Smita worked in a multinational company in the IT industry for last 5 years. Even though she was only a drop in the ocean of those who were a part of the Indian IT dream, she was extremely contended with her professional life. She loved her job which was both a reason and result of her long working hours. Even when at home she was constantly expecting a client call or manager status call, thus remained engaged with her job almost every waking moment. During weekends, she set out to achieve her creative goals. In 2 years of her marriage she had decorated her 2 BHK rented flat and re-decorated it with DIY stuff she made herself. Some of these stuff included night lamps, plant stands, bathroom mirror etc.
The responsibility of handling this super restless soul entirely rested on Sharman. Sharman was Smita’s boyfriend of 8 years turned husband of 2 years. Sharman often wondered from where Smita got her energy reserves replenished. He often blamed Smita’s workaholic attitude to the various health issues she faced. These allegations did not deter Smita from working full steam throughout the week. Instead she seemed to add more bullet points to her daily TO Do List all the time. The latest one was Yoga. “This will help in physical as well as mental wellness.” Smita argued, “Why don’t you too join me. It’ll be so much fun!” Sharman raised both in hands in submission and got back to reading his latest fiction pick.
Yes! That’s the modern power couple lifestyle that Smita and Sharman led. They worked hard throughout the week, partied harder on Friday nights through Saturday and relaxed to their hearts content the entire Sunday. But today was a slightly different kind of a Saturday. Sharman gave Smita a pensive look as they waited at the airport lobby to receive Smita’s Mom. Smita gave him a sly smile in return, she completely understood what that look by Sharman meant. They were both bracing themselves to face the hurricane that was about to hit them when they saw her emerge from the crowd at airport arrival gate.
“Mamma!” Smita waved to draw her mom’s attention. She hugged her fervently and Sharman bowed down to touch his mother-in-law’s feet. In no time they had put her luggage in the boot box of their car and were on their way out of the airport. Smita knew that her mom was on a mission, but dreaded the moment of confrontation, so she started cheerfully, “So Mamma! Did you bring my favourite Gond ke laddoo? You said you might not have the time to make them.” Slowly transitioning her tone into a complaining one hoping that would melt her mom’s heart and soften her up a little. But Mrs. Kavita Gunjal seemed a tad too preoccupied with her mobile phone. She would look out of the window from her rear seat intermittently and then go back to focusing on her mobile screen. Sharman who was watching her antiques from the rear view mirror, turned to give Smita a concerned look.
Smita turned back and tried to sound more girlish than she usually was, “Mamma! What are you busy with on your phone? We have met almost after 6 months. Tell me how was Nik on his last visit? He looks all grown up and tall on Skype. And di! She is absolutely glowing. Isn’t she?” But Mrs. Gunjal was not one to be distracted easily. She looked up from her mobile screen and gave her younger daughter an obligatory smile with a slight nod. And then she went back to the mobile screen. Sharman almost jumped in his seat when he heard his name being called.
“Sharman Betaji! You are going the wrong way. You should have taken right from the last crossing.”, Mrs Gunjal seemed to know her way.
At this, Sharman banged his head back on the seat head rest, while Smita slapped her forehead with her palm. Confused at the prevailing silence and lack of answer from the couple, Mrs. Gunjal exclaimed with an unnerving innocence, “Koi aur bhi route hai kya?” (is there another route?)
Sharman gave Smita an alarmed look and shook his head so slightly that he almost thought that the iron lady in the rear seat will not notice. But alas she jumped in between the two of them almost instantly, “Has Smita not told you where we were to go directly from the airport? Betaji, you need to hurry up, we are already late. This Dr. Chandel is a very busy doctor. The receptionist at his clinic never has an appointment slot free on the phone. I managed to book an appointment only through this amazing mobile app. The charges are also exorbitant. Imagine Rs. 800/- for a 15 minute consultation session. My google map shows that we have left the clinic behind at the last crossing. Now you have to go a long way to take a U-turn and get on the correct route.” Mrs Gujjal finished with a loud breath which was expressive of her inability to speak too much at a time and also of the fact that she was utterly anxious about how they were going to make it to the doctor’s clinic on time.
All this while, Sharman maintained a perplexed smile and tried to give an impression that he was listening intently while focusing on the road ahead. But Smita had her palms clinched in a fist and she was shaking her fists as if making a huge effort to control herself from losing her temper. One look at her mother who was back with her mobile screen swiping her finger (she was trying to make sense of the way that they had lost on the map) and she realized that the moment of truth had arrived. Sharman was quick in observing the change of expression of Smita’s eyes and made it just-in-time to hold her hand and managed to calm her down. He raked his one hand through his not oiled hair and braced himself for the big production that was to follow.
“Mom! We are going home and not to the doctor.”
Sharman was right in his anticipation of the big presentation that his mother-in-law made of letting out a disappointed sigh along with a dramatic, “But why?”
Smita who had put her act together by now responded, “Because we don’t need to see one. There’s nothing wrong with me or with Sharman.”
Mrs. Gunjal had somehow expected this opposition from her daughter, because she was quick in comprehending Smita’s reply and was ready with her reaction, “Beta! How would you know that? There’s nothing wrong in seeing a doctor. What will he do? Just prescribe some tests to confirm what you already believe. By Bhole Baba’s grace you two should be on your family way very soon. This visit to a doctor is just for my and Sharman’s mom’s satisfaction.” Mrs. Gunjal said expectantly.
Sharman knew this rant very well. This had been the only conversation with the two moms since the time they had all gathered to celebrate their 2nd Wedding Anniversary last June. He brought together his index and middle fingers of his left hand and rubbed them against his temple. He took sometime to contemplate on what tone he should use with his mother-in-law. He knew if it was his own mother he would have snapped her shut by now, but keeping in mind that Smita might take offense he took a minute longer to articulate his words.
“Mom! We do not need to see a doctor because we do not want to. It is just not required.”, he took one deep breath and made up his mind about what he was to say next, “Because we aren’t trying.”
It was a coincidence that he was met with red traffic signal and he turned to look at the two women as he brought his car to a halt. Sharman couldn’t help noticing how similar the mother-daughter duo looked even in their wide eyed and jaws dropped expression. As if on a cue, three of them dropped back their heads to the head-rests of their seats in sync. Silence prevailed for a couple of minutes and then the car echoed with a discerning “Why?” from Mrs. Gunjal.
Smita covered her face with both her palms; in an instant she decided to take the bull by its horns this time. “Ma! because we aren’t prepared to take the plunge yet. We feel that we aren’t ready for it. Our job commitments, our financial strain with an impending education loan, Home Loan EMIs and our overall lifestyle just does not give us the bandwidth for a child. We feel that we can’t afford a child.”
Mrs. Gunjal was at a loss of words. She felt her eyes blur and tears drop from her eyes. She realized that any discussion or argument further was futile. This young power couple wasn’t even thinking in the direction that she was trying to push them towards. She just took lungs full of air and exhaled it in defeat throwing herself back on the car seat.
Her entire life since she became a mother for the first time ran in a reel in front of her open eyes. Her husband, Smita’s father was on a meager salary of Rs. 900/- when they had Amrita, Smita’s elder sister to take care of. Five years later Smita came to their world and they felt that their family was complete. She recalled how in one of the heart to heart talks Amrita had summarized their childhood and upbringing. “There was no splurging ever; yet there never was anything that they missed out on.” With a single salary, this lower middle class couple had nurtured two saplings into full blossom flowers – confident, capable and financially independent. And here she had in front of her, a couple who earned a six digit monthly salary each and yet could not afford parenthood.
“Where’s this world heading?” she closed her eyes with this thought and slumped into a short nap before they reached home.
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