Araina goggled at the test results in disbelief. The second pink line had appeared, turning her world topsy-turvy in an instant. She was perched on the sofa with a deadpan expression on her face. And then as reality hit her, panic mode kicked in. A whirlwind of emotions churned inside her and she cursed herself for changing the course of her life for a few moments of bliss and pleasure.
She started pacing all over the room fretfully, while trying to figure out ways to sort out the mess she had got herself into. She clenched her fist and thwacked the wall, and broke down hysterically. She had to let those emotions come out to be able to think rationally about the situation. Araina was a strong and pragmatic person. After crying her heart out, she regained some composure and decided to face the circumstances head on. She could not change what had already happened, but she had to approach this with a sane mind.
Araina dropped an email to her reporting manager stating that she was sick and hence, had taken a day off. She booked an appointment with a renowned gynaecologist in the city for 12 PM. She took a rapid shower and hastily slipped into her office wear.
“Araina, how come you got so late today? And won’t you eat something and go?” Mrs. Kapoor enquired from the kitchen.
“Mom, I had an important call with the onsite team. I am getting late for office. I’ll grab something from the canteen. Bye!” responded Araina as she dashed out of her double-storey bungalow.
Araina was surprised at the sight of the swarm of patients in the hospital on a weekday. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, she was ushered in to the gynecologist’s cabin by the assistant at 12:55 PM. After seeking all the necessary information from Araina, Doctor Sheetal performed a transvaginal ultrasound on her and established that she was 6 weeks pregnant. Araina winced for a moment and then took a deep breath. Her menstrual cycle had always been erratic so she did not think much of it when her period did not arrive around her due date this time. But, when the delay seemed prolonged, a fear crept inside her and she promptly purchased the home pregnancy test kit. Araina initially hesitated a bit, but then had a frank discussion about the abortion process. For some reason, she was half expecting the gynecologist to judge her or give her unsolicited advice. But, Doctor Sheetal was extremely professional and gentle. She explained the procedure to her and assured her that it would not be complicated at all at this stage. Araina left the hospital after confirming that she would get back soon with her decision. On her way home, a flurry of questions kept sprinting across her brain causing her a throbbing headache.
“Why am I thinking about this? Shouldn’t I just abort? Should I call Rishabh? But he is in London for a week for the UAT phase of the project which is critical and I should not be disturbing him. I will have to talk to Mom and Dad too about this. God, how will they react! Damn!”
The next couple of days passed by with Araina pondering over the situation to understand what she really wanted. She lived through the days monotonously but her mind was most of the time preoccupied with thoughts and sleep was elusive. It was time to drop the bomb on her parents.
“Mom, I am 6 weeks pregnant.”
Araina’s declaration was followed by an eerie silence. Her father sat down with his face buried into his hands and her mother sat motionless with raised eyebrows. The Kapoors were visibly flabbergasted. After a lengthy pause, Mrs. Kapoor shut her eyes and exhaled, and broke the awkward hush that had loomed into the room.
“Who is the father?”
“Rishabh. You had met him when my team had come over for lunch the other day.”
“He seemed like a nice guy. But it did not appear as if you both are in a relationship.”
“Umm…Mom that is because we are not in a relationship.”
“What? How did this baby happen then?”
“I mean we do like each other and there was some attraction. So we went out on a date but we have not committed to each other.”
“You mean you just had casual sex without thinking about the repercussions?”
Mrs. Kapoor was undoubtedly agitated and frantic now and Araina was almost in tears.
“Mom, we did use protection. I am sorry. It happened. I know it should not have but it has.”
Mrs. Kapoor held Araina’s hand to placate her and Araina impulsively rested her head on her mother’s shoulder.
“Let us talk to his parents and see how to take this forward. Maybe we can do a simple wedding…”
“Mom, I told you it is just attraction. I do not want to marry him”, blurted out Araina interrupting her mother’s trail of thoughts.
“Oh you mean you do not want the child? Ok. Abortion will not be very tough at this stage. I am there with you. You can give some excuse and take leave for few days from work.”
“But, mom I do not want to abort. I want to give birth to this baby.”
“What? Are you saying this because of guilt of ending a life and all that? Come on, there is nothing wrong in getting a baby aborted sweetheart. It is your body and your right.”
“No Mom, you know me better than that I am sure. Just like a woman has the right to abort her baby if the situation so demands, she also has the right to give birth to a baby even if the situation is unfavourable. Isn’t it?”
“Enough Araina!” yelled Mr. Kapoor who was quiet all this while.
The ladies stiffened their stance and he was almost trembling with anger. The expression of disappointment was writ large on his face and words just flowed out of his mouth like they were waiting to come out.
“You are getting this baby aborted tomorrow. There is nothing to discuss. After what you have done, you have the audacity to argue with us? Have we ever pressurized you for anything? You are 31 and still single. We are giving you the freedom to choose a partner whenever you want to. You go for late night parties too and are enjoying life to the fullest. And this is what you give back to us? This is not a movie. We live in a society. We may not care about the society but do you know that your child will be subjected to humiliation by everyone?”
“Papa, please try to understand. I am not arguing. You both always tell me that one should have a baby only when one is ready, and that there should be no other reason to have a baby. I am ready papa, emotionally and financially. I have thought this through properly and I know what I am getting into. I always wanted to nurture a baby, and when life has given me this wonderful opportunity, why should I let it go? Since when have you both started worrying about society? It is my womb and I decide, right? And as far as my child is concerned, I will teach my child to stand strong against the bullies of society and not get bogged down”.
The arguments continued for days but neither of them budged. Araina’s parents were adamant on getting the baby aborted but she had resolved to carry the baby. Once Rishabh was back from his London trip, Araina met him at a café near their office to disclose the news to him.
Rishabh almost gagged on his Iced Tea and looked gobsmacked on learning about Araina’s pregnancy.
“What? Are you sure? But, we had used protection.”
Araina showed him her test reports and waited for him to digest it all. She could notice his flustered state and made her outlook on this matter clear to him.
“Look Rishabh. I honestly do not have any expectations from you. It will be unfair on my part if I force you to officially declare yourself as the father of the baby. What happened between us was mutual and I take complete responsibility of the situation I am in. I know the decision to birth the baby is mine and hence, I leave it to you to decide if you want to get involved as a parent too. You have all the right to refuse. And don’t worry, no one will come to know about you being the father of the baby. Leave it to me to handle the inevitable questions. I need to rush for some work now, but trust me, no hard feelings”.
As weeks passed, Araina had deciphered that she had embarked on a lonesome journey. Her parents had cut down on their interaction with her and there was nothing except the mundane, necessary conversations. Their silent treatment was suffocating her and she was worried that this could adversely impinge on her health. During the second trimester of her pregnancy, Araina decided to move out from her home into a fully-furnished rented apartment in a posh complex. She was at a senior position in a leading IT firm and earned enough to lead an independent life. She had a teeny-weeny hope in her heart that her parents would stop her from leaving home, but to her dismay they did not utter a single word during the entire shifting process. Fortunately, she found an efficient and trustworthy full time maid who would live with her in her new abode.
Once her bump became noticeable, tongues began to wag in Araina’s office and many of her colleagues started avoiding her. Her relationship with Rishabh and a few other close friends had merely reduced to cordial acknowledgements. Though she felt hurt, she immersed herself into work and focused on keeping her mind at peace. She also took good care of her health and followed all the instructions of the gynaecologist as well as her well-informed maid. Her maid had apprised her that Mrs. Kapoor would call at times to keep a tab on her wellbeing, but never spoke to Araina directly.
Sometimes in the deafening stillness of the night or under the spell of the twinkling, moonlight sky, Araina would feel alone. Being a single mother with a child born out of wedlock would be an uphill task for sure. But she would not have had it any other way because she believed in living life on her own terms. She was doing nothing wrong and felt liberated being away from the shackles of the society. After all, a mother cannot be labelled or categorized – a mother is a mother irrespective of her marital status or any other parameter defined by the world.
7 years later
“So, you had fun with Rishabh at the water park?” enquired Araina while reversing the car out of the parking lot in her apartment complex.
“Yes mom, it was super fun and thrilling. You know we did some crazy stunts in water.”
“That is good, but be careful while performing these daring stunts my stuntman”, chided Araina tenderly.
“Mom, why can’t papa live with us?”
“Again the same question Harsh. Well, we are good friends but we do not want to live together. Tell me something. Do you want to live with your best friends under the same roof forever?”
“Hmm. Forever? I am not sure of that.”
“That is the point. We meet and love many people in our life but may not really want to live with all of them. You will understand when you grow up.”
“What do you mean when I grow up? I am a biiiiiiiiiiig boy.”
Both guffawed at Harsh’s remark. Together, they were always a laugh riot.
// This short story is the winner of “Muse of the Month” contest conducted by Women’s Web in the month of May 2017 and is also available at the following link.