Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Last Laugh

I am dead, almost. But why, what had happened? Memory fails me. With an immense effort I lift my eyelids, the harsh light of the room blinding my eyes I search for the picture; Pari being kissed by Suresh and me on each of her cheek. It was the picture I opened my eyes to every morning, Pari’s kohl lined light-brown eyes shone through the picture even now. Dressed in a baby pink frock with puffed sleeves, her scarce but curly hair (unruly even then) scrupulously tied into two fountain ponies, and a toothless grin that could captivate anyone, she was the cutest baby ever, as every baby on the face of this earth is.

The picture was taken two years back, when Pari was barely 4-5 months old, it was her first picture in the studio, her eyes had danced from one flashlight to the other and then to the camera, hardly resting in one place. But how had she posed and given the best of her smiles when the photographer was ready to take the picture, as if she understood fully well what was happening. “She is a born actress, so comfortable in front of the camera.” The photographer had remarked, jokingly. How would ‘her’ first picture be? I thought. And my hands instinctively reached for my stomach to feel her, but I immediately sensed that something had gone horribly wrong, and my world crashed down in an instant. It was coming back to me in patches now and I so wished that I had died without remembering, without going through it all over again.

Is it a girl or a boy? Nine months of suspense, expectance and nervousness. But not in this age of advanced technology and Suresh wouldn’t wait. I had reluctantly agreed for the sonography, forbidding him from disclosing the result to me. But the result couldn’t have been more obvious; I had never seen him so preoccupied. Suresh wanted a boy and it was plain from his disappointment that it was a girl.

A girl! Pari will have a little sister! Will she be like Pari? Will she also be as tiny and delicate just after birth, will her eyes be as big and unblinking, will her hair be as unruly, will she also sleep, curled up like a cat, forehead tense in concentration but lips curved in a serene smile? Will her favorite game also be entangling things into my hair and then extricating them with great skill? Will her antics also make my otherwise boring day, exciting? Will she also hold the same power over me; will her tears make me anxious and her laughter make my moods soar? Questions, left unanswered forever.

It was yesterday (or was it?) when Suresh took me to the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine checkup, only if I had known of what lay in store! Suresh was quiet all through the drive, he had made up his mind, I being used to his mood swings didn’t give it much of a thought. But I started having misgivings the moment I was brought into this room, it somehow didn’t feel right, but the Doctor assured me. Events after that are a blur, but there would’ve been complications, which are bound to happen in an abortion so late. I remember having a dream though (or was it a dream?), I was in a pitch-dark room running away from a masked man, soon he had me cornered, his knife glinting, as if it had sensed its prey. I cried and begged, but was he even listening, I still remember his eyes they were, so unmoved, so business-like, so inhuman.

But can words ever describe what I am feeling for Suresh now? Is a human being capable of such an intense hatred? Why did he do this to me? Is the desire to have a son, so strong, so maddening? Is it a boy or a girl? Does the answer to the question matter so much? Why is ‘girl’ a totally unacceptable answer to some? Questions left unanswered again, but can any answer be convincing enough to justify a deed so wicked?

People are shouting outside, I hear Suresh too. “It was a boy, you killed my son, you killed him!” he is shouting. Some one is trying to pacify him “The technology is not fullproof, Sir,there is always a margin for error.” But this enrages Suresh even more, and the placatory voice is drowned in agonizing screams and sobs.

I no longer hear the voices, it’s as if calm has descended over my whole being. A strange sensation is flooding my body, and of all the feelings, strangely I am feeling elated. And so, in spite of the tears streaming down my eyes, in spite of the powerful pain searing my heart, in spite of knowing that I am going to die, inspite of knowing that I’ll never hold Pari in my arms again, in spite of having just lost a part of my soul, I laugh and laugh and laugh.
--A mother

Sex-selective feticide is so rampant in India; it sends shivers down my spine whenever I read
about it. And ironically it is more common among the so-called educated class .In many cases women are forced into it, but many a times women are complicit, even willing participants, in both the cases it is a gross violation of human rights. Laws are there but only on paper. Detecting the sex of foetus, without citing proper reasons, is illegal, but clinics have spawned up everywhere and they are doing brisk business. Mobile clinics frequent rural areas which otherwise are untouched by technology. It is easy to see that these clinics are catering to the demand of the society, but that does not make them less unethical. Amidst talks of women’s rights and women’s liberalization, every single minute a girl goes ‘missing’ in India and the clock is ticking fast.


Anupama Kondayya said...

Brilliant story...this is an issue that deserves more mention and attention and you have pioneered it on the Blend. The story echoes concerns not just about the morality of humans but also medical ethics with so many defaulting clinics and hospitals on the front of sex detection of the foetus. As a (fortunate and surviving) girl myself, I would like to say Thank You for writing about this problem.

d SINNER!!! said...

awesome write up and indeed concerns a grave is a shame that instead of poor people, it is the educated upper middle class and rich class that goes for this!!!

Aditi aka Jiggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aditi aka Jiggs said...

gr8 read
indeed a heart touching story
femail infactiside is prevalent in India since time memorial, and with the new technology its gettin worse.
i dont get it, whats the big deal in havin a male child ???

Artster said...

well written

it reminds me of the beginning of My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk...

Sur said...

And thank you for coming up with this theme, because the first thought that came into my mind about violation of Human Rights was Sex selective foeticide.

@d sinner
Thanks, yes thats what I felt is the most serious thing about this issue, usually education is supposed to eradicate evils, but apparently not in this case.

Same here, even I don't get it!

Hey thanks!I have read 'My name is red' and its one of my favs. Maybe somewhere unconsciously I was aping him.