I clenched my fists hard. Faking a convincing smile was now getting difficult. I tried to sit still, but with another loud scream, I found myself running down the stairway as fast as I could. How can you find silence in a maternity hospital? As I ran further, bouts of screams from every labor room kept me company.Damn! Maternity hospitals have the ability to liven up dead-meats out of their graves. My neighbor, Radha was an expecting mother.Due to a sudden financial emergency, her husband had to leave for Afghanistan to make some quick bucks, leaving me to attend to his wife’s sweet and sour cravings. The water break came quicker than expected and that’s how I landed in this maternity building, pacifying the nervous and sweaty Radha but her high decibel screams had literally piqued my patience to a level, I was ready to give a BFF company to her screaming sessions if I stayed with her for 5 seconds more. A group of elderly, sari clad women who had entered the room, obviously pulled in by Radha’s constant bawling, murmured among themselves that it must be a boy. Yes. Such a naughty little guy, who makes his mom cry out of pain, It has to be a boy.They reminded me of Radha’s aunt, a self declared clairvoyant who, in a quest of making people believe on her future-telling skills, dressed herself in fancy robes, huge bindi and oodles of kohl around her round eyes. She usually turned up looking more witch like than clairvoyant-ly. In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Radha used to receive more than usual bouts of kicks from the boxer inside her tummy. Radha’s aunty, Bhavishya Dai(yea! She even changed her name to a seemingly clairvoyant type, literally) had held a translucent ball and a glass stick in her hands, closed her eyes and announced the arrival of a Male child. She said God whispers in her ears. Mmm, I wanted her to join the Indian Army. Prediction of attacks could save so many lives but my husband brushed aside my thoughts terming them to be bizarre. Duh! A second shriek in 1.7 minutes made me go crazy. As I was making a hasty exit through the ground floor lobby, I spotted my left neighbor Sureeli being shoved into another labor room. Whoa! It seems my entire neighborhood was on a mission of adding more water to our already overflowing Indian population vessel. Since, I found an extra pair of earplugs in my lower pockets, I decided to drop in on her to say Hi. I entered the room anticipating cries and bawls but it turned out to be the quietest room in the entire wing. Sureeli was lying down quietly, caressing her stomach. I tiptoed to her and asked her if she is fine. She smiled and informed me that all credits of her well being goes to the little girl in her belly. I asked her how could she be so sure that it’s a girl. She told me that in her 9 month long journey of pregnancy, she never had to go through any kind of trouble. No pain, no more than usual kicks. It all went very smoothly. And even at this stage, at the end of those 9 months, her shots of labor pain is not unusual. So, she decided, it has to be a girl. Afterall, a girl cares for her mother more than anybody else and girls are so quiet, well behaved. I opened my mouth to tell her how wrong she could be but better sense prevailed and I left the room quietly wishing her best for the delivery.
A good one hour later, I heard that Radha’s delivery was successful. She had to go for a c-section though. There were some major complications. The child had wound the umbilical chord around its neck and the position had changed. Doctors prophesied that the chances of seeing the child alive was less than 5% but after a struggle of 40 minutes,the child finally made its way out, healthy and beautiful. Doctors named the child ‘fighter’, who fought its way out of major complications and breathed.It was a girl. I went to see Radha. She was fast asleep but her kid was not. I held the kid in my arms and looked at her. Such a pretty little thing! Suddenly I felt my tee go wet. I held her up, close to my face to take a look if the infant had really wet my tee or was I drooling(yea I know! weird thought!), when I felt a sudden tinge of pain due to a sharp dig of nails on my chin. I touched my bruised chin lightly and looked at the culprit. The new entrant was showing its combat skills already. Before I bashed by an infant, I decided it’s better to put her back on her cot and move out. I made my way to Sureeli’s room to inform her that her new born girl now has a new girl friend to play with. Radha and Sureeli were my fast friends and stayed at the two sides of my house. The delivery doctor who was standing outside Sureeli’s room informed me that her delivery was a breeze. She had no problems and an absolutely healthy child popped out, crying in a perfectly healthy manner. I rushed in to congratulate her. I held up the baby in my arms. It smiled at me. Aww! She was so cute. Sureeli interrupted my thoughts to tell me that it was a ‘He’. It was a boy. I was surprised that her predictions have gone all wrong. Nevertheless, I congratulated her and left for my place. I badly needed a change of clothes.
Radha and Sureeli returned home with their little treasures after two days. Days passed and the kids outgrew time.Life sailed smoothly for Sureeli as the child turned out to be a very obedient one.He was a quiet little child whose actions were commands of his parents. Radha, on the other hand was on the verge of shifting to an asylum. Not a single day passed, when she did not receive a complaint about Madhu. Neither she, nor anyone else in the neighborhood could ever forget the first day Madhu went to school. Radha returned home bidding Madhu a tearful good bye. Before Radha can go to pick up Madhu from school, she found a group of ladies in front of her house. Everyone of them asked her not to send Madhu to school again. On enquiring, she came to know that Madhu had instigated all the children of her class to snatch all the begging bowls from a group of blind beggars who sat in front of her school. Each child had returned home with coins and a begging bowl in their hands. All the mothers, terrified of any unknown skin disease inflicting their child, had rushed them in to sanitize their hands.Radha turned towards Madhu in anger and asked her the reason. With an innocent face, Madhu replied in broken syllables that the beggars were constantly fishing their bowls asking her to take them away. Madhu apologized to all the mothers and explained them that Madhu being a small child, had misunderstood and committed a mistake unintentionally. Years passed but Radha was not able to fix Madhu in one school. She had to keep changing schools every few years due to constant complaints. Madhu was not a typical girl, but she was not a tomboy too. Her wardrobe did not include just ripped Jeans and tees. She wore dresses too, like other girls but her persona never matched with those of other girls. While a few girls chose homescience, some other who were more stupid chose Science as streams of their career, Madhu chose to be a bike racer. Often, on days of praying ceremonies and functions, I would catch her smoking, sitting on the pillion seat of her customized bike. She made an unusual sight. Clad in heavy, gleaming embroideried Indian dress, wearing a broad gold necklace she would perch herself on the heightened pillion seat making rings out of the cigarette smoke. Radha was fed up of her. When she tried to teach her to do things that normal girls did, she used to point out casually that she did not like things that normal girls did. She did not want to learn the tricks of using her beauty to trap guys like normal girls. She hated pink. She did not understand why would anyone want to waste time by gossiping about people you hardly know. Sureeli was also fed up but not like Radha. She had an entirely different problem. Her boy,Rocky was anything but true to his name. He loved everything that normal boys of his age never thought of doing. He had been a good student in his school throughout. He did not learn to ride a bike because bikes hardly interested him.With oiled and parted hair, neat clothes and a homely life, his goal in life was fixed. He was determined to be a Chef. Often on the same praying ceremonies and functions, I would find him in his house, clad in a dhoti, helping his mother in making snacks.Sureeli had asked him a lot of times to go out, make friends, ride a bike and do things that normal guys of his age do. But he would give a shy smile and hover into the kitchen, to try out new snacks for the day. Normally, Rocky took great pleasure in doing the daily household chores too, like sweeping, cleaning, dusting and sometimes washing utensils as well. Sureeli fainted the day she saw him trying out his sister’s bangles. She immediately rushed him to a doctor and asked him to find out if something was wrong with him. The therapist examined him and then informed Sureeli that he was absolutely normal. On being asked, Rocky replied that he was trying the bangles because he wanted to see how they look. The thought that its a girl’s thing, did not cross his mind. He was absolutely cool about it.
The thought which must have crossed your minds right now is, what happens next? Do Madhu and Rocky change themselves? Do they realize they are misfits in this society?
The Answer is a big ‘NO’.. While in a parallel universe, Madhu would be expected to marry a handsome, well settled guy at 22, stop smoking, dress up and look beautiful as a girl is expected to be,be a mom at 25 and be a second mom at 28, In this alternate universe, she goes on to follow her passion, continues to wear leather jackets, rides a bike, colors her hair blue, makes rings out of the cigarettes she smokes, enjoys a hearty laugh and earns 45000 per bike race. Well, sometimes she likes to dress up like a girl too, but she knows that her primary job is not to look beautiful for people to see all the time. What about Rocky? He joins the Indian school of cookery, finds his place among India’s top chefs, still likes to clean his house, sometimes tries out his sister’s bangles and just loves his job. Well, he still does not know how to ride a bike but has no regrets about it.
My point here is, since our childhood, we are shown two different pictures of a boy and a girl. A picture painted,phrased and stamped by our predecessor X, zillion years ago and we are asked to fit it in our minds and turn it even more cliched . Madhu and Rocky are two different personalities.A classic case of misfits in this patriarchal society. But, if they are satisfied and love their lives, doesn’t that fulfill their sole purpose of being born as humans? Way to attain nirvana after life, is something only God knows but to attain nirvana while you are still alive, you have to listen to your inner self and act on it. You have to keep yourself pure, unadulterated by blocking the unwanted buzz our so called society creates when it sees something different.I wish we were surrounded by people who loved their lives.Maybe then, they would have realized the purpose of their own lives. Maybe then, our universe would have been as beautiful as this alternate universe. Maybe, someday, it will be. Amen!