AT THE CROSSROADS

By: Giti Tyagi

AT THE CROSSROADS

 Standing at the crossroads in the market place, waiting for the bus which her mother-in-law was to board, Suman, along with her two daughters, had come to see her off. Just then, out of nowhere, emerged two women, offering the polio drops for the younger one, who was almost two years old.

Smilingly, they enquired, ”A boy?” Of course, when it’s a second child, with the first one being a daughter, what else other than a boy was expected? But their smiles vanished in no time when Suman replied, “No, a girl!” “Oh!” What were they exactly upset about? A boy or a girl- whatever the child was- was it any of their responsibility to take care of the child? What made their smiles perish and fade away?

“You didn’t go for a test?” Wow! How informal! Suman shook her head but the smile didn’t leave her all through and not for a moment she felt guilty for not getting herself tested for gender determination of the little baby.

This was not the first time she was facing such questions in her life. The day her second daughter was born, her husband’s Mami had said some very piercing words that still prick her heart. “I was shocked at the news! I cried a lot! You should have acted earlier when there was still time,” were her heartfelt wishes for the newly born. Oh! Suman had been all the time expecting something like ‘Congratulations’ – isn’t that exactly what one is supposed to say when a baby is born? But for Suman it wasn’t going to be that easy. “Doesn’t matter, what can be done now?" Her husband’s friend was heard consoling him as if bereaving some loss! “I was so upset when I heard.” Her father-in-law’s driver, Meenu, was in severe depression for days together, fasting as if undergoing  a penance retreat on behalf of Suman’s wrong decision of not letting go off the little angel she now holds dearly today in her arms.

Test!! Sounds simple, but what follows the simple looking test is really scary. The little baby’s limbs to be broken first, the head next, and then it lands in the bin somewhere on the streets behind the hospital. Not for once did Suman have any second thoughts about not getting that dreadful test done. She had been very bravely dealing with all the sad faces around, expecting her to undergo that simplistic test. She had cried alone, for she felt lonely at the time when she should have had maximum support.

The in-laws were kind enough not to pester her, for they had full faith in the Lord- how could the God, whom they had been praying and offering, be so cruel as to not listen to their prayers? One girl is enough to balance the family. Two creates an imbalance. But the good Lord wasn’t kind enough for them; they still accepted the Lord’s will, though they could ever accept the little girl whole heartedly!

Was she any less beautiful than the first daughter? Or was she too heavy to be held in arms? Or were their minds so narrow that the fairy’s wings didn’t fit in through the blocked doors of their stingy and closed minds?

Suman’s bold decision, not giving in to the demands of others, and her strong statements sent out a message to all those who had questioned her and tried hard to embarrass her. Atleast her daughters will always have each other to their support, unlike her, who stands today alone at the crossroads!