Sumitra’s father and Ashok’s father hailed from the same village in the Jalpaiguri District of the West Bengal. Sumitra’s father was a painter and would often travel to Siliguri in search of jobs. Ashok’s father, on the other hand, had bought an auto on loan and would drive around Siliguri earning his livelihood.
Sumitra had spent her childhood in the village’s primary school and her adolescent learning household chores from her mother and aunts. As a kid, Sumitra would often hang on to her father’s shirt begging him to take her to the town. She had always imagined and gossiped with her friends about the town. Every morning, her neighbours would hear her singing prayers in the temple, in the courtyard. As she grew up, she had been fascinated by the only pharmacy in the village and would often ask her mother about the medicines she had to intake when she fell ill. As she grew up, Sumitra knew that she wanted to be a doctor like her Pratham Uncle, who had opened his clinic in the village, but she was meant to stay within the four walls of her home. Every evening before the sun began to set, Sumitra’s mother would scream and call Sumitra to remind her to fetch water from the nearby well. It was Sumitra’s favourite time of the day. She would meet her best friends and chatter on the side of the pond. In the evening, she would help her mother in preparing food for the family.
Ashok studied in the same school as Sumitra’s but had been sent to Siliguri for higher studies by his father. He would often tug his earphones in his ears, while doing his chores, and would hum the tunes, he had composed, to arrange it into a meaningful song. Ashok was among the toppers in his school in the city and was studying diligently to be a lawyer. As he turned twenty-five, Ashok had completed his studies and landed a job with a prominent lawyer in the city. In the village, Ashok’s father had begun his search for a girl for his son and who would take care for his wife and him during their old age.
It was when she had turned seventeen, Sumitra’s father began his search for a suitable boy for her. He would often ask his acquaintances across the village to get a reference of a suitable match. On a Sunday morning, after the panchayat meeting, Sumitra’s father walked up to Ashok’s father and with his head bowed and hands folded, he asked for his daughter’s marriage with Ashok. Ashok’s mother wanted him to marry the daughter of her distant relative as she would bring a sizeable dowry along with her.
The marriage happened in the summers of 2013 in the village’s only marriage hall, when Sumitra had turned nineteen and Ashok was twenty-seven. The entire village had attended the wedding to bless the couple. Sumitra’s father had instructed the decorators to decorate the entire hall with fresh flowers. He had even hired the famous cooks in his village to cook a flavoursome meal for the groom’s family. Months ago, Sumitra’s father had to beg to the village merchant for a loan to manage a handsome dowry for the groom’s family. The groom’s family and relatives arrived on a bus and had begun dancing on the beats of songs played by the musicians. They were welcomed with vermillion on the forehead by Sumitra’s mother and Sumitra’s father adored them with garland. Everyone devoured on the feast and praised Sumitra’s father for the arrangements. The ceremony ended. Sumitra hugged her parents with tears in her eyes as it was time to leave her home and start a new chapter of her life. She was surrendering to the fact that, from that moment, she will be a guest in her childhood home. Tears trickled on her tears as she drove towards her new home.
It had been seven years since. Sumitra and Ashok were married happily. Ashok would travel to the village for the weekends and spent time with his family. He would always bring presents for Sumitra. A few weeks ago, he had bought her a MP3 player and for a month, Sumitra would spend her entire evening listening to songs and missing him. She was happy and content with this new phase of life except for a single thing. God had provided her life with every bit of happiness in the form of a loving husband and family but kept her away from having her own child. Sumitra hadn’t desired for anything as she desired to be a mother. She would often pray her entire afternoons and kept fasting for days to become a mother. She had spent her years trying and failing to conceive. With a bit of hope in their hearts, Ashok and Sumitra had travelled, in the sun and rain, to the city and waited patiently to get a visit with the IVF specialist in the town. Even after three attempts with the IVF and payment of a huge fees to the clinic, the embryo wouldn’t attach itself to Sumitra’s uterus. “Sumitra’s womb is infertile. Our Ashok is a healthy man.” The neighbours would say to Sumitra’s mother in law. She would impatiently wait for the reports of tests but the bad news scratched her hope of being a mother. However, Sumitra couldn’t share the fact with anyone that she wasn’t the reason for her barren womb. “If Ashok had been married to Mishra Ji’s daughter, I would have a boy in my lap by now.” Sumitra’s mother in law would often torment her. Sumitra would bow her head and pace to the kitchen with tears and shame in her eyes. Despite everything, she would get utter pleasure in taking care of her family members.
A year had passed. Sumitra and Ashok had moved to the city and had accepted the fact that they will never be able to bear a child of their own. Though the love that winged their eyes hadn’t changed over the years, a quiet sadness floated in the air. Sumitra would care for her husband and would fulfil her duties towards her family with a smile on her face. Ashok would return from his work and would hug her like they had met after ages. He would often massage her head during the night while she hummed his loved songs to him. They were happy but longed for little palm to hold fingers.
It was Thursday. The clock stroked 11:45 P.M. The clouds had begun to thunder but Ashok hadn’t been home from work yet. Sumitra had been trying to call him for over an hour but was unable to reach him. He would have informed her if he would arrive home late from work. Bad thoughts crawled in her head and she, frantically, dialled his office. A peon informed that Ashok had left the office two hours ago. This peaked her worry.
Ashok had left the office around 6:00 P.M after an exhausting day at work. The city was wet as the clouds had showered the city after the sun had warmed it. He began humming as thud of the clouds added a beat to his songs. With a bag hung on his shoulder and his sleeves fold up to his arms, he was walking from the bus-stand when he heard a child wailing. He looked around the empty street but there wasn’t a soul on the street. As he walked towards the direction of the sound, his steps stopped at a municipality dustbin. He heard the squeal again, louder this time. He raised his heels to peek in. His eyes hooked on to a new born child covered in a pink towel. His eyes locked in with the child’s eyes and he fell in love all over again. Taking support of broken stool, thrown nearby, he leaned in to pick the baby. He peeked around to see if anyone was looking for it. He cleaned the baby’s face with the handkerchief dipped in leftover water in his bottle. He walked up to a tea vendor nearby and bought a glass of warm milk for the baby from the tea vendor to feed the baby. He asked for a spoon, which he cleaned by himself. The thundering had stopped now. So, he decided to sit on the footpath and wait for someone to come in search of the baby. An hour had passed away and nobody had arrived for the baby. The baby had slept in his arms. In a moment, he made a decision to take the baby home.
After few minutes, Sumitra heard a knock on the door. Sumitra ran towards the door expecting Ashok. Questions flooded in as she saw Ashok holding a child in his arms and clothes wrapped in dirt. Ashok walked in and requested Sumitra to close the doors behind. He placed himself on the sofa as he asked for a glass of water. Losing her patience, Sumitra handed him the glass waiting for him to uncover the suspense about the baby and dirty clothes.
As Ashok completed narrating the entire incident, Sumitra’s face lit up. She adored a smile which Ashok had been missing since years. “It’s a baby girl.” She exclaimed with joy as she picked the baby from his arms. She rushed in to the bedroom and Ashok ran behind her. A few minutes later, Sumitra was wiping the baby with a soft towel dipped in lukewarm water. Ashok sat on the left side of the bed and kept staring at the smile on Sumitra’s face as she wrapped the baby in a clean towel. Once in a while, Sumitra would let the baby wrap its palm around her fingers. Sumitra sang a lullaby and the baby drifted off to sleep. Sumitra and Ashok slept on the either side of the bed with the baby in the middle.
The next morning, Sumitra had woken up earlier than usual. Ashok opened his eyes and found Sumitra glaring at the sleeping baby. “Let us keep the baby. Can we?” she said, looking into Ashok’s eyes. Ashok couldn’t find a reasonable reply to her plea. Later in the afternoon, Ashok went off to the nearby hospital in search of the baby’s parents. He wasn’t able to. A sudden thought rose up in his mind. Ashok wanted to be father since long and he thought of the baby as god’s gift for him to become a father.
In the evening, Sumitra and Ashok took the baby to doctor for a check-up. The doctor mentioned “the baby is in full health.” They couldn’t be happier than after hearing it. Later in the evening, Ashok had bought an application of birth certificate and had mentioned them as parents in the form. He mentioned “Sneha Prasad” as the name of the child. Ashok and Sumitra were officially parents to a beautiful girl child.
Both would take turns in taking care of the baby. Sumitra would feed the baby during the day while Ashok would feed the baby and put the baby to sleep while Sumitra cooks food for her husband. They were happy. Their desire had been fulfilled.
Weeks later, they informed both sets of parents about the baby. Joy seemed to have walked into their drawing rooms as they heard this news. Both sets of grandparents jumped with cheers as they saw her crawling on the floor of the drawing room. “Her eyes have a resemblance of Ashok.” Ashok mother announced and everyone agreed.
The entire family had been completed. Pictures of entire family hung up on the drawing room. Tears of joy and sadness wept on the eyes of Sumitra and Ashok as Sneha had to leave for hostel for her MBBS.
Do Like, Share and Comment on how you felt after reading it.. bbie..!!