Saturday, April 28, 2012

Voices from the womb

“Sob…sob!” my Ama cried one day.
“You would never listen to me when I said not to drink,” she forcefully uttered in between her sobs.

“Yes you did Ama,” I would say.

Our neighbours came in, “Tshed ley gyeln dhug, sey mee dhilu ya madhem chig mindhug, Om choe ra sem dring dri bey dhoeni mey,” (The saying, ‘Too much of everything becomes poison,’ is never wrong; Please stay strong Om.) Ap Dorji consoled my mom with a soft pat on her shoulder.

Ama tried her best to correct Apa’s unusual drinking habit ever since I was three months old in her womb. He wouldn’t listen to her. Instead he kept tormenting her with kicks on her belly and slaps on her cheeks. “You bitch, don’t hold my hand,” he would shout at her when she tried to help him out. And then there was morning sickness which she had to fight almost every morning.

“Tenzang, please return sober in the evening,” Ama would see him off to his office every morning.
“I know,” that’s how Apa would normally respond huskily.

At home, Ama would keep herself busy over all those household chores. Carrying me all the time – with me growing inside her day by day – it has always been difficult for her. She gets tired easily when she is on some works. Sometimes I could feel her pant heavily, particularly when she had to do laundry and lift heavy things. She cooks food. She sweeps floors. She arranges things in the house. Being a housewife to an employed husband had been her greatest advantage that she didn’t have to face scorching sun or every rain drop of the day. But with extra load in her belly, how uncomfortable it would have been for her even to tidy up those in-house works is something unimaginable.

In between her works she would often manage some free time. During which she would either turn on her transistor radio and listen to old Bhutanese melodies or sit in front of her television set watching Hindi serials. Music always soothed my ears; I would patiently listen to those Bhutanese folk songs and sentimental background music of Hindi serials. Ama would then sit calm and quiet, maybe she felt peaceful and relaxed too like I do inside her by the music. While serials went on she would often chuckle herself. Her occasional chuckles would send a wave of happiness in me, for to see her happy has become almost a rare phenomenon. I would indicate my happiness with slight movement of my legs and hands although these might have only caused further discomfort to my mother.

In the evening when the sun tilts over the west, Ama would gently stroll towards the kitchen to do the cooking. Once dinner is cooked, she would again sit down to watch TV programs. Chanting Mani she would wait for Apa to return from his office. She would wait for her husband to eat the dinner together. But Apa would always return late at night in a totally drunken state. Often when he returned he would pick up brawls with Ama and then go to bed without dinner. I don’t know why? He would always target her belly. Once he hit her on the left of her belly with tremendous force. It was so hard that it sent Ama flat on the floor making her breathless for a moment. As for me, it was fortunate that my legs happened to be on her left. “Why does he have to drink to such an insatiable desire? Why is he treating Ama like an animal?” I would often ask myself.

“He is soon going to be a father and he is old enough. Does he not know the risks of excessive drinking?” I used to think. I just can’t imagine its dreaded effects. I haven’t seen it myself but I do get to taste it when my Ama takes it occasionally. I would feel dizzy and would fall asleep.

Last night, Apa returned late and drunk as usual but he did not shout or pick up any quarrel with Ama. Instead he appeared dumb. He only replied to Ama in few soft words. And for the first time they had dinner together. I was happy to see sudden change in Apa’s nature and this made me so eager to see his face. Once in the bed, Apa asked, “Are you sure this child you are carrying now is mine?”
“Yes Tenzang, I promise Kenchog Sum,” assured my mother.
“Then I’m quitting liquor right away,” and both went to sleep peacefully.

“Tenzang have feka, this might help you overcome last night’s hangover,” Ama was trying to wake up Apa the next morning.
There was no reply.
“Tenzang, you got only few minutes before office time,” she persisted again in vain.
“Tenzang!” my mother cried out at the top of her voice and then bending over his shoulder she wept and wept.

In the next room, I could hear our neighbours gossip –
“It is sad to see such a good man get ruined by the liquor,” said one.
“Yeah…alcohol is a killer! Remember that son of Ap Taupo who died few months back, he died in a similar way,” said the other.

In few days I’ll be out of my mother’s womb. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see my dad. He is no more now. He let himself get consumed by that toxic liquor. And the liquor did its job exactly, for he is dead now. This day onwards, he is not going to traumatize my mom and me anymore. But the end of one situation has only given rise to another situation, which isn’t any better. When that constant torment comes to an end, my mom is only struck with a lump of sadness, misery and helplessness. And when I enter this world, I’ll not have my father waiting happily outside the labour room to receive me. I’ll be deprived of my father’s love. Like any other child would want it, I would need his love and care too for my growth. I think I’ll only see and experience sadness for I’m growing up in the pool of my mother’s tears since the day I was conceived.

But have faith in me Ama, I’ll one day restore our happiness when I grow up.

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