Vibha had to wake up when the tingling in the stomach went unbearable. She was in slumber and did not want to get up. But when the hands of the clock started dancing in front of her closed eyes, she had no choice than to get up. She came out of the bedroom, tying the knot of her long hair with a heavy head feeling.
“Oh, why did you get up so late today ? Anyway, quickly freshen up and drive us to the bus stand,” her mother-in-law said. Startled, Vibha realized that her in-laws had planned to go to Vari, the annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur in Maharashtra. It was their yearly ritual, which they had continued since the family shifted to Ahmedabad. Her mother-in-law had reminded her of this trip two days before. But Vibha forgot it as she was terribly busy in her office. She was the in-charge of regulatory affairs. An inspection of the laboratories and the manufacturing unit in her organization was going on that week. For a pharmaceutical firm, a USFDA inspection is vital. To add to her woes, she was pregnant for eight months. She had to finish the work at the office for a planned extended leave as well. Naturally, she was very occupied at the office and forgot about this plan. But now she was angry with herself.
“Sorry, Aai (mother). I completely forgot about your trip. I was not feeling well since midnight. Got some sleep only in the morning. Where is Mahesh?” she asked about her husband.
“He has already left for the Gym. You know very well how less he stays at home. Don’t even think that he might remember our plan. But, look at you! Your generation is very impatient…. making tantrums for the morning sickness. I have delivered five children in my life. But never complained about house chores….” She had to stop because of the doorbell rung. Their younger son, Ganesh, was standing at the door.
“Good, you are ready! Your bus is scheduled for 9.30. I have to go to Surat for some office work today. I will accompany you up to Surat. Vahini, please make me a cup of tea. I will get ready soon.” Vibha sighed a relief as he handed the milk pouches to her.
She put on the milk for boiling, forgot about the domestic trifles, and started worrying about her pending work at the office.
She was the second daughter of her parents. She had an elder sister and a younger brother. Her father, a clerk in a government office at a small town like Karad in Maharashtra, loved her the most, for she was a brilliant child since childhood. Due to sheer intelligence and hard work, she studied up to postgraduate in the government pharmacy college in the town. Immediately, she bagged an excellent job at Pune. Unfortunately, her father died that year of a severe heart attack. Her elder sister and her husband were lecturers in a Pune College, making it easy to stay and work at Pune. After her father’s demise, they both found a bridegroom for her. She came to Ahmedabad after marriage with Mahesh. He was working in a pharmaceutical firm at Ahmedabad. She was able to get a transfer in the Ahmedabad unit of her organization. An intelligent, hardworking, and soft-spoken woman, she rose to the head of the regulatory affairs department in a short span.
Mahesh was also a postgraduate in chemistry. He hailed from a small town in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. He came to Ahmedabad for the job, and later his brother –Ganesh- also joined him in Ahmedabad. Their parents sold the small farmland and joined the two brothers at Ahmedabad. Mahesh was a mediocre guy with no ambition for life. In the first years of the marriage, Vibha tried to persuade him to strive for growth in his career. But he never paid her heed. He was happily counting the money that she earned. At last, Vibha accepted life the way it was.
Vibha finished her morning chores like a machine, but her uneasiness did not cease. Finally, she spoke to Mahesh,” Can we go to Doctor today? I am feeling very uneasy.” “ We will go in the evening, I am already late.” He said and left hurriedly.
She reached the office and did not get any time to think till lunch hours. After lunch, however, she was not able to sit in the chair. Finally, she informed her colleagues and boss and left for the hospital herself driving herself. As she reached the reception, the pain started. “Ben, sathe koi nathi?” (Sister, nobody accompanied you?), the nurse asked. Vibha suddenly realized that she was all alone there. She called Mahesh, but he was not reachable. He was in a manufacturing unit, which did not allow mobile phones. She kept a message for him at his factory’s office and send quick texts to her sister.
Fortunately, everyone at the hospital knew her. The Doctor saw her condition and took her on the operation table.
When she regained consciousness, she faintly heard Mahesh calling someone to give the good news. She somehow organized herself and looked at the small pink girl wrapped in cloth. For a moment, she was ecstatic, looking at her living creation!
The next moment, she remembered a story that she read long back. A pregnant tribal woman in that story delivers while coming back from the forest collecting firewood. Being untouchable, she could call nobody for her help. Finally, she breaks the placental cord with a stone, wraps the newborn child in the banana leaves, and carries her home in a bamboo basket on her head. Her father-in-law, while leaving for pilgrimage in the morning, had comforted her. He said, “ Sunbai (daughter in law), you still have time. We will be back in a week. Don’t worry, Vitthal (Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur) will take care of you. Believe in him.” Vibha remembered the story and these words. She thought whether God cares or not, in any era, a woman has to fight her war and bear her woes all by herself.