The Late Response

The Late Response

10 mins 92 10 mins 92

Valerie stood almost enamoured at the image she saw in the mirror. She twirled the car keys on her index finger and thought aloud, “ I definitely don’t look my age, not a day older than thirty , besides my figure and appearance still make folk turn around to give me a second look.” With a satisfied air she put on her stylish white sandals and called out to her husband----“-Ronen, please make an omelette for your sandwich. Don’t forget you have to rustle up something for your lunch”. With her loud instructions resonating in the hall, she left banging the door behind her. Her husband, not having adjusted to the ways of the present generation of Indian wives, staunchly entrenched in the belief in women’s Lib, envied in his heart of hearts all those lucky men whose wives prepared the snacks which they were supposed to take during their lunch hour, bid them a lingering good bye at the door step and even tucked in a handkerchief in the coat pocket in a show of affection.

Ronen and Valerie had got married fifteen years back. The couple had decided that they would not have children as it was Valerie who did not want the encumbrances which she felt was an injustice. She could not accept the fact that men were not inconvenienced in any way when a couple wanted to have a family. She believed in woman’s lib and equality of the sexes almost with the bigotry of religion. She held a very good job with a ‘sky-rocketing’ salary and did not want the hassles of looking after babies. Besides she was proud of her figure and she felt bearing children would spoil her looks. Ronen loved her tremendously and for him her happiness was paramount-----all he wanted was to be able to care for her. But in his heart of hearts he longed to have the dimpled arms of his son embracing him and calling him “Papa”.

 It was at the age of forty Valerie realised that perhaps she could never be a mother, even if she wanted to. It so happens that human nature is such that we crave for the unattainable and what is beyond one's reach becomes all the more attractive. So it was with Valerie. Now her desire to become a mother became so intense that she started to make the rounds of all the Fertility Clinics. She had crossed the age when child-bearing would have been a normal and a natural process. Every time she came back depressed and dejected after visiting the Gynaecologists. She became moody and taciturn. Besides she became extremely self-conscious and felt that all her relatives and friends were thinking her to be incapable of bearing children and were either looking down on her or otherwise pitying her. This thought was unbearable and she kept on waking up at night with terrible dreams in which she saw people making fun of her and shunning her company, considering her unlucky. She would get up with a cold sweat and would not be able to sleep after that.

So it was that she became inebriated with happiness when one day she realised that she had conceived. But she did not want anyone to know about it as she felt if she let others know, she would lose the baby as the bad wishes of those who were not her well-wishers would bring about ill luck. She knew she was being superstitious, but when something is too precious, one does not want to take a risk. She did not even divulge her secret to Ronen. Neither did she go to the gynaecologist as was the requirement for she was afraid that the Doctor might tell her that perhaps she had not conceived.

It was when it became obvious that she was in the family way, that Ronen asked her whether he was going to become a father. It is unnecessary to mention here that his happiness knew no bounds. He proudly offered to take her to the gynaecologist for a check-up. But again Valerie felt to be taken to the doctor by her husband was a show of weakness as a woman, and she declined. But all was not well. After seeing the ultra- sonogram of the baby, the Doctor shook her head and said as the conception was too advanced nothing could be done, but earlier she would have advised her not to go through the pregnancy because the baby would be defective. This problem was common with mothers who conceived late in life with the help of fertility pills. Valerie started trembling with the shock of the revelation and nearly collapsed in the doctor’s chamber. Her legs shook as she went to the car and wished Ronen had been there. After all the baby was his also and from the beginning she should have shared everything with him. But now she decided that Ronen should not see her tear-sodden countenance; she would not deprive him from the elation of becoming a father. He would not be able to bear it if after all these years of futile expectation, when he had been told that the baby was on the way, and he was gloating over the fact.t would be inhuman to stick a dagger into his newly acquired parenthood.

The days dragged on. Now she was not looking forward to the day of the baby’s arrival. She felt guilty, terribly guilty. If only she had been more open, only if she had decided to become a mother fifteen years back! Her innocent, yet to be born baby, was to suffer for no fault of his. The consequence of her decision was irreversible—even if she cried her heart out, her baby’s future would and could not be any different.

On the sixteenth of July a beautiful baby came into the world. But alas though he was like a little bud, same as all other babies in the nursery, he was born with a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate. Valerie looked at her baby and tears rolled down her cheeks unabated. Ronen put a comforting arm around her shoulder. Seeing the baby, his heart must have broken but he was a tower of strength at that moment.

The baby could not suck milk. He would choke if he was fed like other babies. He gasped for breath and turned blue. The doctors removed him to the ICCU and advised the nurses to feed him milk drop by drop. When he was discharged from the hospital, the parents realised the hardship in bringing up such a fragile baby would be unimaginable. Whenever he stopped breathing the parents panicked and rushed him to the hospital. The surgeons made it clear to the parents that unless the lip and the palate were repaired it would be difficult to keep the baby---anytime anything could happen. This was the beginning of a series of reconstructive surgeries which were thirteen in number.

One can imagine the ordeal and the anguish for the parents and the pain and suffering for the baby each time he was rolled into the operation theatre. The parents frantically made the rounds of every temple, mosque and church to beg of God to spare the life of their child. In sheer helplessness they watched their precious son, writhing in pain, not being able to open his mouth after the operation and going without food and water for days, lying in a limp mass, not having the ability to resist. Every operation meant that the baby had to be given anaesthesia, which perhaps the child would not be able to tolerate and might die. Besides the antibiotics were terribly toxic for a little child which were administered to him continuously. But more the suffering and agony for the child, the more he became dearer to the parents. This continued for days without an end

As he grew up it was pathetic to see the child seeing everyone around him enjoying all sorts of mouth- watering food; He would also rush forward with outstretched hands for his share of cake or samosa, only to be told that it was not for him. He could not speak like the other children, and even when he tried, no one understood him. Frustration and a feeling of rebellion was the natural outcome which he gave vent by throwing things and refusing to swallow the same bland gruel churned up in the mixer day after day, meal after meal, not for just days or months but years. It became extremely difficult for the parents to take care of him. Often he would give vent to his dormant and stifled rejection of his situation in a paroxysm of rage, like a volcano erupting with the boiling molten fluid in a never-ending flow. It was a sad situation. Timpu was the name his parents had given him. He refused to go to school ---in fact he refused to go out of doors as he was very self-conscious about his appearance. People uncharitably stared at him and children being insensitive, passed hurtful comments. No one had any idea how the innocent little child was mercilessly crushed by the thoughtless society at large, his vulnerable feelings battered and bruised.

But the struggle continued. The parents worked hard with the child. Slowly he was guided to be able to look after himself. He had a very good memory and he could recite Sanskrit slokas though articulation was difficult. He learnt to use the computer to help him to communicate. His parents introduced him to fine art and music. After sending him to the Speech Therapist, his doting parents presented him with an expensive camera so that he could earn his living later on in life and admitted him in a vocational Training Institution. Photographs taken by him started being exhibited and his parents felt rewarded for their perseverance.

The boy grew up to be very efficient. He could prepare not only his breakfast but also as a lovingly gesture prepared some delicious snacks for his parents. He helped with the domestic chores and folded washed clothes in a neat pile. Every little accomplishment on his part made his parents proud of him.

 Now it so happened last winter Valerie and Ronen had retired to bed after a tiring day at the office and had fallen off to sleep. At about two in the morning some thieves broke into the house. They tied the parents up with ropes, stuffed cloth into their mouths to gag them and were ordered them to hand over the keys of the safe. Timpu heard the noise and got up with a start. He could only gasp with fright. He tried to shout but found that he had lost his voice. At this moment of crisis his superior intelligence stood him in good stead. He quickly took out his mobile and dialled the number 100 for police help. He felt he was incapable of movement and stood shaking like a coconut palm in a tornado. But all of a sudden he got a brainwave. He had the presence of mind to take out his camera and took a photograph of the miscreants. As soon as they saw the flash and knew there were other people in the house, they jumped out of the window.

In the meantime police patrol which was in the vicinity, arrived. Timpu opened the door to them. They untied Valerie and Ronen and wrote down all that they had to say. They took finger prints but did not find any other clue to identify the thieves. The parting words of the police were that they would do their best but it would take time to pin the culprits down as they had no evidence. At that time Timpu came with his camera and with a satisfied air informed the uniformed men that he had been successful in photographing them. Though he could not articulate all the words clearly, the policemen were able to follow what he said. The net result was that the next day the rogues were booked and put in the lock-up.

Though the response was late from Valerie to decide about parenting, and all three of them had a tough struggle, they had battled the stormy weather unitedly which had become the strongest bond. The greatest joy and pride for the parents was that their handicapped son, or to be more correct, their differently abled son had been able to give them a renewed lease of life. No other child could have loved them the way he did.


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