Tohura is a mother. She found out she was pregnant when she was making chapatis for the family she worked as a maid for. It was a winter morning. She had been feeling drowsy for several mornings. She thought it was the cold weather that made her head feel so heavy. Little did she knew, that it was not the head, it was something growing inside her lower abdomen.
She was about to flip a chapatti on the hot pan on top of the stove. The kitchen in winter morning is actually a warm and comfortable place to be in. She was enjoying the surrounding. It was about that time when she felt something was wrong. Before she could figure out what it was, she fell down on the ground. It would not have been a problem if she fell on the floor alone; she fell with the baby in her belly and the hot pan on the stove.
It was 1987, and the house Tohura worked in belonged to an upper middle class family. They were nice people. They did not care about their ruined breakfast or spoiled pan. They were anxious about the fresh burn marks on Tohura's body and the unknown reason behind her fall. They called in a doctor (since it was the 80's, doctors would still respond to an emergency house call). After giving her first aid for the burns and the half-an-hour-long interrogation, the doctor confirmed that Tohura was pregnant. The host family gasped, in part happiness and part astonishment.
For Tohura, it was all a horror!
Pregnant? A big belly to carry around? Less work? One more mouth to feed?
The sky fell over her skinny, slightly slouchy shoulders.
She was terrified because she was alone. She had to be a single mother, which was not something anyone would cherish to do, with her given conditions, at least.
Oh! She had a husband. He was a drunkard gambler who would come home at nights only; furious and out-of-his-mind drunk. He would break everything that he had already broken before, beat her up until he loses all his energy, and until she bleeds from more than one places. Then he would cry like a baby, trying to put all the broken pieces together of the next-to-nothing belongings they have, and her, as well.
At dawn, he would run off again, and pass out on a random street of the city, and would remain that way all day long. Sometimes she wondered if he was real or not. She had her doubts, even though she saw him in the daylight, at least on the day they got married. And now she has proof that he is real, in her womb.
The baby came out early. It was a rainy August afternoon, and she was cooking some bhuna khichuri for the family she used to work for. The family's youngest child, a doe-eyed girl, requested her to cook khichuri to mark the gloominess of the weather. Tohura smiled. She loved that little devil; though she never hoped for a girl, especially who has such beautiful eyes! She can only imagine a boy living in the place she lives in. A girl like that, or any girl for that matter, would not last long in one piece in that place. And she would not be able to tolerate that happening to someone she bore inside her!
The khichuri was resting on the heat when Tohura felt weird again. Thanks to her last experience, and those vivid burn marks, she managed to step aside from the stove this time. Also, before collapsing, she managed to shout out the name of the lady of the house. Then it was all dark in her memories!
Tohura's prayers were answered. She did not give birth to a girl. It was a boy. She does not know if it was a bundle of joy or not; all she could think of was the bundle of burden she had over her shoulders. She desperately wanted to find a way to raise her child, so that he does not end up like his father, or his mother, ever!
Tohura was thinking about all these while sitting at the waiting area of the airport. She is here to meet her son, after 28 years. They have shown her the pictures of how he looks now. She could not believe her eyes! That's not the brown, dark haired boy she gave birth to! That is someone else! From someone, somewhere else!
Yes, she wanted him to be someone else. That is why she gave him up for adoption when he was merely 10 months old, three months after her husband died. It was not like that he was a big help, but he was the "man"! And with him dead, she knew she had no future, particularly for the little one. So when the childless relatives of the people she worked for asked to help her in raising her child, she begged them to adopt him, and to take him far far away! She also requested to keep her identity secret.
They kept her requests.
She looked at the people coming this way. Any time now, a very good looking, well-brought up man would come out of that door, and look around to find her. She was happy when she learned that he knows about his birthmother now, and wants to meet her.
She was happy.
She slowly gets up from her chair. She has to leave. She does not want him to meet her. She never wanted to.
She never wanted to.
(Inspired by a true story)
Mehnaz Tabassum is a Lecturer in English at East West University. She loves to teach, learn and write about people with real, untold, larger than life stories!