“What’s this?” Harsha looked suspiciously at the check Rajani held out to him.
“My salary,” Rajani hated the way her heart thudded and her throat closed up. This was the first time she had taken such a big step on her own and against Papa’s advice. Surely Harsha would throw a fit? “Actually the accounts people insisted that I open an account in their bank…”
“How can they insist?” Harsha darkened in annoyance.
“I don’t know.” Rajani unclenched her sweating palms as she grimly followed the script she had readied, “I think some nexus with the bank guys. But that was the only way to get my salary certificate. “Look I got it. Nidhi said it took her months to get one.”
Harsha grunted as he took the proffered document. “Weren’t you supposed to get an incentive this month?”
Rajani shook her head. “Nobody’s got. In fact there were apprehensions that salary would be delayed and I didn’t want to take a risk with the loan repayments every month…”
Harsha grunted again but forbore to say anything.
Rajani heaved a sigh of relief. Thank you Bhagwanji.
“Ma’am,” Rajani hesitantly bearded the BBW in her cabin, “I…I had a request.”
“Yes?” The eyes probed her.
Rajani’s wiped her suddenly sweaty palms. “Ma’am we…we visited the fertility specialist and…”
“He wants me to undergo daily ultrasonography for ovulation tracking to identify exactly the ovulation. And then…then we can…” she trailed off blushing furiously.
“So,” Rajani swallowed, “I…we have found an USG clinic nearby and I would like to take some time off everyday…”
“You can go during lunch time. I can’t give permission for more than that or other than that. You can talk to…”
“No Ma’am that’s fine.” Rajani said hastily. “Thank you.”
Rajani heaved a sigh of relief. She was sure Aditi would throw a fit but she had been surprisingly cool especially considering her obvious reservations about starting a family. But then for Rajani that was not even a choice. She had to, simply have to have a baby. The adorable, warm cuddly gurgling baby would solve all her woes. She would be so cute that everyone would be under her spell and she as her mother would be the most blessed, most wanted, most preferred and indispensable. She wove beautiful pink dreams on light fluffy clouds and painstakingly embroidered light delicate lace all around, adding a touch here, a smile here, a hug, a cuddle, a shared look and dare she weave in – shared laughter and warmth with Harsha. It would happen, she promised herself. Her baby would bind them together the baby would do what she couldn’t.
The ever-growing tapestry kept her busy and occupied as she skipped lunch, rushed to the USG clinic in the summer heat, waited anxiously at the clinic wondering if she was going to overshoot the lunch time and then spread her legs for the internal transvaginal sonography.
Couldn’t there have been a better way? She would grit her teeth and hold her dear little baby decked up in pink closer to her. Only the thought of her made her come back to the clinic day after day. And avoid thinking about how or what she was going to tell Harsha the day the doctor told her she was indeed ovulating. If she understood correctly they would have to have sex immediately. What would she say at the office? Well she could always plead ill health. But what would Mummyji think? And what if it was a weekend? With grim determination Rajani drew the tapestry back over the other intruding thoughts and went back to decorating it – she would make sure her daughter never wanted for anything, make sure she didn’t feel any less than her brother. Even better, she would just have a baby girl and that would be it. Hey Bhagwan how was she going to have intercourse with her husband? But that was his problem wasn’t it? All she had to do was lie down like she did for every ultrasound. She could pretend she was having an internal exam. Yes that would be best, remain cool calm clinical and detached. Yes. No sweat, no excitement, no panting, no heaving nothing like what they showed or hinted at in the movies just cool, calm, clinical and detached, she chanted.
That’s how it was – cold and clinical. By a stroke of luck or divine intervention, she ovulated over the weekend and her in-laws were away. Nobody even got a whiff of her ‘deflowering’ barring Harsha. But that didn’t make the event any less humiliating and debasing.
Heart thudding, her heart spinning romantic dreams she called up Harsha from the USG clinic. “The doctor said…said it’s time.” She said in a rush.
“I’ll be home in a couple of hours.” He disconnected the phone. She giggled nervously to herself. Poor chap. He’s probably as nervous and embarrassed as I am. She spotted a lingerie shop. Unable to resist she bought some fancy garments and a lace nightie. It was sheer soft and silky. She blushed to think what the salesgirl must have been thinking. Taking a cue from all the helpful tips to attract your man and keep him tied to you she put on some music. She switched off the lights and pulled the curtains and instantly their room plunged into darkness. At least they wouldn’t have to pretend it was night. She lit some scented candles. A quick shower and she was ready in her new diaphanous gown and flimsy itsy-bitsy inner wear. May as well not have worn anything! She gazed at her unfamiliar reflection half scandalized half admiringly. She dabbed some scent. Where was he? Should she change back into her usual clothes? Would he think it too forward and indecorous of her? But she was married to him. And hadn’t Buaji said…her heart thudded as she heard the key turn in the door. He was home! What was he doing? Why was he taking so long? She peeped out and hurriedly withdrew. He was coming! What should she do? Stand? Sit? Lie down? Damn this was so difficult! Maybe she should have kept a glass of milk. She could have offered it to him. Now she didn’t know what to do with herself.
“Why is it so smoky?” He said without looking at her.
“I lit some scented candles…they set…set the mood…”
“Nonsense. I can’t stand smoke. I’m going to change and wash.” He stopped at the washroom door. “Take off your clothes and get into bed.”
Rajani stared at the closed door. With dull heavy hands she divested herself of her finery and slid under the sheets, shivering and shaking as she waited. I’ll have a baby. I’ll have a baby. She chanted grimly to herself clenching her fists to prevent herself from getting up and running away. She couldn’t even do that. She was naked. She didn’t remember being naked in front of anybody not even Mamma. Hey Bhagwan why did it have to be this way?
The door opened. She closed her eyes but she could still see the light streaming in from the open door. There was a click and darkness flooded the room. He came closer and pushed away the sheet from her lower half and thrust apart her legs. He climbed on top of her and sliced into her sharp and cruel as a knife ignoring her scream. “Think I can’t give you a baby?” He panted and thrust into her. “Here take this this and give me a baby. Show the world, it’s not my fault. Here take it. Take it.”
And her nightmare was over. She was no longer her virgin. She was a full-fledged wife now. She lay there in the darkness as he disappeared into the washroom. She slowly heaved herself and slid a pillow under her hips to help the sperm move towards her eggs as the doctor had advised. Harsha emerged from the washroom. “I am going back to the shop,” and he was gone.
A lone tear slid down Rajani’s ear. Was this how prostitutes felt? Violated. Used. Humiliated. Where were all the wonderful feelings that all those books had raved about? And she had to do this again?
Until she got it right. Now it was completely her responsibility. He had risen to the occasion. Would she?