“And all mothers are mature too. I’m not mature enough to be a mother. I’ll be the worst mother ever.” Nandini had said.
Manik smiled adoringly, patting lightly on her arm, and tried to cheer her up, “Aww! Come on, now. Don’t be too harsh on yourself.”
Nandini closed her eyes and took a painful, laborious deep breath. More tears rolled down her pretty cheeks, making her wet eyelashes stick to them. Manik sat down on a chair beside her and held her hand. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, quietly but firmly.
In support and in understanding.
A few minutes back, he had been missing his ma and sister. A moral support from family was never too much. He could understand how Nandini must be missing her family, her older sister, her brother, and more than anything, her mum and dad. She was close to both of them. They had always been a strong pillar of support, whenever she had needed them, whether during her studies, or when she went to Bangalore to hone her culinary skills, or when she fell in love with Manik and needed them to bless her and permit her to marry him.
Today, at such an important juncture in her life, when she had become a mother for the first time, their support and presence was vital for her. She missed them. Being in their oldage, and due to covid19 induced restrictions, none of them could make it for their big day.
Manik knew how much Nandini wanted her mother and sister to be there. But was that the only reason? She was fine before she went for the operation. And as far as he knew, she was not someone to hold on to negative emotions for a long time. She knew how to stay positive and move on.
The way, she had been crying incessantly, troubled him.
The nurse came after some time to replenish fluids in drip set. She injected some antibiotics and left after talking to Nandini and explaining her about breast feeding. Nandini listened to everything and nodded to agree.
When food arrived, she ate not even a single morsel of it. Manik insisted her to take a few bites but she refused. He wished he could convince her but she wasn’t listening.
It was weird because Nandini always remained particular about health and nutrition. She took diligent care of proper diet for every member in the family with respect to their preferences and nutritional requirements. She had taken proper care of herself throughout her pregnancy. Her degree in Food and Nutrition came handy in this job as she knew what to cook and for whom. She taught cooking as well as about discussed a lot about nutrition with her students.
Manik hoped that it was a general mood change and there was nothing more to think about it.
At night, Nandini fed the baby and gave her back to Manik, who carefully settled her in her crib. He was clueless about how to handle a small one-day-old baby and his soulmate who was not even talking to him after the dreadful time of her delivery had passed.
Under normal circumstances, they would have talked on and on, about how they felt about this situation, how they missed their families, how they couldn’t believe it that a part of each of them was living and breathing in the same room and nothing had felt more complete than this moment. They had talked about it before the delivery during her days of ups and downs during the pregnancy.
But not today.
Often, their conversations were never ending. They would talk about each and every thing on the face of the earth, every single thing happening in their lives, their dreams and ambitions, hopes and desires.
But not today.
After dinner, he checked if the baby was calm and asleep. After making sure that she was well covered and comfortable, he switched off the main lights and let 2 yellow lamps stay on so that the room remained sufficiently illuminated for any movement.
Nandini was wide awake. She was lying straight on her back, staring at something nonspecific on the ceiling. Manik pulled a chair to sit beside her. He observed her for a long moment. Neither she turned to him nor spoke anything.
Manik cleared his throat to attract her attention but she stayed quiet. Finally, he said, “You can talk to me.”
This time, she turned her face to him, and after a small pause, she asked, “About what?”
He sighed, “Everything. All that you are going through, all that you are feeling right now…”
“I feel nothing.”
“Nandu…” He tried again, but she interrupted him.
“No…really… I feel nothing, Manik. I am so, so blank.”
He murmured in a soft voice, “Aren’t you excited?”
She stared at him as if he was talking in Greek. As if there was nothing to be excited about. When he didn’t say more, she asked, “About what?”
He raised his brows to point towards the baby. And shrugged. “The baby?”
She sighed, and nodded side to side. A moment later, tears dropped from her eyes in a constant flow, and she sobbed, “I don’t know, Manik. How I should be feeling…how I am really feeling…why I am not even excited for the baby…”
Manik hated to see her in tears. He felt helpless and lost when his strongest support, his Nandini, admitted to feeling low and lost. Nandini knew that so she hardly ever lost control over her emotions when she was with him. But today, she couldn’t help it. She had been crying since the afternoon, since the moment she was out of the operation theatre.
Manik leaned ahead and held her hand in both his hands and squeezed it lovingly. “Ssshh! Don’t cry. And don’t be under the pressure of ‘feeling’ anything. Excited, upset, nothing… my fault… I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s my fault.” She shivered as she sobbed, “I’m making you worried too.”
“Take it easy. I know you are overwhelmed. You want to talk to someone? Ma, papa, didi?”
“No!” She whispered. Her cheeks looked red and drained.
“Okay, no worries. Try to get some sleep.”
“I don’t feel sleepy.” She winced in pain.
“Do you want to talk?”
He smiled adoringly. “Alright. Then, we can just sit, side by side. I’m here if you need something.”
“You go to sleep.”
“I don’t feel sleepy, either.” He patted her hand.
“I’m sorry. Tell me that I am behaving stupid.”
He drew her hand to his lips and softly kissed it. “When I used to worry and drive you nuts by my constant apprehensive rants, you never said that I was behaving stupid. It isn’t stupid to share your vulnerabilities. It’s strength.”
She didn’t know why she was feeling like this – drained, hopeless, lost – why her emotions were all over the place. Her feeling were so messed up that she didn’t even know what she was feeling at this moment. But in the midst of this turmoil, she knew that there was one feeling, strongest of all, that had remained constant through every twist and turn of her life. That feeling was her love for Manik. She knew that it would never change.
Manik convinced himself that this phase was nothing more than a momentary low-down because of her feelings overwhelming her. But it wasn’t easy for him, as well.
He was worried to death whenever something troubled her. It wasn’t in him to stay calm when people around him were disturbed. Especially Nandini. He could do anything in his might to make her feel better. And he would remain restless until he did that.
But today, he had to keep calm. At least, he was going to try to stay calm and not make it evident on his face that he was about to panic.
He had promised her that he won’t fret about her more than he should.