Ours was a love marriage. Much against the wishes of my in-laws, Madhavi and I eloped and got married.
The first time I visited them was like the Fuehrer being ‘welcomed’ into a Jewish settlement. Sitting in the living room I began feeling I was some kind of a virulent microbe being examined by a fastidious bunch of strictly vegetarian (‘we don’t even eat onions’) scientists.
How could she do that?
I was given a long lecture on the superiority of Telugu Vaishnavite Brahmans (TVB) over North Indian Marwaris (NIM). Even their daughter’s so-called betrayal was entirely due to the NIM’s evil machinations and her wispy, baa-lamb innocence.
Related reading: How I convinced my father-in-law
Anyway, after two and half years of togetherness with my sweetheart and ‘frozen-shouldering’ by my ‘out-laws’, Madhavi got pregnant. Her parents decided that the baby would happen in Bhubaneswar under their gimlet eye. I put my foot down and insisted that Madhavi would deliver in Rourkela where both of us worked.
My logic was simple. First, it was far better for a doctor who had been seeing her throughout to deliver the baby, and second, since I was a 50% shareholder in the little one’s creation, it was my right and responsibility to handle its coming.
Related reading: Just not a mother’s baby, it’s a father’s too…!
Time for a delivery
For once my reasoning prevailed and my MIL, whom I fondly call Mata Hari, came to Rourkela to help out. The last ultrasound had been done in Bhubaneswar and my MIL knew the outcome. I went to receive her highness at the station and the moment she stepped down she declared, “It’s a girl!”
“Great news!” I said. “But you needn’t have revealed the suspense. Now for God’s sake please don’t tell Madhavi. Let her enjoy the anticipation till the last moment.”
Our flat was on the first floor. I asked MIL to proceed while I parked the scooter, picked up the luggage and marched towards our flat.
“So, it’s a girl – what you always wanted!” Madhu said. I glared at Mata Hari who simply shrugged and declared, “We Telugu Vaishnavite Brahmans don’t keep secrets from our daughters.”
Lastly, there was the ultimate conundrum, wrapped in an enigma and knotted in a riddle that was frustrating the entire clan: What in Lord Balaji’s name did she see in him?!
Finally the D-day arrived and the doctor decided that it would be a C-section. As Madhavi was being led into the OT on a wheelchair, accompanied by the doctor, Mata Hari started running beside her precious pet.
“Doctor, please there is a special request.”
“Yes aunty, tell me.”
“Kindly make sure that the baby is delivered before 1 o’clock. After that it is ‘Rahu kalam’ which is very inauspicious for the baby and the mother.”
The doctor looked at me. I simply gave a helpless shrug. She smiled at MIL and said, “Don’t worry, aunty. I’ll make sure the baby is out before Mr Rahu unleashes his venom!”
What shall we name her?
At 12.55 the door of the OT opened and the doctor peeped out. “Ramen, congrats, it’s a girl. And tell aunty not to worry, Mr Rahu can go hunt elsewhere, both the mother and daughter are safe.”
Mata Hari was relieved and even flashed a smile at me, the first indication that even if she didn’t consider me suitable as her daughter’s husband, she was almost willing to tolerate me as her first grandchild’s father.
However, soon there was another point of discord. ‘What should we name the baby?’
As per the horrorscope, oops, horoscope, the name was to begin with ‘U’. The only names I could think of were Usha – which was too common, Uttapam which didn’t sound right, though it was apparently my FIL’s favourite dish or Ullu ki Patthi, which would be detrimental to my prestige. Mata Hari, in the meanwhile, was toying with several names like Utkrushta Mardini and Uteerna Hansini. I quietly went to the hospital and wrote Ankita in the birth certificate. Then I came back and announced it.
The baby magic
MIL fumed a bit, threw a ‘uttapam’ size fit and then reconciled when she whispered Ankita into the cradle and got a toothless smile in return.
With my FIL too, it was the Ankita magic which worked.
The moment the 2.43 kg miracle was placed in her grandpa’s lap there was a transformation. He looked at me directly for the first time. On earlier occasions his gaze would always hover on the ceiling fan, the refrigerator or the wardrobe as if just looking at me would transform him from a TVB to an NIM. He presented a hint of a smile and declared, “She looks completely like Madhavi.” And under his breath he murmured, “Thank Lord Venkateswara for small mercies.”