It’s a girl.
So you found out?
Nothing’s all that illegal.
Thank you so much.

Ma, doctor says it’s a girl.
Anmol, we don’t want it.
But ma, Neelanjana wouldn’t agree.
You’ll have to make her come to it. But no! Not when I tell her mother. How will I tell her. Anmol beta it cannot come. Not now. Not after the hawans, the daily puja, the pilgrimage we took, the offerings I promised God, all for a dear son. After all this, even after all this. No! we cannot let it come. It’s all the devils doings. The devil in Neelanjana’s mind. She kept telling me, time and over ‘ma, its a girl, its got to be a girl’. The devil in her mind. She’s possessed. We will have to free her. Ask her for abortion.

So they have discovered me, my father and my grandma conspiring against me. Listen mamma. They have found us. They have found me. But see how late. I am already a big girl. “Can they do anything to us now?”

Mamma did not answer me. She was lost in a reverie. Her heart was boiling next to me, so heavy was its breathing. She was in a bathroom next to the drawing, leaning against the door, listening to my father and grandma conspiring against us. She stayed there for long lest she should be caught eavesdropping.

“How could Anmol do this to me? Isn’t he the one who calls himself a human rights activist, fighting against all kind of atrocities? Is that the real he? And he talks of a devil. Devil in my mind? Devil in my…”

Mamma was thinking aloud wiping her hot tears with her starched cotton odhni. She is a mother after all. Mother of her desires, her dreams, her happiness, her pains, but she cannot be a mother to me. She isn’t allowed. She is not a mother to be. She is a mother not the master of all that she thinks she possesses.

“oh! Neelanjana how young we both are. Isn’t it too early to think of a child?” Father spoke to mamma, caressing me, her belly. Mamma as always was silent.
“Let’s gather roses while we may. After that what shall remain, we’ll grow old, rear children, grandchildren, the burden of a family.”

Mamma! say something, say you wouldn’t let it happen. Say you need me mamma; say I’m closer to you than he is. I am mamma; I’m a part of you. I am you. No! She wouldn’t speak. She is afraid of him. oh! You coward mamma, you cannot let me die in your womb. You know how old i am? Remember the day I was born? When you first bled in your teens, when grandma said “oh my daughter is a woman now. This blood is your children yet to be born in flesh. It would keep gushing out until you give it a form and then there will no blood, only flesh.” Remember you asked her “What will it be mother- a girl or a boy?” and she said “Whatever you wish for my child” and you said mother, do you remember? The date of my birth? You said “It will be a girl, a beautiful girl. It is a girl and there i was.” Every month you gushed me out in blood, always saying to me “you haven’t a form yet, my baby. But you are here, always here, in my heart, growing everyday.”
Where are those lovely frocks, the frills on them, the pink, white, blue ribbons you stitched to adorn me with? You fancied me in your dreams, your daughter a fairy. Now! Don’t you want to see me, your beautiful daughter? Now i am flesh, all flesh. I’m blood no more. Tell them mother I’m blood no more that you can gush it out on a napkin, pack them in black polythene and forget about them- your unborn children. But now you sleep, unaware of me- you two. “ Mother! Are you listening?”

She started belching early in the morning, puking everything she had eaten at night leaning against that wash basin. But now everything she had eaten is out. She does not stop. She has finger in her mouth, while she belches- her stomach, her entrails contract to push out something- what is it? Her stomach has nothing else but me. She wants me out? No mother, please! I’m too big for your gullet, for the wash basin, for the tiny little holes that sieve your dinner, for the drain pipe, mother! I’m too big now. But she wouldn’t stop. She is eating again, So that it may come, so that it brings me along.

She sings me a lullaby as she swings herself on a sofa. She is singing me to sleep or is it death mother? No! They wouldn’t do anything to us. She is praying. She is singing. She is calling someone. She is pleading him. But she is talking of another world, another life, another birth. She sings the same old song “agle janam mohe bitiya na kijo , ab jo kiye ho data aisa na kijo” But you are my god mother. This life mother? “Will you not let me live it, mother.”

Father and grandmother made all attempts to convince mamma but she wouldn’t agree. “What for?” She asks them but never waits for an answer. She will never be able to hear from her love, Anmol when he says “Because it is a girl Neelanjana. Mother wants a boy and then our dire straits, from where will all the money come for her education, her wants, her wedding and the groom? Just think of it. Who will ever love her the way we would. Can we allow ourselves to do such an injustice to our own child? Then you know it yourself, what life it is for a girl in a city like ours. High time we think of population control, see where our country is heading, think about the generations to come, there will be no water, no food, no fuel. Think what will happen.”

Think mother think! Think of yourself. Think about me. I do not want to die. I want to live with you, in your care, I want to listen to your stories, I want to know how i came, I want you to see me grow into a lady, I want you to pat me to sleep, to comb my hair into pig tails and drop me to school with a bag, and a tiffin and that red water bottle mamma, the one you kept for me in your diwan, the chocolate pieces pencil box…

“Thank you mamma. I am your flesh now. oh, the smell of your skin, your starched cotton odhni, your caress, you are so beautiful.”

But where are you now? I cannot breathe. They are digging your backyard. There is a stomach of concrete, the hard shell, they are pushing me in, and I am crying, I am calling you but they have gagged my mouth with your cotton odhni. They have tightened the lid. I cannot breathe. Where are you?

They must have told you, the nurse too conspired against us along with that the doctor you call your friend. They must have told you.”It was a still born.” You know mother? They have dug me to death. But i am growing. The concrete stomach has delivered a still born. The worms are feasting on me. The ants are taking my flesh away, holding me by their mouth, moving in a bee line. Do they know of beauty mother? Your moon baby is eaten away. What they know of art? Of creation? They know only instinct, desire, food, stomach. They do not even ask me who I am. Why I am here. They have no purpose. They only have holes from where they come and go.
I see there is someone digging in. Is that my brother? He is observing the ants, the food they have stored. He is digging the holes. “Is he looking for me?”

Your chants to the sun god, your kalshiya water has nourished a rose, a bunch of roses. How beautiful you are, still. Mother, I know you think of me when you open your diwan for Diwali wash-keeping. How you cry over those frocks you stitched for me. But I am not alone. I have so many sisters. We have bloomed in your backyard and we play with the wind. You wouldn’t let the mali pluck your red roses. You will pick them yourself to decorate your Gods, the Gods that give you sons.

****

© Copyright, Tina Rathore.

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