The doctor went out to inform Arnav as he sat waiting outside for news of Khushi and their child, to tell him that as the labor wasn’t progressing too well and there were some indications of fetal distress they felt it best if Khushi underwent a C-section; they wanted him to sign the consent form, he complied with shaking hands. Tension tore at him, “Khushi,” he muttered in a hoarse voice turning alarmingly pale; the doctor melted, “She is fine, nothing to worry,” she reassured him gently, but that was easier said than done, his face flushed and he clenched his fists, the doctor sighed, oh one of those kinds! “You can go and meet her if you like Mr Raizada, before she is wheeled into the OT,” she shook her finger at him, much like a school headmistress, “But Mr Raizada only two minutes and don’t forget that this is a hospital,” he strode off, she shook her head, obviously the words hadn’t registered, “Mr Raizada,” she called insistently, “Don’t upset her, it wouldn’t be good for her or the baby,” he turned around and finally nodded, the doctor sighed in relief, she had clearly said the magic words!
Khushi lay on a stretcher outside the OT, waiting for Arnav, she couldn’t go in without meeting him. Pata nahi kis haal main hoga bechara, she sighed and closed her eyes as another agonizing cramp gripped her, Hey Devi Maiyya, isse agar labor not progressing well kehte hain toh ‘well progressing’ labor main kitna dard hota hoga!
Arnav stood over her, staring at her pale pain lined face, he hesitantly raised his hand and caressed her brow, unable to speak a word; she opened her eyes, at the sight of his familiar beloved face, tears clouded her eyes and spilled over, she began crying in earnest, she was exhausted, she just couldn’t take it anymore, she yearned for it to be all over, she dearly wished she could press a fast forward button; he held her hand feeling helpless and out of his depth, anger and ego, his two friends and support systems, of no use, “Khushi,” he mumbled rather inadequately, “Khushi,” She sighed and attempted to get a grip on herself and smiled wanly, “Arnav,” she breathed, “Headache kaisa hai, aur ankle? Any swelling?”
He shook his head, “I am fine Khushi, tum…”
“Hum theek hain Arnav,” she cut in, “I will just go in and be out soon, you take care, Di and Bhaiyya are here with you?” she froze and clutched his hand with all her might, he turned pale as Khushi was assaulted with an intense contraction, he clenched his teeth to prevent himself from screaming, his hand felt as if it were being crushed, strange that Khushi had so much strength he vaguely wondered through the haze of pain, he sighed in relief as Khushi relaxed her grip; he gently massaged his hand, he could see spots of blood where her nails had dug in, and for the first time, he could faintly comprehend the enormity of what Khushi was undergoing in the labor room.
The attendant came and wheeled away Khushi, Arnav just stood there, his hand raised, watching her go away from him, he hadn’t even been able to hug her.
He shuffled back to the waiting room, worry and fear bogging him down, the medication’s effects wearing off, he felt nervous, in fact panic stricken. He sank down on the chair and buried his head in his hands, ab main kya karoon? Khushi theek toh hogi na? If something happened to her! His breath stuck in his throat, what if, what if, no no he wouldn’t think of that, he wouldn’t be able to bear it! And fetal distress! Usko kuch ho gaya toh! Nahi nahi, Khushi wouldn’t be able to take it, she would collapse and he wouldn’t be able to bear it, there was no escape for Arnav, the morbid thoughts rushed in from all sides and he was slowly drowning suffocating, hey Devi Maiyya please keep them safe, please; he didn’t even know when he turned to DM for help, he swallowed hard, he felt dizzy with anxiety, his breath came in shallow gasps he thought he would faint. From afar he felt a hand on his shoulder, he looked up dully, “Di!” he threw his arms around her and hugged her, drawing comfort and strength from her. He revived somewhat. But there was no shortcut and it was a long wait, for Arnav, Anjali, Nani and Khsitij who stood outside keeping vigil, waiting for word of Khushi and her baby. Even though the medicine’s effects had totally worn off by now, Arnav sat quietly. Unlike Di’s time, when he had thrown a violent fit, this time, he was sober, possibly he had matured over the years, realized the futility of anger or just that fear and anxiety had sapped him of his strength to even scream and shout or throw a tantrum.
It was a long wait and finally the doctor came to congratulate the Raizada parivaar, a bonny baby boy of 2.9 kgs had been born at 10.30 am on 9th August 2016. The mother and the baby were both doing well. There were smiles and hugs all around, Arnav sat down with a thump, his heart beating fast, hey Devi Maiyya, a baby boy! ASR a dad! Khushi a mum! They were fine, his heart swelled with pride and joy, his cheeks were wet with tears of relief and gratefulness, but he didn’t even notice, he hugged his Di and Nani, wishing he could see his precious family.
Just a while longer, just a little while longer, he told himself.
Again it was quite a wait and a test of patience for the mighty ASR, and surprisingly now that he was convinced of his family’s well being, he sat and waited, calm and quiet, possibly all the excitement of the past 12 hours or so had drained his energy and he was running on autopilot. Anjali ready for some ‘tandav nritya’, was taken aback by this sober avatar of Chotte exhorted him to go and take some rest, but he simply refused, not without seeing them he declared.
Finally the sister came and informed them that they would allow the father to see his baby if he wished to do so in the nursery. As Khushi was expected to be transferred soon to the private room, Di and Nani went off to the room while Arnav went to see his son. He couldn’t make out much through all the wrappings and the tears that sprang to his eyes, but there was no doubt in his mind, he was the most beautiful baby ever!
They took the baby away after a split second showing leaving him confused and all emotional. Ab main kya karoon, should I go and wait for Khushi and leave my son alone amongst strangers or should I wait here? Undecided, he loitered in the corridor, exhausted and not thinking clearly at all, finally Di’s call woke him from his stupor, “Chotte!” she was worried, “Kahan ho? Kab se tumhara wait kar rahe hain hum, Khushi bhi aagayee room main aur baby bhi,” she laughed happily, “Jaldi aao, kya soch raha hoga humara naya rajkumar, papa ko meri koi khabar hi nahi hai!”
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