Sudha madhuri dash is a published author of many novels. Along with photography she loves horse riding and practices odissi dance.
We all grown up...nandi and I
THE GOLGAPPA DIARIES ....HOW BARNACLES AND I CAME TO BE
The hospital was small and obscure but yet surprisingly well-equipped and compact from inside. It belonged to an eccentric doctor, an army veteran; he was hard-of-hearing and I suspect that he was a bit on the blind side too. This eighty-plus, almost senile gynecologist ambled about in his operating theatre in his bathrobe and chappals, nonchalantly opening drawers, peering into vials and filling up syringes. His absent-mindedness professionalism was very normal for his age, though not for his medical presence when he faced emergencies. He had seen hundreds of birthing and the sight of a vagina, no longer excited him. The lights in the operating theatre were flickering nervously and the storm raging outside was not helping much either. The sound of thunder triggered off an old tick in his right eye, his time spent in war fields of Srilanka had got him a splinter injury. The nerves had been affected but for now that eye was now almost shutting down like the shutter of a shop. His other good eye would do...he had done plenty in worse conditions. There, on the cold-steel table, under the harsh glare of the OT lights lay a middle-aged woman in an old nightdress.
Beads of perspiration clouded her forehead; her breathing was short and laboured. She screamed out in agony. “Couldn’t you find another hospital?” the man standing next to her looked mighty nervous. This man, was her husband, he was tall and slim-faced, with a huge handlebar moustache that looked unreal and resembled a brush. He was trying to pacify his wife but his efforts were extremely clumsy and that angered her even more.
“You are responsible for this,” she screamed out at him.
“Of course I am,” a smile had started to build up, but seeing her getting angrier, he stopped.
“The doctor is experienced and an old army veteran, do you know that he has served in the army during the Bangladesh war.”
“Experienced? The bat-eyed old fool will get me killed,” she shouted back. The doctor had, had heard enough from the woman. It was time to shut her up, so he decided to move in.
She whimpered out in pain, as the doctor pushed his thick fingers, deep into her. “What are you doing in there?” she screamed at the top of her lungs. The OT lights suddenly turned a wee bit brighter and seeing his mistake, he quickly withdrew his gloved fingers.
“Sorry, was trying to find your birthing canal.” She heard him give a low chuckle.
“Bastard,” she muttered under her breath.
“Three fingers wide...let’s see...” muttering to himself as if he hadn’t heard her, he again felt his way inside and this time finding the right opening, he smiled and then stuck his fingers further up. He was getting a bit rusty but a bit of rust would do no great harm to anyone.
“A bit more dilation and we shall have a birthing,” he smiled, showing-off his fine white dentures. “There now madam...one more finger and you are on,” he showed his thick index finger to her. She looked back at him with anger in her eyes.
“Your fingers are like those of a gorilla...so is it one finger or the whole lot of them?” Sarcasm was cut short as a contraction ripped through her body.
Ignoring her acute discomfort, he kept a vigil on her. She, a small-town woman squirmed, trying to cover up her dignity, by bringing her thighs closer. He tightened the stirrups of the table and wagged a finger at her. “I want a better view...madam,” he said. His fingers fumbled again, trying to find the right entry.
“You butcher!” She screamed out more loudly than before.
“Did that hurt; sorry, seems you are not used to madam?” the twitch had now left his eye and moved down to his lips.
“Shoot him!” The woman called out to her husband. He heard her and at once rushed in; reaching for his service pistol out of habit, which at that point of time was missing...for he was not on duty. While all this was going on...my head was stuck in-between somewhere and it was so dark that I was feeling pretty nervous. Trust me; it was quite a tight squeeze. I wriggled like a worm; already I was missing my warm and silent world. The slippery tunnel was like a tight band around my body. All this was happening to me and it was no laughing matter, I tried to wriggle and kick but couldn’t even move a finger. Then I felt a push...as if someone was kicking me out.
The doctor moved closer, he could see that she was going to give birth any moment. “Can you spread your thighs a bit wider... please?” The woman at once clamped her thighs shut. If she would hurry up a bit, he could still catch an episode of the, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’
“Want me to put my legs around your neck, so you can explore my cave,” the woman shouted back.
“Madam please, I am too old for that kind of language,” the old doctor turned a dirty shade of red.
“Oh! Forgive my impudence,” the woman glared back at him through the V-of-her-legs.
“After all I am a man, you should not say such things,” the dentures in his mouth going clickit- Click! This was followed by the sound of low chuckling.
Giving no reply, she gave a loud groan and pushed. The pain killer was not helping and nor was the steady stare of the doctor. To top that, the female nurse who stood stiffly by her side whispered to her under her breath, “I shall be taking the clothes and your slippers too.”
“You can have my ass too.” She screamed out at her.
“The pain is making her delirious, just ignore,” the doctor winked at the nurse, who in return winked back.
“You look quite becoming today,” the old doctor chuckled, as the nurse stuck out her chest like a primed-up hen, ready for egg laying. I just had enough, it was time for me to face the world, while my mother pushed, and the old doctor held polite conversation with her husband...my father, ‘as to where he was posted and how many kids he had...would he like to have some more’. To which my father was heard saying, “As far as I am concerned, I would prefer two more.”
“I am always here to help.” the doctor chuckled, his dentures shown an unearthly white.
I just had enough and I came out howling like a frightened siren into a world of dimly lit OT, where a fine pair-of -dentures greeted me with their whiteness. The rain poured in heavy sheets. The radio kept in the room sang out a warning of a incoming cyclone. The doctor hurried...the lights were flickering...his experienced eyes missed nothing as he cut the cords.
I felt positively naked and shaken out of my cozy corner. I looked up bleary-eyed. I was in the world of giants...I felt something being stuck up my nose. The poking continued until I felt something up my other end...I just had enough...drawing a large breathe of air. I cried till I heard someone say, “What a feisty little girl!” as the doctor took a close look at the anal thermometer.
Feisty! Is that what the giant thinks of me...I shall show him what feisty can do? I filled my lungs again.
“What has the old fool done now? The baby is howling.” My mother shouted out angrily, as she somehow found her feet.
“Lay still, the afterbirth hasn’t come out yet.”
“I will ring your neck with that...just wait?”
“Of course you can but I am in no mood for such show of affection.” The doctor chuckled out and my father too joined in, as for me I hated the doctor from that point onwards. This love hate relationship continued for a long time...I have fond memories of all the polio drops and injections, throat infections and dysentery...the doctor is now long gone and I miss him terribly.
“You want affection...I will show you some...” my mother was fuming. Suddenly something hot and wet slipped down her legs. She looked down to see a mass of red flesh.
“I will get that.” The nurse was quick to add.
My mother lay down again. She was weak and exhausted. She lay back and closed her eyes. A feeling of relief washed over her tired form. The doctor fumbled a few times as he stitched her up. As for me, I too was exhausted. I was soon swaddled up in a length of something that was soft and pink. The warm bath had left me squeaky clean. Quite satisfied with my present situation, I closed my eyes and slept off. The last thought in my mind I am not sure that I remember that now.
As dawn descended, the storm had reached its pinnacle of fury. The darkness outside matched the gloomy interior of the small hospital. My father looked outside; the rain was coming down in heavy sheets, “Impossible to drive in this weather,” He remarked.
My mother’s large eyes mirrored her concern. “There is no electricity; we cannot stay the night here.”
“Your daughter has brought the deluge,” my father had laughed.
“I hope the river does not rise, the roads will get flooded.”
“Don’t worry even the river knows, where not to tread.” Her husband grinned widely.
“We are talking about my mother here,” my mother had growled back at him. My parents were stranded in the hospital. How were they going to take me home? I was already four hours old and I needed a roof over my head. The old maids in our house speak of the flood that had washed away half of the town. I went home for my grandmother came for us. A few hours later...the nurse had run to the doctor to narrate the strange procession that was coming their way, “The devil is coming to take our souls,” she was heard crying out at the top of her voice.
The town had seen a sight to behold and reminisce for many years to come. My grandmother had come to take me home. This was my first taste of the saddle. Her ride was a huge water buffalo, she had tied me to her chest and had covered me with the pallu of her sari and then umbrella in hand we rode along, the buffaloes had easily wadded through the flooded roads and the furious streams that had suddenly sprung up from every corner. My father had refused to saddle up with us and had decided to walk along. It was some time before we had arrived at the farm; I was dry and warm, while my father had swam half the way. The old doctor seemed smittened by my grandmother, for he had braved the rain to bid her adieu. The farm was the only safe cocoon; that I have known my whole life and my grandmother the only person in this world, who I miss the most, in these fall years of mine. They say we join our loved ones in death that would be wonderful indeed.
Once fed and rested I was introduced to the rest of the family. One particular giant, I remember quite well. He was smaller than the others and he looked extremely hungry, for his teeth stuck out from his mouth. I was no match, for I was toothless, this giant drooled all over me. I decided to assert my presence again, drawing in a deep breath, I howled.
“She howls like a hyena.” The small giant had moved away...afraid of me. That was my brother, since that day onwards he has been always afraid of me.
“She is such an angel.” My grandmother said, tucking in the mosquito net around my crib. My brother had stood watching, sucking his thumb. No wonder his teeth grew outside his mouth. As I grew older my howls made him loose most of his hair...he is egg bald as of date.
I opened my eyes into a privileged world of a small and close-knit family...that included a doting grandmother who owned a hundred heads of cattle, a father who loved beating-up thugs...a mother who never stood in my way of natural development and allowed me the freedom to grow up wild and free-spirited. I do remember my early childhood...the special moments when I loved to eat sand and try to share it with ‘Barnacles.’
Baby Barnacles would wait patiently, while I would satiate my hunger with fresh sand that had been brought in for building the cowsheds. Sand has a nice crunchy taste. Wet sand tasted different from the dry sand. Sand that had been brought in from the sea beach had a salty kick to it and would often contain tiny bits and pieces of shells, while sand that had been quarried from a river bank tasted muddy and would often have rotten leaves and twigs in it.
“Bimpi I took you in and gave you a roof over your head and all you do is eat sand...this is how you repay my kindness.” my grandmother was shouting over my head, Barnacles had of course bolted back to the cowsheds. At that moment my grandmother with her flowing white hair resembled a witch from the fairy tales. I dug my feet into the sand drawing patterns with my big toe. “I was hungry,” I finished off lamely.
Barnacles grampu, I
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