The Eskimo kiss
I got up to a bright Sunday morning. My entire body was tweaking with pain. I guess I need some more sleep. With half sleepy eyes, I checked my diary, thankfully no appointments today. Last week had been crazy and last night even crazier. I shrug to think about it. I have a splitting headache and need to fix some coffee for self. I looked at the wall where Apurva was standing and smiling at me, carrying a small tray of coffee in her soft, fair hands. It has been 5-6 years since Apurva came to my life.
I lost my wife Rhea in a fateful accident. With her, a part of me died too. She was carrying our baby and with them, all of my dreams aborted as well. Over the years, ma-baba pursued me to remarry and start my life afresh. It was an unfruitful persuasion as taking Rhea away from my life was impossible. Even if I want, I could not do that. The persuasion however got softer by each passing day. How can I forget rhea. She came like a breeze of fresh air in my otherwise robotic life. A life filled with blood, death, pain and sufferings. She bought life to it. I am a cardiac surgeon. I know about hearts, nerves, lungs and she breathed love into it. I am a doctor dealing with complicated medicines and cardio graphs; she cured my loneliness with her laughter, warmth and presence. I have decided that I will never let anyone take her place until I met Apurva one day or rather I should say- one night. Rhea was my life but Apurva became my destiny. Apurva’ entry was never planned; it was unexpected. It just happened one night.
I was coming back from a rural medical camp held at the remote village of Haryana. It was late in the night and I was very tired. I was tired not with my schedule but with the mindset of the people. It was a 2-week camp but a place of 200 years outdated age. It was not poor medical facilities but female infanticide, which was the major health issue there. Girl child in many Indian states is still considered a bane. Newborn baby girls are choked to death by drowning them in a pot of milk. If they do not kill them at birth, they made them to suffer a life filled with suppression, torture and humility. Apurva came from such a place.
It was half past midnight when I heard the marching sound coming from nearby river ground. I came out in my rest house balcony and saw a group of men carrying a girl and rushing towards the river basin. The girl’ mother was running behind them, pleading to let go of her daughter. The men continued to march ahead and pushed the beseeching woman aside. She fell down on stone and hurt her head. Two women rushed to her rescue and tried to take her away from furious mob. The woman half in bruise n half in blood continue to plead those monsters for her daughter. She scurried to the man holding her daughter and fell down on his foot to leave her daughter. The man pushed her away with his other leg and threatened her with dire consequences if she further tries to come between him and his machinations. I was disgusted to see such atrocity and could not help myself but took my mobile and dialed 100 immediately. I took my safety pistol in my hand and ran toward the river along with the rest house attendant. To my surprise, the man who was heading the mob was Apurva’s father. He was holding Apurva in his cruel hands and hurling abuses to her mother for giving birth to girl child. I am a doctor and cruelty of father or a husband is not unknown to me. During my course and practice, I have seen many cases of domestic violence and violence again women. I however am not going to let it happen in front of me. I stopped the crowd and confronted them. They want to kill Apurva only because she is the baby girl born to family of “son worshipper”. The gender of a child is highly dependant on father’ chromosomes, then why do we punish the mother or a child? Apurva was the 7th girl child born in to that family and that made her the 7th daughter about to be killed on the sacrificial altar of chauvinistic thinking. “Doctor Sahib, you pl do not interfere in our matter. We respect you a lot but we would not take your intervention kindly”. “I could not let you people commit this heinous crime. Pl hand the girl back to her mother”.
“No, dr. sahib, you pl stay away from this. The girl’ father himself does not want to own her, who will take her burden? Who will feed her, educate her and pay for her dowry? She will take all our lives’ money only to get married to some other family. We are very poor people and we do not want to lumber our life with another girl. They are curse. We need sons to take care of us and keep our generations moving”.
“A girl is a burden? Do not forget you all came from womb of a woman. If you keep killing girl child like this, whom will you get to marry your sons and keep your generations alive? Who says only a son can take care of his parents. A girl is no lesser than a boy is. We are the people who have created this dowry monster. If we stop taking dowry, we might stop giving it anyways. Instead educate your daughters, make them self reliant and then see how efficiently do they take care of your house”. “No sahib, these are all kitabi-gyan. Pl stay away from our internal matters”.
The argument went on for another hour until I took a stand and made a commitment, which forever changed the course of my mundane life. “I will take care of this child. I will be her father, mother everything. Don’t you dare harm this child. She is a living soul, for god sake”. The mob burst in to mixed emotions of fury, dismay and disbelief. Several hours of persuasion and threat followed and then almost at the break of the dawn, they relented.
It took few tiring days to finish the legal adoption process and another few tireless weeks to pursue ma baba to accept her too. “How will you manage beta. What will relatives say? What if when she grows up and wants to go back to her original parents. At least get married now… blah blah”, and lot of irrelevant emotional threats followed. A few months later they moved in to my small 2 bed room flat, leaving their palatial bungalow to share my burden. Sooner their worry [Apurva] became their joy of living.
I remember the moment when nurse handed little Apurva to me, wrapped in a sheet of soft woolen blanket, my darkness[dispair] has changed into a new dawn. Little girl opened her little eyes, looked at me and smiled. Her two innocent little eyes made every challenge look little in front of her pristine smile. I smiled back at her and she smiled again at me as if she is saying “Thank you”. Little did I realize that was 14th January morning, a date which took away my Rhea from me some years ago. The pain associated with that date was no longer the same. The day has suddenly become another joyful beginning for me. I lost Rhea, but found Apurva. In Apurva, I saw my Rhea. No body can take Rhea’ place in my life but then Apurva was not competing with her or anyone. She remained true to her name.
"Papa"! She quipped. On her little feet she toddled up to me, handling a little coffee mug from her toy kitchen set. “Papa, cee what I goth for you. Your ‘besth’ hot phil-ter coffee, even before granny brings her. Paapah, you musth drinkkk it before it gets cold”.
“Yes, my twinkle star. Ummm this is world’ best coffee. Bestest than dadi’s”. “Umm and you are the world’s best papa, papa” she said and rubbed her little pink nose on cheeks giving her papa the world’ bestest eskimo kiss.