I am not sure if I love you.
But, the thing is, I am supposed to love you.
After fourteen years of concealed existence wherein I have struggled to comprehend the complicated labyrinth of human relationship, I am pushed to the forefront of a hospital room and told that you belong to me. But I don’t know how you belong to me. You could be an aunt, a sister, a relative, or even a cousin. Except you look too old to be a cousin. I turn around suddenly, my fingers groping for the warmth of parental presence. But suddenly the two individuals who have put clothes on my back and food in my mouth seem to have stepped away. They say that they were merely pretending to be my parents all this while.
As I am pushed closer to you, I notice the way your eyes open. The whites of your eyes which are ideally the parchment of optical expression are blank and indifferent. But somehow your pupils are the same color as mine. Your hands are thin and spiny, your fingers reminding me of tree branches with little bits of snow clinging to them.
The individuals who were playing my parents all this while tell me to move closer to you and to kiss your powdery cheek, and the people around me look at me with wide eyes. I think they expect me to cry but my eyes have metamorphed into dry deserts with not even an iota of moisture around. I trudge towards you, and it seems as though each step put forth towards you holds a different battle. If I belonged to you, wouldn’t you extend your arms and hold me to your heart, calling me your own? If I belonged to you, wouldn’t you lovingly caress my cheek and marvel at how soft my skin is? If I was yours, wouldn’t your eyes – or rather, the whites of your eyes overflow with familiarity and emotion?
Finally, I seem to have reached a point that is centimetres away from you. The individuals who had been playing my parents all this while, tell me to kiss your cheek, again. Suddenly, I lose my balance. As I hold onto your bedpost in an attempt to steady myself, my feet get wedged into a clearing beneath your bed. I tenderly lay my head on your chest and try to make my way out, my body titled in an atrociously awkward manner. I realize that your chest is absolutely flat – devoid of the lumps of womanly warmth that the world calls the breast. The individual who was playing mother to me all this while had held me close many a time – and even though I did not like hugs, I distinctly remember the soft squash of something warm and lumpy on her chest. When I turned thirteen, I realized that this warm and lumpy thing was called a breast and all those who were women in the real sense of the word just had to have it. Women weren’t women without breasts on their chests, or so I believed. As I look or rather stare at your flat chest, I nearly trip over. All this while you are watching my reactions, your eyes fixated on every step I take.
Suddenly, I begin backpedalling. For me, you are an abstraction that represents confusion and contradiction. The long tresses on your brow tell another tale, while your flat chest has something else to suggest.
The individual, who had been playing my mother all this while, looks at me with confused eyes. Probably, she was not expecting such an explicit reaction. You seem to have tears in your eyes and this makes me feel a little not so good about things. I don’t like seeing people cry.
A moment later, the door opens and a tall, elegant woman walks in. She is a doctor, and gracefully wears a slender, white coat. She looks at you with smiling eyes, and all the sadness that was etched onto your face recedes almost magically. She whispers something to you, and even though I cannot trace her words by their thin, vapory shape on her lips, what I do know for a fact is that these words ensure an aura of assurance above all.
“Hello, Jeevika!” says the doctor, her eyes twinkling.
“You – you know my name?” I stammer, before swiveling over to look at the individuals who were playing my parents.
They shake their heads and I know that they did not tell her.
“Of course I know your name, dear,” she answers, the twinkle in her eyes illuminating her entire expression. “And not just me, this entire hospital knows your name – Jeevika. In addition to knowing your name, they also know your story, which you, yourself probably aren’t aware of.”
“My story?” I ask. For some reason, my gaze shifts towards you and stays with you. I don’t know why, but I feel as though you have a lot to do with my story.
The doctor walks towards me, a newspaper cut-out between her fingers. She placed the newspaper cut-out in my palm and asks me to read.
17 January 2006
RARE GYNECOLOGICAL COMPLICATION LEAVES DOCTORS SHOCKED
A rare gynecological complication was observed in Silver Dew Hospital on Monday. The unborn child had attained a never-seen-before vertical breach position, and was too far for the gynecologists to reach. The mother insisted on a surgery which involved breast-related complications and the possibility of breast cancer development in the future due to immense radioactive exposure. Throughout the procedure, the mother commanded the doctors to ‘tear her open’ if need be, but to give her her baby.
The newspaper cut-out falls from my hands as the world clears around me. The individual, who had been playing my mother, walks over to you and lifts your sterile gown. I see a deep gash on your skin which had been skillfully stitched together.
“I was one of the three nurses who tore your mother apart and brought you out. Your mother gave you to me especially when she realized that she may not have much time left on this planet. She told me to take care of you. Yes, she gave you to me. She said – or rather insisted – that she does not want you to feel the ripping agony of losing a mother. Before putting you in my lap, she named you ‘Jeevika’ – Jeevika, which means life.”
I look at you, and see you smiling softly. You extend quivering arms, with white, flaky fingers and hold me to your chest. Behind the flatness of your chest, I hear your heart beating. The thud of your beating heart is so rhythmic, it feels almost melodious. Somehow, this sound makes me smile. The music of your heart restores within me, the warmth of a familiarity I had known nothing about.
“Welcome home” you wheeze, and I find myself smiling.
Your heart was truly home, or to be more specific, it was truly my home long before I’d entered this world. I had lived there and probably still continued to live there.
After all, it was where I’d come from.