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The Curse

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After three years of marriage, Savitri was admitted to a maternity hospital. The prolonged delivery pains made everyone in the family extra anxious. Ramesh, Sumitra’s husband, was on the edge of his seat. Finally, the nurse came out with the good news of Sumitra delivering a baby girl.

“Can I see my baby?”Sumitra asked the nurse.

“Why not? Just hold on for half an hour,” the nurse replied.

Sumitra was anxious to see her baby. “Who would she look like? Would she be like I or she will have Ramesh’s features?”

Half an hour passed and the nurse came with the baby wrapped completely only leaving her face open. Eagerly, Sumitra held the baby close to her chest. She was so happy that she wanted to suckle the baby even though she was sleeping. Sumitra kept the baby close to her while lying on the bed in such a position that she would be able to feed her immediately after she gets up. Slowly, a lot of plans started hovering in her mind. Should she be trained as a doctor or should she become an architect? Ramesh wanted the first child, whether a boy or a daughter to be an Engineer- I.T. Engineer. Let us see what field she selects.

And the child moved. She opened her eyes and her lips parted. Sumitra immediately got ready to feed the baby. When the child suckled, Sumitra was ecstatic with motherly affection.

Sumitra slept contently after feeding the baby.

In the evening, Ramesh with his mother came to the hospital. Everyone was joyous.

The baby opened her eyes for a while when Ramesh was leaning and looking at her. “Look, how she is acknowledging her father!  Naughty girl. When I was looking at her, she kept her eyes closed. But now, she opened her eyes. How mischievous!” Ramesh’s mother said proudly. After the visiting hours were over, everyone left happily, planning the naming ceremony.

The next day in the morning Ramesh visited the nursing home. He went to Sumitra. The baby in front of her was crying but Sumitra was fast asleep. He moved Sumitra and woke her up. “Madam, the baby is crying and you are in a dream world. Now your status has changed. You have become a mother. ” Sumitra woke up and took the baby close to her.

“Did you not sleep the whole night? Did the baby keep you awake the entire night?” Satish was worried.

“No. The sweet child did not trouble me at all. But I could not get sleep.” Sumitra said while feeding the baby.

But Ramesh found Sumitra a little tense.

“What is bothering you? You are not as happy as you were yesterday,” said Ramesh.

“No, nothing,” Sumitra said turning her head.

“Tell me, Sumitra, what is wrong?”

Sunita turned and embracing Ramesh burst out crying.

“What is wrong? Don’t worry about anything. Everything is going to be all right. Tell me what did the doctor say?”

“The doctor did not say anything. While diapers were being changed, I saw a big Leukoderma patch on her hand. I am so much upset. Leukoderma does not have any solution. Poor child. Her life is going to be in trouble.”

“First of all, who told you it is leukoderma? And we know it is not contagious or even that it does not spread through the air. Nothing to worry.” Ramesh tried to pacify her.

“I too know that. But it makes one look horrible and it is despised by all. It will be impossible to get her a match. I am feeling very bad. Everyone will keep aloof from her.”

“Don’t worry. We will get some solution. Nothing can stop her from getting a good life. Now stop crying.”

Meanwhile, the baby again started crying. Sumitra picked up the baby and suckled her.

Getting over the sudden shock, they came to terms with the reality.

When at home, Sumitra took care that her left arm was not exposed and all the frocks for the child were covering till elbow.

After 12 days, the naming ceremony was performed with fun and fervour but with an underlying tension. The child was named Smita.

The child was showered full of love and it was growing healthy.

When the child was three years old, she was admitted to a nursery school. After getting out of kindergarten, Smita entered a bigger school.

Ramesh and Sumitra met the principal while taking the admission and told her about Smita’s problem and sought permission for a specially designed uniform for Smita.

The principal assured all support to Smita for not getting an inferiority complex. She even said that we would introduce information about leukoderma and stress how harmless the disease was. The myth of this being dangerous would be cleared through their Health Science Forum.

And Smita joined the school.

While she was in class three, she herself asked Sumitra about the patch on her left arm. Sumitra explained to Smita in detail about leukoderma. She told her even about the myth in society. She also told her how to react to any comments she gets.

Smita started expressing her brilliance with confidence despite the different patch on her left arm. Slowly, she started wearing her normal school uniform. Before passing out SSC from the school, for four years she was adjudged as the best student. When she stood first in the district SSC board, she was felicitated as the student of the decade by her school.

Smita further graduated and got her post-graduate Management degree from a world-famous Indian institute. She got an offer from a reputed bank.

When she took out her parents for a grand celebration after she received her first salary, Ramesh opened out his heart.

“Smita dear, Sumitra and I are extremely happy about your achievement. Now, we want to see you well settled in life and nicely married. Have you not seen any boy worthy of you?”

“I have many good friends. A girl will be extremely happy to lead a life with anyone of them. But there is one common side to most of them, they hate leukoderma. They are aware of the harmless nature of the disease but the effect of its presence making the person look ugly scares everyone off. And it can spread on the body at any time in life. In the management institute, none knew about my patch. We were friendly. But knowing their thinking, I kept myself away from them fearing disappointment in love.”

“Very wise of you, Smita,” Sumitra remarked. “But does it mean you are going to marry someone we choose?”

“No, Aai. I will register in the marriage bureau. We will give our terms indicating my having leukoderma. If they do not mind this, we can move further.” Smita was clear in her plan.

A few months later, Smita was attending a banker’s conference.

Among the attendees, there was the most respected Chief General Manager Dr. Barua who was to be felicitated. After the main function got over, there was a dinner. Everyone intermingled. To Smita’s surprise, Dr. Barua himself approached her.

“Miss Smita, can I speak to you for two minutes? Many in the central office and myself are impressed by your performance on debut.” After a small pause, he said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Why not, sir? I hope I can answer you.”

“Are you married? “

“No, sir. I don’t have any plans for immediate marriage.”

“I have a daughter and a son. The daughter got married a year ago. My son is M.S. in A.I. and just returned from the U.S. He does not have any friends here. Would you mind meeting my son for a sheer friendship”

“Sir, have you noted the leukoderma patch on my left arm? Would he not be concerned about that?”

“Don’t bother about unrelated matters. He will come here to pick me up after our dinner gets over. I will introduce him to you. You judge yourself whether he is worthy of friendship or not. Then further things can be thought over.”

“I don’t mind.”

After dinner, the participants started dispersing. Mr Barua’s son was late. Smita kept company with the celebrity, till his car arrived. Barua’s son parked the car and entered the venue. Looking at the handsome bright young man, Smita guessed him to be Barua junior. His first appearance, with soft expressions on his face, impressed Smita.

“I am sorry, dad, I was stuck in unexpected traffic. Are you ready to leave?”

He came close to Dr. Barua.

“Sankar, meet Miss Smita, who was adjudged the best-performing officer in our  association.” Mr. Barua turned to Smita and said, “Smita, this is Sankar, my son.”

“Pleased to see you,” said Sankar with utmost modesty.

“Same here. So, how is the A.I. industry in the U.S.  flourishing?” Smita reacted.

“Well, it is growing in leaps and bounds.”

“Where do we Indians stand?”

“The innovations happening in India are astonishing. We are a step behind the U.S. Very soon come on par with them.”

“Let us hope brains in India do get opportunities to shine.” Smita supported Sankar’s statement.

“Miss Smita, where do you stay? We will drop you on our way.” Mr Barua interrupted.

“I stay in Peshwe park. Where do you have to go?”

“ Dnaneshwari Nagar,” Mr Barua answered.

“Oh! That is just in the opposite direction. Don’t mind. I will hire a cab.”

“No. We will drop you. The direction does not matter. We will take a halt at Shivaji Garden, will have a steaming hot coffee, then will drop you at Peshwe park, your place. I will also take this opportunity to meet your parents.”

“Dad, will not be it too late?” Sankar wanted to avoid another meeting.

They entered the Shivaji Garden, the drive-in restaurant.

While sipping steaming hot coffee, they discussed various topics. From science and technology to banking and GDP matters. Even Indian heritage appeared in the intelligent dialogue.

Half an hour passed. Meanwhile, Smita informed her parents about the timing of her coming home and getting dropped off by her senior officer.

Their opinions on various subjects were bringing them closer. Smita and Sankar exchanged their phone numbers.

In a short time, they were at Smita’s small bungalow. All of them came out. Smita introduced her parents to the Baruas. Her father very politely invited them in. Senior Barua respectfully denied entering the house promising a visit sometime later.

Here, Smita and Sankar decided to meet next Sunday at Shivaji Garden.

After bidding bye, Barua’s left for Dnaneshwari Nagar.

Smita’s parents were eager to know how the function went. She showed them the award that was given to her as the best performing Officer on debut.

Ramesh and Sumitra were happy that despite the calamity, Smita surpassed the odds and was shining brightly in her career. They prayed to God to pave the way for a good life partner for Smita.

The next Sunday in the evening before sunset, Smita and Sankar met at Shivaji Garden. After talking about sundry things, they came on their ideas about life partners. They were surprised that many ideas were matching.

“Actually, since I saw you that evening, I am restless. I am thinking of you day and night. I am not into poetry, but I feel like writing something about my mental condition.

I don’t know how to describe it but Smita, every moment you come to my mind. If that is called love, I am in deep love with you,” Sankar added.

Smita was very much pleased to hear those words.

Sankar held Smita’s hand and pressed it gently.

“Honestly, I am also in the same condition as you are. Your entry into the felicitation venue is carved in my mind and I remember it many a time. But, Sankar, there is a big problem. Have you noticed a patch on my arm?” Smita asked.

“What about it?” Sankar threw a question back.

“That is a leukoderma patch,” said Smita

“So what?”

“Do you know, it can not be cured?”

“I know that. I am also aware that it is totally harmless. It is neither contagious nor is it infectious. But in our society, there are many myths about it.”

Smita was listening.

Finally, Sankar said, ” Smita, I would like to propose to you for marriage.”

Smita said, “Sankar, I would like to say that you please check and recheck, whether this love involves sympathy or pity for me. I don’t want a life partner just out of sympathy with the idea of“poor leukoderma-affected girl.“

Sankar,  Please, don’t pity me.”

“Don’t mistake me, Smita. What I told you was not out of pity. I am honest with you. I am sure our life together, will be meaningful. And as such, I am not unfamiliar with leukoderma patients. Shall I share my experience? “ Sankar continued.

“I have a childhood friend Nitin, who had a sister, Neela elder to us by 10-12 years. She was a very nice lady. I used to adore her as much as my friend did. She also used to love me as her younger teenage brother. When she got her first job, she bought bicycles for both of us. I was part of their family. Smart, affectionate, and lively. I used to love her very much.

Soon, I discovered that Nitin’s parents were looking for a match for her.

Seeing my friend Nitin tense, I asked him, why everyone was tense.

“Anyone will be happy to select her as a life partner. Of course, a member of the closely-knit family going somewhere else permanently will make everyone sad. But why are you all so much tense?”

“Sankar, you don’t know. Neela Tai has a patch of leukoderma on her shoulder. “ my friend said dolefully.

I did not understand immediately. But then I searched for info on leukoderma. I understood that it is part of the skin losing colour. A totally harmless disease.

The matchmaker had insisted on not mentioning it before marriage. But our Neela Tai was firm on making everything clear while discussing the merits of every matter.

So, the news that Neela Tai had leukoderma spread like wildfire.

And then started Neela Tai getting bad treatment from society. Humiliation and pity. Leaving her immediate family, all the known persons started keeping away from her. At every opportunity, we used to spread the fact that it was harmless; the entire medical world was working to find the solution to this benign disease. But it is very hard to get rid of deep-rooted myths.

Our lively, bubbly Neela Tai turned listless and depressed. My friend and I got out of the mood and became dull.

And once, we got good news of approval from one proposal. Everyone was happy. Then Neela Tai started leading a wonderful life.

This is how I got familiar with leukoderma. When I saw you at the felicitation venue, I lost my heart. I wanted to know you better. And now knowing you fully well, if you agree to it, I will be the happiest person on earth.

I have plans to start my own to develop a unit based on A.I. which would help the agriculture field.”

Smita was convinced that Sankar had proposed not out of doing a favour. He was genuine.

When they met after both parents approved of their tying knots, they discussed their future plans.

Discussing all the things, Sankar and Smita arrived at the most important matter of having children.

“The scientific efforts to get over the problem of losing the colour of the skin, the deficiency of hormones in the pigment of skin, are speeded up. The solution is still far away. Also, the deep-rooted ideas of society about leukoderma are still far more difficult to get rid of.

Considering this, I feel, Smita, we should not have children. For no fault of the children, if the hereditary only is the cause of the existence of leukoderma, we will not take any chance and avoid the spread of leukoderma by not having children,” Sankar said.

“It is a tough decision, but we will adhere to it.” With utmost delight, Smita agreed to it.

“Instead, we will adopt a child from an orphanage and shower our love on it.”

“That will be wonderful.”

Sankar and Smita lived a very happy married life with an adopted child.

Sexagenarian Sumitra and Ramesh were extremely satisfied thinking how their child, a cursed child took over her life in her stride.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Vijay Likhite

The author is a B.E. (Electronics) from Mumbai University in 1971. Owned a manufacturing unit. A few science and technology based articles in Marathi were published in Sunday Edition of local newspaper.

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