The alarm rang earlier than usual that morning. School picnic. Ria had been allotted sandwiches. She slept soundly while the recipe for pudina chutney was googled, made, spread onto neatly cut triangles of bread, and wrapped securely in two layers of cling wrap. It was then carefully slipped into a big bag with lots of extra napkins. Soon after, the geyser was switched on and her uniform was ironed. Ria was then woken up and forced out of bed while the milk boiled. She was running late. It was going to be a rushed morning.
Have you seen my belt? Ria yelled from her room as she got dressed. Tv room, came the answer instantly. She finally arrived at the drawing room, dressed in her crisply ironed uniform and polished shoes. Do my hair! She demanded, wincing as the comb created a middle parting across her scalp. In minutes, two ponytails were made to perfection. It was time to leave. She was handed her lunch and the extra sandwiches. Don’t forget to tell ma’am to serve them with ketchup! Called a voice behind her as she made her way to the door.
Bye bye!! She said, waving both her hands as she got on the bus. Her front teeth missing, her smile was the most beautiful, rewarding thing in the world. He smiled, waving back at her. He walked back into the house, threw himself on the couch and switched on the game. As he adjusted the cushions, he found the handmade card hidden beneath them, complete with little stars and smiles saying Happy mothers’ day, daddy!
She sat at the gynaecologist’s, restlessly. Her palms sweaty, breath shallow. She regretted it. Only 24, conservative Brahmin family, of marriageable age, on the brink of a successful career. That night was a mistake. She needed an abortion. There was no other option.
Look, here is the baby the doc said pointing at the ultrasound. She felt a strange connection with it instantly. She ran her fingers across her stomach. She loved it already. It had her blood, maybe it would have her eyes, she thought.
Ma’am, to go through with the procedure, please sign here said the nurse, handing her a pen. She snapped out of her trance, took a deep breath and signed shakily above the dotted line.
She went for a long walk that evening. The hours sped past her, like the evening traffic. It was 10pm when she decided to head home. She stopped to pick up a bouquet flowers on the way. Happy mother’s day Amma! She said, as Amma answered the door. Where the hell have you been and why haven’t you answered my calls amma screamed ignoring the flowers, you give me a heart attack. You’ll know only when you have a daughter of your own.
She mustered up a weak smile as she put the flowers in a vase. Maybe someday.
“Monday is the last day. If your report cards are not signed and brought back, I will call your parents”, Maam announced in class that Friday afternoon.
Arya felt a knot in her stomach. She reached in her bag for her report card and looked at it again. B+, C, C-, D+, B. Mum was going to kill her. She had put it off for a week. Now, she had no choice.
Ahalya noticed that Arya hardly spoke the entire weekend. She wondered why she seemd a little more nervous and irritable than usual. Want to make Mum a card for Mother’s Day? Ahalya asked her this morning. Whats the point, she will hate me anyway she said bursting into tears. Arya shoved her report card in Ahalya’s hand, tears streaming down her cheeks. Ma will never sign this, she muttered between her sobs.
Ahalya didn’t say a word. She walked over to their desk, grabbed a pen and some paper and started scribbling on it. Arya watched her in silence, confused. She walked over to the desk to see Ahalya making variations of Ma’s signature. She got closer with every try. Finally, when she thought she was ready, Ahalya asked her to hand her the report card. She went about it with surgical precision, signing above Mother’s signature confidently, without the slightest tremble in her hand.
Lets make that card now! Ahalya said, slipping it into Arya’s bag.
The traffic signal at MG Road.
She’d tapped their window when the signal turned red. Her dry hair, sunken eyes, yellow teeth. She pointed at the infant sleeping soundly on her waist. Please, baby is hungry, she pleaded, hoping they’d roll the window down. They pretended not to notice. Keeping their eyes fixed on the road, as she peered through the glass window. It was getting late. She pinched the baby’s thigh hard. Slowly, inconspicuously. He started bawling instantly, loud enough to drown the sound of the evening traffic.
She wondered if it would work. She held him close to her chest, looking helpless and tired. Papa, its Mother’s Day, give her some thing said the 7 year old, staring sympathetically at her. The father smiled at his boy as he dug his pocket for loose change. She waited patiently at the window, holding the tearful child, reaching for the change the minute the window was rolled down.
Just then, she saw a little girl waving at her from a yellow school bus. When she walked over, the girl handed her a plastic bag with a few sandwiches. Happy Mothers Day, she smiled, her front teeth missing.
The signal changed to a cruel amber before she knew it. She walked over to the footpath and patiently waited for next red light to arrive. She counted her money as she waited. It was a slow day. It wasn’t easy having 3 growing children to feed.
She set aside 50 rupees regretfully as she made her way home. Daily rent prices for babies was rising too fast.