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Vartika Srivastava

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Vartika Srivastava: Confessions of a Quiescent Lover







Our life is nothing but a journey from birth to death. It is a process, shaped by our experiences and understanding. Many run miles in this journey, some walk towards their destination, and there are others who crawl. They crawl because they are unable to walk. Not because they are unwilling to do so, but probably because this is what destiny holds for them.

I was born like any other child, after the nine-month long nurturing in my mother’s womb. The inquisitiveness of knowing whether she would be blessed with a baby girl or a baby boy kept her strength intact through that period. Although she was a lady of conscious gustatory cells, the thought of my health made her ignore her preferences, rather have everything which would be instrumental for my health. Her days of pregnancy were spent reading maternity special editions of magazines and booklets, trying to get the best knowledge possible in rearing the child. She left no stone unturned after discovering that her foetus had a “grossly shortened lower left limb.” The fourth month sonography reports revealed that her foetus had an abnormal growth. Didn’t her family suggest to terminate her pregnancy then…? Didn’t my father one evening suggest that she undergo the termination? She was left with two more weeks to decide about the termination. And she decided. “No.” She wanted to continue it, determined to bring the best of that life in her womb.

Mother used to wake up and sleep with the thought of having a deformed child, not sure of the exact nature of deformities however. Her decision was a difficult one. She couldn’t have me killed before coming into this world and so she thought to nurture her quiescent child. Most blameless was she. Once conceived, I was no more a lump of flesh to her; I was her constituent, her blood and flesh. There are moments in life when I think my life would have been better if I had someone to blame for my condition.

“I must learn to walk by myself,” I keep telling myself everyday. There are days when mother makes it so comfortable for me that I feel just normal and abled like others. But, whenever there is an extra soul in the home, my own place becomes a zone of discomfort for me. My definition of ‘independent’ is quite different from others. Normally, the term explicates freedom, autocracy and sovereignty for people in general. But for a crippled child like me, to be independent is to be able to stand, walk and move on my own. Mother has always told me that I am special.

My mother is my love, first love. It is now, in my twentieth year that I retrospect the different bonds that I and my younger sister share with mother. My sister Alia loves me at times, she shares her deep and dark secrets with me. She feels infatuated for a boy, whom mother usually despises. Alia abhors mother whenever she has to sneak out with her friends, as she has been asked by my parents not to go out so often. Alia complains, mother complains too. They end up arguing and Alia bangs the door shut and cries for not letting her keep company with bad boys.

I am my mother’s favourite. The fact that I never have much friends, in a way, has given a sense of security to her. She doesn’t fear that I might get spoilt under someone’s influence. She is the only one I have spent most of my hours with. The two neighbour kids I was friends with, have also stopped coming to my place lately. Perhaps they don’t have time anymore to come and play with me. With the minimal amount of movement that I can afford with my body, mother is the only one who likes spending time with me. She does everything possible to bring that bright smile on my face. She tells me, “You are in my life not by mere chance but by choice.”

Others are generally sympathetic towards me, a feeling I very strongly detest. Sometimes I tell mother, not to let anyone see me. “I feel abashed meeting strangers. I do not like when they try to pacify me with those pitiful eyes. They make me more sentient.”

But mother says: “Meeting others would make you feel better.”

“But mother, they look at me differently…Children either see me as an object of ridicule or they are scared of my abnormal limbs,” I assert.

“Or maybe they are jealous because you are so special,” says Ma gleefully, cuddling and kissing me. I know mother says such things just to cheer me up. But I do smile on it, despite the realization that it’s not true. I do that for her, like she does so much for me.

Alia confesses that she envies me sometimes, as she feels that mother loves me and cares for me more than her. But the very next moment, she takes pride in the fact that father certainly loves her the most. She is very dear to him. He usually avoids me, maybe my crippled life disgusts him. Maybe, he still regrets the fact that he agreed with my mother to let me come. After all, every father has expectations from his son. That guilt looms in his eyes still. The weariness of bearing the burden of a handicapped! But mother never feels so…she often tells me, “I used to feel so anxious when you were to come in my life. My days were spent thinking about the responsibilities which were to come on my way. Parenting is not easy.”

Spending most of my time with Ma, listening to her wishes and grievances, I feel I have developed a lot of sensibility from her. Sometimes, I am happy that I am not one of those insensitive teens who don’t respect anyone around them. Had I been normal, abled enough, maybe I would have been one of them myself but I am happy with my present state, at least as far as this is concerned.

Ma loves reading. Whenever she finds time, she reads some novels, poems or stories to me. Although my disability became a hurdle in my education, Ma ensured that I made the best of my life and she revived my life with her undaunting strength. She reads Neruda, Donne, Browning, Keats, Lawrence and Woolf mostly, to name a few. I like the way how she utters the lexemes, maintaining the intonations and rhyming of each line. Today, in the morning, after finishing her domestic chores, sending my father for work and Alia to school, Mother came tiptoed to my room, with some papers in her hand. Quite excitedly she revealed that it was Keat’s love letters to his beloved, Fanny Brawne; that she was going to read to me today. She began:

Newport, July 3, 1819, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, Thursday

My dearest Lady — I am glad I had not an opportunity of sending off a Letter which I wrote for you on Tuesday night—'twas too much like one out of Rousseau's Heloise. I am more reasonable this morning. The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway…

Such was our reading session. I love this part of the day when Ma opens her heart to me and I revert back with the same intensity.

The idea of love has always been fascinating for me. When the abstract feelings are so strong, even a person sometime stranger to you becomes your soulmate at a point. Isn’t it magical? You live entirely different lives and at one point they intersect, in a manner that they end up being one. Everyone has a parameter, quantified opinions, on what sort of partner they want in life. But doesn’t the world get judgmental when it comes to a person like me? Will there be anyone who would love me too and accept my disabilities as a part of life? Mother’s love is pure, its genuine. She has never been judgmental in any way, but is that possible from anyone else in my lifetime?

As I was lost in my trail of thoughts, contemplating on the subject of love; Mother could not have missed noticing my void expressions. She could guess what it was all about. And I knew what was coming my way. She tells me how special my existence in this world is to her. She repeatedly asks me: “Do you know what kept me engaged while you were asleep as a child, by my side?” “No,” replied I, knowing how dearly she loves to express her love always.

I used to stare blankly at you…observing the knitting of your brows, the volume of your curly hair, the shape of your eyes, the beauty of your face and the innocence lying by my side…I used to study the expansion of your abdomen as you breathe and contemplate about your future for hours, everyday. That kept me occupied.”

“Mother, I love you.” said I promptly, with a bright smile.

“Mother loves you too darling!”

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