“Thank you,” said Mili, as the lady at the reception took down her name. “There are two more to go. After that, it’s your turn. Okay, madam?” said the lady.“Okay,” said Mili.
It was pouring heavily outside the gynaecologist’s clinic, as Mili waited for her turn. She had taken a day off from work for the doctor’s appointment. Thank god for the auto-rickshaw she was able to catch, just outside her 1BHK apartment at RG Baruah Road. It would have been difficult to climb the stairs and find a seat in a bus today. Her salwar trousers were still soaking wet from walking unmindfully into a puddle, as she hailed for the rickshaw.
She patted her wet hair tidy and gently shook the umbrella, before buttoning it up and shoving it inside her green, shoulder bag. She sat on the wooden bench, next to another pregnant lady clad in a sari with a jumpy toddler. She smiled at her and both acknowledged the sloppy weather. The lady’s husband came in after some time with biscuits and tea for her and relieved her of the kid. Mili looked at the husband, as he held the kid’s hand and walked with him, promising a chocolate or toffee if he behaved well.
It had been three months since she first discovered that she was pregnant. Her boyfriend, Gaurab was thrown off when he learnt about her pregnancy. “What? How did this happen? We were using protection, weren’t we?” He hustled about, panicking about his predicament with occasional bursts of thought, “Do you really want it? I mean, we aren’t even married. What will our families say about it? Hell, I’m not even settled well to think of a family yet. Do you really want it? I can’t be a father right now, Mili. What will we do now?”
Mili looked at him for some time and quietly replied, “I’m going to keep it. I understand you’re scared, and I’m scared too. But I also don’t want you to make a hasty decision. I will manage. Don’t worry.”
And Gaurab really did not worry. He just profusely apologised to her, found a new job and left the city. Mili shivered at the thought of letting her parents know about it. But there was no other way. She collected herself and told her parents one afternoon, hoping that they would help, if not support her.
Her mother jumped out of her chair, exclaiming, “How could you? After all the sacrifices we’ve made for you! Imagine what people will say now. How will we show our faces? We belong to a respectable community, Mili. We cannot stand such shame. Oh Lord, we’re doomed!”
Two days later, her father suffered a massive stroke and almost escaped paralysis. Mili’s mother spared her no respite. “I don’t know what you will do, but you must leave at once. You almost killed your father and I will not tolerate this nonsense anymore. You brought this upon yourself without caring about us. You’re no daughter of mine and we will not pay for what you did!” she snarled at Mimi one day and bade her goodbye forever. Choking at the guilt of hurting her family, and losing temper at her own foolishness, Mili left home teary-eyed, promising never to show her face again.
Nauseous and grieved from both pregnancy and distress, Mili tried to reach out to her best friend, Biplob. He had always been by her side, no matter what the circumstances and she needed a patient ear to hear her out. She thought twice before ringing him up, but the more she thought of it, shame and pain overpowered her. This was leading nowhere. At once, she gave up her inhibitions and called him up.
When Biplob first heard of it, he got furious with Gaurab, vowing to kill him. He even flew down from Hyderabad that weekend to console her, promising to be with her through her suffering. But when his parents got the smell of it, they warned him to retreat, if he had to save himself and his family from being associated with a woman like Mili. Their threats hadn’t discouraged him at all, but Mili couldn’t ask more of him and forced him to leave her be.
She would recuperate on her own, she decided. This was her destiny and she would find a way to make it work. It was her baby, not Biplob’s, not her parents’, and definitely not Gaurab’s. She would not terminate the life growing inside her, for fear of others. She would give birth and rear her child. She would not falter or feel scared. She would not depend on someone or wait for a miracle to happen.
For the first time, she realised that nothing was permanent in life – friends, circumstances, riches or parental love. In the face of destiny, you always decide alone. Nobody helps you out or offers a hand to pick you up. Relationships are a bubble we live in, to survive society. In reality, an individual always remains an individual – the only person to take charge of his life and make sense of it.
“Mili Sharma!” the receptionist at the clinic called out her name. “Yes!” said Mili, shaken out of her reverie. As she entered the room with as much trepidation as hope, Mili thought to herself, Tathagata if it’s a boy and Tonoya if it’s a girl.
(This story won the fourth prize of Women’s Web’s August 2016 Muse of the Month contest.)