A Short Story
I have noticed one thing. In the colony where I live in Pune almost everyone's children have migrated to the USA to realize the American Dream (That's why Computer Science, Software Engineering and IT is so popular - it is the easiest way to go abroad). But one thing is very funny about this Indian (Puneri) diaspora. In their professional lives and careers they quickly adopt "modern" western American values but in their personal lives they still cling on to traditional Indian values. This story explores this dichotomy...
A middle aged woman watches the sun set from the balcony of her tenth floor flat of one of those ubiquitous residential “townships” rapidly sprawling and proliferating around the once remote suburb of Aundh on the outskirts of the once beautiful and picturesque city of Pune in western India.
The doorbell rings. It’s her husband back home from work.
He’s tired and aching all over after the long bone-rattling, back-breaking and lung-choking commute on the terrible roads and in the polluted atmosphere.
“Good news,” his wife says exuberantly, giving him his customary cup of tea.
“What?” the husband asks nonchalantly, carefully pouring the precise amount of tea from the cup into the saucer and lifting the saucer to his lips to enjoy his tea in his usual habitual manner.
“Our daughter Nalini is pregnant,” the wife exults.
“At long last – I thought she didn’t have time for mundane things like procreation – I am so glad she found time from her busy schedule,” the husband comments acerbically and noisily sips his tea in his customary acerbic style.
“Don’t be sarcastic. She’s a career woman. Aren’t you happy...?”
“Of course I’m happy. I’m 56 now – it’s high time I became a grandfather.”
“I’ll have to go...”
“For her delivery.”
“Yes. Her due date is sometime in December. I better go as early as possible, maybe in October. Poor thing, it’s her first child. You better get the visas and all ready well in time. Nalini wants me to stay for at least three-four months after her delivery.”
“Three-four months after her delivery...? So you’ll be away for more than six months...?”
“Yes. I’m her mother and I have to be there to help her. Poor thing. It’s her first delivery. And that too in America... poor thing...”
“Poor thing...? Who asked her to go there...? And what about me...?”
“You also come and help out.”
“I won’t get six months’ leave.”
“Come for a month. To see the baby. In December or January...”
“I’ll see. But I don’t like it there. It’s too boring. And in December it will be freezing cold.”
“Then stay here.”
“I wish we hadn’t shifted from Sadashiv Peth.”
“Why...? Isn’t this lovely apartment better than those two horrible rented rooms we had...? And it’s all thanks to Nalini.”
“I know... I know... Don’t rub it in. But sometimes I wish we hadn’t pushed her into Computers and IT. We should have let her study arts, history, literature – whatever she wanted to.”
“And it would have been difficult to find a decent boy for her and she would be languishing like an ordinary housewife with no future... slogging away throughout her life like me.”
“And we would be still staying in the heart of the city and not in the wilderness out here... and you wouldn’t have to go all the way to America for her delivery...!”
“Don’t change the topic....” the wife says.
“I am not changing the topic,” says the husband firmly. “You are not going for Nalini’s delivery to America. Let them, she and her husband, manage on her own.”
“But why shouldn’t I go...? She is sending the ticket.”
“It’s not a question of money. The fact is I don’t want to stay all alone at this age. It is difficult. And here, in this godforsaken township full of snobs, I don’t even have any friends.”
“Try to understand. I have to be there. It’s her first delivery.”
“Tell me one thing.”
“Don’t the women out there have babies...?”
“And do they always have their mothers around pampering them during their pregnancies and deliveries...? And then mollycoddling their babies for the next few months, maybe even a year...?”
“I don’t know,” she said evading an answer, “for them it’s different.”
“Our girls are najuk.”
“Nonsense. They are as tough as any one else. It’s all in the mind. It’s only our mindset that’s different.”
“What do you mean...?”
“Thousands of women who have migrated from all over the world are delivering babies out there every day, but it’s only our girls who can’t do without their mothers around, is it...?”
“Don’t argue with me. It’s our culture... our tradition. A daughter’s first delivery is her mother’s responsibility.”
“Culture...? Tradition...? What nonsense...? It’s not culture... it’s attitude...! Our people may have physically migrated to the modern world, but their mental make-up hasn’t changed, isn’t it...?”
“Please stop your lecturing. I’m fed up of hearing…” the wife pleads.
The husband continues as if he hasn’t heard her: “What they require is attitudinal change and to stop their double standards. Nonsense... Nobody forced them to go to America... They went there on their own and it’s high time they adopt the American way of life instead of clinging on to roots and values they themselves have cast off…”
“Please. Please. Please. Enough... I beg of you. Don’t argue. Just let me go.”
“No. You can't go. I can’t stay alone for six months. Why should I...?”
“Try to understand. I’ve told you a hundred times. It’s our only daughter’s first delivery. I have to be there.”
“Okay. Tell her to come here.”
“Yes. Here. To Pune. We’ll do her delivery right here in Pune. We’ll go to the best maternity hospital and then you can keep her here as long as you want. She’ll be comfortable, the weather will be good and you can pamper your darling daughter and her baby to your heart’s content.”
“What do you mean ‘No’...? You went to your mother’s place for your deliveries isn’t it...? And you came back after the babies were more than three months old.”
“That was different. I wasn’t working.”
“Oh. It’s about her job is it...? I’m sure they have maternity leave out there. She can take a break. Come here to India. Have her baby. And if she wants to go back early we’ll look after the kid for a couple of months and then I’ll take leave and we’ll both go and drop the baby there.”
The wife says nothing.
“Give me the phone. I’ll ring her up and tell her to come here as early as possible. I’ll convince her she will be more comfortable here,” the husband says.
“I’ve already spoken to her and tried to convince her exactly what you suggested,” the wife says.
“She wants the baby to be born there. It’s something about citizenship.”
“So that’s the point...” the husband says, “She wants the best of both worlds, isn’t it...?”
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
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About Vikram Karve
A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
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