Smita reached office and hustled to the lobby in order to make a personal call. Initially she had planned to work from home for the entire week that her mother was scheduled to be in Hyderabad, but things had not gone as per plan. Neither Smita’s plan nor Mrs. Gunjal’s. After she and Sharman refused to go to the gynecologist with her, Mrs. Gunjal had taken to giving them both royal a cold shoulder. In the last two days, she only joined them for meals and then left to spend her time in the recreation centre of their residential complex.
‘It’s boring in your flat and there are other women my age with no grandchildren who also come there to spend some time.’, she had explained mournfully . Sharman had suppressed laughter at this statement of hers, while Smita had groaned in irritation. She decided that working from her office was a better option than to become a witness to her annoyed and unreasonable mom.
Amrita picked up the call almost instantly,
‘How are you babes? Hope the weather at your place is fine.’ Smita did not miss the sarcasm in her big sister’s voice. Obviously, Mrs. Gunjal had shared the reason for her visit to Hyderabad to her. Amrita had messaged Smita on the day of their mother’s arrival. The message read, ‘Tell me how it goes!’ followed by 5 winking emoticons.
‘Mom went ballistic.’ Smita declared, ‘She has decided to remain stoic while she is here and make us feel miserable for deciding to not have a child yet’ Irritation rising high in her voice. Amrita replied with a little giggling sound.
‘Take her out today evening for a nice dinner. She’ll come around.’ Amrita knew the way to her mom’s heart.
‘Hmm! I’ll ask Sharman to check out for a North Indian restaurant and be home early today.’ Smita said as she leaned on the railing, ‘How about you? How’s your health? You really were glowing the last time we spoke on the video call.’ Smita set aside all her worries and turned her attention to her sister.
‘Uffo! Silly girl, just don’t imagine things. The pregnancy glow does not show until the last trimester. And considering that…’ Amrita stopped abruptly, not sure if she should continue. Smita was quick to sense something amiss.
‘What happened di? Considering what?’
Amrita bit her tongue between the side of her jaws and contemplated if she should speak her heart out.
‘Di! Are you there? What is it? Please tell me…’ Smita was almost panicking.
‘Ugghhh! Nothing yaar. You know this child was not planned. Even though Raghav is quite enthusiastic about this kid, I am not. This child will mean the end of my career. I cannot continue to work with two kids towing my life.’
‘But Di! Think about Nik. Wouldn’t it do him good if he had a sibling? I mean, look at us, even if we have lived miles apart for almost a decade now, you and I know who to fall back on whenever there’s a crisis.’ Smita restrained from sounding paranoid, but she was really scared for her sister.
‘Common Smita, both of us have friends who are only kids. And their life is good enough. It’s not that they are not happy being. And about Nik. He will have his cousins for sure.’
‘Di, you are the only one in my life right now who feels it’s ok if I and Sharman do not if to have a kid. And I can’t even tell you what a relief it is. Incase you do not wish to have this child, it’s your choice. I’ll stand by you no matter what.’ Smita was structuring her thought’s simultaneously as she spoke, ‘But I am all in favor of Nik having a sibling. I can’t even how my life would be without you.’
Amrita did not respond, but Smita knew from the noise of her flaring nostrils that she was still listening, ‘Di! When life is all hunky dory, it doesn’t matter if you are an only child. But it I during personal challenges and testing times especially those that involve the parents, that an individual becomes lonely in the absence of siblings. I only want to say that just because you fear that your career will get de-railed, do not decide on an abortion. You and Raghav jiju are financially sound even if you do not work and life is much more than a career.’ Smita was now walking back towards her cubicle.
‘Hmm! Maybe you are right. But I am still not sure.’ Amrita was in a rocking state of mid and did not wish to speak much. But Smita’s work’s had set her thinking, once again. She wished her sister better luck with their mom and disconnected the call.
That night, when Amrita retired to her room she was in a disheveled state of mind. Her conversation with her sister had rendered her vulnerable for the entire day and she had left Nik to his grandmother’s care after feeding him and excused herself to get some rest. As soon as Amrita hit the pillow, she snoozed with doubt still looming large in her mind.
When Raghav’s mobile went live at 4 am in the morning, Amrita instantly knew what the news was. Raghav’s best friend Sameer’s father had been in the intensive care unit for last 4 days and the doctors had given up on his multiple organ disorders. They had visited him at the hospital only last evening. Smita had been heart broken at how lonely Sameer had been. His wife was at home to take care of their 2 year old and other than a couple of friends, there was no one that Sameer could fall back on. All his relatives live far away in his native city. His parents also stayed in the same city untill last year when on his insistence they had shifted to live with their only son.
His call at this hour meant only one thing. His father had passed away. Raghav and Smita rushed to the hospital after leaving Nik to sleep in his grandparents room. As they walked into the corridor where they expected to meet Sameer, Smita was shaken by the silence in the hospital. Smita’s eyes widened and her heart went out to Sameer as they saw him sitting on the bench at the end of the corridor. He was sitting with his head lowered and covered by his palms.
Amrita suddenly woke up with a start. She felt sweat beads on her temples and it her a couple of seconds to start breathing normally. The sight of Sameer, all lonely and putting up a strong front to get through the formalities at the hospital after his father’s demise had haunted Amrita for days. Raghav had told her that Sameer was really shattered yet was not allowing himself to stand weak lest there would be no one would look after mother. She had often thought that if he had had a sibling, who would have stood by his side during these testing times, Sameer would have a shoulder to cry on and join hands while dealing with the loss. The sight of Sameer sitting alone in a dark corridor still haunted her.
As Amrita kept back the glass of water on the side stand, her conversation with her little sister came back to her in its full meaning. There were numerous people she had known who were only kids, yet she herself had never felt a pang of jealousy with them ever. While she knew for sure that the vice-versa wasn’t true. Her friends who were only kids, often regretted the fact that they had never enjoyed the bickering from a sibling, or had never known the feeling of having their back covered whenever they were up against their parent’s will.
In that moment, Amrita looked own and rubbed her hand on her belly. She realized that the life in her womb, was going to bring only joy and love in their lives and in Nik’s life. As her baby blues faded away, Amrita slumped back into her sleep. This time a peaceful one.
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