We could see the main building of the hospital as the bus moved towards the direction. My friend, who was sitting beside me, was busy on phone talking with his relatives that we had almost reached our destination. One of his distant relatives was admitted there, and we were going to see him. From the distance, we could see the big board on which the name of the hospital was written. But as didn’t have my specs at that time as somebody had sat on it the other day and the new pair was not yet ready, the thing written on the board appeared hazy. “Something-something Memorial Hospital” was what I could understand.
As our bus halted near the hospital, we got down. I looked around the building as we marched towards the entrance gate. I had heard a lot about the hospital. I was quite eager to meet with the person who had taken the initiative to build it.
And finally we could see the relatives of my friend, most of whom I didn’t know. It didn’t take us much time to get acquainted. We went upstairs and met with the patient.
I was really getting bored at that time. So I left my friend there and came downstairs in search of something worth for myself.
And then, entered the owner of the hospital. Every person there- from doctors to nurses to ward-boys to receptionists and even some visitors-greeted him. He was the owner of this hospital- a tall, grey-haired man. He walked towards his office-room.
I sat on one of the chairs for some time. But soon I felt pre-occupied. I got up and walked around when my attention fell on the office-room of the owner. I knew that was the place I was intended to go.
With half fear and half eagerness I went to the door. The person was sitting alone in the room, reading a newspaper. Beside his, was another chair that was vacant. “May I come in, sir,” I said.
“Please come in,” he replied.
“Good Morning sir,” I said as I entered the room, “I have heard a lot about you as well as this hospital. I just couldn’t resist meeting you in person. Hope you won’t mind.”
“Of course not. Why should I mind? Please take your seat.”
“Thank you,” I sat on one of the chairs. I could see his name written on the name-plate kept there.
“Rupanjan Adhikary,” it read. Beside it was another name-plate. It contained the name of the other person.
“Sir, could you please tell me something about yourself, and how this hospital was formed?” I asked.
Mr. Adhikary seemed to get lost in his memories for some time. And then he looked at his watch,
“She has not come yet,” he murmured. And then his attention fell on me.
“Souvick. You may simply call me by this name.”
“Souvick Fine. So what do you exactly want to know?”
“How you came up with the idea of this hospital.”
“It is a long story. Do you have time enough to listen?”
“Yes,” I said. I knew my friend would up there for not more than two hours. “Please begin.”
The child was fast asleep in the warm bed. I was sitting beside her, fanning her, as well as thinking what to do with her. There was no orphanage in the small village. The previous evening I had taken her to many childless couples- the ones who often criticized their respective gods for this. But none of them was ready to accept this girl. They feared she might belong to the other religion. They feared she might be of different caste. She might be the daughter of some unlucky prostitute. And some feared… she was a girl.
They are no different. I too was very much like them one day. I too had this fear. The fear that made me lose Olivia. Olivia- the girl I called Aphrodite, or the Goddess of Love- for shewas the same. Whom I had married much against our parents’ wishes for she was a Christian. With whom, I had spent those wonderful moments of my life. After three months of our marriage, Olivia gave me the news- the ‘good news’ every husband waits for. I was happy. But I had fear as well. I had always longed for a son- who would inherit my business. The thought that the business I had established by years of hard work would, one day, go in the hands of the person my ‘girl’ would marry, was a nightmare for me. This nightmare ultimately forced me to bribe our family doctor and determine the sex of the child inside Olivia’s womb. And when the doctor announced that it was a girl I found my nightmare come true. Time and oft I told Olivia to abort the child, but she didn’t. And so, one fine morning, I asked her for divorce. Olivia wept her heart out, but agreed to it.
Not even a month had passed since then that a great earthquake shook our city. My business collapsed. My insurance policies were on theft and fire but I had never expected an earthquake. I could simply recover nothing from it. The only option left in front of me was to sell off the land and return to my old house in the village.
I looked at the baby. Her innocent face. She was free from any worldly tension. She didn’t even know that she was almost killed under the wheels of some train had not I seen her and picked her from the railway track on time.
I decided to take her to some orphanage in the town as soon as possible.
But the next day, as I dressed up and was about to take her to the orphanage something stopped me. I did not know what. Might be in just two days I had come so close to the baby that I did not want to leave her. Might be the baby had come as a light in my lonely life- the loneliness I myself had created.
I did not take her to the orphanage. Rather could not. I decided to keep her with myself.
Days passed and I gradually learnt how to maintain a baby. Thanks to my neighbor who helped me by suggestions. I named her Selvi. I worked at a private firm as junior clerk. From the money I earned I purchased milk for her. I fed her with my own hands. It gave me immense pleasure.
And in this way, days went on. Selvi was now a three-year old girl. She ran around and played around the house the entire day. She loved spending time with me- her papa. And now, it was time for her schooling.
“What is her name,” the Principal of the primary school asked.
“Selvi Adhikary,” I replied.
“Can’t say. I mean, I had found her on the…”
“What? Have you adopted her?”
“Please show me the adoption papers.”
I was left blank.
I could not admit her to school that day. Till today I had never given a thought to this. But now it was a matter of grave concern for me. I had to legally adopt her. And she had to have a mother as well. Till now she was a small baby. But now she was growing up. A female caretaker was needed.
After a hundred thoughts, I ultimately went to the local café and registered my name in a matrimonial site. I clearly mentioned the reason why I did this.
A few days later I got a reply. A woman named Roshni, divorced because of sterility, decided to hold my hand. I was very happy. Not because I got a wife. But because Selvi got a mother. When I gave the news to Selvi that like her friends she too was going to have a mummy she was delighted.
And one fine day, I and Roshni met, and got married at court. The very next thing we did was to adopt Selvi. She was now legally our daughter.
It was fate that had made Roshni sterile, but I must say, she is an awesome mother. She never made Selvi feel she didn’t have a mother.
Luck favoured us. From junior clerk I was promoted as senior clerk. And then, as sub-manager. My salary increased. When Selvi’s days at Primary School were over she was admitted to high-school. And then, to college.
Selvi, on one hand, loved me very much, while on other hand, hated her own parents- who had left her to die. She also had utter disrespect for Roshni’s husband, who had divorced her for she could not bear a baby. Overall, she had disrespect for all such kind of people. And maybe that is the reason why I had hidden my own past from her. She knew nothing about Olivia.
Selvi had a great flair in writing. She wrote basically on topics based on women. For this reason she even did researches. From old-age homes to hospitals, she didn’t hesitate visiting any such place for this purpose.
One day she, along with some friends who were boys, had even dared to visit a red-light area, where they had secretly interviewed a prostitute. The boys entered as customers, and kept the pimp engaged, while she managed to slip in. And then the boys also went in after paying the pimp. They interacted with the fourteen-year old child and secretly came out of the place. Later she wrote about this in her blog. It was read by a large number of people. The police and the media were informed and this incident literally shook the entire red-light area.
“So on what are you doing research these days, dear?” I asked her one day.
“On a lady in an old-age home, papa,” she replied, “She has burn marks all over her body. She had once been tried to be killed by some people because she didn't have a husband yet she carried a baby.”
“Go ahead dear,” I replied, “I’m very proud of you.”
“Thank you papa. Love you.”
And just after two days, when I was in my room sipping my cup of tea, Selvi hurriedly entered in.
“Papa… please tell the exact place where you had found me.”
“What happened,” I could not understand why suddenly she was asking this.
“Please tell, papa. I want to know.”
“I had found you on the railway track near that sacred well.”
Selvi was silent.
“What happened sweetheart?”
“That lady I told about two days ago… she is…”
“How can you say that?”
“Her husband had left her when she was pregnant. She went back to her village where her child was born. But the people there, as per their so-called rule, tried to kill her as well as her child. Her child was left to die on the railway track on the same place where you had found me. After that the lady was then tied on a pyre. The people then the pyre set fire and went away, leaving her to burn to death. The lady somehow untied herself and escaped from there, with fire on her clothes. She took a dip on a nearby pond and then rushed to the railway track where her daughter was thrown, only to see her daughter was missing from there. This incident happened exactly on the day when you celebrate my birthday.”
A huge silence prevailed. My mind went blank for some time. And then, this blank was filled by clouds of fear. Fear that I would lose my daughter now as she had found her original mother. I looked the other side. Roshni was standing there. Did this fear fill her as well?
The next morning as all got ready to visit the lady in the orphanage, Selvi entered the room with wet eyes only to inform that the lady suddenly fell sick and was admitted to hospital. Our destination changed from the orphanage to the hospital.
It was Selvi who entered the room first. I and Roshni waited outside, dipped in a hundred questions- questions whose predictable answers were something we feared even to imagine. We could somewhat hear the conversation that was going on inside. Conversation which actually was a flow of emotions. Conversation that was to quench someone’s years of thirst. That was to bring happy tears for someone, while sad tears for some others. And some of those sad tears could be noticed in the eyes of Roshni. But she hid it soon, and started smiling. “I’m happy Selu has got her own mother,” she said.
Selvi came out of the room after some time, and told us to go in.
We went in. As I saw the burnt face of the lady I simply stood still, with my mouth half open, my eyes wide.
Whom was I seeing? Was it the fault of my eyes? The lady also saw me in the same manner. I went closer to her. I looked at her face properly. It was the same face I had sometime dated with. The face I had married to. My Aphrodite.
I went close to her and whispered, “Olivia”. As she heard her name from my mouth she burst into tears.
Soon after that my own condition was the same. She had tears of long-awaited satisfaction. I had tears of deep regret.
I turned around. Selvi stood there watching the scene. She couldn’t quite understand what actually was going on. Olivia told her to come closer. She then pointed her towards me. “He is your father. You share his genes.”
Selvi looked at me with surprise.
I did not know what to do. I simply burst into tears as I narrated her everything- every truth I had hidden from her, and the reason for the same.
Selvi looked at Olivia for some time, and then towards me. “It is okay papa. You had realized your mistake long back. There is no reason to be angry on you anymore.”
I was relieved. I was set free of a fear that had caged me for years.
Our attention ultimately fell on the lady who was standing at a distance- who, perhaps, had taken it for granted that she had lost us pertinently, as the lady she had taken place of, had come back in our lives.
Olivia suddenly summoned Roshni to come close to her. She could barely speak. Roshni came in front of her. Olivia understood the pain behind her smile. “Do not worry, your family will always be yours,” she said and held Roshni’s hand. The very next moment, Olivia started breathing heavily. The doctor was immediately called. We went out of the room. We waited for some time. The doctor ultimately came out of the room. “There is a sad news. The patient is no more.”
Of all, Roshni wept the most.
“Two years have passed. Selvi is a veteran writer today. Her books have made immense sales all over India. By the time I got retired I had enough money to have purchased this piece of land. Selvi had earned a huge royalty by then. We invested the money and started this hospital. Almighty has showered his blessings. We collected ample funds and soon the hospital developed wings. Today it has many reputed doctors. We treat people of various kinds of diseases. I and Roshni are in-charge of it.”
“Why this hospital? Why not some orphanage or old age home?” I asked.
“We have plans also for them. This hospital is just the beginning.”
“Very well. You are really doing a very good job. By the way, what about Selvi? Where is she?”
“She is in New Delhi these days. Pursuing her Masters in English as well as writing her third book.”
“I see,” I said and stood up from my chair. “Thank you sir. I have to leave now. Thank you once again for giving your valuable time to me.”
“It’s my pleasure, Souvick.”
As I was about to leave the room somebody entered. She went and sat on the vacant chair. I re-read the name on the name-plate. “Roshni Adhikary”
“Hello ma’m,” I said.
The lady stared at me. Mr. Rupanjan introduced her with me.
“Your story has indeed left a mark, ma’m,” I said.
The lady replied nothing. Just smiled.
I then left the room. I called my friend.
“I’d be there in less than five minutes,” he replied.
I sat on the chair. I had nothing to do. I took my phone and opened the Facebook app. I was busy with it until my friend came.
“Come man. Sitting with Facebook whole day!”
We came out of the hospital. I looked back.I could read the hospital name clear:
“Olivia Adhikary Memorial Hospital”
We sat on the bus for our journey back home. I told my friend I have got a good stuff to write.
“Dekha, mere sath aaya toh Fayda huwa na,” he said with pride.
“Yes bhai. You are right,” I said.
My friend got busy with his girlfriend on phone. I took my phone and logged in to Facebook again.
There was one notification. I clicked on it. It read:
“Selvi Adhikary has accepted your friend-request.”