Chapter  5, Pt 1 of 4

THE NEW ARRIVAL AND ASSISTANT DOCTORS

I had been in Laindon for nearly two years: had got fairly settled in my new home and married life, so the next step was to start a family. I was thankful that Sheel had taken to the Western idea of Planned Parenthood, so that we could choose our own time when to start having children.

How pleased my father-in-law would be, I thought, if he knew that we had actually followed his advice. He was a man of high ideals, and I recalled the lecture he gave us soon after our marriage. “I do not want you to produce children simply because you cannot help it,” he said. “I expect a different example than that from you.”

I remembered feeling very embarrassed as this much-respected burly, bearded, keen intellectual poured out his thoughts on the subject. I noticed that he was most careful not to give us this lecture in front of his dear wife; he would certainly have got into trouble if he had. She wanted to have as many grandchildren as God sent her—the more the merrier.

“She must be very worried that we have not produced a single child yet” I said to Sheel one evening. “Two years are a long time for her to wait for the happy event. She might even be wondering whether I am at all capable of providing you with children. And if I do not do my duty, you know what will happen. She will start looking for a new bride for you.”

“That would not be a bad idea,” said Sheel, grinning all over his face. “Many people here already suspect, that being an Easterner, I must have a sort of harem back home. But you are quite safe my dear, mother cannot start looking for your rival while we are so far away from her. We cannot really afford a child yet.” Sheel went on rather thoughtfully. “We have to think of everything beforehand—the child’s education and so on.”

Must we think so far ahead and was it possible to prepare and plan everything for children before they came, I wondered. Although I no longer relied upon the Indian saying that each child brought his own luck with him, yet I felt there were certain things one must leave to chance.

It would not be so nice to have children when we were older even though we might be able to give them more material comforts and advantages right from the beginning. However, I was anxious to hear the views of our English friends on this matter and therefore kept discussing it with them.

Mrs. Smith, who was older and had five children of her own, was all in favour of us having at least two or three children. “They bring fresh interest into the home and are a great company,” she said. “Then again, each one of us wants to produce something really worthwhile. I am proud of my boys, I feel I have achieved something and done my share towards the prosperity of the world.”

An unmarried young lady friend, however, did not give me much encouragement. “The world is already overcrowded,” she explained, “and there is not enough food to go round. So why bring more children into this world?” There was some truth in that.

My other young married friend, with one child, also warned me about one or two things. “Children did not always bring happiness into the home. They were a great responsibility and a tie. In many cases when the wife became too busy and absorbed in the children, the husband sought comfort outside the home.” She also wondered whether it would be fair to our children to be reared so far away from their ancestral land and culture. But those warnings did not discourage me in the least. I just could not imagine myself settling down in an aimless married life, nothing much to look forward to or work for.

After I was sure about my pregnancy, I placed the pictures of great and pious men in my bedroom, so that I could look at them every day and repeat my wish. I tried to keep my thoughts free from anger, malice or resentment of any kind. I did this because of the old Indian belief that a pregnant mother’s activities and the frame of mind had a lasting influence on the child’s character.

It was on the last day of May, and about one in the morning, when Sheel took me to the nursing home, which was less than a mile from our place. “She is in your hands,” he said to Nurse Young, and without entering the house, went back to his car. I was his wife but not his patient, so he did not want to interfere.

” I wonder whether he will sleep tonight,” said the nurse. ” Most fathers-to-be cannot do that.”

“I should be very surprised if Sheel does not sleep and snore as well,” I said. ” am not one of his cases, you know.” We both laughed at that.

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