Stand by Me

In Short Story on April 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm


She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.

As Bhanu rose from the Obstetrics and gynaecology ward’s creaky teak wood bench, her right hand reached for the wall behind her. Her sweaty palm rested on the Mumbai Government Hospital’s white-washed wall as she steadied herself. It left a pudgy palm print on the wall that would soon dry up from the warm air being circulated by a monotonous sounding ceiling fan. Her polio-stricken left leg was a bit shorter than the right. Her awkward gait made her lean back as she moved forward. She walked carefully because she believed she was pregnant. She had sat on this bench for over an hour and was quite happy to hear the nurse call out other pregnant women’s names. The book she was pretending to read was a bound copy of ten tattered Femina magazines of five years ago. It provided for her the perfect foil to her confused eyes that were brimming with tears. Her neighbor on this creaky old bench was wearing a veiled hijab and was emanating a strong perfume that made Bhanu’s eyes water profusely. She looked at the door through watery eyes, behind which the soothsayer-doctor might be seated on his throne, deciding for each that entered, if they were pregnant or not.

“Bhanu” called out the nurse with a green folder held tightly in her petite manicured hands.

Bhanu never thought that she was capable of falling in love with a man, let alone bear a child for him. To be bestowed with these strange magical powers was unthinkable. Her thoughts, more than her legs, bore the brunt of the disfiguring attack when she was three years old. She was the last girl child for her mother and the youngest among three other sisters. She grew up in a poor slum neighborhood in Mumbai, hopping over open sewers and landing on firm ground yonder. About a year ago, she almost stumbled but fell into the arms of a handsome priest – Fr. Renju Thomas. A young lad brimming with such spiritual joy and an amazing tenor that reverberated within the church that Bhanu later frequented. Thus began an unlikely romance. She never revealed it to anyone, including herself for a long time. It could not possibly exist where womanhood was nullified by such a disfiguring desease.

Fr. Renju found himself rehearsing a lot more on his tenors than before. Without realizing, he had added a few pompous hand gestures. There was an accident eagerly waiting to happen between the two.


“Bhanu?” repeated the nurse a little louder. Bhanu hobbled nervously and bit harder into her lips. The woman in hijab, peered through her veil and gave a helping hand that Bhanu took and steadied herself with. She said a silent prayer as she put the book back and decided to finally walk through the soothsayer-doctor’s office door.

After a long half hour, Bhanu walked out the same door. Her feet were no longer carrying a heavy load. She was pregnant, confirmed the soothsayer-doctor and she felt lighter than before. She stopped at the end of the dimly lit passageway of the OB-Gyn ward. She pulled out an old Nokia candy-phone she had salvaged from the Mumbai garbage heap. She wiped it with the edge of her saree and slowly punched in the numbers. “Renju?” she whispered into her mobile. “I’m here” said a voice from behind her. She spun around on her good right foot to find the woman in hijab walking quickly towards her, answering a phone call.


Other Short Stories
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The anklet bells went dead
Lesson One – Mayamalavagowla A Delivery in the Slow Mail




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