Cry Baby Cry
By Roy Thomas
It’s cold, wet, and dark, but for me it doesn’t really matter - it’s the only world I know.
I don’t remember too much of my past but what I do know is that I was happier a couple of weeks ago.
But all that seems to have changed... now I am not so sure if I am happy or not. There is a depressing sense of gloom that surrounds me....
And no –I don’t have a name; at least that I know of.
Mama wasn’t always like this you know...
Right now her discomfort to rub off on me -it makes me rather uneasy when I am in the company of my parents. That makes me sad- I am sure I would love to get to know my folks and be pampered by them...
Jayesh Patel- proud Non Resident Indian who had migrated to the U.S forty years ago .Not many people know that he had run away from the remote Amrelli village in Gujarat and was a stowaway in a tramp ship that finally brought him to the shores of USA. He had eventually stealthily disembarked at Long Beach port when the vessel berthed and made good his escape under the cover of darkness.
A couple of years later he managed to get his U.S citizenship under an amnesty granted to illegal immigrants. Today, with typical native acuity and prescience, combined with focussed hard work, he is a successful businessman running a store in Oklahoma importing and retailing a selection of the best spices and ingredients from around the world along with a variety of grocery and household products.
He manages the store mostly with the help of his wife, also known among the large Guajarati fraternity as Tarubhen, and his three children.
The kids helped out whenever they have spare time from school or college; Jayesh thus manages to avoid paying the highly regulated salaries for hired assistants.
Somewhere in between he even managed to get his mother-in -law to the States.
Jayeshbhai and Tarubhen are considered successful entrepreneurs by the Gujarati community and are in demand in the social circles of the City. The community, which include second and third generation Gujaratis, in spite of being exposed to American culture, continue to be closed and conservative. They hold on to their Indian roots, customs and values and religiously celebrate all festivals with great fervour.
....and Garbha, the annual Gujarati folk dance festival, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is still the place where most of the community matchmaking happened!
Sakshi Patel is the pert, attractive, youngest child of the Patel household and the last of three siblings. As a kid her eldest sister Swati, ten years older than her, was almost like a foster mother to her, looking after the little sister whenever her mother was engaged at the store.
Four years ago Swati was married off to a Guajarati engineer from India. They subsequently relocated to the US and the newlyweds, much to the delight of the Patel clan, took up residence close to them.
Swati has mothered two children since, but the noticeably plumper and more rotund lady continued to be a frequent visitor to the house.
There is a six year gap between Sakshi and her older brother and she sometimes feels like the unwanted child –a mistake. As kids, her brother even managed to convince her, much to her chagrin, that she was adopted and that she was procured from the local orphanage!
Sakshi has always been considered the rebel and the black sheep of the family. She never conformed to what was expected of a respectable, true-blue Guajarati youngster. Her friends are mostly white with only a couple of Indian kids in her close circle.
And horror of horrors- she preferred meat pizzas instead of clean, vegetarian food. The family even suspected that she ate beef and other meat that were strictly prohibited in the house.
Her love for western pop music and clothes was frowned upon but there is little that they can say to the rebellious, argumentative child who seemed to have imbibed all the behaviour traits and obnoxious habits of the American brats. She obdurately refused to listen to reason.
It was Stracey, her best friend in college, who told her about the job at the Macys store in the vicinity. Work would be fun, she said, the money was good and you could pick up some of their latest fashion offerings at a discount. In addition, and if you got lucky, you could also get to meet some of the celebs that dropped by.
Sakshi was excited and at the dinner table she informed the family of her plan to work. Great exposure, she told them. But not unexpectedly, the announcement was met with a disapproving, frosty silence.
‘Why can’t you just work at our store-I’ll give you as much –or maybe even more than you earn at Macys,’ suggested her father with a hint of a threat in his voice.
‘Working with masalas is not like working in Macy’s dad,’ came the rather sarcastic riposte ...and for your information it’s not the money that I am working for ...’
‘It‘s a disgrace,’ interjected her mother, ‘why can’t you realise that people will talk about you –we won’t be able to show our faces in society,’ she exploded, her voice choking in anger at the thoughts of the snide remarks that her friends would make.
‘I always told you that you were giving the girl too much freedom,’ Granny remarked in Guajarati as she tried to extract a chickpea from the Dhokla that had got stuck in her false teeth.
‘Nobody asked you for your opinion Dadima...” Sakshi retorted angrily at her grandmother, ‘just keep your opinions to yourself....’
‘Mind how you speak to your grandmother,’ Jayesh reprimanded the girl,
‘Learn to show respect to your elders,’ he said grimly.
In a fit of pique an incensed Sakshi belligerently pushed the unfinished plate of food and stormed out of the dining room muttering profanities under her breath.
The first few days of work was just as she had imagined it would be- there were a team of around twelve, fresh recruits who were being oriented about the nuances of retailing. Subjects like merchandising, customer relations and CRM software, etiquette, briefing on various clothes and fashion trends, apparels and material used, trendy designers and brands were dwelled on at length. FAQs by customers, tips on how to convert enquiries to sales, pricing and billing, RFIDs and bar coding – Sakshi never realised that they was so much to learn.
The trainers were young and smart –most of them had worked their way up to become purchase or merchandising managers or even store Managers.
Matteo, the purchase Manager was among the trainers who took classes for the batch. With his dapper, Italian good looks he was aware about the buzz he created among the girls.
A real hottie, Sakshi thought to herself and was chuffed with the extra interest he seemed to take in her-she caught his gaze and couple of times and perkily held it before turning away.
She bumped into him several times during the day – and wondered if it was more than just coincidence. He seemed to be there at the cafeteria every time the team split for lunch and even joined the group of newly found friends a couple of times.
The besotted girl began to think of him more often and soon the frequency of intercom calls between them on various ‘doubts’ increased. He invited her over to clarify her queries, numbers were exchanged and soon it was a cosy twosome having coffee or lunch together.
After work calls became frequent.
Matteo soon had some extra work coming up and wondered if she could spare the time after working hours to help him out with some data entry. His office was in a secluded area you know and no one comes by at that time- there would be no disturbance.
Their first encounter soon took place...Steamy sessions followed that then graduated to frequent and more relaxed sessions at Matteo’s bachelor pad.
It was at the store that mama met my father-no I wasn’t around then .But I’ve heard them talk about the time they first met during the earlier happy times that they shared. I really love and treasure these moments because it is some of the happier moments that I knew.
I remember these happy days –my Mama was very alive and vivacious then. The happiness always came over me like waves and I even kicked my tiny feet in excitement when it happened.
The giggles, the smiles and the laughter made Mama glow and I in turn would be filled with that lovely, heady feeling. I would smile and wave my hands to show my happiness -I felt so part of the threesome.
I first heard my cousins a few days ago- somehow I knew they were my cousins –maybe because of the way mama called them ‘beta’ and ‘bete’ –they in turn called her ‘massi’. But it was more than just the names that made me sense our relationship- I had that feeling –the intuition that they were children that I had a bond with; that they were special. So I kicked and even made a noise –I tried communicating with them... but I don’t think they know of my existence .But I was still so happy with them around. They will soon know about me and we will be great friends I think...
Nana and nani look like absolute sweethearts ... even though they were stern with mama I could sense they were in actual fact really sweet and were concerned about her. I am really dying to meet them and be fussed on by them...Wouldn’t that be fun!
Sakshi’s and Matteo’s idyll world came crashing down the day Sakshi figured she was pregnant. She had delayed checking with the doctor because she did not realise what had happened-the fits of nausea were put down to restaurant food and the slight bulge in her tummy was of course because of lack of gyming since she started working.
A routine check-up with her doctor confirmed that she was indeed over 15 weeks pregnant.
Matteo reaction came as a blow to her...Hadn’t she taken any precautions? What...no?!!!! Oh Goddd...well it had to be terminated immediately and he would support her with the required money...
There were no hugs or even a sympathetic touch; no signs of the all the affection that had bound them earlier.
A numb and dejected Sakshi left the office depressed ...she had expected more support from Matteo...
About a week ago I woke up one morning earlier than usual. I opened my eyes and felt a sense of terror and depression around me for no apparent reason. Mama seemed tense and upset and that could be the reason I felt so down.
Later that day during the break Mama and my father go for their coffee break.
I could hear her tell my dad that she had missed it...I wondered what that meant. I could feel mama sobbing and then there were raised voices. I heard my father shouting –‘for heaven’s sake get rid of it....’
I don’t understand what they are saying but I feel anger and resentment pervade the air.
Sakshi left for Mexico –that was the best place for abortions everyone said -doctors administer pills that induce a miscarriage or even an abortion. All it takes to get the pill is walking into a clinic, where it is sold as ulcer medication... No questions asked.
An elaborate web of lies had been spun to her parents about the Macey’s conference in Mexico- Matteo had arranged for her tickets and the stay.
It was all very depressing; the flight, the seedy room and the shady clinic. The swarthy Mexican doctor gave her a knowing smile and informed her with a smirk that he has seen thousand like her. Misoprostol was the answer he volunteered with a leer.
The night was awful- Sakshi felt sick and nauseous –it was as if her whole body was in a churn and she had to bite her lip to stop herself from screaming.
The promised abortion did not happen that night –but she was told that she could go home and the miscarriage could happen any time.
The next day Mama and I take off on a long flight. Mama’s mood had not really improved and she had not really slept. And neither did I.I felt tired and weak.
Mama who had initially started speaking to me stopped doing so and that depresses me further. I longed for her soft, supportive voice and that special tone that she used with me. I wonder what’s wrong..
That night was terrible – I feel waves of nausea sweep over me and a bitter taste in my mouth. I curl up as the pain hits me. I put my hand in my mouth but that doesn’t really help and the feeling is excruciating...my head throbs and I throw up some foul tasting stuff...Somewhere is the distance I hear a mourning sound followed by whimpering. Was that Mama or me-I don’t really know...or want to know.
Several times I found myself been pushed and finally I realised I was turning and floating downward. I screamed and kicked and held on to the walls around me –from somewhere I found the energy to push myself back in to the position I was comfortable with.
It keeps coming in waves and I am buffeted around each time it happens. Somehow, I manage to keep my head up while gripping and holding the chord that connects me to mama to prevent myself from slipping down that steep abyss.
I need to stay awake and help mama who is really unwell now, you know.
I must have fallen unconscious –when I woke up I felt tired and weak and absolutely drained. My head throbs as If I was being hit by a hammer -I feel like I am dying but I am not dead...I know Mama is still sick and I feel sorry for her- I wish I could just go and hug her, wipe her tears and tell her I love her and get her to stop sobbing. I am even more determined to be with her through all what she is suffering from- I am with you Mama...
We go through another tiring flight the next day.
Sakshi met Matteo at his apartment the next day.
He was livid when he heard that it had not worked....What? After spending so much money –they must have bloody cheated you! Did it ever cross your mind to check with others...Gosh! How obtuse can some people be..!!!
...... and NO!! Marriage was just not an option –are you mad? I am too young dammitt...And now I better take things into my own hands –I’ll make the arrangements to have the abortion done right here even if it’s illegal –God knows from where I am going to get the money though...
A sobbing Sakshi rushed home and shut herself in her room much to the concern of the family. Suicidal thought crossed her mind but she somehow managed to hold on to her sanity. There was no one she could talk to...not even Swati Didi.
It was only after two weeks that Matteo could finally arrange the funds and persuade the Chinese doctor to secretly carry out the abortion in her clinic.
A web of lies had to once again be told to her parents-Macys advanced training programme- to get her out of home into the clinic.
The doctor examined her and with a deadpan expression dryly told her in a bored voice that sounded as though she was discussing a lamb chops at the butcher shop, that the baby was preterm. They would be doing what was called D&E –dilation and evacuation. The procedure would be under an epidural anaesthesia.
Sakshi signed papers that legally absolved the clinic of any liability.
She felt afraid and lonely and tears flowed down her cheeks as she was wheeled into the theatre...
If only Matteo had offered to come with her....
I just can’t explain the impending feeling of gloom that seems to surround me-it is suffocating and leaves me breathless. I have been like this since the time they started giving Mama the tablets and injections.
Why is Mama reacting like this in a hospital –isn’t she here to get whatever is troubling her fixed? Once her problem is sorted out then we can get back to the old happy days when she would talk to me. I wish I could reach out and hug her-I reach out and touch her inside...her heartbeats pound around my head.
Mama seems to be going to sleep after that injection they gave her...and I am also feeling drowsy but I feel that something is beginning to push me ... it’s nauseating and unbearable...I somehow hold on...
Suddenly I feel something grabbing me –I scream and turn and see two strong things trying to catch me. I scream again and somehow escape the vice like grip it is trying to hold me in. I cringe and push it with my hand and move to the other side.
The thing is coming at me again –I whimper and try and run but this time it unleashes a violent swipe to my back –excruciating pain engulfs me and I cry out as the second cut hits me on my neck and head .I have started bleeding profusely and tears flow from my face as I scream in voice even I don’t recognise. I feel weak and helpless as the thing cuts me again and again...I don’t have any strength left now. Its red all around me -the blood from the cuts...pieces float around. Something is sucking me down and I feel myself letting go ...The chord that held me to Mama has been cut -Oh God it hurts so much...
Mama! I cry out in fright as I hurtle down.
By Roy Thomas