The year was 1984. On a warm summer afternoon, when bougainvilleas lent their chromatic intensity to a quaint hill town, a young and intelligent couple visited the most sought-after medical practitioner in their small town with their 9-month- old in tow.
That evening, when the vast majority of the town settled for their afternoon tea, the woman wept, for the worst of her fears just came true. She was torn as guilt took over her mind. The presence of an incipient embryo in her womb was just confirmed.
Hasty decisions were made as the dusk painted hues of crimson on the azure canvas. ‘Technically there is no life within you as yet,’ the man tried to make sense picturing what could be a mass of cells (blastula is the jargon used) within his lady’s belly, the same place the precious infant in his hand took shape.
In the cold office that was occupied by the doctor overlooking the valley, opinions were conveyed. In the sixty minutes that followed, the physician with premature grays and the most ethereal of smiles talked them out of the folly. He convinced them that they would be the most excellent architects of their child and the one that was to arrive.
The episode of the Birth
The following spring, on an unusually cold night, the woman developed cramps in the lower belly, a good three weeks ahead of the said date. After what seemed like an unending agony, she slowly drifted into a trance.
The sharp clamor of a plunging utensil transferred her back from the morphine-induced chaotic world that she had drifted into. Starring into the ceiling and looking around, she swallowed a shriek when her eyes caught sight of what lay in the crib beside her.
‘She is healthy, but her head is 16 inches long and her body 18 inches. She had to be pulled out with the forceps; you must be aware of it’, it was the comforting voice of her mother. She wanted to let out a wail. ‘The doctor is making calls to his colleagues; he will be here soon.’
She could not shut the cacophony in her mind. What will come of a woman with an extended head?
She is going to be a laughing stock. Will treatment, if any cause injury to her brain? Her ambiguity persisted as she tried to speak, but she ran short of words.
In a short while, the physician arrived. ‘I tried calling more than a dozen of my colleagues. I am baffled now’. And then he did something that was considered blasphemous to the medical fraternity. He called for the local woman, in her 70s, who specialized in natural medicine. This woman belonged to the same community of the newborn, and hence the 50 odd people gathered in the corridors of the missionary-run hospital agreed to summon the natural therapist.
For the adept healer, the task in hand was a piece of cake. ‘It will take a few hours. I will repeatedly stroke her scalp cautiously and let’s see if there is an improvement’. The old woman then settled down to work, hoping for the best.
As she promised, in a few hours the length of the head reduced significantly. ‘It is going to take a month or two of continuous massages, twice a day, for the head to get to a standard infant size and shape,’ she announced to the now swelling crowd. The mother smiled for the first time in 12 hours.
Of Strong bonds and friendships
The parents raised their two daughters giving them everything. They faced the usual tribulations of hospital visits and hospitalizations with their girls. In the years that followed, the physician, now a celebrated person in the town formed a remarkable bond with the little girl.
From saving her from certain grave congenital abnormalities to running to her rescue through the bouts of temperature spikes, he made sure he was her prime attendant. He made exceptions for her, like home visits that he otherwise did not encourage owing to his hustling work hours.
On the days the little girl was hospitalized (which was too often), he would discharge his duties for the day and visit her in her room, and that was two chambered cottage overlooking the garden in full bloom. They spent their evenings playing with the buds of Morning Glory or just walking around the garden.
He would tell her stories from the faraway land, where he grew up. He would show her the presence of ‘other kind of God’, the ones she was entirely unfamiliar with. He would tell her many tales that her five-year-old mind would fail to comprehend and would let slip.
The little girl’s fondest memories include conversations by the fireplace exchanged between her granddad and the doctor, both benevolent souls with similar looking black bifocals. She would not forget the clinking of the Chinaware or the aura of orange peels as they melted into the decoction, the smiles, and hugs that were exchanged between the two men and the way she sat perched on either of their laps.
Chapters do End
On a rainy day, the little girl now almost ten, moves to a boarding school. In a few months, the old doctor decides to return to his soil. He leaves her a goodbye note with his contact details. But the ten-year-old mind of a boarder had far more important things to process.
In her teens and early adulthood, memories of the man who played the Godfather in her life would brighten her days. The sight of Morning Glory in full bloom, the clinking of Chinaware, the aroma of citrus-laden tea, brick fireplaces, stones strewn pathways, thick-framed black bifocals- the memories live on.