how can my signature be forged?”

    Keith and Shiju were looking at each other. One thing that both of them were trying to say was “What happened if she was the wife, she had done the signature of her husband.” It was a forgery. The case had been registered. The plan of the Hawaii trip had become a complete failure. They were bewildered. The baby was crying. Today for the first time Shiju also wanted to cry with her. She wanted to cry loudly so that people could understand that she had signed with good intentions. Keith and Shiju were stunned, they could foresee the result of this signature.

    “What should we do? Should we go to the office to apologise?”

    She nodded her head. Had nothing else to say. She had never got such a reward for her cleverness. What has this happened? It was not possible to go to the office to apologise. So communication through letters started. The reasons given were – “Husband had given consent, had to go, the tickets were booked etc. etc.” The officials were not ready to hear anything. How could they accept? The whole world knows that husband and wife are together only till they are staying together. As soon as there are differences between them they move apart as two ends of the Earth and the Sky.

    The same happened. They started blaming each other. Now their high tones had become one with the cries of the baby and were being heard by the walls of the house.

   “You were in a hurry.”
   “You also agreed to it.”
   “You could have stopped me.”
  “You were already in a bad mood, you wouldn’t have waited.”
   “If you had to undergo this trauma of staying in the house and hearing the baby crying the whole day long, your mood would also be sour”

    After the childbirth, the house which was bubbling with happiness was now completely shattered. This was not a small thing. One silly mistake had put the label of a convict on them.

    When the tickets which had been booked for $3000 were cancelled, no refund was given as the tickets were getting cancelled at the eleventh hour. Now they were running around the court.

    The matter was not only serious but extremely serious.

    She was thinking about the time when she had become very anxious. The anxiety was so intense that she was not ready to wait. That was a time and this was also a time. Now they were waiting for the decision to be in their favour. It seemed as if they had willingly given an open invitation to the problems.

    The matter was going out of their hands. There was no other way except to engage an advocate. Thousands of dollars had been spent in extinguishing the fire which had been set by her anxiety. It is unfair to break a law even if the intentions are fair enough. Destiny had put that time on its name. After an elongated tense period of six to seven months, the case was finally settled after a fine of five thousand dollars. In addition, the advocate’s fees, the ticket money and the invaluable peace of mind had completely shattered the peace of maternity leave. The time which could have been spent in great peace had been filled with great tension due to her few anxious moments.

   The day of the judgement came. The penalty was paid without any second thought. After a long time, Keith and Shiju were again standing on their land holding each other. Their visionary eyes were on the baby who had completed one year and was trying to stand holding the legs of the chair. She fell, got up and fell again. At last, she held onto the chair tightly and balancing herself, she stood straight.
********
Dr. Hansa Deep
22 Farrell Avenue, North York, Toronto, ON – M2R1C8, Canada
001 647 213 1817
hansadeep8@gmail.com

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