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 ...
He might have said that he was going to love the baby more but deep in his heart, he knew that he could love nothing and nobody more than he loved Nandini.
She was the centre of his Universe. Sole axis on which his life revolved. His happiness, his dreams, his ambitions began and ended with his desires to provide her with everything she had ever imagined. He didn’t remember if he had ever desired anything more from life than her smiles and her laughter. Her wishes were the sole purpose why he worked so hard to build a comfortable life for them. And now their kids.
She had desperately wanted to have babies but they had waited. For 4 years they concentrated on their work. Until they were settled and confident in their individual professions. One year ago, he had been promoted as the Senior Manager in his company, overlooking the pan-Asian projects, and almost a month later, she got a raise to become the Chief Chef in Delhi School of Cookery and Craft.
Everything was going fine. And when she conceived, there was a forced stay-at-home because of Covid19 as the school was closed indefinitely. Always being the one to find some positive aspect in everything negative, she took this time as an opportunity to take care of herself and the baby. She didn’t go out except for ANC check ups. She paid attention to her diet and exercise schedule. She did prenatal yoga and slept well. In fact, she used to insist Manik to sleep on time. Her relationship with his parents was pleasant and mutually respectful. They loved her a lot. Valued her achievements. And she cared for them. So there was no chance of stress. He had tried his best to keep her stressfree.
That is why, it was puzzling to him, that despite all care, proper diet, yoga, sleep, no stress, she had landed in a complication during the delivery.
‘Some things are unpredictable!’
Manik was worried all over again. He switched off the gallery in his phone and sent a message to his sister, about how worried he was. They had taken Nandu for a surgery. His sister, Renu, called him immediately.
Renu di lived in Bareilly and wasn’t able to come to Gurgaon because of travel restrictions. Talking to her was like a breather to him. She was nine years older to him and had always been loving and motherly. Even Nandini connected well with Renu di. She assured Manik that everything will be fine. Manik took a deep breath and disconnected the call, promising her that he will be patient.
He went outside, and walked towards the OT with a heart beating frantically against his rib cage. Manik inquired about Nandini. It was almost an hour since they had taken Nandini inside. The nurse went inside the OT, assessed the situation, talked to the doctor and came back outside to inform him to wait. The doctor couldn’t begin the procedure as Nandini’s blood pressure had shot up. They had given her medicines to reduce the blood pressure. They were planning to do the Caesarean section under epidural anaesthesia and were about to begin it soon.
Manik could feel his mouth going dry. It was getting scarier. Standing outside the OT, alone, and confused, he had never felt more helpless than this moment. Nothing was in his hands. He could do nothing to alleviate Nandini’s pain and struggle. He could only hope for the doctor to take care of her. He prayed for Nandu, and sat down on the steel chair in the corridor outside the OT.
Every possibility of things going wrong flashed before his eyes. He lowered his face and buried it in his palms, resting his folded elbows on his knees. He felt so lonely. So powerless. So desolate.
He wanted his Nandini back. Hale and hearty. Giggling at his lame jokes. Making fun of him when his mother and sisters chided him. Patiently solving basic problems in life that would often make him panic-ridden. She loved him like no other. She tolerated his ramblings whenever he was upset and then, when he would calm down, she would patiently explain her opinion on the matter. Making him see the other side, as well. She had been an unflinching partner during his brightest achievements and darkest depressions. Someone who shared his dreams and aspirations, his passions and desires, his hopes and efforts, and allowed him to share the same on her end.
Falling in love with Nandini and getting married to her had been the purest, most effervescent, blissful, dreamy years of his life that he couldn’t – he wouldn’t – trade for anything.
His heart sank. He wanted all of it back. He couldn’t afford to lose this part of his life. He couldn’t affort to lose his Nandini. Not for anything in the world.
Not even for the baby. He cursed the day when they had decided to plan for a baby. They were both happy together. Why did they need a baby between them? A baby was not worth risking life for. Definitely not.
“Mr. Malhotra!” The voice of nurse distracted him and he raised his face from his palms to look up.
The nurse was wearing a mask, still Manik could see the sparkle in her eyes, when she moved her brows towards a small bundle, wrapped in layers of cotton, in her arms.
He stood zapped and stunned when the nurse handed him a small human, tiny in size and softer than cotton, in his arms.
“Congratulations, sir! A girl has arrived to grace your home.”