Manik couldn’t concentrate on the TV even when his favourite soccer team was playing. He found himself pressing his lips together, biting his nails often, pacing around the room every few minutes, and then trying to concentrate on the TV but nothing seemed to work.
Now, as an afterthought, he regretted not accompanying Nandu in the labour room. When the doctor had asked them if he would like to go with her in the labour room, he had been apprehensive. And before he could decide, Nandu had asked him not to come. The person that he was, he would have freaked out at first scream he heard from Nandu, driving everyone else crazy too.
As it always happen when we wonder about a moment, once it has passed, if we could have behaved differently, Manik too was remorseful why he didn’t go with her. At least, he wouldn’t have been edgy right now.
After almost two hours, the nurse came to Manik and asked him to accompany her towards the corridor where there were located the labour room, the Operation theatre and the doctors’ cabins in a row.
Manik followed her feeling nervous, “Sister, is my wife doing fine?”
The nurse nodded and said, “The doctor will talk to you about it.”
Soon, the doctor emerged from the labour room and spoke directly to Manik, explaining in a calm tone, “Mr. Manik Malhotra, there have been some unforeseen complications in Nandini’s case. We can’t take risk so we have to take an urgent decision of emergency Caesarean section.”
Manik could feel his heart thumping hard in his chest. As far as he knew, everything was going fine with Nandini for all the past nine months. In fact, she had routinely maintained a diet and walk schedule, along with prenatal yoga. All her investigations had been normal and she was feeling calm and relaxed. They had been hoping for a normal delivery. This sudden complication was unexpected and shocking. In fact, he was unable to believe it.
His throat dried as he asked, “Operation? Is it something serious? Are they both fine? Isn’t it risky?”
The doctor patted his arm and said, “For now, both the mother and baby are fine. Circumstances are such that I will not advise normal vaginal delivery. We need to take an urgent decision.”
Manik immediately replied, “You are her doctor. Please take your call. If she needs a surgery, you need my permission. It’s completely up to you. We trust you.”
The doctor smiled, “Thank you, Manik. But it isn’t enough. You need to give a written consent that we can proceed with the surgery. You know how it is, when it comes to legal matters. The surgery is a small procedure and within 2 hours, she will be back. But still, we can’t proceed on verbal consent. Please sign these papers.”
Manik quickly took the papers to sign. But when he read the fine print, that mentioned that he was giving consent for surgery, fully aware that complications do occur during surgery, from massive blood loss, to sudden death of mother or baby, and he will not accuse the doctor and hospital for negligence, his hands froze. Even a vague passing thought of anything bad happening with Nandini felt like a storm raging in his heart and mind. It was a tough call but he didn’t have any other option. He was reminded of how Nandu had asked him to promise that he wouldn’t worry about them. He missed his parents and sister at the time when he needed them the most.
He rested his faith in the doctor and God, and signed the papers. When the doctor was leaving, he stopped her, “Doctor…”
“Yeah?” The pleasant doctor stopped and turned to listen to him.
“Please take care of her.” he requested.
The doctor smiled and said, “Don’t worry. That’s my sole job right now.”
Manik was back to the room, feeling heavy. He took out his phone to talk to his Ma but then he decided against it. She would ask a hundred questions and will start worrying about Nandini. Also, Papa and Ma both didn’t need stress at this time.
Instead of calling them, his hand moved over the phone ‘gallery’ on its own. Nandini loved to click pictures and Manik was by default her cameraman. At every place, at every occasion, at every moment, she would pose with her trademark smile, asking to click her pictures – several of them – and also the videos, and then should post them in her Instagram stories, Reels and feed.
He couldn’t stop smiling when he saw those pictures. She was so full of life. So happy. So loving. She called him ‘boring’ because he was a recluse and mostly uninterested in clicking pictures or even posting them anywhere. His social media accounts were more of a formality with one post in few months, and only family following him. He didn’t have many followers. Nor he desired.
One particular photo was with the Ganpati statue in their home. Nandini had immense faith in Ganpati Bappa. She always said that Ganpati will take care of her because she talked to Him as children talk to their parents.
Rest all pictures were from their home only as they couldn’t go anywhere because of Covid. They had not stepped out of home except the ANC visits and regular checkups with doctors. Nandini loved going for long drives and ice-cream dates post dinner. But for past six months, they hadn’t gone anywhere.
She had informed him that the moment she was discharged from the hospital and they were allowed to go out, he was supposed to take her out for an ice-cream date at Giani’s Ice cream parlour.
Manik had agreed reluctantly. He had never understood her love for ice-cream.
“Sometimes, I feel that you love ice-cream more than you love me!” He had complained, rolling his eyes.
“I would have loved you more, if I could eat you!” She had giggled, pulling his cheeks, telling him how cute he looked when he was jealous.
“Such a cheap thought!” He acted like he was puking. “And, by the way, I am not jealous.”
She laughed when he refused to accept it. Pointing at his look, she had said, “I can’t believe it Malhotra, you are jealous? Of ice-cream?? How will you behave when you’ll have to share me with a full-fledged living being, a few days from now.”
His envy was turned into a wide smile. He replied –
“I will love the baby more. I promise, you will be the one who is jealous.”