“Nobody wants to make a documentary these days!” I scowl at Mai, for no fault of hers.
“All they want is an item song, a hero who saves the bony heroine from the clutches of a savage villain and then ek tha raja, ek thi rani, dono mar gaye khatam kahaani…” Mai tries to suppress a grin watching my royal antics.
“Laugh, laugh loudly. In fact, call the Sharmas and Mehtas from the third floor, and tell them too- chokri gandi thai gai che(that your daughter has gone mad). Proclaim to the whole world, that you gave birth to a buffoon!” As I raise my hands in exasperation, the script-writing books from the shelf above, descend on me.
“Shit!! I deserve this.” I curse myself. Mai who has till now defined all odds of civility, breaks into a ludicrous laughter.
“Poor girl! The ghosts of script writing will now run away!” She knew that this was a lame joke on my bruised forehead. A sane mother would have cuddled me, caressed my black-blue temple. But no, Mrs. Anjana Patel will never do this formidable act of pampering her offspring. She is a Nazi parent. She is the Mrs. Singham of the Ahmedabad Police Force. Whatever I may believe, she is a tough nut with mushy flesh inside.
“Mokshaaaa..” Dadi calls out to me wrapping up her namaz ritual.
“Did I hear my fairy shriek in pain? Ya Allah! Why don’t people in this house understand, a girl should be protected like a wisp of cotton?”
Mai is always at Dadi’s receiving end of fault-finding.
“Oh my GOD! Look at her swollen face. Even hags adore their children!” Dadi’s day starts on a good note. At heart, she enjoys taunting Mai as much as she enjoys oiling my curls at night. Chattering like Lago, Aladdin’s macaw; Dadi doesn’t miss a golden opportunity to subtly poke Mai.
But my Mai is the Batwoman, who patrols the streets of Gujarat, protecting many Sleeping beauties, out in the real world. We are immensely proud of her. We? Yes, even Dadi. Mai and Dadi’s is a bittersweet relationship that comes to life when Mai is untraceable while working on a case. Dadi is then revealed as the Nirupama Roy, shedding tears, reading namaz ten times a day. Their equation is as puzzling as that of Omi and Langda Tyagi of Omkara.
What an adaptation of the Othello!
A rare Bollywood production I have relished. “They just don’t make good movies these days!” I revert to my ranting as though I was born in the Mughal-e-azam era.
“Good morning, fellas!” Here comes Dr. Shivani, the reason why I am a referee between these boxing ladies.
Dr.Shivani kisses me on the blue- black bulge.
“Ouch!” I rebel.
But she, too, is another avatar of Mrs.Singham; neither the slap nor the lap kind of female.
“Hey, lazy ass. Aren’t you getting late for your script narration appointment today?” She reminds me what I am trying to forget.
“Nobody wants to make a documentary these days!” I prepare for the take two of the morning grumpy episode.
“No excuses, Moksha! A noble woman keeps her appointment even with death.” Your nasty jokes ensure, you have not dated even a Yamraj till date but who will explain all this to a medical saint. Can’t believe this woman helps couples beget babies?
At the producer’s office, I gawk at the ginormous posters of decade- old films hanging on the textured wall. All of them don’t appeal to me, but the magnitude of the size lures me.
Concentrate, Moksha. Concentrate. Don’t go off track like you did in your previous narrations. I am my own moral police.
The producer will arrive any moment, that’s what has been fed to me for the last two hours.
Doorknob clicks open. A strong odour of Maralboro wafts in. Robust shoes stomp on the marble flooring.
“Catch hold of the hero, I need the direction to be completed in a week.” Conversing, with an air of importance, Mr. Jha walks in.
Immediately, I stand in accordance as if the chair sprang me out.
With the Maralboro flipping between his stained lips, he signals me to sit down. The denim jacket sported over red and white checkered shirt, with blue jeans ripped on the knees, which gives him a cowboy appearance. Only the hat seems to be missing.
Something at the other end goes wrong and a frown knits his eyebrows together.
“RASCAL!!” He slams the phone on the glass desk which I now observe has numerous visiting cards of amateur script writers like me, sprawled over.
“Ms. Moksha Patel, proceed. But wait. Let me make it very clear, I don’t want to hear cliché love stories and over-dramatised action stuff. If you claim to have something original, then bother to poke my disturbed nerves. Or else, the jungle is abundant, you may find another gorilla. Save my skin.” Dusting the half burnt stud, he clarifies.
Without a glance, I begin.
The scene opens at a hospital bed. Two women- one with a newspaper in her hand (Jaya), while the other by her bedside (Shilpa).
“At approximately 6:45am, the fourteen- hour long ordeal ended with Black Cat commandos shooting the two terrorists hiding in the bushes. During this overnight search for the attackers, one state police officer, one commando lost their lives.” Jaya is reading this traumatic report for the nth time in last two days.
The hospital bed metaphorically shivers under the weight of her aggression, though now she has been reduced to a shrivelled mass from an oversized pumpkin. Lost in her desperation of losing her state police husband, Suraj Patel in the Akshardham temple attacks, Jaya has forgotten to mourn for her stillborn infant.
Shilpa calls for the nurse to sedate an aggressive Jaya. The medical team, a group of stoic swans, rush. As the hurricane settles down, Shilpa returns to the storm brewing within her.
Half-way through the narration, I look up at Mr. Jha- a stone faced mannequin.
“I’m listening. Continue.” He states laconically. I search for some response on his blank face. None.
“CONTINUE.” The silence is boring him.
I get back with anticipated breaths.
Shilpa’s thoughts are that of hopelessness and despair. Her IVF clinic is in deep debts. The last couple on whom she had backed for a successful pregnancy, was now a pipe-dream. Jaya’s infertility treatment would have bloomed, had it not been for Suraj’s brutal death. In the catastrophe, Jaya had not only delivered a dead foetus but also her uterus was gangrenous. She stood no chance of a fertile harvest again.
“Why god? Why me?” Shilpa clasps the dull curtains by the windowsill, and adds her brine tears to the downpour outside. The sky is dark like her future; the hospital room glum, like her heart. Despair fills her living like rainwater filling the potholes. Dirty, muddy, muddled up- no amount of cleansing can help. Suddenly a car’s tyre lashes out the water and again the trench is empty.
“Can such a splash happen to me? Can a wheel of hope flush out the despair?”
The scene ends with Shilpa’s turmoil.
Before I can begin the next scene,
“Sahaab, Abhinav Kumar wants his advance cheque.” The assistant cum peon cum attendant, barges in his unnecessary news, interrupting my smooth narration.
“That swine! He has the audacity to ask advance for the next, when he has not completed this schedule!” The mannequin comes to life, and now is blazing in red ambers.
“Pack up!” He rushes to the door summoning me to take the next appointment.
I return to an empty house with an equally empty heart. The ladies have gone to their respective cherished activities. Dadi will be around gossiping with the Mehtas, Mai grilling some gangster while Dr. Shivani explaining some antic poses to her elite clients with hope of receiving a khush khabari. Only I am jobless, nothing to pursue except a story, which defines my objectionable birth, and petrified upbringing. The images of Ram and Prophet mock at me from the yellow wall. They ridicule my identity, make fun of my family and question my paternity. Imagine, if God locked in photo frames can do this, think how the loosely absconding rascals, the mass of nerds calling themselves society, will exploit me.
I crane my neck and my gaze falls on a favourite photo; the three ladies smothering me with their warm hugs. This is my strength. I call the agent to fix up my next appointment for the incomplete narration.
After a month-long wait, this appointment has been bestowed on me. Unlikely like last time, today the wait has been only for an hour. The object of my admiration, Mr.Jha walks in but not without his Maralboro. The mixed scent of cologne and smoke captivates me.
“Coffee?” I am taken aback by his courtesy. Has the light drizzle outside worked its magic or did my narration?
“Yes. So Maya and Shilpa?
“No, no Sir, Jaya and Shilpa.” I reply.
“Oh! Good to go?”
With a happy nod, I begin–
Days roll into months, yet Jaya finds no ray of sunshine to brighten her dark days. Shilpa, too, is of no great support to her friend as her IVF centre is facing its own abortion.
On one such deary morning, Jaya receives a letter with a postmark from an unknown village, Gonda, outskirts of Kutch. She tears through the envelope in a jiffy, as no amount of excitement can ever set her nerves racing.
Seconds into reading the letter, Jaya is trembling; her fair skin turning into shades of scarlet, and her jugular throbbing, about to explode.
“Shilpaaaaaaaaaa,”- an alarm for a friend, who now is her roomie, counsellor, and a backrest for life. Handing the letter over to her, Jaya shakes in fury. Clenching her teeth and fist, streams of tears gush down her cheeks.
Shilpa is equally astonished on reading –
Dear Jaya (if I may call you so),
Seeking your apologies. I am not worthy enough of this apology, for I have borne a fruit, which poisoned your life. He, not only killed your husband, but also your child. Still, as a mother I seek salvation for him.
Jaya snatches the letter from Shilpa’s hand.
I look at Mr. Jha. He is staring at me with an expression that I assume is affection. Can’t tell how involved he is. Like oil forming a film on water he seems to have at least touched my ideas.
Suddenly, “You mean to say that the mother of a terrorist had the fuckin’ guts to write a letter? Man, where is your story going? What are you trying to project?” He is inquisitive, now more like ink spreading in water.
“Continue. Go fast. I need to know where all this is leading.”
Thrilled by his enthusiasm, my surging adrenaline continues the narration–
“I want to meet this lady.”
Shilpa knows Jaya’s determination is hard to scrub off; like the stubborn grease on fabric. The women set out to search the undersigned woman, Umaiza.
From Ahmedabad to Kutch, they share only silence. The bus ride jerky, and the women dizzy with the anticipation of the meeting. Both have nothing to lose. Both have nothing to gain. Jaya doesn’t know what is her goal or purpose to meet Umaiza. She only knows she has to meet her; at least once.
Wandering through the deserted village, the women finally reach the desolate mud hut, where Umaiza lives. A well with brackish water is the lone companion of the house. A goat nibbles at babul leaves, taking away the tree’s little owned possession. Jaya is transfixed as if her legs are gripped by quicksand. She just stands there.
“Tell me, what they talk. I know Jaya will be angry, to the extent of blaming and accusing Umaiza. But what next? Is it all about crying over spilt milk?” Mr. Jha’s voice is gritty, gruff, displeased. Yet, I make it a point to not jump before describing my Umaiza.
Beautiful as her name suggests, beautiful is her countenance when she learns who the women standing at her doorsteps are.
Jaya wonders, “In her late forties, she must have been a teenage mother. A grizzled woman, the fraying speaks of her exhaustion of raising and losing her only son. Her shoulders have drooped with weight of accusations that might have come her way. But what about that scar on her left eyebrow? An abusive husband? A harassing landlord? A playful son? Or just a life gone all wrong?”
“Beta, I beg, you forgive my son. Ignorance turned him evil. Not a wicked soul, just trapped by wicked people with cataclysmic intentions. Forgive him.” Umaiza prostrates herself at Jaya’s feet.
“I have nothing left to offer you.” Umaiza’s plaintive statement melts the other two.
Now they realise they have nothing in common; precisely, ‘NOTHING LEFT’ to have in common.
In this turmoil, Shilpa sees an oasis. With the few days they spend in the hut, Shilpa discovers a balm; a purpose for the trio.
One sultry afternoon, she breaks the dams of her ideas; for her ideas, for them shocks of their life.
“Umaiza, if you really want to absolve yourself, be a mother to Jaya’s child. Offer your womb so she can grow her baby.” This is Shilpa’s only chance, to rebuild her IVF clinic and their destiny.
“Gosh!!! Is that possible?” Mr. Jha slaps himself to get out of the shock. “You know what you are talking about? This is backed with good research?” his panic is real.
I just smize at him. For the first time he smiles, in fact laughs loudly.
“I don’t need further narration, girl. We start the project from next week.”
I’m about to bounce like a popcorn, when the assistant cum peon cum attendant arrives.
“Sir, Abhinav Kumar has luckily given us few dates.”
“Oh, do hell with your asshole Kumar! I have found my blockbuster.”
Aristocracy rules the theatre. The screen adorns, ‘Jha Productions presents TAKE TWO.’
Mai, Dadi and Dr. Shivani have been given front row seats. Awkwardly, they adjust themselves to the opulence. All through the documentary, people watch with ‘oh’ and ‘ahas’. In the end when there is thunderous applaud I go for an ‘AHAAA’ moment.
On the podium, the mike in my hands shivers,
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am at loss of words and emotions. All my life I could never share my story with my friends, my teachers and my well-wishers. Today when I did, I screened it to the world. My dear patient audiences,” I take a dry gulp.
“I am the second chance of these three beautiful women seated in the front row.”
For the first time, this cache comes out of the dungeon of my existence. The thick cobwebs of prejudice fear the sunshine, as I unlock the doors that sealed this secret.
I can see Dadi’s scar throb on reminiscing the bitter sweet memories. Mai’s lower lip quivers, whether to break into a smile or weep secretly, the quandary troubles her. Only Dr.Shivani stands up and claps vigorously till her palms turn red. After all Shivani’s IVF clinic is one of the sponsors of this award winning documentary.
As I sign autographs, the cologne mixed smoky fragrance, again distracts me. Mr. Jha rests in a corner with definite admiration for me.
Back home a secret celebration awaits me. Least, do I know it is a secret and a celebration.
Kyonki picture abhi baki hai mere dost.
“Moksha, you always believed Suraj to be your father. Now that you know, you were conceived after Suraj died. Don’t you wish to know whose sperms gave you paternity?” Dr. Shivani’s medical gibberish seems intangible. In my frenzy of winning the best scriptwriter award, I wish little to discuss this. Yet, I know she wants to elaborate; for Shilpa had very little dialogues, and now Shivani needs to speak for it.
“Moksha, you are daughter of the terrorist, the one who killed Anjana’s husband. When I was searching for donor samples, I stumbled upon the samples of Umaiza’s son who in his bid to earn easy money had donated sperms to a particular sperm bank in Ahmedabad. Your Dadi balked at such a drastic solution, though initially. For her, to bear an alien egg was haram. But when she came to know about her sons samples, she looked forward to seeing him again in your form.” She divulges details like an overflowing drain. I am overwhelmed by this filth. My nails burrow deep into my arm, as I hear her talk nonsense.
“What about Mai? How did she agree?” is all I can ask, with great trepidation.
“It was difficult. But this was the only way where we all could find purpose in life again. You my darling are our sole purpose. You are the chick that hatched from Anjana’s eggs. You are the Phoenix that rose from the ashes of our burnt past.” My heart thuds unevenly. My skin burns acknowledging its patronage.
The denial emerges from my bones. A glass tumbles down spilling the leftover water. On the white surface, my dark reflection asks me, what are you? A guinea pig of an experiment? A puppet of amusement? A toy of entertainment?
NONE. My conscience overpowers the myriad false reflections. You are a medal of victory, a primrose of darkness, a coral dug deep in the ocean bed, a lupis brighter than the blue sky.
A dead yet killer, father is much better than a dead, murdered conscience.
I hug Dr. Shivani. Again, the three smother me in their welcoming arms.
Seriously, nobody wants to make such documentaries these days. Nobody finds such inspirations these days.
Author’s note: The highlight of the story is how forgiving, accepting and evolving with open mindedness helps second chances to be smooth for us. Anjana Patel forgives the terrorist by allowing her eggs to be fused with the sperms of the terrorist. Dadi aka Umaiza copes with her loss by being the surrogate mother to her dead son’s child. Dr. Shivani makes the unbelievable possible with her skills and the IVF centre breathes a second chance.
The focus solely remains on second chances and not surrogacy as a technical subject. Here, the author may have taken some liberty with the technical aspects of surrogacy to suit the needs of the story. Forgive her for the same. There is always a second chance for her too, to improve.
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