In Distress, Still I Rise

I responded to that one phone call. It offered me hope. I sought solace in that unfamiliar sound. *** The yellow school bus waited outside my residential complex gate. Hesitantly I stepped inside. The usual group was already seated. The laughter and squeals no longer attracted me. I was shivering, my eyes lowered and momentarily looking all over. It was as if I had stepped into a horror castle. The two faces appeared before me. No less than eerie demons threatening me. Soon I was shoved aside. I stumbled and barely managed to stand as I struggled to hold the arm rest of the next seat. My bag meekly looked at me from beneath the seat. They laughed like hyenas at my plight. As I sniffed and refused to go to school, Dad hugged me. “You must learn to handle the bullies in your school bus. It’s not rocket science dear”. *** ‘Anjali… my best friend Ritu called out to me. It was playtime.  We had moved into this new complex just a few days back. I was not yet familiar with the surroundings and people. But for an eight-year-old socializing with peer group came very easily. But not for me. I was an introvert, had stranger anxiety, Agoraphobia. Ritu, our neighbor’s daughter was a cheerful girl. She had come to our home the day after we moved in. Hi Anjali, I am Ritu. How do you know my name Yesterday I heard your mother calling you. Ritu’s charming persona broke the ice and we became friends. Our complex had a fairly large play area for kids with colorful play equipment and open space too. I joined the group of children. But I found it difficult to cope with the rough play. “Hey Anjali, you are such a crybaby. Don’t play with us if you can’t run like us” I was soon ostracized by the children. My room became a hiding place for me. Mum tried to console and pacify me. “Why is Anjali sitting at home when all other children are playing outside”, Dad was annoyed to see me sitting in my room. “The children bully her a lot, they are very aggressive” “What nonsense is this. At this age children have to be playful and active” “But Anjali can’t cope with those children” “It’s not rocket science, Dad was enraged, to socialize with your peer group”.  *** Here I was walking into a club lounge.  The place was unfamiliar. Why have I come to this place. Was it desperation that has brought me here. Was it the ray of hope that I followed to reach here. An unknown voice, an unfamiliar face. I shouldn’t have come here. Am I doing something wrong. I have not told my husband about this meeting. My gut feeling said just give it a try.  “You must be able to deal with people and situations. It’s not rocket Science”. Dad’s words rang into my ears. The lounge looked like a place for the rich to hang out. The premise had expensive designer décor.  The crowd comprised of opulent, affluent people. As I drove through the main gate, my small car looked like a dwarf among giants. Premium brand chauffeur driven cars flashed by as I moved at snail’s pace. After parking my car in the visitor Car park, I walked towards the lounge. I was awe struck looking at the impeccably dressed wealthy people around. Clothes of luxury brands with branded accessories, fake stealth wealth smiles to accentuate the grooming at top salons, it all seemed like watching a film. For a while, I was lost into another world. I forgot who I am and the purpose of my visit to the place. *** I met Aditya at a conference. It was a two-day conference at an exotic location. My corporate had sponsored me along with a colleague, for the conference. Arriving at the location, I was mesmerized by the beautiful landscape. The luxurious hotel with state-of-the-art facilities, the smartly dressed corporate executives who had come for the conference, everything almost gave me a panic attack. My shy nervous look became so obvious that I fumbled while reporting at the registration desk. “Hello, you need help, are you okay” a gentle voice sounded from behind. As I turned back a tall dapper young man smiled at me. That is the first time I met Aditya. Over the next two days I had shed my inhibitions. We came so close that it felt like we had known each other for years. The next six months were filled with endless phone calls, messages and dates. A reticent, timid Anjali became comfortable and bold in Aditya’s company. Soon, we took our relationship to the next level.  For the first time in my life, I saw a different look of pride on Dad’s face. A destination wedding for full five days was something beyond my imagination. Dad and Aditya’s family had organized everything so well. The hotel, decorations, food was the best from the options given. Dad had hired a wedding planner to ensure a well-organized function. The invite was a creative one with a poem written by Dad. Every word was filled with his love for me. The Mehendi, Sangeet and Vedic rituals of the wedding couldn’t be better. Presence of relatives and friends brought additional joy to the festivities. As Aditya and I took vows holding hands and taking Saptapadi around the holy fire, my heart was filled with mixed feelings. I looked forward to a new future with Aditya. A home that we both would decorate. Moments of whispering sweet nothings, dreams of a growing family moved before my eyes like a film. A past overflowing with love and affection of my parents, an overly concerned Mom, Dad whose tough exterior still showed his soft feelings and care for his dear ones. From the corner of my eye, I could see Mom and Dad smiling as shiny pearls lined their eyes. A longing to be with Aditya in his embrace and being away from Mom and Dad – my mind oscillated between my past and present. The wedding festivities ended and with everyone leaving it was just Aditya and I. Aditya had planned a splendid honeymoon. We took off for Coorg two days after coming back from our destination wedding. The exhilaration, mixed feelings of a newlywed bride already had me nervous. To top it my stranger anxiety and panic surfaced again. As we entered the villa in Coorg, Aditya checked with service staff about meals and other things. When he came back, he saw a pale faced me and was worried. “Are you okay. Let us rest today. You must be tired after the hectic wedding schedule” he said trying to make me comfortable. “Anjali, let us enjoy our togetherness for two years. Then we can think of having children”, said Aditya as sat in the cozy villa enjoying the beautiful landscape. I was almost shocked to hear this, Marriage meant having children, raising them. I loved to listen to their chatter and laughter. I thought that it would make our family complete.  Motherhood would have given me a sense of fulfillment. Besides it would not give me a complex when I socialize with relatives, friends and acquaintances.  Why was Aditya not so keen on having children. His sister, cousins and some of his friends had children. He always played with those children, gave them toys and books. We could have also gone shopping for our own children. Then why was he depriving me of this joyful experience. Our days became a routine of morning coffee, getting ready and going to the office and coming back home for dinner and sleep. Aditya was the best husband in terms of the attention that he gave me, taking me out for shopping, dinners and holidays. But the most important part of our relationship was missing. Each day I craved for the intimacy that would realize my dream of becoming a mother. Even if we tried it was a half- hearted effort on his part. Desperately each month I did the pregnancy test only to find the lines missing. Aditya consoled me and was empathetic towards my distressful condition. I suggested that we see some specialists and take the treatment prescribed. Aditya avoided going to any doctor. Once I fixed up an appointment with a known doctor. “Aditya please take leave from work tomorrow. We have an appointment with Dr Sane”. “Anjali, why do you indulge in such things without speaking to me. Am I a fool to not understand medical science or our physiology”, I had never seen Aditya losing his temper and becoming so furious. I cringed and locked myself in the bedroom. My pillow was soaked in tears and I was shivering. I went back to my childhood condition of being phobic. That night and whole of next week I was cocooned in my room. Aditya and I hardly spoke and I reported sick to my office. Several messages and phone calls enquiring about my health poured in but I did not answer any of them. I don’t know how Aditya faced queries about me. Life again got back to the routine and I could feel the distance between us increasing by the day. Dad had called and even visited us. We did not disclose anything to him. Both of us masked our agony and painted a bright picture before Dad. Dad’s maturity held him back from probing deeper into our relationship. Aditya suggested that I should spend a few days with Mom and Dad.  “You need a change of scene” he said. Though I tried to hide my agony, I finally broke down before Mom and Dad. “Why don’t you go for IVF”, they suggested. After coming back to my home, I tried to behave normal. I did not want to face an enraged Aditya again. I did not bring up the topic of pregnancy for some days, hoping that it would change the dull mood in my home. I noticed that indeed Aditya was slowly coming back to his normal self. Meanwhile, we had a guest at our home. Aditya’s cousin had come down from the US. His wife and child were to join him later. Aditya was very close to his cousin Ashish. Ashish stayed with us for a week before he went to his parent’s house at Bangalore. During the course of his stay our home brightened with Ashish’s banter and cheerful disposition. He created many lighter moments and made us smile. Ashish’s stay made me overcome my fears and anxiety. After he left there was a certain emptiness felt. But Aditya seemed to be in better spirits. On a leisurely Sunday morning, we both sat near the window having our morning coffee. We had a good view of our residential complex. Just then we saw the Godbole family cheerfully loading their picnic bags into the car. They were a cheerful couple with two bright children I could not take my eyes from the scene. I was overwhelmed looking at the children and the joy that overflowed around the family. My heart was pounding as feelings of emptiness and an inferiority complex. I made my decision. I have to talk to Aditya about going for IVF. In the evening I gathered courage to speak to Aditya. Dad’s motivational words echoed in my ears. “Anjali, you must learn to face challenges, it’s not rocket science”. The TV screen was telecasting the usual news about politics and crime. “Aditya, three years of marriage, we must seriously think about having a child” “Hmmm… was Aditya’s cold response. “Why don’t we try IVF, there are many good clinics in our city”. Aditya switched off the television and turned towards me. Am I trembling with fear, I felt choked but yet held ground. His hard look subdued and he hugged me. I am feeling better now, more comfortable. “Anjali we are a, he paused and then continued, “we are a normal couple. Why should we go for medication and artificial methods that are so stressful.. There is so much physical discomfort and mental stress that people have faced. Please stop this discussion here.”. I had so far avoided discussing my plight with friends and colleagues. Most of them were in a happy space having a good family life. I began to lose interest in my professional work. I missed targets, made errors in reports. All this was soon noticed and I was on the radar of Seniors.   One day while at office I received a surprise call from Ritu. “Hey Anjali, how are you” I walked over to the lobby and spoke to Ritu so that no one listens to my talk. I poured out my heart to my best friend. “Aditya is not too keen on having a child” My voice choked as I spoke to Ritu. “Anjali, control yourself. Some men are not comfortable having children around. Be patient, you can change his mind slowly”. I looked around the lobby to see if anyone overheard my talk. As I turned, I saw Sheetal, the office receptionist hurriedly walking away. Days and weeks passed with no change in my life. ***** Now here I am walking into an unknown place to meet a stranger. “Hey you must be Anjali”. I turned around to see a young man a little over 30, dressed in smart trousers and shirt. I questioningly looked at him before recalling the voice. “I am Rakesh, he stretched out his hand”. He gently led me to a corner table in the lounge. “Would you like to have some juice” I was dumbstruck but came back to my senses. “Orange juice please”, I was still awestruck and really didn’t know what I said. “How did you get my number; how did you recognize me? “Oh, that is not important, the world is small” Rakesh laughed. “Okay coming to the point, why did you agree to meet me” I was still looking for words to express myself.  Why am I here sitting before a stranger without any anxiety but blushing slightly over his dapper looks. “I want to be a mother. It is my dream for years. Three years of marriage and no issue”. “I can relate to your feelings. My wife and I faced the same problem. Finally, we had a child by IVF treatment. Let me tell you that it is such a tedious and stressful procedure. We have met many childless couples who are going through the stress of not having a child. So, we have formed a support group. We meet every fortnight. Would you like to join the group” The orange juice glass had beads of condensed water around it. I joined the group and began to attend meetings. I did not tell Aditya anything about this. Rakesh’s wife seemed to be a sweet woman. I was in a comfort zone at the meetings. The burden that I carried was eased as I spoke and listened to others share their woes. The support group meetings were held at different places each time. My performance at the office was good like before and soon I was off the radar. Aditya too looked happier as I did not bring up the topic of pregnancy. On a particularly leisure day at the office, I received a message from Rakesh – Meeting today at 7. The venue address followed.  The meeting place was not too far from office. “I am going to meet Snehal, so may come home a little late”, I messaged Aditya. “Okay” Aditya promptly replied. It was around 6.30 when I reached the meeting venue. The door was slightly ajar. As I reached out to knock on the door, I heard Rakesh saying something. “Snehal it is time to trap that new fish. Anjali trusts us completely. We can bring up the topic with her today. Abdulbhai also called up saying that five babies have arrived. We cannot hold them for long so have to finalize the adoptions. I have briefed Sheetal on preparing the documents” Beads of perspiration rolled down my face. I stood petrified for a moment. I recalled Sheetal, our office receptionist hurriedly walking away when I had finished my conversation with Ritu. But Dad came to my rescue again. Determined I walked into the room with a fake smile.  The others were yet to arrive. “Anjali, so how are things at your home now, Snehal said in her poisonous honey laced tone. I could have won an award for my acting skills. “Aditya still does not show any interest. Can you suggest a solution”, I said in a weak voice, though within me I was raging. The couple quickly fixed the dates to see a baby and proceed with adoption. On scheduled day Aditya and I walked into an orphanage. Snehal and Rakesh Showed us an infant wrapped in a white cloth. “Please sign on these papers and you can take the baby home. Aditya silently gave missed call to Inspector Jadhav. The next day newspapers and news channels carried story of the adoption racket. Pictures of the gang were flashed. Aditya and I have legally adopted a baby girl. It’s not rocket science   Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!