On the cold mountainous region, blouseless kids were chasing their twin friends’ mother, Manisha. Their father, Arvind, in his over-sized school prom attire that he probably bought 15 years ago, was cheerfully racing and hopping around his wife. A few seconds later, instead of walking directly to his wife who was barely a metre from him, he jumped towards her like he was participating for hurdles trials in a track and field meet.
“Hate this song!” Nithya fumed in frustration at the Kuchi Kuchi Rakkama song which was being played on the music channel. Nithya sat so stiffly against the couch and with such a straight back that she gave off the impression of a strict school principal, an impression not helped by the way she wore her hair pulled back severely into a tight and twisted bun.
Gautham who didn’t expect such an outrage from Nithya, queried “Maniratnam movie, man? Isn’t he your favourite?” and adjusted his couch-slouching posture to a more comfortable position.
“Not anymore! After marriage, Maniratnam’s films don’t make any fucking sense to me,” Nithya interjected.
As Gautham was slouching backwards on the couch, he paused for a second to look at Nithya who was on the other end of the couch.
“wha-what happened?” He spluttered, scrunching his eyebrows together and tipping his head to the side.
Arvind, on the television screen, continued pleading, “Potta pulla pethu kodu. Hey potta pulla pethu kodu!”
“Dumbass! That depends on your sperm,” Nithya instantly retorted.
The heroine, on the screen, stormed by bee-like kids, replied, “Podum ennai vittu vidu.”
( **Potta pulla pethu kodu- Give me a baby girl
**Podum ennai vittu vidu- Leave me alone)
“Exactly! Exactly! Just leave her alone, people!” Nithya’s words were spat out with the ferocity and rapidity of machine gun fire.
The pressure of the raging sea of Nithya’s anger met Gautham’s sanity, “What’s wrong with you, Nithya? Why are you so agitated?”
The house-warming ceremony was supposed to start at an inconveniently auspicious timing, 7.27am on a Sunday morning. Aunty Megalai’s newly-bought bungalow loomed pompously behind creaky iron gates, flanked by rows of skeletal trees crowned in crimson, swaying gently to the chilly morning wind. There must have been at least 25 windows on all 3 floors facing the porch. It was a house that just didn't know where to stop. There was nothing picturesque or attractive about it in the very least; it was just thoroughly ugly and forbidding.
The relatives were slowly strolling in like late-comers calmly walking into the cinema theatre. It was already 8.15am and the annoyed priest kept reminding Aunty Megalai and her husband to start the prayers.
An unenthusiastic Nithya was standing at the left corner of the living room where the priest had laid the prayer things. Gossiping aunties were having hell lots of fun chattering and laughing at an unbearable decibel. Unsupervised kids were doing dangerous stunts on every piece of furniture that they could reach and grab hold of. Football jerseys had unofficially become part of Indian Men’s traditional outfit. Most of the men who were presented there, didn’t resemble any of the strong, fit or handsome football players, but were in their favourite football jerseys. Unapologetically flaunting the layer of fats bulging from different parts of the supposedly football-fit body. Some were enjoying the free-flow of Teh- Tarik. Some were waiting for breakfast to be served. Nithya who couldn’t handle the boredom of standing there like a part of a mannequin challenge, sent a whatsapp message to Gautham.
Nithya: Where r u moron?
Gautham: at the roof top garden. The view here is awesome la. come up nithu.
Nithya: I am standing here like an idiot. Why did you leave me here alone?
Gautham: I asked you earlier. you said you didn’t want to come up. Now, become my fault?
Nithya: yes, your fault. I hate functions. you forced me to come.
Gautham: Come on Nithu. Don’t do this. ok ok come up to the roof top. Ragini Aunty and her family are here also.
Nithya: no! I am not coming to join that uncivilized dynasty.
The loud noise emerging from the porch, made the unruly crowd inside the house to run towards the main door. Aunty Megalai, her husband, other aunties and uncles assembled at the porch readily dressed for a song sequence. “Hit it,” one of the aunties shrilled. The famous ‘lungi dance’ blasted, waking up other residents in the estate.
The aunties and uncles were turning their hips and beer-bellies in slow-motion. More slow movements for a fast-paced song were part of the choreography for these arthritis patients. The videographer captured every single action by bringing his hand-held camera close to their faces and zooming in on their waists and bouncing paunches. The amused crowd clapped and cheered the uncoordinated dance group while the priest was impatiently waiting at the altar. Vigorously swinging their hands and flagging their scarfs like, brandishing weapons, the unintentionally funny upper body exercise also known as welcome dance ended. It was such a messed-up and execrable execution that it put Modi’s demonetisation plan to shame.
Gautham: What’s that loud noise from downstairs?
Nithya: Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The two-hour long prayers started and the priest was made to do his job finally. Blessed smoke filled the house. The priest sprinkled holy water on everyone and in each of the rooms, signalling the end of the prayers. A proud Aunty Megalai invited everyone to enjoy breakfast. She saw Nithya standing at the corner.
“Eh Nithya!! Why standing alone?” Aunty Megalai hugged Nithya tightly. Every embroidery spike on her saree pricked Nithya like a sword piercing through a battlefield soldier’s chest.
Nithya, curling her lips in disgust, “Am…good..aunty.”
Aunty Megalai squealed, “Where is Gautham?” Just as she asked, Gautham joined them.
“Eh, Gautham! How are you?” Aunty Megalai tapped both her hands on Gautham’s cheeks. Before he could answer her question, she shot another one at them.
Without any prior notice, Aunty Megalai using her right palm, rubbed Nithya’s tummy.
“When Gautham? When? When are you going to make me a grandmother?” Aunty Megalai kneaded Nithya’s tummy like a dough.
Nithya went red as a beetroot and radiated heat like a hot pan. One could have cooked a three course meal on her face. She wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole. But there was no rescue from this awkwardness. It was absolute torture. Utter humiliation.
Raising her eyebrows in shock and embarrassment, Nithya silently mouthed, “What the fuck is she doing, Gautham?” and gave a death stare at Gautham. He shrugged his shoulders and stood there like a lost sheep.
“Nithya, you are getting old. You don’t have much time you know?” Aunty smacked Nithya’s arms with the same palm that did the free tummy massage.
Continuing her pro-baby speech, “Nowadays ah, young people like you don't know what is important. A child is a must. Only with kids, a family is complete.”
Gautham flashed a fake smile. Nithya was seething in anger.
“Don’t need to wait anymore….you all….” before Aunty Megalai could say more anger-inducing statements, Gautham swiftly,
“Aunty… we will go and eat first. Talk to you later, aunty” and pulled Nithya away from the danger-brewing zone.
“Nithu, atleast smile a bit la. You look like you are going to kill someone,” Gautham calmed her, and gave her a cup of coffee.
Nithya leaned against the pillar at the porch. An angry frown creased her forehead. Heaving a long-suffering sigh, Nithya squinted her eyes and blasted, “I told you I hate coming for all..these…”
A hard slap fall on Gautham’s back. “Hai Hello Gautham!” Aunty Megalai’s husband’s loud greeting howled and reverberated through the entire estate.
“Hi uncle, how are you? Your house is really huge and nice,” Gautham extended his arms to give a congratulatory handshake. Totally ignoring Gautham’s gesture, the uncle was pretentiously shocked to see Nithya.
“Nithya, you are here too? What a surprise?” The uncle looked as startled as someone expected that there would be no surprise dance in a Punjabi wedding. Nithya forced out a centimetre-wide smile.
“Nithya, when are you going to give me my grandson?” Uncle asked shamelessly. Nithya’s forced smile transformed into a deadpan expression. At some point a switch flicks in the heads of Indian aunties and uncles. From "marry, marry, marry" they go "baby, baby, baby".
“Gautham, that day I went to watch movie. They show this advertisement about heybaby.sg. very touching you know. Government these days doing a lot for people like you all,” guffawed as though he cracked the century’s best joke.
“Those days ah, government say stop at 2. Stop at 2. But your aunty and I. We only stopped after 6 kids,” recalling his ‘Olympic medal streak’ in the event called ‘uncontrollable dick’, the uncle snorted like a pile of rocks plummeting down a hard-surfaced slope.
He inched forward, lowered his head and whispered, “Actually your aunty wanted more kids. I only told her 6 is enough.” and that hysterical laughter went on for another round.
Nithya moved towards the edge of the couch, looking disgruntled, “Why is he telling us what to do?” slammed the cushion on the glass coffee table.
“And that Megalai. Every time I see her. She ask me the same damn thing.”
There was graveyard silence. Silence clung to them like a poisonous cloud that at any moment could choke the life from them. Silence seeped into their minds and hearts.Nithya could exactly remember the doctor’s words on that dreadful day, 3 years ago. Those devastatingly painful words kept echoing in her mind. Gautham got up to sit by her side and touched her lap to console her.
“Where were these people when I was dying?”
His comforting touch and the soundless echo made her weak. She cupped her hands over her mouth and closed her eyes. She was trying to suppress the emotion and the tears rising within her. As tears collected at the corner of her eyes, she realized that she was in a helpless position. It felt as though a part of her was kept under the flower pot in the damp and dark hibernation. Soon, the dam of tears within her exploded and flushed down her cheeks.
Nithya dashed into the public toilet. Pulled a few pieces of toilet paper from the roll. She took out a super long maxi pad from her bag and pulled her jeans down slowly. She quickly removed the panties and put the thick maxi pad into her new underwear. She pulled up her pants and washed her hands. Suddenly she felt the blood dripping out from the sides of her underwear and start to trickle down her legs.
Frightening thoughts race through her mind. The maxi pad was full of blood within a minute. She had been warned by my doctor to call him immediately if a maxi pad ever filled up this quickly. She changed the pad again. That one filled up faster than the first. There was a huge roll of toilet paper on the wash basin. She ripped off about half the roll and stuffed her panties with it, and ran out of the bathroom.
The paralyzing hurt spread through her body like icy, liquid metal. She clenched her fists as she walked in jet speed to the hospital which was nearby. She sprinted up on the road as blood seeped through all of the paper towels and began to form an outline on her jeans and create long stains down the front of her jeans, and pool in her shoes.
When she arrived at the hospital, she was quickly placed in an examination room and evaluated. The serenity of the room was tainted by the sounds of warning beeps from the machines she was hooked up to and the room became flooded with strangers. Her jeans and the bed she was transported there in were soaking wet. The exposed parts of her legs and feet were encrusted with a thick, bloody coating. She touched her knees and the dried blood was so thick that it fell off in huge, thick flakes. Between her legs she felt a warm surge followed by a huge blood clot that oozed its way out into her underwear.
She felt pressure building in her vagina and another clot started to push its way out. She held her legs together, afraid that if she pushed this one out, the blood would gush out at an even faster rate. Her stomach pulsated in constant waves of pain. Finally her gynecologist arrived. He then asked her to spread her legs so he could examine her. She knew that as soon as she opened my legs the blood clot would come bursting out. He examine her and sure enough the blood clot came rushing out along with a huge amount of blood. He wrote some notes down on her chart and told her that she would get her lab results in a couple of hours. It seemed like an eternity.
The silence of the waiting room made her blood as cold as the chilled air blew through the filter of the air conditioner. Nothing in the room made the slightest sound. It was as if fate conspired to keep her in the noiseless environment, not daring to whisper the reassurance she craved. The hurried footsteps and the squeak of a door brought her heart racing as fast as a gunshot. Her head snapped in an instant from gazing out of window with unfocused eyes to the report the doctor was holding on to.
“I’m sorry to tell you that you lost the baby.”
The grief surged with every expelled breath, reaching higher peaks. Tears began to spill from her helpless eyes. She remembered seeing her first sonogram when she was only about five weeks pregnant. That little egg sac was supposed to be a beautiful, energetic and fun toddler out in the world. The awful hollowness and the waves of wretchedness threatened to engulf her mind, body and soul. Everything seemed to stop. She was devastated. She felt like the only woman in the world who didn't have a baby.
It turned her whole world upside down.
Gautham’s phone vibrated, breaking the silence in the living room.
Gautham wrapped Nithya in a warm swaddle of his chest and arms. She didn't want to leave. It felt as if when she was in his arms all her pain went away - mental and physical, mostly the depressing pain. If she could only stay in his arms forever, safe from the world's harmful people.
"Sorry, shouldn’t have forced you to go for the function today," Gautham apologised as his arms encircled her waist and his head lolls to her shoulder.
He leaned backwards and looked at her,“But you know what?
I have an idea.”
Gautham checked his phone. Went to his room and came back with a piece of paper. He handed over his boxing gloves to Nithya.
“Put this on, Nithya.”
“What are you doing Gautham?"
“What are you doing Gautham?"
And he brought her to the balcony where the punching bag was hanging. He rolled a few pieces of blue tac and pasted on every corner of the paper. He pasted the paper on the centre of the punching bag.
Nithya stifled a laugh seeing the image on the paper, “What is this, Gautham?”
“Picture of Megalai and her husband dancing. They just sent it over whatsapp.”
“Picture of Megalai and her husband dancing. They just sent it over whatsapp.”
Gautham like a boxing coach, blew the whistle and screamed “Round 1! Here you go!”
After ripping apart the picture to her heart’s content, Nithya burst into a deep loud hearty laughter, “Enough! Enough, Gautham”
Removing her boxing gloves, she snuggled in, "I love you"
Joyful laughter filled the balcony. The bundle of joy melted all the anguish like snowballs in a microwave. This created a small vacation, a blessed relief from all the distress.
Gautham pulled her closer. "I love you too, Nithu ma."
“Oh! And a confession. I actually…..” Nithya hesitated.
“I actually like Maniratnam .”
“So who do you like more? Maniratnam or me?”
“Hmmm… of course, Maniratnam”