The International Writers Magazine: This story is set in Bangalore, India. The protagonist's mother tongue is Konkani.
For you my child, with love...
Baby, my friends had always called me ‘Weird’ you know. I was never ashamed of it.
In fact I was proud. Don’t be afraid of being different. Don’t let the world get to you.
I had the tolerance for ugliness like none of them. I was less aware of the normal boring stuff around me. It’s like I lived in a parallel universe only I knew of.
I could have easily succumbed to the “fairytale-Barbie-world” my friends lived in but I chose the dark world with its dark secrets.
It’s funny how this dark world exists in this very world we breathe in but nobody wishes to acknowledge it.
I fancied surfing the net for information on oddities like The Elephant Man, Conjoined Twins, Flesh eating disease… You name it.
Of course you can’t name them now. Because you’re only a child.
You don’t have to inherit my hobbies!! No!! Why I’m telling you all this is so you may stand up for who you are! No matter what! It’s your free will!!
Maybe you will share your father’s taste for the stock market. I don’t know.
Anyway, so years ago I would have considered myself brave to just look at gruesome graphics of oddities.
I thought that if God willing I would have to face any dark moment in my future I would be ready for it.
Like you know an acid attack from a whack head? Ha!
Excuse my language.
But you have made me realize, my child, that anticipating to be brave is very different from actually being brave.
Right here, right now, as we walk amidst this crowd of prior-smooth-now- creased shirts/skin alike, why is my heart beating so loudly?
Maybe because your father is not here with us today.
Why am I so worried that someone will spot you my child? Not that I’m not proud of you! Don’t be mistaken! It’s just that I’m worried their words will sting you like a jelly fish’s tentacles.
You will be fooled by their disguised beauty. It’s harmful for your self-esteem.
It is my duty to protect you. Though we are free from the umbilical cord we still owe a lot to each other right?
Your father and I still haven’t decided a name for you. Actually we did. Ssshhh don’t tell any one..the name was Pari…yes my angel…
But now he thinks it doesn’t suit you..
You see, we had come up with that in the months before you were born.
What would you like to be called?
Maybe your father will surprise us with your new name on reaching home! Maybe that’s why he opted to not join us here. He was never a fan of malls anyway.
By the way, what would your first word be? Definitely not Mommy, you Daddy’s girl!
Or will it?
I’m tired of walking. Let’s sit there. No one will notice us there. It’s the food court that’s always crowded na? Let’s avoid going there, my princess.
You know your father is not always indifferent my dear. He’s angry with me now for taking you out. Well what’s wrong in spending some quality mother-daughter time haan?
Your father is a nice man. A good father. A little overprotective but you will know that that is a good trait for a father and that his niceness is considered a good trait for a husband.
He was proud of you. Very proud indeed. When you were still a surprise to us till the last moment.
You must know of the times we spent till you were born, those moments of just the three of us can only be captured by memory. Not film.
Do you remember that time when your father took us to Cubbon Park in the evening?
That evening when you were extra quiet? I think because of a Mrs. White who inquired about you after her round of jogging. Arey, that old lady in a flimsy brown salwar- kameez that accentuated her tires and those tiny mismatching track shoes she wore, I think they were her grandchild’s, I could almost hear them squeak under her uneven weighted feet!
You must have not expected her question for you became so quiet! After all no one other than your father and I had questioned you before!
You’re timid because we’re not very social. That’s okay. I understand.
But then I touched the sprinkler water. So that you could feel the cold too and respond.
Did you feel the chill too my child? I wanted you to acknowledge it. I always began to worry whenever you became too silent. It was okay to kick again.
Mrs. White had gone home. It was just you and me and your father.
Then I turned to watch those kids on swings and slides and wondered which of the two you would pick first. I always liked the swings because they made me forget my worries as Mom, your Mai, propelled me higher and higher.
But you don’t need to worry my child. I’m there for you, to take all your worries away; you won’t need a swing for that.
So you will pick the slides haan? I’ll be on my knees waiting at the bottom, you can slide right into my arms. I’ll give you a tight hug. I will be so proud of you….
That was the last time we went out together, for then my ankles had begun to swell with worry.
Your father had massaged my swollen feet with grape seed oil when you were getting too heavy.
I was worried whether I could still carry you around on my two feet. I knew you liked the walks. You must have been bored without them. I’m making up for them now, see?
Okay..soo..what else did your father do?
Ah yes! He would bathe me lovingly every alternate day for I felt so weak as you got bigger and my belly got rounder.
Not your fault sweety! If you had stayed small I would have been sad.
Our doctor, Mrs. Ponappa ordered me to stop worrying and to watch a movie with your father.
So he borrowed the DVD of ‘I am Sam’ from his colleague, Uncle Rajesh.
You know him! He had sent a basket of fruits with a small card attached to it, which displayed his untidy scrawl.
I read it out to you na? He was apologising for not visiting you.
You must have good handwriting you know. Not like Rajesh Uncle or mine for that matter!
Hope you don’t inherit my “crow-feet” writing. In Mom’s words. Haha.
Anyway, so that movie made me cry. But it also made us realise how important you are to us. You will always be dear! I cannot imagine losing you….
Hey! Do you remember the day we boarded Namma metro? I wanted you seated on my lap, posing for the camera, like other excited families.
You were right there, weren’t you? Only I couldn’t see you. You felt it?
The flash of the camera? It must have blinded you! So dark in there haan?
Maybe you were claustrophobic that’s why you had a premature birth!
Oh I have my camera now….wait…look here…look… smile….click!
What? What are you pointing at?
That poster? Oh that girl in the poster!
Beautiful smile she has?
Well, she is just another girl promoting make-up dear. To fool everyone with the wrong notion of beauty. Beauty is you my child. Oh so innocent. So natural.
When we go home I shall circle your head with a pinch of salt and some red chillies and toss them into the wilderness after spitting at them. It’s a little black magic I learnt from Mom, your Mai. Hehe.
If you fall ill because of my evil eye, she will hold me responsible na?
She’ll be coming next month to see you! You can’t afford to fall sick. How thin you become after fever, putha.
Now didn’t I promise you I would bring you to Mantri Mall only if you stayed quiet and not pester me with questions about the shops here!
They are all just attractive baits my dear. But we know better, don’t we?
Stay under the flap. Stay! You must not peep out of it. Aren’t you comfortable in that pram?
Bored of my talks? How can anyone be bored of listening to someone? I was bored of your silence. I hoped you would be like me, talkative. For I’m a good listener too!
But maybe you’re like your father. You need your space. I understand.
Let’s go to Swensen’s. The ice cream will keep me busy. And I’ll talk less! Hehe.
I hate speaking with my mouth full.
Your father would always force me to eat something just to shut my mouth! We’ll take that corner table where no one will see us.
It is very comfortable here. Isn’t it? No, you stay! I’ll take you in my arms when we reach the car. Okay?
Oh no! That lady with her all seeing eyes is coming to see you. Duck! Duck!
We have to leave.
Are you feeling better now? She didn’t see you, did she? Whew, that was close. Maybe your father was right. I shouldn’t have come out with you.
Everyone’s looking now. I don’t care as long as you’re safe. Aren’t you?
Challo forget them. We’ll try out Swensen’s some other time.
Now don’t be upset. We’ll go some other time. I said na.
You have to lead a normal life dear. I’m protecting you from paparazzi.
You are special, but no one has to know that. You are entitled to your privacy my child.
You will thank me some day. Now all you do is whine, whine and whine.
Oh, is that belt tight for you. Wait. Let me adjust it.
There. See! You’re smiling!! Wait or are you…? Na raja beta, don’t cry!
Where is your father right now? Where? When I need him the most.
It is not fair he lets me do this all by myself. Until when will I be able to protect you?
See all have heard your wails. They’re closing in now.
No, No. They mustn’t see you. Nooooooooooo!!!
They raise you in the air and twirl you around like a trophy. Then they see your special face.
An oval of innocence. Or rather two ovals. Or just one big oval.
Give me back my baby!!
They drop you in fright. You stare back at me.
Your glassy eyes accusing me of being a careless mother.
Careless enough to make a spectacle of you.
Babies like you only have space in my heart. Not in a world which encourages plastic beauty. You are natural. Look at your smile. Yes... you are smiling.
Can’t they see how beautiful you are? Even as claws of death rake at you. You smile. Like an angel.
That’s what I have taught you. Smile in your most difficult times. You have made me proud. Come into my arms now. Mommy’s here.
It’s just you and me again. Can you breathe? For me?
Please. Just try. Imagine I’m your swing. Forget what they did to you. Breathe! Breathe!
* * *
‘Honey, honey!’ Are you okay?’
Where am I?
‘Must have been a nightmare again. We must tell Mrs. Ponappa about these recurring nightmares haan. Not good for the baby na?’
This is not a nightmare. Don’t fool me! Where’s my baby? Where?
‘Honey please. Not again.’
What not again? What if she’s ugly again? What if?!!
‘That hideous creature was not my baby! Who knows who fathered a monster like her!’
You named her Pari!
‘Not when I saw who she really was..Please..let’s forget the past…’
She’s dead Aadil!! Some respect!!
‘We’re getting late. You need to stop this past nonsense!!’
He acts like he isn’t responsible for anything. Like I’m the only one who created you. I will avenge your death dear.
I know you were waiting for this moment. You will be your Daddy’s girl finally.
He will join you in eternity before he has the privilege of seeing his second child!!
He has tested my patience. His silence has tortured me so far but I had borne it for your sake.
Now his words hurt you like the jelly fish’s stings. I need to protect you.
If he was the reason for your existence he is also responsible for your death.
He should have been beside me that day, protecting you. He didn’t even blame me for your death.
A criminal should be convicted. Or the guilt will kill him eventually, won’t it?
Your father had said ‘Mistakes are best forgotten.’
But you weren’t a mistake! And how can I forget you?
You were in me, a part of me and then you were in my arms. Then in their arms.
That was my mistake! I agree! I shouldn’t have trusted them with your life!
The next moment you were on the floor. I don’t know how it happened.
If I could go back in time I would change everything that happened that day, but not you!! Not you!!
He shall feel what you felt that day…My hands have grown weak but I’m trying…trying…..trying to make him understand what you felt that day…I owe you this my child!!!
There!!..See…I told you, you had his eyes…
If not in life…At least in death they look alike…So glassy.. Don’t you agree?
You’re getting me all worried again. Why are you so silent?
Why can’t I hear your applause? Aren’t you happy? I finally stood up for you!
What? Is it too late?
You’re killing me with your silence!! Answer me!! Answer me!!
So now you will forget your Mommy haan?
How can you and your father die without me?
You think I would be able to live in this silence?
I’m coming. O yes! And I’m bringing along a little baby sister for you.
Even she must be lonely in me. Right baby?
We shall die happily ever after….
Let me sing a lullaby for your baby sister for the last time, okay?
Then once she falls asleep we shall be on our way to you and your father
‘Ye go ye go baye…’
© Michelle D'costa Nov 2013
I didn’t know what to expect when I landed in Dubai with my parents. The place appeared to be as crowded as Mumbai. I wasn’t in the mood to do any sightseeing.
It was time for my family to look for marriage proposals for me. Amma decided that only a job would get me a girl. A job that paid. Something. Anything.
Seema slathered bathing gel onto her calloused palms. Oh! How much she craved these hours of solace. She had to be quick though there was still an hour to go before he would arrive.
April Fools’ Day
You know you are damned if your family follows every single freaking special DAY of the year.