Shernaz fictionalises a real-life account where the daughter, a girl-child, in dire need of kidney transplant was left uncared for. No medical expenses were provisioned for her since she was not the heir of the family. Here’s a tragic case of gender bias in a society that is obsessed with the male-child, the birth of a son, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Profit and loss – Parth wove his life around those two words. His relationships too went into the credit and debit columns! If he could, he would have planted an orchard of money trees in his backyard. He was obsessed and became insecure with the thought of having less. Whether in bed with her or at a party, his discussions were limited to business and money matters. She wondered what propelled men like him – a voracious hunger for money, power, rivalry or perhaps a bit of everything. She found him unexciting, uninteresting and undesirable after fourteen years of marriage and two kids – Aasha and Aashish. Silence had become his wife Deepika’s forte and her response to his dearth of conversation skills.
It was late one night and as usual, Parth was lost in counting his eggs and chickens. He was not aware of Deepika’s presence much less of the tidal wave of rage and frustration mounting in her deceptive silence, as she recalled his admonition earlier that day.
Suddenly, with resolve etched in every line of her face, she picked up her mobile phone and sneaked out of the bedroom. Away from anyone’s earshot, she keyed in a number and whispered furtively into the phone.
“Hello Nitish, it’s me… Yes, I know it’s very late but he is buried in his balance sheet. Listen, I need to meet you tomorrow morning. Please? It’s very important… No, it cannot be discussed on the phone. Tomorrow… over coffee at Café Purple Sugar, okay? … Yes, that suits me. Thanks and good night.”
The tremor and urgency in her voice would not have escaped her dear, perceptive Nitish. Lips quivering and tears trembling on her lashes, she slipped back into bed as discreetly as she had left it. Parth was oblivious of her sorrow burning its path down the corners of her eyes just as he was ignorant of the fact that most of her nights froze in the arctic lanes of his heartlessness.
“God! I loathe the chauvinist b…..d! And how! Is this a marriage planned in your distant heaven?”
“Ma! You were right. I will never forget (nor forgive) you for sweet-talking me into this alliance. You and daddy have gone to your Maker leaving me to deal with this fiend. But yes, thank you God, for not casting all men in the same mould,” she sighed, gratified that there were many feminist men too.
Early next day, soon as Parth was out of the house, Deepika readied her son for school and saw him off, with a kiss. His bright yellow pullover complimented his fair skin and sparkling eyes. He was a robust, pampered little brat. Next, she went to see Aasha. The eleven-year-old had only just managed to drink the juice brought to her by the maid. She now lay in bed, looking frail and tired.
“Sweetie, mama has to go out for some very important work. So be good and stay in bed. You have to get well soon. Okay? If you need anything tell Rambha. Your dadi is also at home, doing pooja. I’ll be back before long.”
Deepika dressed up hurriedly wishing she wouldn’t have to confront her ma-in-law. Masking her puffy eyes with dark sunglasses, she tore out of the house almost hurtling herself into a taxi, conscious she would have to meet Nitish as she was. He was already at the café waiting anxiously for her. She ordered herbal ice tea and sat facing him. For a while she gazed into his brown eyes which scorched hers taking in all those telltale signs of sleepless nights and pain filled days.
Then, through a cascade of tears the words began to stumble out. Nitish’s face became a canvas of altering expressions. Shock, pain, hurt, disbelief and rage crisscrossed his darkening face. He was appalled! Pent up, her excruciating story out, she looked on helplessly and imploringly at him.
Weighed down with imponderable feelings, he spoke hoarsely, “Don’t worry Deepu! This is our problem. Don’t even try talking again to that money-bag Parth. Just give me a few days and trust me, I will make things easy for you.”
She put her hand on his. “I know Nitish. You are an angel. I knew I could count on you.” She patted her face dry, picked up her sunglasses and left hurriedly, putting on a brave smile.
Juggling his emotions, Nitish walked over to a peaceful park round the corner. He sat on a rock at the edge of a cool stream. The foliage, the soothing murmur of water over pebbles and a gentle breeze… this place always soothed his frayed nerves. A bee buzzed somewhere in the bushes complementing the chaotic thrum of his thoughts…
“Do I really know Parth? Is he so despicable? Can he be so cruel? Is this man my friend? So thick-headed, even after the discussions we had over a decade back when Asha was born? Did he insinuate something then that both Deepika and I were too dumb to understand? Can relationships be so deceiving?”
Nitish was crushed. He shut his eyes and leaned back against a tree seeking solace, requesting it to take in his fury, his throbbing pain, and bury them deep into Mother Earth’s bosom so he could draw forth strength and comfort from her. He knew a confrontation with Parth at this stage would be to invite everyone’s doom. She and Aasha had gone through enough agony. He recalled how Parth and his mother had made life miserable for Deepika until Aashish – their longed for heir – was born. He felt sad; extremely sad particularly for his friend Parth.
“No. I pity him. I can’t feel sorry for that miserable scumbag,” he said to himself, startling a kingfisher as he hurled a stone in the running brook.
“Wish I could shake Parth out of his apathy and cold-bloodedness.” He gritted his teeth bitterly recollecting the countless hours he had spent with this man he had loved as a friend. A bug crawled up his leg and he squashed it with vehemence.
“What a father! Not only was he reluctant to donate a kidney to save his daughter he vehemently forbade his wife to do so!
“We are both still very young and she is only a girl. I will divorce you if you even think about it again. Had it been for Aashish it would have been different. Anyway, the doctor has given her a year and a half on the far side. Find a donor if you can. Though it will cost me a fortune I will pay”, he groaned. “But don’t expect me to go searching. I have better things to do than waste my time on a daughter who will die anyway. And she will be better dead than a living burden. What guaranty is there that her body will accept the donor organ?” was his brutal argument. Deepika wanted to throttle him but all she did was cry her heart out.
Deepika’s words still burned Nitish to the core but he knew this was not the time to deal with Parth. At this juncture, his priority was the unfortunate girl. He swiftly needed to put all his resources and contacts to work. He would make sure Aasha got every chance to live.
In spite of his best efforts, Nitish knew it would be a long haul before he could find a donor. He refused to consider unscrupulous middlemen who trade in human organs. He had registered Aasha’s name with a few hospitals and now all they could do was wait.
In the meantime, Aasha was shuffled between house and hospital. As the frequency of dialysis increased her hands got swollen and blood vessels hardened. Now the doctors had started using a tunneled catheter in her neck as an access point. Nausea and headaches became frequent companions but she suffered stoically, impatiently looking forward to a donor’s kidney. It was pure hell for Deepika. Parth only reacted with growls each time he reluctantly doled out a cheque. His frostiness was more devastating for Aasha than the disease.
One afternoon, scarcely visible and confined to bed after another dialysis, Aasha looked like an incapacitated butterfly which could flutter its wings but not fly. Distressed, she clutched her mother’s hand.
“Mama, sit here with me. I want to talk,” she barely murmured, her voice wobbly and terrified. Dark circles framed her already shrunken eyes. Deepika sat down beside her, caressing away the stray hair from her face. Struggling to keep her trepidation at bay she asked, “What is it sweetie?”
“Mama, I know I am dying. Will I go to hell Mama? Am I being punished for something I did in my previous life?” she asked
Deepika was petrified by her daughter’s question. After agonising seconds she recovered enough to ask her daughter what made her think so.
“Mama, Nisha’s grandmother was here yesterday evening. Dadi said to her that I was paying for sins committed in my past life. Is that true, Ma? Nisha’s grandmother also said that I didn’t have many days to live”. Aasha’s tearful voice trailed off and her mother gasped.
Deepika felt broken. Her fists clenched and unclenched. Slowly she stopped gnashing her teeth and after she had mentally punched Nisha’s grandmother black and blue in the face, she gave Aasha a reassuring hug. “My darling, Uncle Nitish is hopeful that now we will soon get a donor. You will have a new kidney and then you will be fine.”
“Sure, Ma? I don’t want to die. I pray God to forgive me. He’ll listen to me, won’t He?” Nisha gagged on those words.
“Of course, my baby, of course! He will. Now give Mama a sweet smile.”
With that, she kissed her baby and fled to hide her own dread and tears. This time the doctor had warned her that there was little hope unless they found a donor in the next day or two.
“What a liar she was! An awful mother too! She didn’t have the courage to face the truth. She had lied to her child. How she despised herself!
“God! Couldn’t you have given me this problem? Why this to my innocent baby? I am ready to exchange my health and life for hers”, she beseeched desperately.
Aasha’s health took a turn for the worse two days later and she breathed her last at the hospital in Nitish’s powerless arms. “Thank heavens for small mercies,” he thought to try to assuage a feeling of guilt, “having slipped into a coma, at least, she was spared further agony.”
He knew he had done his best but that was not enough.
His phone rang.
“Sir, we are calling from Bhatia Hospital. You are lucky; we have a matching donor at last.”
Who killed Aasha? The disease? Her father? His denigration of the female child?
(Based on a true incident where a father, supported by his family, categorically refused to do anything for his daughter who was in the need of a kidney transplant. He even refused financial support! This is one horrific facet of our society crazy for ‘male offspring’.)
Photos from the internet.
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