Where There is a Will

Where There is a Will

It had been a very exhaustive day for Siddharth Mehra as he was interviewing a group of young men for the post of a junior receptionist for his newly built office.

He had advertised for this post in the local daily’s but had also asked his staff to let in people they knew, and who would help out the senior receptionist Leela in her work. Though he was getting people holding degrees, he was not getting that sincere candidate who would consider work as worship and take the office work as his own.

The candidates had come in plenty and were waiting for their turn for the interview.

O.k Next 

Announced manager Mishra beckoning to the candidates present.

Good morning sir!

As Siddharth looked up from his comfortable, cushioned chair, he saw a thin built man in his late thirties. Dressed in an extremely ordinary shirt and pant, with dusty sandals, he looked as if he had been living in dire poverty and needed the job badly. He handed over his certificates which were crumpled and stained.

What makes you think you are fit for a job here? A disinterested Siddharth asked. 

“Sir! I shall remain dedicated and sincere to my work. I can work hard and shall not disappoint you in any way.” He was answering in Hindi.
Without even bothering to go through his credentials, Siddharth started telling him what he was looking for in his prospective employee. 

“I need a graduate who is well versant in both Hindi and English. The way you have kept your certificates speaks about your sincerity and values. A receptionist is the face of our office. When they see you first, it wouldn’t give them a good image of my office. You may go now.” He handed him back the crumpled certificates.

Sir please….sir please…..

Mishra! please send in the next candidate and why don’t you do an initial perusal?

“Oh! You haven’t left?” He looked at the man still waiting.

“What’s your name? Please leave. What’s your name?”

Sir! Sparsh 

***

Siddharth suddenly felt a tightness in his chest. He was feeling dizzy and his lower limbs started to shiver and become powerless. As he tried to drink water from the glass on his table, it slipped off his hands and with a thud, he fell to the ground.

The Doctors were trying their best. Siddharth Mehra had been diagnosed with CVA or cerebro-Vascular accident, commonly known as stroke, and was in the ICU. 

 A well-built man in his late sixties, Siddharth was a business tycoon and owned a very popular restaurant chain in India and abroad. His hard work, far-sightedness and the ability to take risks had pushed him up the entrepreneurial ladder to be number one. He would never skip his exercises, do regular yoga, had turned a pure vegetarian and even had taken “deeksha” from Swami Parmanand. His wife, Poornima was a homemaker and was happy following her husband in whatever he did. Thin built and beautiful, she was saree clad and never forgot to put a small vermilion on her forehead.

Adarsh, their son and his wife Nita were waiting in the hospital lobby. Nita was consoling Poornima who was crying incessantly.

Adarsh had been borne to them after twelve years of marriage. No one knew the exact reason for the delay as the conception and delivery, both had been normal. There were rumors about Siddharth Mehra becoming a spiritual guru and abandoning grihastha ashram. But then Poornima, his consort, seemed to be in a happy space with her husband.

Dr. Arun Krishnan, the Cardiac specialist walked towards the trio, and began discussing the possible eventualities, with them. The CT scan and MRI reports were confirming a large blood clot for which treatment had been started. 

The Paralyzed limbs may be reversed once the clot is taken care of, but we can’t be sure, said he.

Supportive and rehabilitative therapies are known to work wonders 

Dr. Krishnan was assuring the family.

***

Days passed with some signs of his recovery. Siddharth started opening his eyes and recognizing people. His speech was still slurred and as he tried to communicate to the attending doctors, tears were seen rolling down his cheeks. Physiotherapy was showing some improvement and Siddharth had started holding light things in his hands without dropping them. He asked for a pen and paper, later that day and called for Poornima, his wife.

He wrote
WILL, Shishir

in that small piece of paper and handed it over to his wife.

A shocked Poornima was inconsolable.

“In India a will is considered something like a dying wish! It’s a normal practice abroad” Dr. Arun was trying to pacify her.

Neeta was trying to calculate in her mind. Adarsh is the only the heir to the property and we have mummyji.  So, what’s this hullabaloo about writing a will? She, the shrewd person that she was, had already been calculating her worth.

***

“I am sorry we couldn’t save him”

 Dr. Krishnan was apprehensive about breaking the news to the family.

Poornima fainted as she heard the news. Adarsh asked Nita to take care of her whilst he went off to complete the formalities of the hospital.

The prayer meeting with the rituals was depressing enough for the family who had suddenly been struck with this tragedy.

As the relatives, friends and neighbors departed ,one after the other, Poornima spotted Advocate Shishir Damle standing at the door. He had his files neatly tucked in a file and his arrival was raising eyebrows and racing pulses of the inmates. Everyone knew the meaning of his arrival. The ‘will’ it had to be!
Advocate Damle was also Siddharth’s classmate and they were bosom buddies. Any financial or property related issues were handled by Shishir, so much so that he was the confidante of the Mehras.

He beckoned to everyone to come to the hall. With tears in his eyes, he first said how saddened he was by the vacuum left by his dear friend.
As he opened the white envelope in his trembling hands, all made themselves comfortable on the sofas in the hall.

Shishir was reading out the will loud and clear

I, Siddharth Mehra, in sound mind and Psyche, revoke all my previous wills and declare this as my last will.

I appoint Shishir Damle, my friend and advocate as the executor of the will.

 I   bequeath the following, after my death.

Fifty percent of my bank balance and the farm house in Alibaugh should be given to my elder son Sparsh.
Out of the remaining half,

One fourth of the bank balance and the small flat in Andheri goes to my wife Poornima

One fourth of the money with the current house “Ashiana”to my son Adarsh.

There was an eerie silence in the room.

Sparsh? Elder son? How? Where? When?

Nita stamped her way to her room. She was in no mood to listen any further about her father- in- law’s “illegitimate elder son who had devoured their rights “

Angry Adarsh followed her to the room.

Teary eyed Poornima couldn’t control herself, as she sobbed loudly, palm faced,  exchanging glances with an equally teary eyed Shishir, who was like a brother to her.

She was in a roller coaster of emotional turbulence and was crying incessantly.

***

The baby shower of Poornima was being held with much splendor and spectacle. There were relatives from both sides of the family thronging the venue. Every one gave her a gift of red bangles, with blessings for a baby boy!
In a months’ time Poornima found herself grappling with labor pains. She was immediately shifted to the hospital and wheeled into the labor room. Dr. Shyamoli Banerji who was the attending gynecologist was also Poornima’s childhood friend. The delivery was quick and smooth. As she cut the umbilical cord from the placenta and handed it over to the pediatrician, she was uncertain of what she saw. She waited for the pediatrician to examine the baby at length, and put down the delivery notes. With a turmoil within her, she finished the episiotomy sutures as quickly as possible, checked for complete hemostasis and ensured that the uterus had contracted enough so that there would be no hemorrhage. Patting Poornima on her back, she assured her that all was well.

Shyamoli! what am I Blessed with? 

***

Dr. Shyamoli was seen taking quick steps to the nursery to check on the baby.
The Pediatrician started a serious discussion with her, as he was hesitant to put down on paper his notes which read

Delivery of a full-term baby on 12th June 1975 at 10.15 Pm 

Cry immediate

APGAR score 9

Special mention

Intersex baby. Labia fused resembling a scrotum. No Vagina seen. A small penis like structure seen. Needs further evaluation.

***

With a thumping heart and a choking throat, Dr. Shyamoli went back to the labor room. The effect of sedation was fully on her, and Poornima was sleeping after an exhaustive day.

Dr. Shyamoli called Siddharth to her chamber. The Pediatrician also accompanied her during the discussion. In her many years of practice, this was one of those rare situations, where talking to the relatives wasn’t easy and reactions and repercussions were expected.

Siddharth listened calmly to the doctors. He looked visibly shaken. He was a popular figure in

 society; the society which needs you to answer every that thing which you may not want to answer.

After three days, Poornima, while being discharged from the hospital, cried hard, hugging Dr. Shyamoli who had no words to console her. The couple decided to go to their Alibaugh farmhouse straight away, so that there would be no questioning from anyone.

The sprawling farmhouse at Alibaugh served the perfect hideout for the couple. There were only a few houses in that row and so interaction with others was minimal. Siddharth and Poornima sat in contemplation and decided to remain in oblivion to the outer world till they had some remedy to the lurking problem.

News spread fast about a newborn’s arrival in the house, which invited the undesirable presence of a crowd  in front of their house the next day. The help said that they were “Hijras” who come to every house that has a newborn, and bless the baby. They ask for money in turn, while they dance and perform.

Before the couple could even stop them, a gang of Hijras had entered their courtyard and were dancing to the beats of the dholak. They asked for the new born baby to bless her….They held the baby to their bosom and danced and sang much to the apprehension of Poornima.
And to everyone’s’ shock, undressed the newborn to announce the sex of the baby. Then said loudly,
She is like us !!
She is like us!!

Much to her horror and shock, as Poornima snatched her baby from their bosom, one of them said,
“Maa! You cannot hide your baby from the society. They will not let you live. You have to give her to us. We will look after her”.

Siddharth and Poornima threatened to call the police and shooed the crowd away. The chief of their gang said, “Don’t worry you yourself will hand us the baby one day” and left for the next household. Poornima could not decide which was louder and thumping -the beats of the Dholak or her own heartbeat.

Poornima couldn’t sleep for days. She would wake up having nightmares about her child being snatched from her. Siddharth was never vocal about being sympathetic towards her. It was clear that he had completely detached himself from the woes and angst that Poornima was facing. Poornima was lonely from within; Guilt, anxiety, depression –  the emotions a mother of a newborn would have never faced normally, became her frequent company. 

Days rolled into months and years. The shock in their lives was too much for both to handle. Siddharth had turned to spirituality and had become quieter. There was hardly any conversation between the couple.

It was time for Sparsh to go to school. Though he was admitted in a co-ed school, he was found interacting more with girls. At first it was dismissed playfully, but gradually, it started becoming a constant irritant for the teachers and children both.

Most of the days, Sparsh would come back from school crying. He would have been bullied, shamed or discriminated against. He would throw tantrums at home as a result of the abuse faced in school. He was not fitting in either sex structure, and that was agonizing.


As the lad grew up, he started showing a distinct attraction towards jingling of trinkets and bangles. He would dress himself up as a girl smearing lipstick as his mother. He would dance and gyrate, and make feminine expressions much to the chagrin of Siddharth.

Sparsh started realizing that he is actually a girl trapped in the body of a man. He shared his feelings with his mom who tried to convince him in different ways. She also told him that she would always support him no matter what his inclinations were.

A visit to the sexual therapist made them realize that 

If Sparsh wanted to conform to the female gender, as his insistent, persistent and consistent urge is for the same, he will have to undergo treatment that may include reconstructive surgeries and hormones.

Day in and day out there began instances, wherein there would be a tussle between the father and son. The son wanted to behave like girls to which the father strongly started not only objecting but reacting, sometimes even cruelly.


It was the eleventh birthday of Sparsh. He dressed himself up in a bright red sari of his mom and used her makeup and accessories. As he heard the dhol beats of the Hijras, he ran out involuntarily dancing, shaking his fully bangled arms and trinkets. Before a whining Poornima could even stop him, he walked off with the Hijra gang just saying “ Maa ….my place is not here but with them…”

Resigning herself to fate, Poornima retreated and isolated herself in a room for days. It was Shishir Damle, then, who came to Alibaugh who consoled her, like her own brother, bringing her out of depression.

And the couple returned back to Pune.

It is rightly said -time is the best healer. 

Poornima conceived Adarsh after a year and gradually began a normal life.

***

Neeta and Adarsh could not hide their anger and they tiptoed back into the hall.
Mummy! What’s all this? Who is Sparsh? Is he Papa’s Illegitimate child? Why don’t you tell us? Why are you quietly agreeing to his will? I will not let my Papa’s waywardness take away my inherited property….

Slaaaaaaap……. Not one more word for papa….. 

His accusations found a halt
Poornima was wailing.
Sparsh is our first child, your own brother.

 We don’t know how and where is he and how is he making his ends meet. 

She narrated the harrowing experience to Adarsh in between sobs.
Adarsh sat down at her feet, asking for forgiveness and the three set out to look for Sparsh.

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Author’s Note
The problems faced by  transgenders in India is extensive. They need a lot of sensitivity and emotional support not only from the parents but also from society.

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