Short Story - Yamini

The general tendency of human beings is trying to run away from the painful psychological and emotional experiences. I do not do that and let the pain or pleasure flower & teach me so many things, so many truths & so many hidden facets of humans & life in totality. Yamini’s tale is one of the so many experiences which make me show the various shades of human character & especially that of motherhood. Even though a really painful experience still it helps me to look at things from different perspectives & learn a lot. From times immemorial we have seen what all a mother can do for the love of her child, to protect & save the child from all the evils of the society, to see to it that the child is not hurt & left all alone in this world of hardships, where everything, every situation is not always rosy & pleasant. Not so in the case of Yamini if I think it from just one perspective, but as I try to see it from a Mother’s point of view, I see no wrong in what she did.

With great difficulty I just could manage to board the Gomti Express given the taxing traffic condition in Delhi. It was a hot & humid summer afternoon & all my excitement of going on a holiday to the most loved house, that of my nanihaal ( grandmother’s house), were converted to streams of perspiration as I panted & huffed to catch the train with a one-year-old on my shoulder. I never wanted to take this train but my husband dear thought that with a small & naughty child with me this was the best option. He could just hand me over the magazines from the door of the moving train & all my instructions & advices meant for him, when I was away were left to me. I felt a little miserable & at a loss in that chaotic situation & after making my son sit I started to take out a few eatables & his toys, see to it that he was comfortable. I made him his bottle of milk & busied myself taking care of him to forget the tense situation I had just been in.

To my utter surprise, my son kept on smiling & bursting into squeals of childlike laughter again & again. That is when I noticed this small, fair sweet child-woman sitting opposite to us. She smiled back as I looked at her. Her looks were divine & her smile could melt the hardest of stones.” Hi!” I said as I looked out of the window to see the train cross Ghaziabad. “Where are you going?” was my next sentence. It was a relief to see a woman nearly my age as a co-traveller & I tried initiating a conversation. As it is she looked so ethereal & pure that anybody would like to communicate with her & her personality attracted me like a magnet would a piece of iron.” Lucknow “was her short & sweet reply. “Oh good! We have each other’s company & time will just fly by. You live there?” the chatterbox that I am I just started off.

“Yes”, was her monosyllabic answer, as she returned back the cherubic smile my son gave her. I smiled but was feeling a little upset too that here I was trying to strike a conversation but the other person was not interested in reciprocating. She started a childish banter instead with my son & both of them seemed to enjoy their strange, wild words in glee & I was happy to see my son break into squeals of laughter & chuckles within a few minutes. By the time we crossed Khurja my son had crossed over from my lap to hers & I too was content to pick up my book & delve into my Paulo Coelho since there was no one else who was interested in me & my talks.

“Mumma, mumma”, were the words that woke me up. I must have dozed off while reading & just jumped up to see my son enjoying his favourite chocolate, with dirty hands & face & mushy, gooey chocolate stains all over. “Oh my God! He must have been troubling you. I am so sorry I just dozed off. See he has even put chocolaty hands on your kameez too! Come I will clean it”, I was awfully sorry to see the mess my son had made & felt guilty that a stranger was taking care of my little one where as I rested peacefully. Nervously I took a tissue, sprinkled some water & started cleaning the stains from her clothes. “Please do not bother yourself so much. It’s all fine, no problem at all. You have such a cute child”, her first long & complete sentences kind of surprised me & as an after effect my hands stopped on their own. From her eyes, I could make out that she really liked the child & she must be in love with all other children the same way was my immediate thought.

The train stopped at Tundla. My lil one having gone for a short trip to his sweet dream world, I got some tea & eatables for both of us. Since she had already graduated from her monosyllables to complete sentences, it gave me a green signal to strike a friendly dialogue once again. “Are you from Delhi?” I asked as the train glided past the platform & the people & soon took a swinging rhythm. She was really childlike, with an air of pure abandonment of everything but just of what was happening around her right then. She was drawing me to her with a sense of wonder, of pure joy, of a return to innocence, of my girlhood and a simpler time.

“Hmm.... my parents stay in Karol Bagh “. “Oh! So now going back to work,” I enquired because I wasn’t actually sure of her marital status. “Nahi, to my in–laws & my husband”.

"So you are married? Do not look married at all”, I was trying to draw her out of her shell because I sensed that other than my son with whom she was so open, happy & played with him without any worry, with others she would always withdraw into a cocoon. Being childlike myself I too was a tad bit curious & imaginative so kept on asking and talking to her to satisfy my endless curiosity.

“I am married with a child a few months older than your son, whom I left behind with my mother in law as I was in Delhi to attend to my ailing father. My name is Yamini,” seeing my surprised look she gave me a smile. Quite a contradictory name, I thought seeing that she was so fair & so clear like a child, whereas her name meant the night, darkness. “I am Madhu. How’s your father now? I hope he is fine now?, I sounded concerned so she immediately replied,” He will never completely recover because he has throat cancer, but yes he has been operated upon & he is recuperating & responding well to medicines,” the true, honest but blunt answer left me more curious & asking for more because my child-woman did not appear a child anymore but a strong & mature human telling & facing the reality of her circumstances now.

To my question of who is tending to her father now, she told me that her brother, sister in law, mother & an unmarried sister were there to take care of him, but she was more close to her father & how she really did not want to leave him back in Delhi but had no other choice as she had a family & her son in Lucknow to look after. “Why are you going to Lucknow?” I felt the child-woman opening up maybe because she could sense my honesty & concern & was able to see through the truthfulness & trustfulness.

When I told her I was on a break & was going to spend time at my grandmother’s place with my aunts, uncles & cousins who loved me & my son immensely. She sounded very excited on hearing that and said that it indeed was a boon with people who loved you, who cared for you & where you can always be yourself & you never have to wear a cover of pretence. I could just catch a whiff of bitterness in her longing to be childlike, innocent, honest & crystal clear befitting a child. As I experienced various shades of a human nature in Yamini sitting before me, I wanted to more of her. To make her more comfortable & to help her come out of her protective cocoon, I told her how much I loved Lucknow, that I finished my schooling there, how I was so close to all my uncles & aunts being the first born of their eldest sister & the eldest of the brood of cousins. I told her about my college, my plays, my marriage, my family & all other things that I thought would interest her & strengthen her trust in me. In all the monosyllables she used enquiring or expressing her, she sounded keen, eager, cheerful & happy & I noticed that the tinkling happy sound of colourful glass bangles she wore merged & created music with her lovely mellifluous voice.

I knew a bond had been created between the two of us. The train crawled leaving Phaphund station behind. “Why don’t you tell me something about yourself Yamini? It will be better & help us to stay in touch,” I said trying to strengthen the bond of friendship that was developing between us, the two women, childlike & oblivious to the world & its vices around. She hesitated a little, looked at me, felt reassured by my looks & maybe she also sensed my intentions so she talked in length, her lovely mesmerising voice along with her innocence making me all the interested in her, listening to her intently, totally engrossed.

"I was born in Delhi in a family of three sisters & a brother. We belong to a conservative Vaishya family, but my father always encouraged all the three sisters to venture out, educate ourselves & do something useful. My husband Tarun belongs to a traditional Brahmin family from Lucknow. We met in college, liked each other, fell in love & got married after a stiff opposition from our families. He was working in Delhi when we got married. I was also working & both of us were doing pretty well & were very happy in our small world, but God willed it otherwise. My father in law passed away, my mother in law could not cope up with the loss & we had to leave everything & shift base to Lucknow. I did have some small problems, to begin with, but slowly everything was fine. As my mother in law needed not to be left alone so I opted switching over being a homemaker. My mother in law was under severe depression then, she always felt that she would not live long & kind of coaxed me into the family way. The doctor told me I must have made some mistake about the timing & may actually be a month ahead into my pregnancy. I came back, overviewed & came to the conclusion that I was right. I went back to her & told her. She asked me to go in for an ultrasound to check & confirm the progress of the baby.

The next evening was a harbinger of immense joy because the doctor told me that I was expecting twins. I really don’t know how I felt at that time but yes my family was happy & my mother in law started getting better & seeing her happy I would forget all the discomfort & eagerly awaited the day when my bundle of joys would be in my lap. Finally, the day arrived. I started feeling uncomfortable early in the morning but could not understand. As the day progressed everybody understood & took me to the hospital. It did not take long & within two hours I was the mother of two boys. Everybody around was happy & I could hear my mother in law’s happy voice as she distributed sweets."

She stopped to take a breath & poured herself a glass of water. As she gulped down the water, she saw the happiness in my eyes, as I cheerfully said, “Oh my! Two boys. Great! How did you manage? Must not have been difficult after all your Saasu Maa (mother in law) must have helped. It must be a really funny experience. Are they identical?” Now it was my turn to gasp for breath & I suddenly saw the look in Yamini’s eyes change to a strange melancholy as I blabbered. She continued, ‘’ One of the boys, the one who was older by five minutes, was normal but the other was very weak, much weaker than normal & both of them were shifted to the nursery so that they could be under observation. After four days we were discharged.

The evening the boys were brought home, the younger, weaker one shivered & suffered jolts & didn’t respond. I was nervous & scared. Thankfully we were near the hospital. We rushed him back & he was immediately taken to the intensive care unit. We were all worried. We didn’t know what exactly had happened because only I was allowed inside to feed him & I was too ignorant at that time to understand. So we just prayed. The doctor told us he was suffering from jaundice & after three days we were told he suffered from septicaemia & needed complete blood transfusion. By God’s grace blood was arranged for him & he started recuperating.

We took him home happy that both our boys were doing fine & we had a complete family. Alas, that was not to be. My younger one was suffering & along with him, we all were suffering. He was unable to digest food, he was weak, he would feel hungry again & again, his entire body was blue of the bruises suffered from the injection needles. He wreathed in pain & we both would look helplessly. He would just cry & cry. There was nothing else we could do. In the process, everything else took a back seat. Sleep, food, household our normal life everything was difficult. The time & effort required by him took both of us away from our responsibilities towards the normal child too. Whatever care was taken was by my weak mother in law,” as the train stopped at Kanpur station I noticed the tears rolling down Yamini’s eyes & felt my eyes moisten up too. Here were two women sitting & sharing each other’s worlds oblivious to the world around & the chaos of the people deboarding, the call of the coolies & the shouts of the hawkers, connected together by the bridge of human emotions & pure sentiments.

“As he would not respond to anything & just cried, something in me told that everything was not normal. One day when he was quiet, I started making sounds with the rattle. The elder one turned towards the sound & tried to focus his vision in the direction of the sound, but he lay quiet. No movement, no response. I repeated twice, thrice, I don’t know how many times, but he never even looked at me or towards the rattle once. I was in a shock & mode of denial. In the evening after Tarun came home I told him all about what happened in the afternoon. He didn’t believe & did it for himself (played the rattle) & saw the child not responding & he was shattered. Still, to clear all the doubts we took him to a paediatrician, got him thoroughly checked & made him undergo all the tests. Our doubts were not just doubts but proved right. My child had lost all his sense of hearing because of the septicaemia & jaundice. He would not be able to speak too, never. We were broken. We didn’t know what else lay ahead. How he would be able to cope up with the worst that lay ahead in life. He will be made fun of. I have seen siblings making fun of their own physically challenged brothers & sisters. Both of us cried together that night & kept awake sharing each other’s & our child’s grief. But we made up our minds to do whatever we can.

God willed it otherwise. He again felt sick & was all the more weak. He was suffering, not able to feed or sleep properly. We couldn’t see him suffering anymore. His health was not improving & he was unable to cope up. We would have loved to question God about why he made such a small little being suffer so much but it is never possible. We sat together & finally we decided to give our lil child instant relief.” I was really moved to see her condition whilst she spoke & was also curious to know more in sheer ignorance of what lay ahead.

“We turned to books & the internet & got some medicines, which we knew would surely relieve him of all his pain & suffering. Morning, afternoon, evening, I gave him his doses with complete belief & faith. The first day nothing happened, the second day he left feeding, the third day we knew what was going to happen. Tarun didn’t go to office & stayed back. We both saw his breath slow down & pulse weaken, & together we saw our little one take his last breath. He was no more with us.” Suddenly everything registered itself & I came to my senses. She broke down crying bitterly.

The train was passing over the river Ganga & in a strange way I was reminded of Ganga immersing her sons, the Vasus, celestials who were cursed to appear in human form as punishment for their misdeeds against the sage Vasishtha, whom she bore & brought to this earth because of the curse of the Lords & she relieved them of the curse, their sufferings, out of compassion in her own way. What an irony, Yamini meaning the night spreading darkness appearing as clear & pure as the Ganges, bringing relief to her suffering son whom she carried for nine months, bore, tended & out of love & compassion gave him ‘Mukti’ (salvation, freedom), relieving him of all his mortal sufferings.

I could not understand how to react & all I did was embracing her in a tight hug, tears welling in my eyes completely blurring my vision, feeling like a sister sharing the grief of the other unfortunate one. Till the train moved into Lucknow station both of us just sat together holding hands, quietly sharing Yamini’s grief with just the happy little squeals of baby laughs of my little one pointing to life ahead. We exchanged each other’s addresses to meet later, but neither did she nor did I make the effort to get in touch again.

What do I name it Euthanasia or the Unconditional Love of parents? Never really found an answer but now I understand that each human is a complex creature whose behaviour is driven by emotion, beliefs, point of view that varies from person to person. Now I understand it is easier said than done. It is actually very challenging & tedious for both the parents to live with a child who is sick & not at all able to cope up with life, but the love of parents for a child is unconditional & can go any limits to provide relief by whatever means they can & protect from this world full of vices. Being a mother always has a very humanizing effect. Compared to the feelings of parents everything else gets reduced to essentials.

I can never hold Yamini & her husband guilty as I believe the true value of human relationships is that they serve as pointers to unconditional love. When you forgive, accept, and love all parts of yourself, you will forgive, accept, and love all other human beings as they are. The more we improve our internal relationships between our thoughts, beliefs, and intentions, the more loving and harmonious all our human relationships will become.

Hold unconditional love in your consciousness, and you’ll see it reflected in your reality & each one of us will be able to see people like Yamini with love, forgiveness & considerations....

Motherhood is priced

Of God, at price no man may dare

to lessen or misunderstand.

~Helen Hunt Jackson

NOTE: This short story is nominated for the Best Short Story Of The Year Award 2017.

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