“Amma, Anna,” Mamatha’s screams continued, now occurring every other minute, and the decibel of her screams increased as well. Finally, unable to bear it, my father-in-law started sobbing. He went toward the hospital entrance and stood waiting for the lady doctor.
On the other hand, I was excited and happy even though Mamatha’s screams were heart-wrenching. I knew that her distress would soon end with the baby’s arrival. I imagined her distress to be like that of a storm before a lull. I was used to screams and shouts of women and the arrivals of Newborn babies since I had lived in a large Hindu Joint family of twenty-two members.
Finally, the lady Obstetrician, Dr. Kannan, arrived. A married woman in her early thirties was dressed in a yellow sari and a matching blouse. She came across as confident and reliable and gave me a sense of assuredness. She went toward the delivery ward hurriedly without ignoring my father-in-law’s greetings.
We waited in front of the labor as Mamatha screamed in pain every other minute. However, after an hour of pushing and yelling, Mamatha’s delivery did not progress.
Dr. Kannan came out in her white apron and gloves and said, “She is going into labor. I may have to use forceps to pull out the baby’s head since her cervix is small,” she said.
My father-in-law and I looked at each other. I knew nothing about forceps or deliveries, and my father-in-law was in his state of utter sadness at her daughter’s distress.
“Ok. But there is no danger to the baby or mother?” I asked her.
“No, no. It is very safe. We use an instrument that we call forceps shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs to help guide the baby out of the birth canal,” she said.
She wrote down a list of items to procure from a Pharmacy, and I ran across the street to the nearby “Anuradha Medical Stores.”
I returned to hear Mamatha’s screams as soon as I entered the hospital and saw my father-in-law’s still sobbing. I rushed to the delivery ward and handed over the large plastic cover containing the items that Dr. Kannan needed. Then, I went and sat next to my father-in-law.
It took another hour before we could hear the baby’s first wail. It was precisely 7:12 p.m. I sighed in relief and shook my father-in-law’s hand. Dr. Kannan took me immediately inside. Mamatha was half awake with the tightly wrapped baby sleeping next to her. I gently pressed Mamatha’s left hand and caressed the baby’s cheek with the back of my right palm. I stroked and straightened Mamatha’s sweaty hair, pushing it back. Then I looked at my baby girl in Mamatha’s bosom, my very own creation, my pretty little princess with a pink, lovely face. I wanted to hold her in my arms but was afraid of dropping her. I sat next to Mamatha and wanted to talk to her. But the nurse asked me to leave and let her be.
“Today is the eighteenth of June. Like me, my daughter is also born on the eighteenth,” I said.
Mamatha smiled and kissed the baby on the forehead. My daughter, with a gorgeous face, was asleep.
I came out of the ward happy and excited to become a father. But then, it was a cycle of fear, excitement, responsibility, and fear again. My life had an overwhelming sense of meaning at that moment when I realized that my life had undeniable significance.
I was a father.
It was the eighteenth of June 1989, exactly 33 years ago.
Now that I am a father of adults, I can declare with certainty that of all the roles that I have mantled in my life and all the references that I have been privileged to have (Businessman, entrepreneur, brother, husband, writer), Appa (Dad) has always been my most cherished and best.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I know there is a wish for me from my first daughter somewhere out there.
I dedicate this poem to her memory.
I am happy that now I am free,
following the path that God laid for me,
He couldn’t bear to watch me fall
So, I turned my back, left it all
My parting will never leave a void,
In a world that is keen to avoid
A girl like me is different and odd
One that is born of a lesser god
Feign not your pretentious grief,
I know my time was all too brief,
Lift your heart and love girls like me,
Change your mindsets and set us all free