Chapter #1 – Birth into a new world.
The day Jhanvi was born, her mother had tears in her eyes. These were not tears of joy, but of disappointment. Jhanvi’s mother had been praying for a son. She was later told that her grandfather and father had been very happy at her birth, for she was the only girl child born to the family after many years. In this new world and family Jhanvi knew only love and lived blissfully in a big family with her parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Her father dotted on her and would buy her many toys, dresses and take her for rides which made her very happy. In the summer he even got an air conditioner installed in their bedroom to make sure that Jhanvi slept peacefully through the humid, hot afternoons and nights. Jhanvi was overjoyed and went about telling all her other friends how cool her room was and how she no longer cared about the heat.
Though she was very mischievous yet she always remained obedient. She knew no fear or sadness, for her mother had asked her to always be brave and had taught her a prayer. Every night, before going to bed, she would say her prayers; ‘Dear God, I promise to be good, well behaved and respectful of my elders. Please look after me and my family. Also bless me with knowledge, wisdom and a little brother to play with. I promise to always remain a good girl ‘.
A few years later, when Jhanvi had worryingly inquired about her mother’s growing tummy, (which she feared would explode and her mother would die) her mother informed lil’ Jhanvi that her baby brother was going to come and was going to play with her. Jhanvi had been very happy on hearing the news. She excitedly told her friends- ‘ Now I know that mummy will not die because I know what is happening to mummy’s tummy. Mummy has been making place for my brother inside her tummy so that he can play with me all day and go to bed inside her warm tummy at night.’
‘But why will the baby sleep inside the tummy ?’ asked one her friends.
‘……because I think that little babies cannot live outside the tummy for long. That is why mummy is holding him inside her so that once he is strong he will come out and then play with me. But there is no place for him on the bed na. Papa and mummy sleep with me on the bed…..so there is no space for him to sleep. That’s why he has to go back inside at night’ said Jhanvi innocently.
One day few months later, Jhanvi’s mother had to be taken away to the hospital at midnight and she was left to the care of her grandparents. She was told that her parents had gone to the hospital to bring her little brother. It was the first time that she was left alone and she missed them, but she remained brave and went back to sleep. Next morning she woke up to the cries of a new born baby and to the excited voices of her parents. Jhanvi’s happiness knew no bounds. Everyone was excited to meet and hold the new baby. Jhanvi too had wanted to hold the baby but noone allowed her, citing that she was too small to hold the baby correctly. Jhanvi protested and argued that she had to tell the baby brother that she has come to play with him. But they simply laughed. She wanted her brother to recognize her and to not get confused. But she didn’t quite understand what was happening around her.
The only thing she remembers was telling her mom, a few days later, that hospitals were a bad place. In her innocence she believed that babies came from hospitals and she was upset that her parents too had gone and got one. She didn’t quite know what a baby brother really meant and she was angry with herself when she realised that she had in fact been asking for another child with whom now she had to share everything, including the love of her parents. That didn’t feel good. She secretly resented that now the baby slept on the bed with her parents and she had to sleep on a cot placed next to the far side of bedroom wall. She had cried a lot the first night her parents asked her to sleep on the cot so her father had allowed her to sleep with them. But the next day her mother explained to Jhanvi that the baby was too young and could get hurt and squashed in the middle so she now needed to sleep on the cot. Jhanvi asked her mummy why the baby cannot go back inside the tummy ? Her mummy showed her the scars and stitches and told her that her tummy had been stitched shut so the baby had to live outside with them. Jhanvi was very sad to know that but she loved her mother so she did not cry after that. She kissed her parents good night and went to sleep on the cot with a heavy heart and a listless mind riddled with innocent questions.
‘Why do my parents want to care for another child when they already have me? Why am I not allowed to play with him if that was the reason he was born ? Why is mama not spending time with me anymore ?
Over the next few days things started changing. Her mother remained busy attending to the needs of the new baby. Cousins who used to play with her now wanted to sit next to the new baby and play with him. As she played around the corridors alone, she noticed everyone was busy with something or the other and nobody had the time to play with her or to answer her questions. The only time she had her mother’s full attention was during the feeding time but now this too had become a rushed affair. She knew that if it took longer than usual for her to finish the food then the baby would start crying and her mother would have to go. Jhanvi was annoyed that her mother spent more time feeding this new baby several times during the day and wondered how it was possible for such a small body to accomodate so much food !
Once while playing she wandered into the bedroom while her baby bother was fast asleep. There was no one around the baby. So she got up on the bed and looked with anger towards the baby. She blamed him for taking her parents away from her. And in a fit of anger she slapped the baby. The baby shrieked and started crying loudly. Her mother came running to the room and pushed Jhanvi aside to check on the crying baby. Hitting her brother had been an implusive act but she could not understand what the big deal was ? He anyways cried several times during the day. So why was mummy so concerned ? Jhanvi was scared on seeing her mother so angry. She had been standing in the corner of the room with tears in her eyes but her mother had made no attempt to console her. As her mother soothed the baby, she stood there watching and the feelings of sadness and loneliness crept into her heart. She felt as if her whole world had come crashing down and she had suddenly become invisible to all those people who had been loving towards her untill the day this new baby arrived. After a while she wiped her tears and slowly walked outside the room, silently thinking to herself- ‘ Mummy has changed and she does not hold me in her arms like before. She does she not love me anymore. There is noone to take care of me so I have to be brave and take care of myself from now on.’ Slowly she climbed down the stairs and with a sad heart went outside to play.
An episode that will leave an impression on her innocent mind for years to come.
Author — Soumya Ranjan Mania
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