It was fine spring, a Saturday afternoon. Yet it was different than other holidays: without movies, without friends, without novels, without home. I was not in my room, not in a shopping mall, not in a movie seat, but in the waiting lounge of Saroj Hospital. Appearing marginally excited from outside, I knew I was severely overawed and praying within. On the other side of that hard stared door, a hoard of careful hands was working on a small womb to bring out a yet genderless child. Bhabhi was undergoing a Caesarean operation. Mom, dad, Bhaiya, his 3 friends, Bhabhi’s parents and I had two things in common: we were terrified, we were praying.
Shifting positions on same couch since last night, I was hungry, thirsty and sleep-deprived, yet attentive and praying. I stole a glance at mom and saw the same fear in her eyes that was in mine. There shouldn’t be another miscarriage. For better, she will deliver a living baby. For worse, this will be my second stillborn nephew/niece and probably the last attempted.
Not much acquainted with reproduction dynamics, I however knew Bhabhi’s ultrasound reports were similar to last time. Plus, yesterday I heard bhaiya mentioning the doctor that Bhabhi hasn’t felt any movement since last few hours which—I knew from his eyes—was fatal. Owing to Bhabhi’s bad health, I had silently gone through the process of adopting a child over last week. I cursed myself for my cynicism and started Hanuman Chalisa once again.
After what seemed an eternity (about 50 minutes), that known nurse walked out with a midwife. The way we all stood up, one could have sworn one of them was wearing bombs, and yet we could neither walk towards, nor away from them! As if to tease us, the midwife turned midway, and nurse strolled towards us with an impossible poker face. While trying to read her face, I knew everyone around me was doing the same. Does it get good? Does it bring bad? Or is it her general expression? Before anyone fainted of silence or anxiety, the seasoned nurse neared us with a thumbs-up. That was the most potent use of a mundane limb, I thought!
‘Madam has delivered a boy. Both are healthy. Wait for 10 minutes and you can go in. 2 people at a time’
A boulder came off my chest, and off many more! Mom was in tears, dad released an audible breath as if he had been holding it all this while, Bhaiya was numb. Dad shook him and said… ‘congrats … papa, thanks for our promotion’
While everyone was sanguine, I realised I was thanking God for saving Bhabhi more than giving me a nephew. I ran to bhaiya and bear-hugged him. As I released him, I felt a wet drop on my neck. Tears of respite. Then, lot of hugging, kissing and thanking followed. His friends cheered loud and atmosphere was too jovial to imagine the tension that existed minutes ago.
With high rush of adrenaline and no idea of what to do, I ran out of Saroj Hospital to nearby Gulab sweets to grab diamond shaped Kaju Burfis.
‘do kilo Kaju Burfi, jaldi’, I almost yelled over the counter!
Frowning at me, the man passed on the order to one of his aides! Desperate to check bhabhi and baby, I realised I haven’t informed anyone I am here and pulled out my cell phone. 1 unread message it said. It was from my friend Karnik.
Abhimanyu met a road accident this afternoon. He’s no more.
Motionless, I only moved my eyes again and again to read those 10 lethal words. Abhimanyu is dead. My friend since 10 years, he is no more. Road accident. Car or bike? Was it his fault or someone else’s? Will it matter now? His job at TATA. Uncle, aunty, his younger sister. All those memories. Night-outs. Parties. Gymming. Jogging. Cricket. It’s all dead. A 24 year young body is a carcass since.... Since after this afternoon.
And a thought hit me like a speeding train. My nephew came this afternoon, and Abhimanyu left. Was it simultaneous? Isn’t he too young to be a part of God’s balancing act? Could a departing Abhimanyu have possibly met an arriving unnamed nephew? I was suddenly tired, fatigued and paralysed, unable to cry, react or feel. Should I rejoice the birth or mourn the death?
Then irony of my dead friend’s name hit me like his ghost. Abhimanyu: the name of a warrior who mastered fighting battles while still unborn, and yet met an early and dreadful death. My numb limbs were indecisive what should I go to offer first: sweets or my shoulder? Lost in this thought, a loud noise shook me to reality,
'Bhaisahab Burfi le lo apni, pata ni kahan jane ki jaldi hai’
The man at counter... did he know how painfully accurate his sarcasm was?
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