Surbhi sat on the living room sofa with her eyes gazed on the television. As she flipped channels, she lost count of time and only when her mobile rang frantically, then she realized that it was time to leave for work. All dressed up, she opened the refrigerator to get some milk, and then she stood there looking at the picture stuck on the refrigerator. She kept on looking at it with listless eyes, then held herself together and dashed out. This had now become a ritual of sorts for her. And yes, she considered removing it from the refrigerator many a times, but could somehow never muster up the courage to do so. And so the picture stayed there.
Surbhi was drowned in work when the office phone beeped. On the other end was a woman who sounded desperate and scared. She was in distress and she wanted to be rescued. Her plea for help was enough for Surbhi to spring in to action. The otherwise quiet and loner of sorts Surbhi bansal was a different person altogether when she was in her workplace, the humble red building called ‘Prayas’. Surbhi had set up this NGO to lend a helping hand to women who needed to be rescued. The edifice of the NGO came from the thought that she did not want any other woman to go down the pit of darkness and helplessness which she experienced years ago.
And so here she was, meeting Meera, the woman who had called the helpline number at Prayas. Meera looked pale and touched her belly every now and then as if to give some kind of reassurance to the tiny being dwelling inside her. Surbhi looked at this pregnant lady and held her hand. Meera’s eyes welled with fresh tears and what she told her left Surbhi aghast. Meera was married into an affluent family of doctors. She was five months pregnant with twins. Her in laws were hell bent on her getting a gender test to know if at least one of the unborn children is a boy. Surbhi feared that they could go to any extent if at all it isn’t a boy. She had refused and in turn had to bear physical atrocities.
As Surbhi sat there, it felt as if she was made to walk through the dark alleys of her own past life. A life she struggled to push into oblivion but it stayed there and lurked stealthily sometimes in those nightmares and sometimes in broad daylight. But today of all the days, she had a déjà vu as she listened to Meera. A charade of memories flashed through her mind unabated. She thought of the day she had married Amar, the love of her life, and then the day she knew she was going to be a mother. And the happy memories gave way to dark ones. She shuddered when she remembered how she was pushed to get that gender test and how she conceded though she writhed with indignation. When they were told she was carrying twin girls, they changed. It was as if they wore a garb of goodliness which came out and suddenly they were those monsters who wanted her to kill her babies. Surbhi felt weak, she was determined enough to oppose them. But, she didn’t need to. After a couple of days, her babies bid her adieu. She had a miscarriage. The monsters were overjoyed but that day something died within Surbhi. She felt as if she did not stand by her children. It was as if they were appalled at her for going for that gender test. It was as if she had perpetrated the heinous act of killing two tiny beings. The very next day she walked away from her husband and his family.
Surbhi shook with a start as she felt something on her hand. Meera had put her hand on hers which was icy cold. Surbhi cleared her throat which was almost choked by this time and assured Meera that from now on she need not feel afraid for herself and her babies. She didn’t need to go for that damn test. Meera’s eyes lit up with newfound hope and yet again her hand inadvertently touched her belly.
Surbhi made it her priority to help Meera. She was filled with vigour and her colleagues at ‘Prayas’ looked at her with astonishment.
Surbhi was standing in the hospital corridor waiting with anticipation. Next to her sat an old lady who seemed to be muttering some prayer while her gaze was fixed at the Ganpati idol that stood at the far end of the corridor. The duo was greeted by two chirpy nurses who steered towards them holding two tiny pink babies in their arms respectively. “You are grandmother to two beautiful girls”, they exclaimed looking at the old lady. She was Meera’s mother, whose face lit up like a million lanterns on getting the first glimpse of her grandchildren. Surbhi took one of the girls in her arms and looked at her lovingly. She suddenly felt alive. The moment was surreal.
Meera had given birth to two little girls and as she looked at her sleeping babies in the cot, she thanked Surbhi profusely. She was grateful to her for bringing her out of that dungeon which she thought was home, she was grateful to her for getting those beasts punished and most importantly she was indebted to her because she helped her stand by her babies.
Surbhi was dressed up in a beautiful black dress. She looked at herself in the mirror. It had been long since she had admired herself in the mirror. She liked what she saw. She looked vivacious and there was a glow on her face which could only be brought on by happiness. She was meeting up with an old school buddy who had been asking her out since long but she never conceded. As Surbhi turned towards the door her eyes fell on the picture on the refrigerator. It was the picture of her twins from the ultrasound. Two tiny heads were easily discernable along with miniature like toes and fingers. She moved her fingers on the picture and looked at it lovingly. Then, right then, as if for a tiny second, Surbhi felt that she saw the tiny heads smile at her. Startled, she smiled back. May be, it was time, she thought. She took out the picture from the refrigerator and kept it in a box. As she made her way out of the house, the bright sunlight greeted her. Surbhi grinned from ear to ear. She had found her closure.