Tulasi was watching from her balcony. A lady was dragging her unwilling child to a nearby kindergarten school. The girl was crying and reluctantly followed her mother. It was a just a routine mundane sight. Tulasi felt disturbed. But it stirred her innate emotions. She was left with an empty feeling. Though no body in her family blamed her as a barren tree, she felt the pinch. Whenever she spotted a mother with a child she felt as though she was the only unlucky person on earth to be left barren. How she wished to be a woman carrying a baby of her own! She longed to have a child.
On an earlier occasion she wanted to discuss the issue with her husband. Without giving her a chance, without even an idea of it, he on his own said that he disliked the very idea of consulting a doctor or going to a fertility centre. He neither wanted to know about his ability nor proved to be impotent. Not only that, he added further that he did not want her also to see a doctor for this purpose. He strongly believed in Nature’s play. If anything had to happen, let it happen or else just accept whatever in their lot.
Tulasi remained silent with her unspoken thoughts. The seven-year itch of married life without an issue persisted.
Her husband Mangesh had already made it clear. “Accept Nature and adjust with life.” She thought it was his conservative idea and he was not ready for any remedial measures. Her parents in law were much worse. They were, as it is, quite orthodox. How could she explain to them that there were so many medical advances and technologies available to set right things and make Nature to bend to our ways. It would be a futile exercise to convince them about modern methods and they in turn to convince their son, Mangesh. No use of talking to such people. She remained silent.
Tulasi’s mother-in-law, ignorant of her daughter-in-law’s agony, suggested her to go on a holiday cum pilgrimage tour with Mangesh. “God-willing, you may be blessed with some good fortune. Quite likely, your woe-be-gone with a bright future beckoning you.”
Mangesh the most obedient son of his parents, set out for Madurai a well-known temple town of South India. They lodged themselves at College House, a popular lodge, not far away from the railway station. The famous Meenakshi temple was within a walkable distance. The very beauty of Madurai city was that, it was not only a pilgrimage centre, it was a big commercial city, a gateway to Southern Tamilnadu, an industrial centre, a cultural hub full of ethnic values, an upcoming metropolitan city with airport facility --- all rolled into one. A mix of all contradictions -- old and new values.
Apart from a-must-see Meenakshi temple, there were umpteen places of tourist importance. Mangesh decided to first visit the temple and then think of other places. In the lodge itself, they were given a brochure which clearly listed all places of interest in and around Madurai and different package tours and tariffs varying with distance, time and places. A few offering local sight-seeing within a day, some others offering local sight-seeing places covering a few days and some coming up with attractive terms for pilgrimage tours in various places, etc., etc.
Madurai Meenakshi Temple was so vast and so engrossing that they were tempted to visit the temple everyday if possible. Going around all the vast stretches called praakarams took a long time and yet left them unfulfilled. But they were interested in other places also. They also wanted to see the Light-and Sound show at Tirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. After the show Tulasi saw a pretty girl posing to a drawing master who was sketching her portrait with his pencil strokes. She thought how nice it would be if only he sketched a portrait of hers with a tiny tot in her lap. She silently watched him and moved away. May be a distant dream for her.
Visiting the temples in the morning and reserving the evening for visiting places of entertainment was in his opinion well within the optimal use of time and spent wisely. Next day they chose to go to Vandiyoor Maariamman and Teppakulam temple while evening they went to a nearby cinema theatre, a luxury which he could not think of, when he was in Chennai. Amidst a tight schedule of work and family-demands, it was just not possible to spare time for movies. No wonder he thought it was a great idea. Moreover, it was long time since he had ever taken Tulasi for any movie. He asked her if she was interested in any particular movie, or any particular artist. She suggested some recent movies as old films were already available on TV. He asked the receptionist about the crowd for a recent film and also about advance booking. The receptionist through his contacts arranged for tickets.
Mangesh and Tulasi went straight to theatre and were about to enter the hall when Mangesh had a chance meeting of his old pal Chockan and his wife Meena. After a small briefing and updates, Chockan gave his address and urged Mangesh and Tulasi to visit them for dinner and thereby refresh their old friendship also. Mangesh readily agreed. For him, more than the movie, meeting Chockan was far more cherishing and fulfilling.
The very next day, both Tulasi and Mangesh were at Chockan’s place. Meena greeted them whole heartedly and made them feel homely and comfortable. Tulasi felt as though they were friends for years. Chockan and Mangesh were deeply engrossed in refreshing their good old days. The two ladies went inside and engaged themselves. While their conversation went around many topics, Meena touched the live wire by asking why Tulasi did not have any issue. She bluntly asked “Was it by choice? It is alright you are still young but, even then, there is no point in postponing it further. For men it is ok. But women? In later years, both conceiving and carrying become troublesome and unnecessary complication creep up. My advice to you. Better go ahead without further delay.”
What reply could Tulasi give? At first, she hesitated. Then she almost broke out. She poured out her innate longings, frustrations and above all her helplessness in the matter. Meena felt highly sympathetic. Even in these days of so much of medical help and advanced techniques, people remain adamant and refrain from availing such facilities! How silly! She then told Tulasi about another option.
“Have no worry. An easy solution is possible. Why don’t you ask Mangesh about adopting a baby? May be, I can help you if you want. I know an agency where you just have to register and wait. Of course, you have to tell them what are your needs and what factors suit you etc...”
By then both Chockan and Mangesh joined them. Tulasi had not even grasped the topic. Much before Tulasi could even think of in those lines, Mangesh simply overruled Meena’s idea. “Adoption? No, my parents will never agree. They are very particular about parental lineage, horoscope, birth stars and what not. They just cannot accept a child born to some wayward parents whose background, characters, ethics, morals are of doubtful and questionable integrity. Till they are alive, they will not permit us to take such a drastic step. Why so much? Just look at ourselves. Our very marriage was not determined by meeting of minds. Ours was an arranged marriage. It was fixed after taking into account various other external factors. Sorry to say, Meena. Your idea will not work out for us.”
Tulasi was dumbfounded. She was somewhat coming around to accept the fact that baby-bump was not there in her lot. But even a baby’s presence in her life, was it to be snatched? How bad her luck was! Truly, very cruel. She eschewed her feelings and remained silent. She had no choice than to go with nature.
It was time for them to take leave. Meena wished them heavily saying that she would keep praying sincerely for their wellbeing, peace and prosperity. Chockan too expressed immense happiness in meeting and reviving their old friendship. He further requested a small favour from him and asked if it was not very difficult for them to hand over a small packet to his colleague in Chennai. Mangesh took it and noted down the address for delivery.
Having spent their holidays at Madurai, it was time for Magesh and Tulasi to return to Chennai. Back home, Mangesh reported for duty. During his absence, a heavy workload had piled up and he was lost in neck-deep pressure of work. In spite of wanting to comply, he could not make it possible to hand over the packet given by Chockan. Instead of postponing it to a better tomorrow, he asked Tulasi to deliver it to the person concerned. Tulasi took the address and phone number and went in person and gave the packet to the guy. She took a written receipt from him which she wanted to post it to Meena. Since she was going to post office, he asked her if she could post one of his letters too. She obliged. It was a letter disapproving a lady’s request for joining to the post of an assistant in Baby Creche after a gap of six months. Tulasi had no intention of reading the letter. But the guy told her how difficult it would be for his wife to manage the creche for six months. If she could manage for six months, then she could very well continue further with the same arrangement.
Tulasi instantaneously replied. “Why not consider me? Can I apply for the post in that Creche?”
He called his wife on phone and said a lady by name Tulasi was coming to see her in connection with managing the creche. Tulasi was there at the creche in a few minutes time. She was interviewed and was accepted for the post. She was taken from the office of the creche to the site where toddlers of the age of six months to three years were lying in different poses.
It was a thrilling moment for Tulasi to step into the Babies Creche. She was awe-struck. The minute she lifted a baby into her arms, it was awesome. A hair raising, electrifying moment of excitement ran through her. She said to herself. “Aha aaha! This, this only … I was waiting for in my life. Oh! Goddess Meenakshi, You blessed me. Hello Chockan Meena, a thousand thanks to you. I don’t need any adoption at all. Managing this creche and spending time with these tiny tots is pure heavenly. What a bliss!”
She went home to convey the good news of her new found job. Her mother-in-law was holding an advertisement and asked her if she was willing to apply for it. It was for a post of secretary in high posh corporate office. Her mother-in-law said, “Being a mere housewife at home can be a drudgery for you and therefore, a job in a corporate office will keep you lively and active. Why don’t you think over?”
Tulasi got an opportunity to speak her mind. But she remained silent. She wanted to say that she got more than what she wanted. So many children clinging around her legs and arms! How could she explain this ecstasy to her mother-in-law? The overwhelming joy of being with tender human-flowers of different hues was beyond words.
Instead of narrating all these, she gently nodded in the negative and said she got a better offer on hand.
She already posted the letter containing the receipt of packet to Chockan. But a detailed letter to Meena was yet to be written. It was about adoption only… but of a different kind. She would mention that “In this adoption, the toddlers never grow beyond their innocent childhood. ‘Three months to three years of babyhood’ a lovely blissful period of innocence and divinity.”
She will be writing all these unspoken words in very bold letters.
The blissful joyous time will be hers and hers only till she wants to hold. A saga of unspoken words.