The Pretty Lady
It was a humid September night. As the clock struck two, the city of Lucknow slumbered, oblivious to the world changing around.
The beautiful lady was perspiring, panting, and the heat was only adding to her misery, the unbearable pain left her completely breathless and dehydrated. Her baby was due any minute now. She had known this feeling, exactly four years back when she delivered her first child, a beautiful baby girl. The experience of child birth had come as a shock to her. It was an eye-opener. The magazines had lied, sugar coated to be precise, ‘It is beautiful, it is the best feeling ever’, they had said. It would hurt like a thousand bones breaking, no one ever told. The anticipation, the anxiety of another human coming out of her, scared her, and a small part of her never wanted the baby to come out. A part of her did not want to be a mother, she realized, and shuddered at her own thoughts. She could not reveal this to anyone, not even to herself! It was a terrible idea that a mother was capable of considering her own child as unwanted! She was a terrible mother, she thought; as her soul shivered with idea of someone, anyone, hearing her thoughts. What if the world saw through her? She would be perceived as a woman with a heart of stone, incapable of loving her unborn child!
She had loved her baby the instant she saw her, or rather heard her crying in that ear-piercing pitch, which she was pretty sure had left her deaf from the left ear, for the rest of her life. Somehow, she just could not forget the pain that the child had brought along and it was at that very moment that she had decided she would never conceive again. However, that was four years back, and here she was lying in the same hospital bed, screaming with her lungs about to explode, her face burning, when out of the blue, she had a flashback of the pain she had gone through, the last time and the four years that followed. Four glorious years which turned her otherwise clean apartment into a toilet!
She brought a new life in this world and was now moulding her into a whole new person and as this dawned upon her she grew very aware of the powers she possessed. And she loved it, all of it! The pain, and the pregnancy which made her twice the size she was. Her face was bigger; her buttocks had grown so gigantic that she was the proud occupant of two seats in a bus! Her hands and feet were swollen, but for some reason she couldn’t think of any grounds to complain. “This is different,” she thought to herself, and let out a small chuckle, thinking about the poor editor of the magazine she had filed a complaint against! She would have to take that back, turns out the guy had done his homework on pregnant ladies.
Four years ago, she had given birth, but the years that followed had made her a mother and she was more than just prepared for it, knowing exactly what to expect. She would be blessed with a child, again. The contentment of growing and nurturing another life inside her, dawned upon her like rain in the summers and that overwhelmed her. With her own ‘magical’ powers she was creating another life. Wasn’t this what God did? The pretty lady, at that instance, felt divine and as powerful as a mortal human could ever feel. In spite of all the fluids that came out of her, she felt clean. She felt pure.
There were people around her holding her hand. Ironically not one person was asking her if she felt okay, if there was anything she needed, instead they were all telling her the same thing, “It should be a boy,” one of the ugliest aunties screamed, her voice so squeaky and high pitched, bats could hear her.
“What do you mean it should be a boy? It is a boy! How can it not be? Are you suggesting she could have two daughters in a row?”Another lady of about the same age and a possessor of an equally annoying voice, yelled, but with a domineering personality and an air of being the leader of the gang. A hushed silence fell in the dim lit hospital room, the lady had spoken the unspeakable. The first woman looked ashamed and furious with herself for losing to the irksome lady yet another time and cursed as the ladies crossed their fingers and waited for a child to be born, one with male reproductive organs only. Those were extremely important!
The pretty lady heard and said nothing. She smiled and ran her soft, loving hands over her round belly and whispered, “Whoever you are, boy or a girl, just know that I love you and I promise to love you for the rest of my life, for as long as I shall live and maybe beyond that. You are a part of me, a part that over the past eight months has somehow become more important to me than myself. You are more important to me than what these stupid people tell you, but be prepared my child because you will find when you arrive that the world is full of such people. Don’t care about what they say. Their hearts lack love. My darling, be anyone you want to be, a boy, a girl, both, or none; I don’t care. Just be healthy, just be good.”
I am introduced…
“Who is that? Hellooo.” I looked all around but saw no one. “This is weird, am I hearing actual voices or is it all in my head,” I wondered. With a jolt, I saw the long cord tucked in my navel, connected to a certain body part of my hostess. “Ah there you go…Finally an explanation!” I let out a sigh of relief. It had been a while since I was trying to find out the use of these long extensions, it was freaking me out. Just as I had finally given up this dreamy voice came out of nowhere. It was a microphone! The sheer joy of having company from the other side, you have no idea. Mind you, it gets pretty boring in here. I could often read her thoughts but this was the first time I actually heard her and as the pretty lady spoke, I felt goose bumps all over my body, that is if you’d like to call a thumb like structure bent in a perfect C all the time, a body. She’s nice, I thought and smiled to myself. That was the first time I heard the voice of the lady and since then it had become a regular process and I always looked forward to chatting with her. I always replied, I was not sure though, if she could hear me back because somehow her answers to my questions never matched! Maybe my side of the microphone was damaged.
Anyway, today was no different; I was eagerly waiting for our chit chat and at this very moment, more than ever. I won’t deny, I got pretty scared when the screaming ladies around her were sure of me being a boy. I knew what a boy was, the pretty lady had once read about him to me. How are these people so sure about me being a boy? I quickly checked between my legs and shouted in dismay, “Damn it! They have got it all wrong! Or wait, maybe it will grow,” I consoled myself, “What if it didn’t,” I argued. I got nervous, really nervous. “My God! No one will ever love me. I am not who they think I am.”
I had to make a decision and I made it! “I’ll never come out of this place, ever! This has been my home for the past eight months and this will remain so,” I pledged to myself. I loved this place, it was nice in here. It had a welcoming, amiable environment and the pretty lady was very considerate of my feelings. When the noises around me made me scared and my pulse would speed up, this lady calmed me down.
It has been this way for a while now. Weird strangers said things about me that hurt me, or things which were so alien to me that I got really edgy thinking about the world outside this home. The beautiful woman and I would then have one of our special sessions, where she would say comforting things to me and make me understand why the world was, as it was. She often told me that the world was a beautiful place and our sole purpose was to make it even more beautiful. I always felt better after our sessions and somehow would not be scared any more. I had started picturing her as a shell, a shell that would always be around me and anything harmful that would try to reach me would just hit this shell and bounce back!
I was very thankful to this lovely woman for being there for me and with each passing day, gradually, I started getting used to this shell and the protective aura it provided. Somehow, my gratefulness had taken a serious dip. I had started taking the lady for granted and I just knew she would take care of everything. Days ago, I was in the habit of thanking her, each time she helped me out of a tight spot, but now, it had lost its charm. “What’s new about that? Isn’t this exactly what she is supposed to do?” I had heard that people do various kinds of ‘jobs’ to keep themselves busy and maybe hers was to protect me, support me, and take care of me for which I don’t need to thank her any more. In fact, there are days when she doesn’t even do her job as efficiently as she used to, which makes me very angry. Sometimes she even has the audacity to agree with people I don’t like and that really pisses me off.
Just the other day she said something that made me loose my temper like never before. She told her daughter in a hushed whisper,”You know this could be your baby brother.” Brother? She is her daughter, and she is a girl, so if she thinks I am the her daughter’s brother, she thinks I am a boy? I did the math. Oh no! I flew off the handle. How could she, of all the people not know who I was? I, obviously could not recall a single instance of all that she had done for me, all the people she had fought just because they had said a word against me, all that she had suffered. That of course didn’t matter. What mattered was that she broke my heart. It hurt me so much and that was the first time I kicked her. How dare she! Surprisingly, the pretty lady did not hit me back. She felt a shooting pain where I had hit her, but somehow she liked it!
She told everyone who would listen, ” The baby kicked for the first time!” There were tears in her eyes and as the audience around her put it, she wasn’t crying of pain, and those were ‘tears of happiness’. I refrained from rolling my eyes. How many kinds were there? Just recently I had heard about the ‘angry tears’.
How could she be happy? I was confused. I hit her and she retaliated by loving me even more. Is the woman crazy?
All my efforts to seek revenge were going in vain but I was not known as the one to accept defeats, (though I was not known at all otherwise). I decided I won’t let her sleep that night and kept kicking, all night long and the poor lady kept requesting me to go to sleep. I was exhausted. I gave up!
Maybe this is how it is supposed to be, where I have to hurt her, be spiteful towards her and she has to love me in return.
This was fun! I loved my job. I could do this all my life, and maybe, I will. As I think about our situation more and more it occurs to me that our job profiles kind of matched, she has to love me more than herself and I have to love myself more than her, so basically, I calculated, it was all about loving me. That wasn’t so bad. It was easy in fact, and so it was decided. I have to feel loved! Period.
The present day…
It is the 20th of September, 1997, I heard a man tell her that it was time to bring me out of her ‘womb’, (that’s what these ‘know it all’ people called my home). I scoffed and went off to business; you know, to sleep a little more, do some somersaults. Let me tell you, I have a very tight schedule in here. My ‘landlady’, as I called her, would handle this. The man was saying some ‘doctor’ thing was to take me out of here. “Yeah, as if the lady would let him do that,” I smirked.
And then something happened that gave me a weird sensation. It was as if I was drowning. The lady said yes. She agreed with the man and even seemed pretty elated about it. “This is the happiest moment of my life,” she said. What! How could she? I must have heard it wrong, I thought, as I checked the mike. Why would she? We had so much fun together so why on earth would she want me to leave! Have I been a bad child to her? Didn’t she love me any more? The time we spent together, did it not mean anything to her? Where would I go?
I was seeing the woman in a whole new light. This lady was just like the voices around her. She was no different. I felt I was going to be sick with disgust. I meant nothing to her and I was nothing.
But why was she doing this?
And then like a bolt of lightning, it struck me. This was her revenge. She had been planning it all along and I was oblivious to it. I hurt her, took her for granted, kicked her, and she pretended she liked it. “I am so stupid,” I screamed at myself. Why would anyone like being kicked and punched? She pretended to like my assaults, so I won’t grow suspicious of her, and had silently plotted revenge. It all made sense. She had made me so dependent on her that if I ever had to live without her, I would perish, and she succeeded. I was lost without her. It was the perfect revenge.
She is angry. I took her for granted, and she is punishing me for that. I regretted hurting her, and felt sorrow that could not be described in words. I cried and cried, pleaded to her to forgive me. “Give me another chance,” I begged, but for the first time my voice couldn’t reach the pretty lady. Maybe she broke the connection so that I could not contact her after she threw me out of her life. “I won’t ever, ever hurt you again, I will respect you and love you the way you loved me, I promise,” I screamed into the microphone. I had lost her forever. My arrogance and an exaggerated sense of self importance had taken away the one person who meant the world to me, the one person who was the world to me. I shouldn’t have taken her for granted. No matter how much she loved me, she eventually grew tired and decided to get rid of me. I cried and cried till my throat went sore and my eyes became weak. I could think no more.
Five hours later…
The pretty lady has forgiven me. She has allowed me stay for as long as I wanted. I was happy and was smiling after, what felt like ages. I hugged her tight when I realised the hands that were touching me were not the soft, loving hands of the lady. They were rough, and did not feel loving at all. I jumped with a start and realised that I was dreaming. It wasn’t a nightmare. The lady was indeed throwing me away, away from herself. These rough hands were helping her in doing so but I wasn’t going to give up so easily, this was my home and they cannot throw me away. One mistake and I’m out! “This is unfair,” I screamed to the deaf ears as the hands started pulling me out. I held on, I clung on to her as tightly as I could, dangling on the cord that had connected us for so long. I stood my ground. “You want me out of here? I am not going without a fight!” They had almost pulled me halfway out when I tried to crawl back in, noticing for the first time how slippery the floor of my house was. All my efforts were proving to be futile. These hands were gigantic, they were almost the size of my entire body! “Monsters!” I cried.
The pretty lady was screaming in pain. Maybe I was hurting her, one last time. After all, that was all I knew how to do.
Two days later…
I do not live in the warm home any more. I have a new house and it’s huge. There are so many people around me all the time and they are louder and shriller than I had heard of them before. They talk to me in a weird, gibberish language and the poor souls think they are being funny and cute. Believe me, when a fifty-two year old man with a belly so jealous of his feet that it grew so big, he just couldn’t watch his feet any more, let alone touch them, a man who I think stores food in his red-brown-black-white moustache and is a staunch believer of ‘spray as you say’, holds you tight and speaks directly into your face, “My baby so cute…ale ale ale!” I hate it! And just so you know, he had kadhai paneer for lunch today.
I wish they could hear me screaming in my head, “Cut it out!”
I miss my home. It was so quiet and serene, although I am getting used to this place as well. I am adapting quite fast, I must say.
I almost forgot the pretty lady is still here! Turns out she wasn’t pushing me away after all. She keeps me close to herself and is even more beautiful than I had pictured her to be. She smells of life, and of love. With her, not much has changed, except that she has another name, Mother. Isn’t it lovely? She and I both love it.
She still loves me more than anybody, still fights for me (the shrill aunties are disappointed. Turns out, they are related to me and I will have to do a lot of ‘meeting them in the future’, lovely, isn’t it? Arghh!).
Mother still spends sleepless nights because of me and when she touches me with her warm hands, I am reminded of the warmth of my home.
I still hurt her and have started to take her for granted, again. I have of course forgotten what it felt like to be taken away from her and the broken promises I had made. What’s the point of it now? I am happy, loved. We are back to business people!
A few years later…
I like this place now. There are so many things to do, so many people to talk to. I sometimes have flashes of the place I used to live in, a few years have passed though, its all blurry. I don’t even care much. I love it here!
As for my relations with my mother, things are developing and I am learning something new everyday. This place has taught me new ways and means to hurt her. It has taught me new words that can sound spiteful and also more reasons to be spiteful. I have also discovered a new art of manipulation. It’s just wonderful and so easy to perform. I use it all the time on my mother to get things done. It is even more fun now than it was some years ago and it’s not just me. The pretty lady, mother as I call her now, has found new ways to keep loving me more and more with each passing day, though there are days when she fails at her job, gets angry or even yells at me, but then everybody makes mistakes and I posses a big loving heart. I forgive easily.
She gets angry for my own good, she says. Ha! Like that’s even a thing. She comes back to me each time she leaves though. I mean what else can she do? A man’s got to do his job, so he has a mother.
I have observed life and have come to the conclusion that this is how our lives will go on and these are our duties.
Maybe, it will take another pair of giant hands, pulling me away, to remind me how it felt to be taken away from her.
To live a life without the pretty lady, without my mother. Those monsters maybe can make me recall my broken promises of respecting and loving my mother, though it would be one hell of a task to tell one from the other, as today, I am one of them.
~Neha Bisht | Edited by Aditi Dhasmana