“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
It was a dull foggy Friday morning. Just like Monday, Tuesday and every other day, after offering prayers at Shree RadheKrishna temple, Dr. Desai, was heading cozily towards his maternity hospital, some ten minutes walk from the temple. Not that he was an ardent believer of God; it was more out of a habit his mom had inculcated since childhood than out of any great regard for God.
Dr. Ramakant N. Desai, a well renowned obstetrician of his town with a bustling practice, was a tall sturdy and a very dynamic person even in his late 40s. He had earned a reputation for his knowledge, skills and a genuine concern for his patients. He was barely two minutes away from his hospital and the phone rang,
“Doctor, Hurry up! There’s an emergency.”
His lazy steps had already become brisk as soon as the phone rang. Swiftly, he cleared through the hallway full of patients and rushed towards the Labour room. Without wasting a second, he took the case in his hands. The lady in labour had fatigued in too. It was a case of obstructed labour. He took a quick glance at patient’s file concurrently.
“A 28 year old primigravida (pregnant for the first time) married since 8 years came to our …”, read the first line in barely legible handwriting.
The messy letters smoked out and all her visits flashed vividly in front of his thick box-rimmed glasses. How in the world can he possibly forget the eyes of Damini !!!
She had been visiting the doctor since the very first day she figured out that she might have missed her periods. The morning sickness and a few bouts of I-feel-like-vomiting since last few days had made her quite sure and when Dr. Desai declared that the Urine Pregnancy Test was positive, her joy knew no bounds. After 8 long years of nuptial-tie, she had finally conceived. She was into tears. She knew things at home would now be at peace, but more merrier she was for the newcomer. She touched doc’s feet and prayed for his well-being and prosperity from the innermost of her heart. The visit was followed by a series of regularly placed OPD appointments and ultrasonography scans. She would never be accompanied by anyone and when Dr. Desai would grill her much, she’d answer politely that her husband was a frequently travelling businessperson.
Around 18th week of pregnancy a congenital anomaly scan was dated. (The Indian law does not permit abortion after 20 weeks i.e. 5 months, and hence a sonography is done at around 18 weeks to rule out any lethal malformations and/or deformities in the foetus; And if in case there are any, the pregnancy can so be terminated before 20 weeks.) She reached ultrasonography centre on scheduled time. The sonologist was horrified at once by what he saw after placing the transducer on abdomen. He couldn’t gulp it. It was so very rare these days. One had to be awfully jinxed to have it. The ‘it’, he was worried about was the left lower limb of her foetus. He confirmed that the left leg had not developed properly.
Dr. Desai requested Dr. Khaki, a revered radiologist and his dear friend, to repeat the sonography. Plus, he himself went to the machine and verified it. They ended up with the same finding – a poorly developed left leg. It was not for the first time that he had to break a bad news. He had done it before in his career, but this one was going to be hard, real hard. Eight years… no kid… family pressure… conceives eventually and now when every goddamn thing was going to be in place another disaster was ready to devastate her life. “Whyyy out of all in the world it had to be this lady…?”- his aching soul screamed at the so-called supernatural being hung in frame on the wall besides his desk. He called her the next morning to collect report. The long restless night elapsed writhing in pain. He got up eventually at the crack of dawn, had a bath and headed directly towards his hospital bypassing the RadheKrishna shrine. Damini came alone as usual. He explained her in a soft staid voice that what he was going to reveal would be difficult to accept.
“You need to be strong and have heart.”
“What’s wrong doctor?” – was the clearly evident question in her painfully curious eyes, she kept mum though.
“Look we’re not 100% sure, but the repeatedly done recent USG scans point that the left leg of your baby is underdeveloped and there’s every possibility that the amount of disability will persist or even worsen with the progress in pregnancy.”
She broke down. Tears streamlined from both her eyes till they trickled drop by drop from her chin dampening her saree. She gathered some courage, wiped-off her face using pallu. With her fierce eyes penetrating sky with a warrior-like-look, she gazed upwards and exhaled,
“Jaisi uski marzee…”, her faith unshattered.
The doc did not reveal the sex of foetus to her but he himself knew it was a girl and he also knew that it would only add to her woes. He would not directly suggest aborting the foetus under usual circumstances but in Damini’s case he felt there was a pressing need. He was a bit biased after learning the sex of foetus, but he was well averse to the outcome as well. In a society, where a female itself was a burden, one without a leg would only be an added liability. One cannot shy away from this black truth of our civilization as well. In spite of his explanation, Damini vehemently denied in a fervid tone,
“Daaktar Sahib, ye paap hum se nai ho paayega…”, and there was no further debate.
In the last trimester, she would often be accompanied by an ornery old woman. She had to be her mother-in-law. It was pretty clear they weren’t happy with her decision.
Last, he had seen Damini a week ago and now she was lying all helpless on the labour bed right in front of him, totally tuckered-out. She was a fighter. He knew she wouldn’t give up so easily. He woke her up and examined her. The presenting part (i.e. head) of baby was low. He ascertained that delivery by forceps was possible and was rather advisable, as it will also save her from undue trauma of caesarean operation. The decision had to be within a few minutes whatsoever.
Right from the moment he saw Damini, a rigorous conflict was roiling in his head; A conflict between his duties, obligations and morality. His thoroughly trained hands were doing their task but his mind was occupied by a cyclone of thoughts. The male dominated society… the orthodox family… the baby girl with a handicap… a gruesome dependent life… A life full of misery and lasting tribulation was calling her. He wanted to put a full stop to it, once and for all. A time of great moral dilemma, it was for the doctor. For a while he thought, his intervention was unnecessary. The baby girl having barely few minutes left will die in the birth canal naturally. Maybe that is her fate. That’s how it is meant to end. But then if it had to be so, she’d have died already. If he’s there and on time, it is for a purpose. His conscience rebelled strongly. It reminded him of his oath,
“I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception…”
The healer inside him won in the end and he shouted,
“Sister, forceps stat…”
The baby cried immediately after birth. The cord was cut clamped and she was handed over to the pediatrician.
Damini, along with her daughter, would come to hospital every few months for some next 10-12 years to consult the paediatrician and without fail she’d make it a point to see Dr. Desai. A silent smile from both ends was enough to narrate their own stories. Desai would curse himself for having left the little girl in her hands to face a life full of atrocities in a self-obsessed mean world. Or maybe even she would inherit the soldier in her mom, he’d console himself later. He was sure of one thing but – the daughter had given a whole new direction, a new motto to Damini’s life. Over next few years the drowsy small face in her arms learned to smile, learned to laugh, learned to talk and learned everything except walking… At two she’d jabber-jabber all day and so Damini introduced her to Dr. Desai,
“Beta wo Doctor Uncle hai ! Hi bolo !”
Unable to recall the whole name she would call him ‘Duncle’. It became a tradition, and for next 8-9 years every few months he would hear a voice, “Helloo Duncle !!”, till she was no more a kid and gone forever. He never really saw her ever after nor did he hear a word from Damini or her daughter.
* * *
More than a decade flew by. All the painful memories had now been buried deeply by the sands of time. Dr. Desai, now in his late sixties, was seated on a couch, going through the posts. A card in thick golden paper caught his attention.
You are cordially invited for, Ek Shaam Suro ke Naam A melodious extravaganza, A rare delight for classical music aficionados.
He didn’t find it necessary to go through the entire post for he’d receive innumerable such letters and invitation cards from all of his patients which he could barely remember names of. However being an avid classical music lover, he jotted down the date and venue in his personal diary. He did not want to miss out on this one. And so on the said date he reached theatre sharp at 7pm. He could see a bunch of local crooks outside the box-office selling tickets in black. A big placard at the entrance of hall read HOUSE FULL in bold red-ink. Luckily, he had a seat for himself in the front-most row. He heaved a sigh of relief and eased into his seat.
Finally the curtains rose. A spectacular performance by the beautiful young damsel bedazzled and bewitched one and all. The entire crowd was spellbound at her voice. The girl is indeed gifted, they all exclaimed in unison. She received a thumping round of applause. After the show was over a small gathering with snacks was organized for the invited guests in the side-hall. Desai was having a nice gala time with his old friends. He was just telling one of his friends about how desperate he was to meet the singer and ask her, the secret to an unparallel voice and beauty. “Like who in this world gives birth to such a masterpiece!”, he cried out in awe. And lo, the mesmerizing girl was approaching him. A tall handsome boy hauled her in a wheelchair towards him. He was surprised. She appeared somewhat familiar, he thought for a moment. And before he could stress much, the girl mocked flippantly,
Damini’s daughter Aashna was right in front of his eyes. She continued,
“How are you? Long time… Feels so amazing to see you… And meet him, my fiancé… “, her tongue hadn’t learnt to pause in all those years.
The Duncle, nonetheless, wasn’t listening to any of it. A sandstorm of emotions wiped away all the muck over his old memories. The girl, whom he had wanted to slay, was sitting exactly opposite him. His heart was full to the brim with penitence. His feet raced towards the temple, he had bypassed years ago. The marvelous blue-black idol of Murlimanohar, was standing there unperturbed since ages, welcoming sinners and devotees alike in his realm of peace; but only today could he feel His true aura, His radiance, His Leela. He knelt down on his knees like a kid, his face shrunk and his eyes flushing Madhav’s feet; his pacified soul sighed,
“Thank God! That foggy Friday, I did not try to become God!”
Dr. Darshan H. Sheth
Friday, 16th January, 2015 7.29 pm
The title of this story – “Noli Esse Deus”, is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to – Do not try to be God. We often learn that religions talk about character, conduct and code of morality -Do not steal, do not lie, do not kill etc. But we often forget that the first step to religion is faith, belief in His plan.
Sometimes what you pray for isn’t always what you get, but in the end what you receive is so much better than what you prayed for. Trust God to provide what you need. He’ll never give you less but, always what’s the best. It all is a part of a plan. And even if you don’t get it now, someday every damn thing will make sense.
Choose to be happy, choose to believe. Keep smiling and spread smiles.
The man who sees me in everything and everything within me Will never be lost to me, nor will I ever be lost to him.
-Chapter 6, Verse 30 Bhagvad Gita