I have had trust issues since my childhood. It affected my childhood and today it affects my marriage. On my worst days I have no faith in any relationship, and only feeble faith on my best days. If ever the seeds of trust have sprouted delicate soft green leaves, someone close has always brutally trampled upon them. Today, as I sat in my clinic waiting for the next patient, it felt like one of those days.
I buzzed for the next patient to come. Being a gynaecologist, I am used to mostly women walking in, with a husband accompanying sometimes. Today, three men walked in, along with one woman wearing a slight ghunghat. The couple sat down on the two chairs in front and the other two men stood behind them. I was about to ask them to wait outside when the couple gestured, requesting them to stay.
A brief look at the bundle of reports that they gave me left me wondering as to why they were here. “These reports are four to five years old and conclusively state that the lady cannot bear children. What have you come to me for?”
No one replied.
So I repeated for them, “See, you both already have been through adequate tests. Please don’t put her through any more tests, these reports are conclusive. It is time to look at other options.”
The two men standing behind got shifty and the woman stared at me, looking ashen.
I had no idea what was going on… till the husband started speaking.
“Doctor, I have known for some years that my wife cannot have children.”
His simple attire and colloquial accent confirmed to me his humble aggrarian Rajasthani descent. He continued, “But I thought it best to keep it a secret, as I didn’t want to be pressured to leave her and remarry, as is customary at such times in our village.”
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The lady looked right into her husband’s face. I couldn’t read what she felt. Her two brothers standing behind also wearing unreadable expressions.
“I wanted my wife to lead a life without stigma…I didn’t want her to be upset with herself either, which I knew would be the case if she knew the truth.
But, of late my wife and her family…” he broke off.
The words ‘Jamai Sa and Jijo Sa’ escaped the lips of his brothers-in-law, who were looking penitent. The husband gently smiled and continued, “They began to suspect and blame me for neglecting their sister, being impotent or having a mistress.” The wife began to sob softly and he continued, “… and so I felt I needed to bring them to meet you, so that you can tell them the truth, in private.”
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I looked at the simple man sitting in front of me, who had reconciled to a platonic marriage as that would best explain the childlessness. In time, the abstinence made his wife imagine and suspect all kinds of things. She had complained to her family, who had been intervening regularly. When it got too much to bear, the husband decided to reveal the truth.
The older of the two men standing behind said, “Jamai Sa, we should fall at your feet and seek your forgiveness, we have been unfairly rough on you…”
The husband brushed the apologies away with a small smile and a gentle wave of hand and then turned to his wife sitting beside him and said, “I want to spend my life with you. If you really want a baby I am open to adoption, but for me you are enough. Trust me, whatever I did, my intentions were never wrong…”
The lady in the ghunghat, understanding everything, kept nodding and in between her snivelling she croaked out a small “Sorry”. The husband smiled but nodded a furious “Na! Suno ho” he explained, “I am not seeking apologies. Just want our life back.”
Memories of this episode always make me think… An uneducated, small shopkeeper from a remote village in Rajasthan found his way into my office in Gujarat. In his attempt to salvage his life and marriage he had managed to also salvage the dying seeds of hope and trust in me.
Maybe someday, hopefully soon, they will germinate again.
(As told to Aarti Pathak)