11 October 2009

Good news

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
- Elizabeth Stone

My wife knew me long before our marriage, hence on the first night there were no secrets to share or no old affairs to confess. No -forget the past and start everything afresh - kind of thing.
Marriage day was hectic - shaking hands with hundreds of people; taking pictures with strangers; trying to recollect the names of distant aunts. It was a mess.
At the night, I was so tired, I told my wife: “Let’s do something different than the regular guys.”
“What?” she asked.
“Let’s go to sleep,” I said. That seemed to be a nice idea to her. However she could not sleep; she had hundreds of hairpins. I ended up removing hairpins till the early morning.
In the morning, when I came out of the bedroom, first person I met was grandma, who promptly asked: “When is the good news?”
I didn’t know what that meant? But after that thousands of people, some of them unrelated, some perfectly strangers – have asked me, millions of times: When is the good news?
Grandma’s dilemma
“God is not taking me,” grandma used to say, “He will take me only after seeing your baba!”
Over the period I have become immune to this kind of banter. It is possible that I might have become a – Kevalin.
“At your age, your grandpa had 3 daughters,” Grandma said last time.
“He was a sex maniac,” I retorted.
“Don’t talk like that.”
I sighed and grunted.
“Do you believe children are God’s gifts?” she threw a sudden question.
“Sure,” I said.
“But God’s part is not 100 percent. You need to put your efforts too,” she said that with a suggestive wink.
Oh, Lord! Save me from the old generation. Once people become old, they think they may talk about sex openly! Nothing is impolite or taboo for them, anymore.
Grandma is nearing 90. You don’t talk back to a person that old. That is against our culture. (Nowadays, Mangalore is suddenly high on Culture! Overnight, everyone has become pro-culture.)
Planting the seeds
I can understand grandma’s restlessness; even people who are nowhere related, pick me nowadays.
“Congratulations!” one of our neighbors said at the market with a mischievous smile.
“Thank you,” I replied, wondering why. “Why the wishes?”
“You naughty boy, becoming a father soon, still have childishness,” pinched my cheeks.
“What?!” I was shocked. “Why didn’t you tell me?” asked my wife.
“Tell you what?”
“That you are pregnant!”
“I am not pregnant!”
“But the old crone here is saying you are pregnant,” muttered to avoid the attention from the pedestrians.
“How can she tell I am pregnant, when I know I am not?”
“I don’t know. I am not sure, how these things work. Okay, wait a minute,” I turned towards the lady, “why do you think she is pregnant?”
She hesitated a bit. “Well I thought, since you are married for couple of years now, it must be the right time. I saw a bit of bulge in her stomach-”
“She has put on weight, not pregnant,” I corrected her.
“Oh!” she giggled. But immediately composed herself, and gave a solemn warning: “Don’t wait too long. You need to plant the seed soon!”
God! How can someone talk like that? I have a wacky imagination. If someone talks about – planting the seed – my mind pictures the whole thing. This, planting-the-seed metaphor bogged my mind for several weeks.
Parental blackmail
After a certain age, parents act like children.
“Any good news?” mom asked on the phone last time.
“Bought a car,” I said.
“Any other good news?”
“May get a promotion-”
“Anything else?” At this point I know where the conversation is leading.
“President Obama came to our home yesterday, for coffee.”
“Okay. Any other good news?”
“Is your wife vomiting?” (A highly politically-incorrect question!)
“Remember your friend - Rakesh?”
“Yes, what happened?”
“His wife is pregnant.”
“Yeh. He married after you.”
“Remember Susan?”
“Is she pregnant too?” (Premonition)
That follows a long list of women who are either pregnant or delivered babies recently. In our small town, Women, the moment they realize they are pregnant, call my Mom to deliver the good news. And my Mom, no matter how late it is, calls me and expects similar news from me.
Unusual voice mail
One day, got a call at 3 am in the morning from an old aunt.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing.” (Imagine a person calling at 3 am to say – Nothing!)
“Why did you call?”
“It is 3 am.”
“Do you want me to remember the time zones of all the countries at this old age?”
“Okay. I am sorry. Why did you call?”
“I have a question.”
“Tell me.”
“Do you have any good news?”
“No,” I said.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I am not lying!”
“Your grandma told me-”
“Is this why you called?”
“Well, grandma is old. She doesn’t know what she talks.”
“I won’t tell anyone. Tell me is it true?” she begged.
“No, it is not true. How many times should I tell you?” raised my voice.
“Don’t be angry,” she muttered, “I am keeping the phone down; simply wasted money on this call.”
I got so frustrated by such calls, for some time, I didn’t answer any calls, and composed a custom voice mail for this period. That went something like this: “We are currently out of the home and not planning for a child. Please leave your name and number. We will let you know as soon as we have any good news.”
Sometimes, I have felt like the whole world is waiting for my kid - some sort of a messiah!
Suicide Notes
One day, while on the terrace, a sudden thought entered my mind. I realized, If I jump from the 7th floor all my problems would be solved. I would have jumped, but then I thought I should give some meaning to my death.
I decided to fully utilize my death for a great cause. Hence I wrote the following letter to NASA.
Dear Chief Director (NASA),
Let me know if you are looking for a person for your space odysseys - to Mars or such distant planets. Being remote chances of returning, I reckon, many don’t volunteer for such programs, however I consider myself an exception!
When I didn’t receive any reply from NASA, I wrote one for the Indian president.
Dear Mrs. President,
If you are looking for a volunteer to conduct mischievous/ mysterious activities at the border, please count me in.
Then one for the American Medical Association (AMA),
Kind Attn: The Dean, American Medical Association.
Sub: Volunteer to identify the taste of Cyanide
Dear Sir/Madam,
If you really want to identify the taste of potassium cyanide (KCN, that’s right, I know the scientific name, I was a science student), do let me know. Since I am a writer, I can describe the exquisite experience precisely. Please call me after 9 pm CST, since incoming calls are free at that time.
Then I wrote one letter for Daiji,
Dear Daijiworld proprietors,
I have always wondered about the mysterious name of your web site - Daijiworld! Hundreds of precious hours, I have spent in vain, decoding the meaning of your web site name. But looks like the mystery won’t be resolved before my departure. However that is not why I have written this letter. I am going to make a generous offer to you, which, like in The God Father, you will not be able to refuse! I would like to offer all the rights of my articles, including films rights - to you. I have my reasons – mysterious -like your website name. Please don’t say No.
Then I wrote a final, short but effective, letter to my parents.
Dear Mom and Dad
You are responsible for my suicide!
Life around Babies
I have not received any replies for my mails. But I have high hopes. Coming back to babies - I don’t hang around with people having babies. Parents with babies don’t come on time for any occasions. They blame the baby for the delay. In fact babies don’t take much time, parents are simply lazy.
Some moms showcase their babies like Olympic trophies; some sort of an achievement. This strange behavior has mystified me since long. The result of unsafe sex is not an achievement; it’s a blunder!
Finally, one has to listen to the parents, about how great their children are. “He is going to prove E is NOT equal to MC square,” a young mom told me about her child. I regarded the child with great veneration. But these super–intelligent kids, I don’t know what happens to them, when they grow up, shred all the traces of intelligence, become very ordinary and opt for such menial jobs as that of a bus conductor!
I can not blame people; my mom herself thought I would become some sort of a scientist. Mom tortured the guests and family friends with my future scientific endeavors. But when I failed in the science subject itself, all her hopes and dreams shattered. “You would probably become a stupid writer,” she concluded.
Somewhere after this incident, my teacher caught me scribbling, with a char coal, on the outside wall of our school toilet. I was so engrossed in the act, I didn’t notice his unexpected arrival. Teacher pulled my ear, twisted it and was about to cane me, something caught his eyes. “Where did you get this?” he said looking at my scribbling.
“That’s my own,” I said.
His jaw dropped, cane fell down. “Punctuations are proper,” he muttered, “verbs and nouns are in balance, sentence flow is smooth,” then a thin smile appeared on his lips.
“I won’t cane you,” he said, “you are anyway doomed. You will become a worthless poet my friend. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”
Sometimes or probably every time, the curse of your mother simply gets you – and you are done for life!
“Can you hold my child for a moment?” a lady asked at the supermarket, and before I could say No, thrust the baby in my hands. The child tried to pluck my eyes, pulled my hair, bit my nose, and twisted my cheeks. These politically incorrect gestures would offend a normal person, but not me. If I tell you, then and there I decided to go for a child, I would be telling you a lie. But the thought lingered in my mind. Everybody goes for a kid, why not me? I thought. Like a fast food buffet, the options in life are limited: Birth, marriage, sex, children, enlightenment and death. Death is hereditary, enlightenment is unheard, sex is overrated, marriages fall apart – there are not many options in life.
A less ordinary Doctor
For years, Hindi movies have kept us in darkness by showing women becoming pregnant, the first time they have sex. Nothing is farther from the truth. You don’t become pregnant the first time you have sex. This is humanly impossible: A big no-no (Don’t try it though!).
But when you really want to go for a baby, you find lot of complexities, including but not limited to: Poly Ovarian Syndrome, early menopause, irregular cycles, hypo-thyroid, mental stress, perfectly working contraceptives etc.
“Is anything wrong with you?” restless neighbors have asked.
Some others have questioned crudely: “Did you consult a doctor?”
“I don’t need to,” I have tried to be polite.
“How do you know? Are you a doctor?”
After this I became paranoid. I really thought something must be wrong with me; and rushed to a doctor along with wife.
“Doctor, we are planning for a baby,” I said.
“Is anything wrong?” doctor asked.
“You tell me. You are the doctor.”
“OK. I have a scientific test for these cases. Just answer whatever comes to mind when I ask the questions.”
“What is the capitol of Chile?”
“I don’t know,” I said “But I know Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, which is a neighboring country. Will that do?”
“That is fine. What is the full form of KGB?”
“Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti,” my wife said.
“How did you know that?” I asked her.
“Dad did a small project for them during the cold war.”
“Jesus!” I said, “I knew it! I knew it! He was a spy all along! What else did you hide from me?”
“Next question,” doctor intervened, “What is the sum of 75 and 25?”
“Don’t,” I stopped my wife, she was about to say something. “This is a tough one.” I figured. All my engineering life I had used an electronic calculator. I can smell a tough one.
“Let me try the engineering approach,” I told my wife, “Let’s define two integer variables - Then round the values. The ceiling of 75 is 80 and that of 25 is 30. The sum of these two numbers is 110 - Minus the delta. The result should be 100 and something. But since the initial data types are integer the result should be 100. Final answer, please lock it,” I said confidently.
That satisfied the doctor. “You guys are normal,” he concluded.
“Can we go for a baby?”
“Of course”
“Do you recommend anything?” I asked earnestly.
“I recommend lots of sex,” he said.
Good news
I haven’t received any letter from NASA, I am still waiting.
Couple of months back, my wife got some strips from the pharmacy.
“What are these?” I asked.
“Pregnancy test! A drop of urine on the strip, tells one is pregnant or not.”
This is not a great invention according to me. The strip tells something, which you will eventually come to know anyway, with or without a strip.
Few days later, early morning, I heard a sudden thud in the bathroom. Immediately I jumped out of the bed and rushed to the bathroom. The door was locked. In a similar situation, Sunil Shetty – a Mangalorean hero - would break the door and save the heroin. I am not a Hero and we have a strong bathroom door. I waited. Door opened in few minutes. My wife was fine. She gave a mysterious look.
“What?” I asked.
“I am pregnant!” She said.
*---------------*------------------* Note: If you liked this memoir, you might like the others in the series as well. Click Here. 

This article was first published at daiji.