Old grandpa and his son Damya searched frantically for grandma Rano everywhere in the village. The Rama temple, her friend Pushpa’s houses, the big banyan tree, near bore well, wherever she could be, no, grandma was not there, she was gone. They inquired with everyone in the village. No one has seen her since last night. It’s already late afternoon.
Nimmo, the infant’s mother still in her birthing room was crying uncontrollably. “My little one, what happened to my little girl”?
Then came the news that the shepherd boy spotted Rano in the village lake. Father and son ran to the lake. There she was standing in the knee deep water with outstretched arms and praying. “Ma, give my grandson back, goddess Gangama, give me my grandson, give the light of my life back ma”. She was beating her chest and crying.
“What it is Rano?” grandpa yelled.
“Wait, he is coming back! Gangama told me she would turn that little devil into our golden prince. Our family name will be there forever”.
“What? What have you done Rano?”
They reached her and shook her from her trance. Her feet were swollen and white. She was trembling, “Grandson my grandson”, she fell into her husband’s arms. “He will be back, you just watch; Gangama never lies”.
“What did you do to the child ma”? Damya yelled and shook her.
“There? She pointed her hand to the middle of lake. I gave away the devil to Gangama. In last night’s dream Gangama told she would turn the girl into a boy. Let us wait. The boy will come out, wait”.
“Hey Ram, why did you do that ma”? Damya banged his forehead.
From the day Nimmo became pregnant, the family was ecstatic. In their family this was the first child and everyone including Nimmo yearned for a boy. The village astrologer told it would be a boy.
“What good is a girl? She will get married and goes away. I want a princely grandson; he will make our family name bright”, Rano would say.
Grandpa was dreaming of taking his grandson with him on the tractor and teach him how to till the land, how to swim in the village lake. He would take him to the neighboring city for schooling. “My grandson will become the district collector!” he would say.
Damya bought a gold chain for the boy. “Let everybody see how princely my son would be”.
Nimmo would touch her belly and talk to the child “my sweet little boy, ma loves you, your pa adores you”.
They did not even send Nimmo to her parent’s house for the delivery, saying they want to see the boy first.
That evening before sunset Nimmo gave birth to a healthy girl child. “Girl!” The midwife Sita announced after the baby came out after six hours labor.
“What? Girl? It cannot be. It has to be a boy”. They came in and looked at the child and stomped out in disgust. “What’s the use with a girl? Our family is doomed. Damya, all your property and land is gone in dowry, Chi, Chi”, grandma spat on the ground.
Damya dropped his head with down cast eyes.
Grandpa yelled at him. “I told you not to marry that inauspicious girl. She is no good. And why would you listen to your ma and pa?” “She is fair”, you told us, what’s the use of a fair girl if she can’t bore a boy to the family?”
The disappointed grandparents left.
Nimmo opened her eyes and asked “where is the baby?” The midwife gave baby to the new mom. “It is a girl” she smiled.
“What? A girl? How can this be?” She opened the baby’s rug and checked and then pushed the baby away. “I don’t want her. I don’t want her, I want my Prince, Not this devil” she shrieked.
“Nimmo listen” the midwife tried to pacify her. “She is your daughter. She is so pretty, and look at her complexion, she is just like you. Here, hold the baby.”
“No” Nimmo started crying. “Everyone in family is looking for a boy and I could not give them a grandson. My hard luck” and she turned away from the child.
The little one woke up and started crying, what a voice it was, it was like bronze. Every one heard her and midwife came in. Nimmo looked at the little girl but did not touch her.
The baby was crying at the top of her voice and wriggling and stretching limbs. “Feed her girl” She brought the baby to Nimmo’s breast.
The baby stopped crying. She suckled happily unaware of her surroundings, never realizing how unwelcome she was. Nimmo touched the baby’s tiny feet, and soft hair on warm little head. She is like a flower. Her eyes welled. “My baby, my little angel”, she cried and kissed the baby. Damya came in.
“Look, I did want a boy but it is god’s wish, what can you do? It’s Ok, don’t cry” he consoled his wife. “She is real pretty like you”. He even smiled and squeezed Nimmo’s hand. “Next time it would be a boy. Take rest now”. Nimmo was relieved. She dozed off into a peaceful sleep.
Next morning when she woke up the baby was gone and so was the old woman.
Rano went to sleep crying and dreamt that Goddess Gangama came and granted her a wish. She told her that if she drops the new born girl into the village lake, the girl would come back as boy. So she took the baby when it was still dark and dropped her into water and waited there, for her grandson to return!!