17th September 2014
I stood staring at the tampon packs that occupied the first slab, in the corner cupboard, of my walk in closet. It’s been ninety days since I inserted one into me. I had a dizzy feeling this morning, but I did not tell it to Prithvi.
Prithvi Kumar, my loving husband is a super celebrity photographer who had, all the top shot actors, kneeling at his beck and call. He’s a genius in profession and the main reason why I have a successful career as a model. But that was not the reason behind our marriage. We married out of love and he was everything a woman would ever want in a man. I was twenty six when we got married and he was five years older than me. I wanted to enjoy the world, to dress up in style, look every bit pretty, holding hands with my hot husband and flaunt my perfect figure and beauty at the grand gala nights. My husband had earthy needs, he wanted to settle down and have a happy family. He gave me two years of freedom to say no to a baby. All that began to change when we neared my 28th birthday. Prithvi has remarkable persuasion qualities and he talked me out of the idea of continuing my birth control pills. My birthday night was the first one we did it without any protection. I was apprehensive throughout and I wanted to back out in the last minute. But Prithvi has such an understanding of my body and hotspots, that the only word I ended up shouting in bed was ‘YES’. So, here I am missing the intimate touch of my tampons, having morning sickness and peeing for my pregnancy strip, praying to God that it should NOT be what I think it is. I closed the lid of my toilet cubicle and sat on it, staring at the two lines marked on the strip, my whole world whirling under my legs. I am pregnant. I am going to have a baby.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm my quaking nerves.
“Ok..ok …” I murmured to myself. “Let’s get our ass to a doctor and we will decide things later”
I wore my top notch white designer skirt and supported it with a tight brown belt around my hips. I donned it with a matching white shirt and a brown clutch. There! Am all ready, to meet the doctor. I grabbed my car keys and ran down the stairs, taking two at a time ,shouting rapid instructions to the maid and I was gone like a whirlwind.
Dr. Shinas smiled at me confirming my suspicions.
“Congrats! Sonali” she said. You have a beautiful creation in your tummy.”
I plastered a fake smile on my face.
“I can see that you are nervous” Dr.Shinas added,” wouldn’t it be better if you had your husband here?” she smiled kindly.
“Yes” I said. “I miss him badly.”
“Do you? My darling angel?” the husky tone made me, turn around with shock.
Prithvi stood there with a big smile and before I could react further, he scooped me up and started whirling me around.
“Prithvi” Dr.Shinas interceded. ”You have to stop doing all these things. She has a baby in her belly.”
“How did you?” I asked him as he settled me gently on the chair.
“I called him.” Dr.shinas said with a mischievous smile, winking at him.
“Both of you get back to business! I need to do the baby lecture.” Dr.shinas said, with a stern tone and a kind smile.
We were finished an hour later, with the signing lavishly across my medical report.
“And don’t wear tight belts like this” she said with a small smile. Prithvi walked out of the door whistling gently and I turned back to the good doctor.
“Is it possible to have the kid without considerable increase in my weight?” I asked, my tone betraying my nervousness.
“Giving birth to a child is a beautiful thing Sonali. There’ll be a lot of increase in weight, but you can lose it gradually. Don’t fret much about it and go with the flow”.
I didn’t know what to tell and moved away quietly.
Days became months and there were lot of changes in my body. My diet changed and I felt like I was eating all the time. My belly started protruding and my weight increased constantly. But something about prithvi’s smile made me bear it all. He kept taking pictures of me, and every day he made me stand naked in front of the mirror, embraced me from the back and kissed my bare shoulders.
“Do you know how beautiful you look?” he asked me every day, with wonder in his eyes.
Meeting my friends became more awkward and every time I talked with them I started getting vexed. They told me stories about females, who lost their shape after child birth, stretch mark problems and predicted the glooming end of my unnaturally flourishing career.
“If you ever have the hopes of getting back to the industry, then don’t breastfeed your kid.” My colleague Salma said.
“Babies make your boobs saggy babe!” Anushka chorused.
I went to my designer with mixed emotions, only to witness Aishwarya Rai Bachhan flaunting her way too voluptuous, post baby figure at Cannes. I headed back home with tiredness I couldn’t explain, and flopped on to bed.
I woke up to Prithvi nuzzling my breasts, his hands softly caressing my hair. It was my eighth month and we had given a break to love making. However, we had some real hot make out sessions which made my adorable husband take cold showers at odd times.
“God! How much I wish, I could see my baby nuzzling your breasts like this. “Prithvi said,
“Just few more months and my biggest dream, my masterpiece photograph will come to life”. He jumped around, humming.
“Masterpiece photograph?” I asked as my interest piqued.
“I’ve always dreamt about a nude photograph of you, breast feeding our kid. I want to capture every emotion that would be reflected in this beautiful face.”
I paled a little but Prithvi didn’t notice. How I can I say to my husband that I don’t want to breastfeed my child? I don’t want to lose my career and I desperately wanted my figure back. I decided to breach the subject to my doctor in my next checkup.
“The baby is very healthy” the doctor said “I don’t think you’ll have any complications in your child birth “she said with a smile, “You‘ll deliver the baby in normal mode”.
“I want a caesarean,” I blurted out to the doctor.” I don’t think I can bear that pain. Plus this may make my shape go bad. It’ll be the end of my career!” I started crying, wringing my hands in desperation.
“I don’t want to breast feed my baby, I’ll lose my career, please use lactating pumps, Doctor please do something, anything. “I cried without realizing that Prithvi was getting rigid behind me.
The doctor helped me up and took me outside to a ward. She asked me to lie down and rest and I did so. Couple of hours later, when we were in the sanctum of our cozy bedroom, Prithvi took me into his arms.
“You could have told me your fears, Sonu “he said. “I talked to the doctor about elective caesarean, but she said no. Operation could give you a round belly that could never be flattened. You wouldn’t want that, would you?” I cuddled closer to him nodding my head negative.
“We would find an alternative darling!” Prithvi said, “You don’t have to feed the kid if you don’t want to “I relaxed hearing those words and fell into a deep slumber.
Prithvi watched his sleeping wife, his mind repeating the encounter with the doctor. “This is a normal hormonal break down. Every woman goes through this during her pregnancy.”Dr.Shinas had said when Prithvi stood there with unshed tears.
“She will do it when the time comes” Dr.Shinas had said. “It is a gut instinct that every woman has and she would never give up that particular pleasure. It’s involuntary. She’ll breastfeed her baby. “
That comment had calmed Prithvi instantly, for he never saw the crossed fingers and sad smile of the good doctor.
My water broke three days before my due date. I was surrounded by people in the sterile hospital room, but I had eyes only for my husband. He sat beside me for 11 straight hours, murmuring gentle words, trying to ease to ease my pain. I felt a lancing pain that ripped my entire lower half, but I struggled hard, trying to push that little cuddly muffin out of my system. The doctor said that she could see the head coming out and I gathered up every ounce of my courage, energy and prayer. With a shout that would put Conan (The Barbarian) to shame, I pushed the little one out and applause erupted everywhere. I saw a beautiful, bloody thing crying and wagging about, in the hands of a wonderful man, and I tell you people, that was one of the most beautiful things, my eyes had ever seen. I couldn’t watch the rest as I finally let sleep conquer me, but I couldn’t let him do it long, as something funny happened in my breasts.
I woke up with a need I couldn’t explain. My breasts were heavy and felt like it would burst if I didn’t let something out. I did not understand what it was, but it was unbearable. I moved around restlessly searching for something, and finally a nurse materialized holding a fluffy towel that surrounded the amazing thing, that had been kicking inside me for the past ten months. I did not understand what I was doing and why I was doing that. I held out my hands and the nurse carefully placed my lovely little angel telling me I have a boy. Ha! As if I don’t know. I know I’ll get a Prithvi junior. I held the tiny one against my body, feeling the fragile softness, infusing my warmth to him. He started nuzzling around and I did not have second thoughts. I slowly lowered him to my breast, and (definitely, with some aid from the nurse) helped him find his quest. The moment that little mouth latched on to my nipple, I knew my resolves crumbled. All those fuss about maintaining figure, all that terror filled nights dreaming about breastfeeding, everything felt pointless and quite frankly stupid. I closed my eyes smiling at my folly and kissed the little wonder, while tears of joy welled up inside me.
4 months later:
I fell back on the soft bed, sated and thoroughly loved. Prithvi stretched beside me idly massaging my shoulders. I didn’t have the energy to put on my robe, and I was content watching my husband slip on his PJ pants. Rohan started making sounds, his language to tell that he is hungry. “The little moron!” my husband pouted. “Baby stole mommy from daddy!” I laughed at Prithvi’s cute expression and kissed him gently, as he placed Rohan near me with immense care. The baby was naked and so was I, and we were both keen on what we were doing, that we forgot the daddy. There was a flash that dazed my eyes, and both of us turned to see Prithvi standing with his DSLR, a wide grin plastered on his face.
“My Masterpiece!” he smiled and jumped back to bed, gently dragging Rohan to his side. I watched them play, my two handsome men, marveling at the beauty of my splendid master piece, etching in mind, my precious Canon moment.
15th September 2014
It was Valentine’s Day. The third one we celebrated together, the first one after we had exchanged our rings and vows. The day was extraordinary for shwetha and me, starting with cutting a beautiful vanilla cake followed by a long lazy sleep. We had a cozy shower together, made a blissful breakfast and set out to enjoy the day. Never did I know, our day would take such a turn and I would be standing in the hospital corridor with my heart and soul struggling for life inside a sterilized room of machinery and masks which flashes the letters ICU in its glass doors. I leaned against the wall, walking down the memory lane, tears trickling down my cheeks.
She was walking down the road, wearing a white salwar. She was every bit angelic, a green eyed Madonna. It was love at first sight. My reaction to her smell was extraordinary. No one has ever affected me the way she did. I kept staring at her, my eyes never wavering. She stared right back at me. A small smile blossomed on her lips and my mouth went dry. She walked over to me, crossing the road, and it was perfectly natural when I took her hand and we started walking. That day changed our lives, our identity and everything related to our past, present and future. Our parents went wild with rage and she was locked in her house for several days. We struggled all along and finally our families disinherited us. There was a law that was written against us, and we couldn’t be legally married. We said our vows and exchanged our rings in the altar called our new home, the cozy little place that we rented pooling our resources. It was full pink, our favorite color and we were quite a happy family until a couple of hours back. We were at the Shrishti Park when the incident happened. We were watching fireworks lighting up the sky and all the couples around us started their kissing ceremony. We followed cue, and I dragged her towards me, gently encircling her into my embrace and slowly placing my lips on hers. That when all hell broke loose. Two rough hands dragged me away from her and I opened my eyes to see a tough man in a saffron robe, punching my shwetha on her face. Two more hands grabbed her wrist and one more punched her in the stomach.
“Shwetha” I cried watching her touch the ground and a bear like hand punched me in my tummy.
“You sluts!” The men bellowed, “Don’t you know it’s a sin when a woman kisses other woman?”
There were sirens wailing indicating the arrival of law force and we were left on the ground amongst blood, mud and tears. Shwetha was unconscious when I went near, her beautiful face washed with blood. Everything else began to blur and the last thing I saw was a pair of gloved hands that placed me on the stretcher. I regained my consciousness inside the ambulance and Shwetha was near me, her eyes still closed.
It was Valentine’s Day. The third one we celebrated together, the first one after our engagement. The day was extraordinary for shwetha and me, starting with cutting a beautiful pineapple cake followed by a long lazy sleep. We had a cozy bath together, made a blissful breakfast and set out to enjoy the day. Never did I know, our day would take such a turn and I would be standing in the hospital corridor with my heart and soul struggling for life inside a sterilized room of machinery and masks which flashes the letters ICU in its glass doors. I leaned against the wall, walking down the memory lane, tears trickling down my cheek.
4 Years before:
She was walking down the road, wearing a pink shirt and white skirt. She was every bit angelic, a brown eyed Athena. It was love at first sight. My reaction to her smell was extraordinary. No one has ever affected the way she did. I kept staring at her, my eyes never wavering. She stared right back at me. A small smile blossomed on her lips and my mouth went dry. She walked over to me, crossing the road, and it was perfectly natural when I took her hand. That day changed our life, our identity and everything related to our past, present and future. Our parents went wild with rage and she was locked in her house for several days. We struggled all along and finally our families, agreed to unite us. There was no law that was written against us, and we could be legally married. We exchanged our engagement rings in an elaborate ceremony, and everything was great, until a couple of hours back. We were at the Shrishti Park when the incident happened. We were watching fireworks lighting up the sky and all the couples around us started their kissing ceremony. We followed cue, and I dragged her towards me, gently encircling her into my embrace and slowly placing my lips on hers. That was when all hell broke loose. Two rough hands dragged me away from her and I opened my eyes to see a tough man in a saffron robe, punching my shwetha on her face. Two more hands grabbed her wrist and one more punched her in the stomach.
“Shwetha” I cried watching her touch the ground and a bear like hand punched me in my tummy.
“You slut” The men bellowed, “Don’t you know it’s a sin to kiss a man out of wedlock? It means any man can kiss you”. He said and kissed her with a bad marijuana breath.
There were sirens wailing indicating the arrival of law force and we were left on the ground amongst blood, mud and tears. Shwetha was unconscious when I went near her, her beautiful face washed with blood. Everything else began to blur and the last I saw was a pair of gloved hands that placed me on the stretcher. I regained my consciousness inside the ambulance and Shwetha was near me, her eyes still closed.
Today -2 hours later:
A lady with a kind face came out with a notepad out of the Intensive Care Unit.
“Do you know anyone named Shwetha?”
“Yes” there was a chorus from me and the man who was standing adjacent to me.
“Shwetha Kapoor” the lady and I stepped forward looking sadly at the man.
“You are?” the woman asked, looking at me.
“Meghna Kapoor” I said looking straight in her eyes.
“No! Partner” I said rushing inside the ICU room
The man looked at me with a small smile.
I kept looking at the doorway where the woman called Meghna Payal just disappeared. It seems that her Shwetha was fine and it did nothing to reduce my agony. There was not a single word about my Shwetha and I was half crazy with sorrow.
“Anyone here, for Shwetha Malhotra?”
I rushed forward following the woman to the ICU ward.
The man and the woman stood near the foot of the bed of their Respective Shwetha. They looked at each other with a small smile, their eyes conveying a common message.
India – A country where being homosexual is a punishable sin and holding hands with opposite gender is a terrible crime.
4th September 2014
She looked at the basil plant, placed in the midst of the decorative splendor called the backyard of her authentic home. The plant was her favorite, for she was named after it. A name that was frowned upon by people, other than her mother and grandmother. Krishna Thulasi. That was the name given to the beautiful girl, who was cast back into a dark sanctum by the hypocrite hands of the society. The sanctum called ‘The Devadasi clan’.
“Krishna”! Her grandmother called out. “Where are you my dear?”
“I am in the back yard Kanchana amma” Krishna called back.
“Do not touch the thulasi plant!” her grandma called out hurrying to the backyard.
“But why can’t I touch thulasi ? “ Krishna whined. “She is my best friend”.
“Because you are in theetu my dear child.After 10 days we have the Pottukattu ceremony, after your dance performance at the Jaya Madhava temple.You cannot touch the thulasi anymore”. Her grandma said.
“But she is the only friend I have” she said, looking longingly at the basil plant. “Other girls won’t talk to me”.
“Krishna! Grow up now.” Her grandma said in a stern voice. “You have attained age, now you are ready to become a Devadasi. Now get back inside and stay there.”
“I don’t want to be a Devadasi” Krishna cried. “I don’t want to be anything you say if I can’t speak to my thulasi.” Krishna ran inside her home, tears running down her smooth cheeks.
Kanchanamala stood staring at the retreating form of her granddaughter, with tears in her eyes. At sixteen, Krishna was a beauty in the making. She had inherited the family’s exclusive golden tan and thick cascade of black hair. That was further enhanced by the fragile feminine body, with gently blossoming breasts and sculptured figure. Her thick brows were very black, winged naturally like a beautiful bow. She had full sensual lips that were as pink as the sky of a sunset. The only resemblance she had to proclaim her father was the gray, stormy eyes. She had the softness of a rose petal, freshness of a dew drop, elegance of a peacock and perfection of an apsara. All that will be gone in another 10 days. She would be crushed by the cruel chains of the society, her body viciously used by men, who sit at the epitome of that aristocracy. In the end, Krishna will up end like a stony statue just the way her mother and grandmother had become.
Krishna lay down on the mat that had been accompanying her since the dreadful morning when she saw blood coming out of her body. She had a terrible stomach ache followed by that. Instead of being cared for and pampered, like she had expected her mother and grandmother to do, she was forced to be curled inside the darkness of the granary room, dressed up with finery that made her uncomfortable, stuffed with food that made her queasy, scrutinized by men that gave her a nauseating feeling. The men, who leered at her mother every day, started shifting their gaze to her all of a sudden. They started touching her casually, their hairy hands fondling her breasts and back. She ran away from all of them, hiding herself whenever one of these men came to her home. The men kept coming every night, and each night her mother took them inside her bedroom and they left only in the morning.
“We are waiting for the day, when you will start serving us.” The big man with a scary mustache told her with a cruel smile. “I’ll be the first man who you’ll serve, and that day I catch hold of these without the fabric hindering the view” he said, pulling her blouse to reveal more of her bosom. Krishna cried, without understanding the true meaning of the Gothic words, utterly scared by the cruelty of the men. That night Krishna peeped inside her mother’s room, standing at tip toes near the window. The scene she witnessed, scared the living days out of her. Her mother was devoid of clothes, and there was a bear like man who was pushing and pulling her, beating and biting her. Her mother was smiling throughout the ordeal, her mouth gently repeating a single word.
Krishna went to sleep that night, desperately wishing that all of this would dissolve like a bad dream.
The day she dreaded the most, blossomed with thundering clouds and rain. Her mouth barely touched a morsel of food, her lips seldom smiled. Her mother started dressing her up, braiding her long hair.
“Amma!” Krishna called, her voice betraying her nervousness.
“Tell me Krishna”.
“The lady in the street corner, called me a “thevidiyal”, what does that mean?”
Menaka stared at her beloved daughter, her heart silently crushing inside.
“It’s not thevidiyal my dear. It’s ‘Dheiva Adiyal’, meaning, one who serves the God. “
“I’ve never seen you going to the temple”. Krishna said,” All you do is chant Gopala every day and in the night you take all that big uncles to your room and they do bad things to you.”
“We are servants of Lord Krishna dear”.Menaka said, “Everyone has a way to pray and serve God. We serve him by surrendering our body. You’ll understand it in due time darling. Krishna cannot come to us directly right? So he comes in the form of those men and I serve the God himself by making these men happy.”
“You call all these people who beat you as Kanna ? “ Krishna asked in a disgusting tone. “All these men are Kamsa’s in disguise.”
“Kanna will come some day!” her mother said losing none of her serenity. “You’ll know it in due time”
Krishna stepped on the stage, after touching the feet of her guru. She prepared herself for her dance performance, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “Kanna! Mere pyar…” The song started and soon Krishna was lost to the rhythm, the sensual longing of the song, she started searching her Kanna with the eyes of her mind, begging him to come for her. She has reached the fast phase of her dance and suddenly the crowd parted. He was standing there, tall dark and handsome. Everything else was a blur, except his sparkling brown eyes, flawless smile and beautiful body. Her Kanna was here. He had heard her prayers. She went round and round in elation, finally losing balance and consciousness, falling off her feet. Strong hands went around her and they gently touched her cheek, her eyes opened the width of a hairline, only to see a very concerned set of brown eyes.
“Kanna!” she said and everything went black.
She was sitting in a bed decorated with roses and jasmines. She opened her eyes to see a large hand moving down her stomach to her intimate parts and a bald head lying on her bosom, something hardly biting her nipples.
“Ah!” she pushed away, trying to move out of the grasp of the terrible hands, He caught the hem of dress , and while she moved it started tearing away, leaving her breasts exposed. She started running away, but he was too large and too strong. She started throwing random things at him and one of it hit his head with a thrashing sound.
“Thevidiya mavale!” the large man bellowed like a bear, and soon there were lots of men and lots of hands surrounding her. She was stripped of clothes, virtue and emotions that night. Men kept entering her and she lay there without any movement. Her legs remained spread, there was a trace of blood trickling down between her thighs, her body was hunted by lustful hounds, but she did not feel any pain. There was only numbness. Why didn’t my Kanna come? Her mind kept repeating the question and she slowly felt herself falling into oblivion.
“Krishna!” “Darling!” she could her mother’s voice from other side of the tunnel. Slowly she surfaced back and along with consciousness, came all the memories of the night and all the pain that she avoided feeling till then. She ran from the bed without caring for her clothes, went to the bathroom and threw up. She doused herself with buckets and buckets of cold water trying to wash out the bitterness that was engulfing her. She wrapped a towel around her, ran to the backyard and saw the basil plant that stood there looking withered and tired fighting the torrent of rain that drowned the night. It is then that she broke. She cried and cried and cried hugging the basil plant to her, till there were no tears left.
Krishna’s mother came near her. “Krishna!” she called gently touching her daughter’s head.
“Don’t you dare touch me” Krishna seethed, anger and hurt emanating from her. ”Is this what your God does?” she asked “Why do you want to live such an incorrigible and sordid life” With that she walked away from her mom, without realizing that it was her first step away from that life.
She went into her room to see an old man leering at her, holding a bottle of alcohol in his hand. She smiled her seductive smile and gently took the bottle from him. The next minute, there was a distinct crash of breaking glass, and the old man fell down, conquered by a sixteen year old, livid Goddess. Krishna packed her dresses, and walked out of her home, without casting a second glance. Menaka and Kanchanamala stood staring at door way. The former had a look of fear and agony, while the latter reflected pride and relief.
“Where are you going?” a rich male voice stopped Krishna in midstride. She could feel him without even looking at him.
“I am going away!” she said tears running down her cheek.
“And how do you think you are going to support yourself?” he asked, touching her shoulders gently turning her around.
“I do not know” Krishna said, avoiding his eyes.
“Have this!” he said giving her a stack of currency and a gold chain.
“No!No!” Krishna backed away.
“Think this is from your Kanna!” he said making her stare at him
“I have only my body to repay you “Krishna said, as she took it from the money from him.
“Your love is all I want” he said forcing her to meet his eyes.
“Why didn’t you come for me Kanna?” she asked her tone hurt and accusing.
“God helps only people who can help themselves and others” he said. “All the help you need, it’s inside you. Fight the battle kannamma!” he said gently kissing her forehead. “I’ll be watching over you and I’ll come for you when you are ready “.
His word was her gospel and there was a new determination in her eyes when she boarded the train to Madras.
7 years later:
Krishna was dancing in the middle of her garden, her favorite place in the spectacle called her dance institute. The ‘Krishna Dheiva Adiyal Nadana sangamam’ taught over 2000 students being the biggest dance school in Chennai. It was the house of many gifted women who were branded by the name of Devadasi and cast aside by the society. The institute however, stood as a reminder to indicate the true meaning of the word to the world. There was a revolution happening and she had accomplished her part. She was ready. “I’ll come for you when you are ready”. The words kept echoing in her mind, getting louder day by day. She knew who helped her with all the money, contacts and concerts throughout her journey and she desperately wished he would show up.
“Missed me?” the sound of that rustic voice sent a sudden surge of happiness through her system and she whirled around looking at the magnificent male standing in front of her.
There were no reasons given, no explanations required. They took to each other like hay and fire, and what started as a gentle exploration turned into a beautiful dance of emotions. She was proud of her nakedness in front of him, and he filled all the gaping holes in her body and heart with all the love he felt. They loved each other with a fierce gentleness that possessed and obsessed them. Her Kanna has arrived for her at last and that realization released the bitterness out her washed her sadness and made her pure.
She was lying on his chest, in middle of the garden, slowly getting back to earth. I never asked you, she said, “What is your Name?”
“Thulasi Krishna dhasi” he said, calling her by newly acquired name.
“Isn’t it obvious? My name is Kanna”.
Devadasi – The sex worker community in India
Thulasi- Tamil word for Basil
Thevidiya- Tamil name for Devadasi
Kanna – Krishna- Hindu God
Kannamma – An endearment in Tamil
Pottukattu – A ceremony where they officially make a woman Devadasi