The little girl was standing at the threshold of the room, unable to understand the fuss around the two babies in the cribs beside her mother’s bed in the hospital.
Her mamaji, was standing at the only window in the room, deep in his thoughts and her mother was sobbing with occasional hiccups. The little girl waited for her father to take them home so that she can have hot, soft and fluffy rotis, her mother was famous for. Today was their third day in the hospital and she was fed up of cold food coming from mamaji’shouse.
Mamajiturned from the window. ‘What’s taking him so long, he should have been here by now?’
‘He will not come,’ her mother replied. One of the babies squirmed, her mother mechanically rocked the crib.
‘What nonsense is this? Children are a gift from God, how can he not acknowledge them! It has been two days and no one from his family has come to see the babies!’ He started towards the door and said, ‘I will go and call him from the reception again.’
Were they talking about her father? He wasn’t like that! He will come to take them home. He loved them. The little girl frowned.
Her mother started to sob again. She had been crying off and on since her two baby sisters were born. Sure they looked red and squiggly and cried for milk at times, but looked cute when they yawned or opened their eyes. She had been helping her mother for the past two days and had got a little attached to them.
‘He says, he is not going to take you and the girls home.’ Her mamaji came thundering inside the room. ‘He will send Neha also and wants a divorce!’ Saying so, he sat heavily on the only chair in the room with his head in his hands. Her mother stopped weeping and looked listlessly outside the window.
The little girl stood frozen at his words. That’s impossible! Her father was sending Neha here and would not be taking them home? But why? Her little eyebrows furrowed, she looked at her mother and then back at her mamaji.
‘Ma?’ She called out. Her mother continued to look outside without any change in expression. ‘Ma!’ she repeated, pleading now.
Her mamaji beckoned her and cuddled her in his lap. Her mother looked at her and started to cry again.
‘Papa will not do that, he will take us home. He loves Neha, ma and me.’ She reasoned trying to comfort her mother. To her chagrin, instead of smiling and agreeing with her, her mother burst into another inconsolable bout of crying. The eight year old could not understand anything and started to cry herself.
Night came and still her husband had not sent any word or message. Her brother and his wife had left, consoling her with the promise to talk to her husband the next day. But she knew nothing will come out of any discussion. Her husband and mother-in-law would not allow her to step inside the house. She was carrying twins. They had made very clear that if she gave birth to daughters again; she would have no place in the house. Her mother-in-law’s astrologer had predicted that there are only daughters in her chart and they wanted a son.
Dry eyed, she looked at Naina, sleeping on the couch and fingered the phial under her pillow. If she was not there, at least he would keep the daughters, even if he married again. Her daughters will have a roof on their head and food in their bellies. Will he take care of them if she was not there? Who will feed and bathe them? What if they fell sick? Who will look after them? She wasn’t sure? She wasn’t sure of anything these days? Was this the end? The final journey and her destiny. A tear escaped from her eyes and got soaked in the pillow. She took the phial out.
‘Ma?’ She came back to present with a jolt.
‘Ma…’ Naina was awake and stood beside the bed. Naina wiped the tears with her little fingers and said, ‘Don’t worry ma, don’t cry. It’s alright. I will take care of you all. I will never leave you.’
The phial slipped from her fingers and crashed on the floor.
She pulled her joy… her pride on the bed, hugged her hard and started to cry. This time the tears were of hope and courage!