Purshottam was devastated.
The boy had the eyes and smile of Vaidehi. Purshottam just gave a peck on the boy’s cheek and gave him back to the nurse. A sinking feeling was now engulfing Purshottam. A storm was brewing inside him, they had almost forgotten the past, but now, how would they ever get over the past? He had never imagined the horrors of the past would live between them in this form, forever.
He was flooded with congratulatory messages as the news of the birth of a baby boy spread but he did not respond. He did not have the courage to tell the world about the boy born to them. He was worried for Vaidehi, how would she react once she saw the boy?
A few hours later with a heavy heart and difficult steps Purshottam entered Vaidehi’s room. The baby was sleeping in the crib and Vaidehi was lying with her back towards the crib, crying. Sunayna, her mother, was sitting on the couch looking tensed and in deep thought. When Sunayna realized Purshottam had entered the room, she went out. Vaidehi sat up in the bed and Purshottam came around and gave her a tight hug.
“How can this happen?” Vaidehi whispered between deep sobs.
“Yes Vaidehi, life has been a grueling journey last one year, but together we will see through this too” Purshottam replied calmly, slowly moving his hand in her hair.
“Purshottam how can…” Vaidehi said trying to free herself from the hug but Purshottam hugged her tighter, just implying her to let it be. “You sleep now, I will see you tomorrow”.
He gave a glance at the baby, who was sleeping without a care. He was only a few hours old now. Purshottam left sometime later. Purshottam’s heart was filled with pain on seeing the baby.
The next day, Vaidehi had many visitors- family and friends. The initial enthusiasm of the visitors would suddenly turn to shock and then to pity towards Vaidehi, after seeing the baby. Vaidehi wanted no one to come but Purshottam, though Purshottam did not come to the hospital that day, citing some important meetings.
Vaidehi knew what Purshottam was going through but for Vaidehi, she had carried the child in her womb and it was their baby. The next couple of days Purshottam came to the hospital for a brief period but avoided talking to Vaidehi. The fourth day she got discharged from the hospital and as per their earlier plan she was to go and stay at her mother’s place, for post natal care. But that day Vaidehi decided to go to her own place and asked her mother to come over and stay to assist in taking care of the new born. She knew that if Purshottam stayed alone, she would lose him and this grief would just destroy him.
That evening when Purshottam came home, Vaidehi was prepared to talk.
“What is bothering you Purshottam?”
“What do you think it is?” Purshottam snapped.
“No I want to hear it from you”
Purshottam sat down on the chair and Vaidehi sat near him on the bed. He started “Okay then, I love you so very much and I am ready to take on anything for you, but I can’t live with this baby. It would keep reminding me of our past. The past that we both have left behind and we want to forget.” Purshottam was choking, he continued with a lump in his throat “Vaidehi I never wanted to know what happened with you in those days of captivity. I am ready to accept your past and make a fresh beginning despite of anything that happened in those days. Vaidehi you are everything that I have and this child will keep reminding me of all that has happened with you. It would keep reminding of the heinous time that you spent in captivity. It would keep reminding me of you being dishonored. In the past few months I thought we were healing and those events indeed seemed of a time long ago. But with this child around, those dreadful memories will always remain between us”. Vaidehi was calmly listening, she wanted it all out of Purshottam.
Purshottam continued “I think let’s put the baby up for adoption or put him in some orphanage, we can then think of going abroad and starting all anew.”
That’s when Vaidehi lost patience “What are you talking about Purshottam? How can you even think of giving away our child or putting him in an orphanage?”
“Vaidehi I understand you have carried him for nine months and the maternal bonds are strong, but please think of me too. How will I ever get over it?” Purshottam was now irritated.
“Oh! Purshottam why are you not getting it? The child is ours. YOURS AND MINE” Vaidehi was now screaming. “I was molested and man handled and I feel terrible about it. I feel blemished and keep bathing to feel clean. But you never treated me differently, you just continued to love me. And how much I love and respect you for that. But I was never raped!!”
Purshottam was now standing and in a very aggressive stance retorted “Do you think I am insane or foolish or dumb. I should not believe what I see and listen to what you say. It’s there for all to see Vaidehi. And why are you lying and defending. I promise and you know that I accept you despite of whatever happened, it was not your fault, so then why this, why are you fooling me now. Why are you lying?”
“Purshottam I am not lying. I always thought you knew I was not raped”
“Vaidehi it never did and will not ever matter to me. But now I can’t live like this, with this child. We have to do away with the child.”
“Oh! God!! How do I convince you?” Vaidehi sounded helpless “I always thought that the features of the child were baffling you as much as it did to me. But I never expected you to think like this. And as a matter of fact the men who kidnapped me, were NOT EVEN BLACK” Vaidehi was now screaming with tears rolling down her cheeks. “Ok let’s first get this sorted” She continued. “Let’s do a paternity test and confirm that you are the father of this child.”
“Oh! we don’t need one. Vaidehi the proof is there in front our eyes. Look at the child and you would know. Why you complicating it further? Why do you want to humiliate me? Why do you want a certified report to say he is not our child?”
“Purshottam please understand. We need to resolve this. Trust me he is our child. If you say you love me please come for a paternity test” pleaded Vaidehi.
Purshottam left without a word. Vaidehi sank in her chair and cried. Sunayna came and consoled her daughter “Don’t worry all will be well. I know.”
The next few days, Purshottam feigned busyness and stayed away from Vaidehi and from the baby. He often came late and always in a nasty mood. The only thing Vaidehi kept requesting was a paternity test and Purshottam found that futile and humiliating.
Sunayna had been a silent observer to the mayhem in her daughter’s life. Apart from a consoling word and some encouragement now and then to Vaidehi, she had not said much and nothing to Purshottam. Sunayna was a PhD in psychology and was a professor in a university. She was a renowned personality in her field and had traveled the world – lecturing, attending conferences and presenting her research. She finally knew she had to intervene and save her daughter’s marriage.
The next day she was up early and waited for Purshottam and Vaidehi to come for breakfast. Purshottam was trying to leave in a hurry but Sunayna was firm about talking and resolving the issue. She started in calm and firm voice. “I want to talk to both of you. I know everything that the two of you are going through and I know it’s an impasse.” Purshottam liked Sunayna, after all she was the biggest support in him getting married to Vaidehi, but was uneasy and did not want this conversation to begin. Sunayna could sense this and told Purshottam “Son I completely empathize with you and what I am going to tell you may be extremely shocking but is surely going to end this strife. You just need to trust me. You both need to first go to the hospital for a paternity test. I have taken an appointment and all three of you need to go before lunch.” Purshottam rebelled “I said I am not doing this test” and he began to get up and leave. “Purshottam do you want this issue resolved?” Purshottam did not reply. Sunayna continued “Once you are done with the test both of you come home and then I want to share somethings. And after hearing that if you still have doubts, I will take the baby away and raise him in some faraway place all by my-self and you can make a new beginning.” Vaidehi trusted her mother too much to question and the firmness in her voice was too authoritative for Purshottam to refuse. Purshottam took the day off and the three of them left for the hospital for the paternity test.
Later, they had a silent lunch at home. Purshottam was wary of the situation but trusted Sunayna to take the child away and the opportunity to start over again with Vaidehi was the only motivation for him to keep going. A few minutes after lunch the three settled around in the living room. Sunayna got her bag and pulled out some printouts, a few envelopes and some photographs and started “One year after my marriage I completed my PhD. Your father and I did not plan for a family as completing my research was a priority then. Once I finished my PhD my research got acclaim, not only in my university but my guide also sent it to his associates in the USA, and was highly rated there too. Six months later the US University invited me to present a paper on my PhD thesis. It was an all expense paid trip for me, though they were ready to take care of your father there, but we had to pay for his tickets. And we were still young and working and planning to start a family and hence we decided we could not afford him coming along. On my trip there I met a lot of people from my field and my area of work and representatives from all around the world. One evening, after a few drinks I got carried away and ended up in bed with one young black professor from Nigeria. I was ashamed and full of guilt after that but it had happened and I had to live with it. Three weeks after I arrived from the US, I realized I was pregnant. I was not sure who was the father of the baby but I remained silent and decided to go with the flow. When you were born I was sure my husband was your father. My guilt eventually died and we lived happily.”
Purshottam and Vaidehi were aghast. They just listened attentively neither blinking nor gulping. Sunayna handed over some photographs from her conference and in a group photo pointed out the black professor. She showed them her certificates from the conference. And she continued “As they say ‘you may forget your past but your past never forgets you’. And the past stood glaring at me the first time I saw my grandchild. But I hugged him and loved him for I knew you two were his parents. And he is going to need a lot of love and acceptance, growing up. Have you heard of the gene Em-sea-one-are (MC1R)?” The two of them were too shocked to think, they exchanged a glance and just nodded a ‘no’ in unison. Sunayna then handed over some printouts to them and continued “MC1R is the gene responsible for the skin and hair color and texture in humans. And this gene is known to skip generations that’s why we often find children resembling their grandparents. And I guess, we were hit by this generation jumping MC1R gene. So when you related the incidents of your abduction and rescue, I knew for sure that this child was yours but Vaidehi is not my husband’s daughter. Though there is no way to ascertain that now, with my husband dead and no contact with her biological father. But a paternity test with your son would put to rest any doubts that you may still have. And hence I insisted on the paternity test” Sunayna was now crying and visibly embarrassed.
Just then there was a wailing sound from the room. The baby had woken up. Even before Vaidehi could move Purshottam rushed inside and carried the baby and started kissing and cuddling the little one. That was the first content smile on Vaidehi’s face since her delivery. Sunayna was still crying “I hope you don’t hate me Vaidehi”. Vaidehi went over and hugged her mom “To reveal this, needs a lot of courage mom and to confess it after all these years even more. But for me my daddy remains my daddy and you saved my marriage, my life, my son and gave me back my Purshottam. I love you very much mom.”
Vaidehi went inside and found Purshottam lying on the bed with the baby sleeping on his chest. He just gestured her to come and lie down next to her. “I am sorry Vaidehi…” Vaidehi just put her hand on his mouth “Sshhh… we are not talking about it. Have you thought of a name for him?”
“He will be Vaidehi and Purshottam’s, Luv” Purshottam pronounced it proudly gently patting the baby.
Vaidehi raised her head and concluded “I love you to infinity and back.”