~ In the late 1980s ~
“Don’t have high hopes, it’s a girl,” my mother says, as she moves out to get a cup of tea for herself. I turn my gaze towards my wife who lay nearby, asleep. She looks tired but there is a content and proud smile on her face. The dark rings around her eyes remind me of the off-late sleepless nights she spent, bearing the pain around her abdomen area, as I sat helplessly.
I recall the scenario an hour before – I was informed over the telephone at my office about my wife’s sudden labour pain and of her leaving for the Government Hospital with my mother, by Shila aunty, our neighbour, and the owner of the only telephone in our colony. My thoughts are broken by the sound of a running tap. I go towards the sink and wash my face and hands with water. The thirty-minute ride on my bike has made me all sweaty and I don’t want to hold my baby in this state.
As I come back to the bed, the nurse brings a little baby bundled in a white towel.
“The baby’s father,” I say with pride as she smiles at me and places the bundle of joy in my arms. The heavenly sight wipes off all my fatigue in an instant. She looks like a fresh fragile flower and I feel like a giant holding her. I look at my wife who is in deep slumber. I feel my respect for her grow manifold.
I feel around in my pocket, to find only few coins and two battered currency notes. I may be poor but I am the happiest man alive. I feel her shifting in my arms and my grip on her softens. A man may have been born of a mother, grew up with a sister and been married to his wife but it is only his daughter who makes him a “gentle” man. I kiss my baby’s forehead. Only a father knows that a man’s kiss to the opposite sex can be with zero lust. I lift my eyes only to see a small smile spreading over her thin lips. I can feel joy gushing within me. I may not be a king but I know, she is going to be a princess …my princess!
~ Nityasri Mahesh
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