This is a short story I had written for Women’s Web muse of the month. They received some fabulous stories and I was not a winner. But, I felt the story needs to be told. So, here it is. Your comments, love, brickbats, everything is welcome.
The cue was: “For the first time she realized that nothing was permanent in life – friends, circumstances, riches or parental love.” — Tanushree Podder, Nurjahan’s Daughter.
Sunita stayed awake for a long time that night. She was unable to sleep. Her mind refusing to accept what had just happened.
After 5 months of her pregnancy, she had undergone a routine sonography. She was suspicious when she heard her husband talk to the doctor in whispers.
‘It’s a girl,’ her husband had told her back in the car. He said it with the saddest expression.
It felt like she was back to her first pregnancy. Their elder daughter Tanya was four. When she was born, no one had rejoiced, not even her husband Raj. Her mother-in-law had wasted no breath in showing her displeasure. She constantly nagged about the futility of spending money on a girl who will grow up, marry, take their hard earned money as dowry and leave the family.
Sunita was aghast. She was unable to reason with her mother-in-law. Sunita was the only child of her parents and she had never felt that being a girl, they were affected. They had brought her up as an educated and independent woman.
But her parents had called her up after Raj informed them about the girl child. Her mother said, ‘Sunita, be practical. Give up this one. You already have a girl. You should have a boy now. We never had a second child because you were a girl and we couldn’t risk having another girl.’
Sunita’s world had crashed then. She would have still accepted all that. But, when Raj also showed his displeasure, she did not know whom to turn to. She heard endless discussions during the day between Raj and his mother about aborting the girl child. Though it is illegal, they sounded very confident.
Sunita felt a slight movement in her pregnant belly. She put her hand on it and cried. But there was no sound and no tears. How could she agree to kill her own baby? The defenseless baby who has not even seen the light of day. But, she has nurtured the baby in her womb for 5 months. She loved the baby.
Tanya shifted on her baby bed. Sunita got up and went to her. She wiped away her dry tears. She picked up the sleeping Tanya. She closed the door to her flat softly, lest she wake up her husband and in-laws.
She waited on her floor and pushed the lift button. The lift came immediately. She got in and pushed for the 18th floor which was the last floor. When she reached the top, she walked on to the terrace. She stood at the edge and looked down. It was a beautiful society and she could see the fairy lights in the garden and the temple in the society.
Tanya felt cold and woke up.
‘Mummy, it is so cold. Where are we? Are we going away?’ she asked in her sleepy voice.
Sunita snapped out of her reverie.
‘Yes,’ she said.
‘Where mummy? Is Papa also coming? And Dadi?’ asked Tanya getting excited.
‘What am I doing?’ thought Sunita, ‘Did I really want to go away? End it all? Suicide? How similar I am to my husband and in-laws’ the thoughts came rushing. She took a few steps back.
She moved further back and sat down on the hard floor. She put Tanya on her lap and covered her so she would feel warm.
Tanya snuggled closer and was soon dreaming away.
Sunita sat there for a long time. For the first time she realized that nothing was permanent in life – friends, circumstances, riches or parental love. At the end, she had made her decision. She went back to her flat. She placed Tanya on her baby bed and lay down beside Raj. Raj seemed unaware of her absence. She stared at Raj searching for the man she loved.
The next morning, everything was routine in the house.
Sunita was surprised to see her parents arrive looking glum.
At the breakfast table, Raj said, ‘tomorrow morning at 6am we have to be at the hospital.’
‘No Raj, I won’t go to the hospital,’ Sunita said. Her voice, quiet yet firm.
‘What do you mean, you won’t go,’ Raj asked getting angrier. His mother also joined in abusing Sunita.
The tirade lasted for some time till Sunita put up her hand, with her palm outwards indicating them to stop.
‘Me and my children will not live in this house with people like you. Raj, I thought you will understand.’
She stopped her parents from interrupting.
Sunita walked out of the house with her daughter Tanya. She will struggle to be independent and give life to her children, not death. No one will accuse her or shame her for being a woman or for giving birth to daughters. Tanya and her unborn child deserve a better life away from such abuse.