As the curtain flew by Maya saw people in pertinent haste. Among all these haste she caught a sneak glimpse of her nervous looking husband, Vikram.
A calm disposition in front hid a sea of contemplations behind. The constant popping of the knuckles was bearing witness to it.
It was the second time in 35 years she had been inside a doctor’s cabin and a first since her 8 years of marriage. Maya remembered how much it had hurt when she had fell from her bicycle trying to ride it the very first time. Father had told her to wait in front of the gate as he went inside to grab his coat. The bright pink bicycle with its spotless white basket in front was too tempting to resist even for a moment. So Maya had set out on her own. In her excitement she had forgotten to notice the approaching motorcycle of her childhood crush. One forward thrust on the pedal and she was face to face with Nayan. The ‘eyeconic’ moment enthralled her from the reality and her inexperience as she missed a heartbeat she missed the pedal too. The slope of the dune in front of her gate caught her off-guard and she fell. There were approximately four stiches on her chin as it had found a stone nearby to dash itself into during the fall. The only annihilation to the agonising pain was the gentle touch of Nayan. Ah! Time stood still as the eyes met and his fingers touched her face and his lips said, “Are you alright?” “Never been better” she desperately wanted to say; but the excruciating pain on her chin and the silent reprimanding eyes of her father for flouting his orders made her decide against the affirmative.
Time had been the greatest healer since the bitter breakup with Nayan. Maya had found solace on the shoulders of Vikram. The only person who had pulled her back from the darkest of hours and helped her in regaining a grip on her life. He had been her constant friend, philosopher and guide. And marrying him was the greatest gift she could ever give herself.
Maya was shattered as she finished reading the message on Vikram’s cell phone. She did not want to, it was a mistake; a mistake which cost her peace of mind and invited an endless surge of sleepless nights. The constant bickering of her in laws and her parents for having a child added to the miseries. They had been ranting the same tune ever since their marriage entered the third year and which they both conveniently ignored. But even Vikram succumbed to the incessant pleas for a child. He also started to think that after 5 years into the marriage it was time for them to start a family. Maya had rebutted all these proposals as she was finally having a high flying career she had always dreamt of. The endless corporate presentations, the paparazzi chasing her for an interview, it was too much to let go. But now it seemed the only option left for Maya to hold on to her failing marriage.
Her eyes swelled up as she checked the home pregnancy test calculator. The flow of the seconds as the double pink stripes appeared were the longest in Maya’s life. It had been 3 years since Vikram and Maya have been trying for a child; and three years since Maya had seen the message on Vikram’s cell phone. She had been silent on the matter with Vikram who was growing apart with each passing day. It was then Maya decided on trying for a baby, at last. Her only hope, to give in to the growing child demands, to save her sinking ship.
The baby had suddenly stopped moving as Maya woke up on a cloudy Sunday morning. It was pretty unusual for her baby to be sleeping at this hour. It was usually awake even before Maya started her day. Infact it’s the constant kicking that wakes her up from her sleep. “It must have tired itself from all those constant movements and the incessant kicks”, Maya thought. She finished the early morning chores and sat down with a cup of herbal tea. She never liked tea; she had always been a coffee fan. But her pregnancy was the most desired one and she could not risk it with her quest for caffeine. But the only recourse to her craving for a hot cup of beverage was the herbal tea and she settled for it. The baby hadn’t kicked yet. It has been almost two hours since she had woken up from the bed. As she took the final sip, Vikram walked into the room rubbing his sleepy, droopy eyes. He saw a worried look on Maya’s face and sat down. “What is wrong Maya?” Vikram asked gently putting his hands on Maya’s shoulder. The touch rattled Maya from her deep concerned thoughts about her baby. She looked up at Vikram with eyes slowly swelling up and said, “The baby hasn’t moved since morning Vikram. I am worried. I do not know what to do. I thought it must be sleeping and will wake up as I sit down on the chair with my tea and start kicking up and down. But it hasn’t Vikram, and it’s almost 2 hours now”. “It must be still sleeping Maya. I am sure everything is fine in there. Don’t worry.” Vikram said. The kind re-assuring words were falling on deaf ears as Maya resumed her thoughts. “Let’s go Maya”, Vikram said as he started pulling her. “Let’s go to the doctor and get you checked.” Maya always wondered how Vikram knew exactly what she thought, how he knew her so well and how much dependent she was on him emotionally. “I need to change, Vikram”, Maya said quickly giving in to the haste. “No time to change Maya, let’s go. No one will look at the way you have dressed inside the maternity ward.” It had been quite some time since Vikram had been so concerned about her. The busy daily schedule, the diminishing amount of time they spent together, and the appearance of another woman in Vikram’s life had taken a toll on their happy marriage and an even longer friendship. But at this moment it seemed that everything had annihilated into thin air; the painful nights; the endless loop of squabbles of accusations and victimisations, all gone.
The expression on the nurse’s face changed as Maya stopped talking. She immediately picked up the phone and dialled the gynaecologist’s number. “You have to come immediately Dr Sharma, it is an emergency”. The word ‘emergency’ struck the wrong notes with Maya and Vikram. They looked at each other and then at the nurse and asked, “Is everything alright?” “We need to get you inside the observation room immediately”, she said without even looking up.
As the gynaecologist put her hand on Maya’s right shoulder, she almost jumped out of the steel stretcher where she was sitting while engrossed in her thoughts. The memories of the past had come flowing almost immediately and inundated her from within. Days which had been spent consciously avoiding each other’s presence and nights spent in the pretext of work, life had come full circle with Maya. There were endless times when she had felt she had been transported back to the dark days after her break up with Nayan which had left her devastated. The passage of the days to weeks and months seemed like an illusion. Life had stopped having a meaning. Aimless days and sleepless nights were the only trusted aides. But the announcement of this pregnancy and this baby had brought her life back into track. Maya had slowly realised the importance of Vikram in her life and had started to cherish him. The gentle touches that had been taken for granted previously were moments she yearned for. The little ‘chai time’ moments in the morning, the dining together at the nights and the short strolls afterwards were like little drops of happiness; drops which Maya wanted to catch and keep inside a box lest she might lose them again. And these moments of happiness and this renewed closeness was due to this baby, their baby. It was the little flickering light in their lives which was holding them together and not letting them and their marriage fall apart. It was her only ray of hope which Maya desperately wanted in her life.
“Please lie down on your back and hold your breath. Do not stiff your body; just relax. It might hurt a bit but do not worry not much. We need to check on the baby physically as we are unable to find a heart-beat.” The gynaecologist’s last few words kept on resounding in Maya’s ears, “unable to find a heart-beat…”
The words that are dreaded by a mother; the worst nightmares; that would wreak havoc in Maya’s life were finally said to her. “I am sorry Maya, but your baby is dead”!
Maya was too shocked to react. A pale Vikram lifted her hand gently and cusped it. Maya turned towards Vikram with a bewildered look on her face and started at him blankly. The flurry of emotions within her had left her delirious. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“Maya, we will have to induce labour pain into you. Are you ready for it?” The gynaecologist asked Maya. “We need to get it out of your body. It might take some-time for the labour pain to happen. So if you want you can go home and come back when you are in labour or you can wait in the hospital. It is up to you to decide.” “I will wait”. The only words that Maya managed to say; words that took away all her strength. She still hoped that the doctor was wrong and her baby was just sleeping, safe inside her womb. The last straw that Maya was holding onto; a bleak chance that might help her baby to survive; her only prospect of happiness in her shattered life.
As Maya opened her eyes it took some time to jostle her way back to reality. As her eyes and her mind familiarised to the surroundings, Maya saw Vikram sitting beside her on a chair with her hand safely clasped within his. The last thing Maya remembered was the immense pain that had left her drained out completely. She had given her best shot for her baby to come out in to this world painlessly.
The nurse put her baby on her breast. She had neatly wrapped it in a white fluffy towel. Eyes closed and a serene expression on the pink face. The perfect red lips, the rosy cheeks, the flawless skin; it was perfect. Tiny little fingers touched Maya’s face as the nurse placed it on top of her and said, “It’s a girl Maya.”
Tears rolled down as Maya pulled the baby closer to her face and whispered gently in her ears, “Hey pinky pie, how are you? I am your Mama. You have been sleeping way too long, come on get up now. Aren’t you hungry?
As she spoke to her baby, Vikram placed one hand on his daughter’s head and the other on Maya placing a gentle kiss on each head and whispering almost silently, “I love you both.” As the words rolled out from his mouth, Maya looked up at him quietly. As their eyes met Maya knew exactly what her baby meant for her and for them.