“I am getting down at Thane”.
This was my daughter Devi on telephone informing me that she is reaching Mumbai (after a thirty hour train journey) in the next thirty minutes along with her family. Now, my daughter likes to surprise me and my son-in-law is resourceful and loving enough to support such endeavors. So my seven month pregnant daughter informed me that she would be with us in few minutes to our pleasure and some amount of astonishment.
To go back a little in time, Shivam – my grandson- was born in 2007. Looking at him now, all of us wonder how he had the patience to stay in the womb for nine months. His body and mind is always active. Perhaps that is why he did not wait for the full 270 or 280 days and decided to come a few days earlier. His birth was accompanied by some last minute tensions when we had to switch to another nursing home due to the previous one showing a marked preference for surgical delivery as compared to a normal one. We hoped for a better experience this time.
My daughter informs me that the nursing home she was visiting in Coimbatore is neat, professional and charge very reasonably. The Doctors are quite knowledgeable and give practical advice. There are wide choices in each sphere of medical services. It is a different world as compared to Mumbai.
Mumbai is a different experience. Small nursing homes co –exist with residential flats in small and large buildings. They are ill ventilated, have small rooms, narrow corridors, limited sitting space and unknown back room facilities like laundry, disposal of surgical waste, good service providers, good kitchen and so on. Not surprisingly, there are no well known regulations which monitor such nursing homes resulting in a very uneven quality of care and uniformly high charges.
Pregnancy has now become an uncommon experience (my father had nine living siblings, my mother had six- but I have only one) and hence assessment is mostly by word of mouth and quite subjective. We reviewed a few and zeroed in one talked of favorably. All gynecs seem to undergo a special course to ensure that the expectant mothers trust them implicitly and do not question the quality of facilities or the disproportionate charges that may be levied. This Gynac had mastered the requisite skill. However, my daughter’s confidence in this Doctor evaporated when she visited this nursing home for some minor assistance. The nurse cheerfully informed that the Doctor is mostly present at another Nursing Home and the available nurse handles the patients.
We then shifted to an all India hospital chain, which had modern facilities and standards. We had a choice of doctors to select and then to stick to our choice. We made a choice based on regular availability. However, this Doctor also showed a marked haste and a desire to hasten the arrival of the progeny. Obviously, this created disappointment and anger (fury is more like it) leading to reverting to our original family choice of an old Doctor and his family who ran a maternity hospital in a nearby suburb –twenty minutes away by car.
We met the old doctor’s daughter (who has mastered the skill I have referred earlier) for consultation. She is a young lady with two daughters. She gave toffees to my grandson whom she liked (easily understandable as Shivam can turn on charm and be quite articulate for his age). She recommended patience and to trust the baby in the womb to decide the date of arrival. She advised Devi to reach her whenever the need arose.
This was around three weeks back. The Doctor thereafter examined Devi regularly and commented favorably about the development of the child and made the right noises, which reassured us.
The movement of a child in the womb can be felt externally perhaps from sixth month. Besides the pulse, the movement of the leg against the stomach can at times be felt. I wondered how the child would look, how the eyes would be, what would be the complexion (fair, fairer or fairest or dark, darker…), level of intelligence, height, gender and so on. Every child brings his or her fortune and luck in their hands- this is my belief. This child would bring his or her own fortune and luck to this world. Perhaps what is needed is luck and the rest may be of lesser importance.
God has dished out limited quota of patience to me and Devi. So Devi’s mood swung to different ends of the pendulum. Perhaps God knew that in the mammal species, it is better to allocate the role of child bearing to the female so that they have an opportunity to know what patience means. Men learn to be patient the hard way – after marriage in numerous occasions when going with wife for shopping or buying silk sarees or jewels.
The baby in the womb has to work its own way to the exit route. This is not unlike the traffic jams which has its own dynamics- it could get clear in seven minutes and after two signals or it could take fifteen minutes and numerous signals. We looked at Devi intently whenever she expressed any discomfort or tiredness. She grew more irritated with us.
It was Wednesday 20th night. We had just hit the bed. Devi suddenly got up and expressed some physical discomfort. We wondered whether the time has come or the baby wants to see how anxious we are to welcome it. Swati- a doctor in our family and our cousin’s wife- was summoned. She said this is for real. All of us looked at each other and realized that our life is going to change forever by entry of a new human being.
Devi is an organized person. She packed her requirements without any confusion . All of us were ready in few minutes. It was around 11. 30 p.m. Shivam was asleep. We woke him up and all of us went to the nursing home together. A watchman was standing at the Gate and staring outside vacantly. He opened the gate for us (must have done several times earlier for others). The Doctor came after some time. She confirmed that the baby has finally decided to vacate her temporary domicile for the last nine months and come to more solid surface.
The next twelve hours were crucial. Padma held Devi’s hands when the pain became more palpable and less bearable. I went once to see Devi when I saw her in pain and moaning . It was 90 minutes or so before the birth. I felt totally helpless and understood faintly what a woman undergoes before and during childbirth. As a father, I could not watch the suffering and pain. Padma could sit beside her and comfort her to the extent possible.
It is at such times one realizes that the resilience and endurance of a woman is much higher and perhaps that is why God decided that the privilege of re-production should vest with the female species.
It was 11.30. All of us were sitting in a rather small waiting room with another family whose delivery had become complicated . We were told it was any time now. Suddenly at 11.30 someone came and informed –daughter is born. A cheer broke out amongst us.
We could see the baby girl only after more than an hour . First we saw from a distance- she was put under some sort of light to warm her body. We could hold her after some time. She had an oval face , long eyes which were just opening, limbs indicating a tall body frame, big cheeks and a serious face. She cried lustily for her rights and reminded us of Devi when she was also a baby. We held her in our arms as though she is more delicate than Chinese porcelain and wondered why she did not exit Devi’s womb earlier.
It is too early to analyze the innermost feelings at the newest addition to our family. In the midst of rushing to Office at 8 a.m. , attending full day conference , then attending a dinner with mental exhaustion and an externally interested demeanor and then rushing home through empty streets at 11.p.m. leaves little time to stare at the sleeping grand daughter who sometimes smiles during her slumber. In early part of our life, we spend several such days , weeks and months pursuing a corporate mirage and then find grown up children asking us uncomfortable questions- leaving us wondering where the years went. This happens for one’s own children.
But for grandchildren, grand parents wise up. They know this time around we should “stand and stare” at the world outside and a beautiful creation like our grandchild. So we observe even the smallest gestures and imagine resemblance to ourselves. The first time the child rolls over, first hesitant step, the first spoken words, the smile and the seemingly unique features are savored and today digitally captured. Priya- my daughter in law- however seems to have realized this ephemeral nature of life and endeavors spiritedly to capture these moments –tangibly and in spirit.
As I write, the name is being debated. What is agreed is that it should be small, unique and yet known, incapable of being shortened or mutilated in an unrecognizable manner.
Vedika- That is the name she will live with and be called. It means “restoring knowledge” , “consciousness”. It cannot be shortened much and is easily pronounceable by all. She slept through most of the ceremony . When she was put in the cradle for the first time, she woke up and stared at those around her – perhaps wondering what all of us were up to. Vedika smiles in her sleep, leaving us wondering what goes on in her mind. At times , she stares at us as though she is appraising which family she has goes into and whether her choice is right.
Perhaps the greatest wonder on this earth is creation of new life. Our fascination with this process would remain unchanged.
Watching Vedika’s journey into this world and our family gives us a different perspective. It is a moment to pause and examine the point at which our life cycle stands. Small children have a way of looking at us with their innocent and guileless eyes and make us wonder whether it makes sense to crave for the next promotion, next possession or relax our pace and enjoy smaller pleasures of life.
Do you agree?