Kazi Falguni Eshita
The smiling, light green leaves danced with the spring wind. Magpies whistled sweetly, jumping from branch to branch. A fresh, pink rose winked through the window, casting a perfumed spell, with its magical smell.
Nazmul slowly walked towards the window. Natural beauty always soothed his eyes. He bent down on the rose, inhaling deeply. The man massaged his aching head. Nothing could stop the tornado of worries in his mind. “What will happen? Just what will happen to my love?” He kept asking himself.
The sickening odor of medicines took over the pleasant smell. Cleaners walked past Nazmul, busily cleaning the hospital floor. Doctors began visiting the patients. Nurses carried neat trays of breakfast.
Nazmul even forgot hunger. He could only think of his wife, Sultana. Just an hour back, she got admitted to the maternity department. She had conceived their sixth child for the last six months. It was not a planned pregnancy. Still, the older siblings were really excited about their new, living toy. Even the parents had many dreams surrounding that child.
The couple usually woke up at 6:00 am. That morning, when Nazmul was in the washroom, a painful groan shook every living cell of his body. He ran out, finding himself in the middle of an unexpected, horrifying scene.
Some coconuts were kept under their bed, because coconut-water was a very good drink for expectant women. Sultana had tripped over one of those. The culprit fruit rolled to Nazmul’s feet. The lady was in a curved up position, her stomach pressing against the floor.
Sultana Hussein and Nazmul Hussein got married in the year 1964, at fourteen and twenty-four respectively. A very strong emotional bond made them inseparable. Their passion regarding flowers was reflected in their nicknames. Nazmul was known as Komol (Lotus) while loved ones called his wife Beli (Jasmine).
“My baby! Oh Lord Almighty! I want my baby back!” Startled, Komol looked at the nearest cabin. It was definitely a mother, wailing.
“Excuse me…” He called a nurse passing by. “What happened?”
The nurse looked up at him. Her somber expression reflected sorrow. “None of the babies delivered today could survive.” She replied.
A few minutes later, Dr. Rowshan Ara, a well known gynecologist, came out of Sultana’s cabin:
“Mr. Nazmul, I can either save your wife or your child.”
Komol stood silent for a few minutes:
“Doctor…my wife…she can’t leave me.” The helpless father buried his head in his folded arms, to hide the overflowing eyes.
Rowshan sounded soft, yet firm:
“We’re doctors. Our job is saving lives, not killing.”
Back in 1984, the upgrades of medical science did not reach the small, developing, Asian country they lived in. Komol was well aware of the constraints doctors went through regularly. He had brought Beli in one of the most expensive, but well equipped hospital of that time. Supervised by The Red Crescent, that was the place where people entered ailing, but returned home smiling.
“Mr. Nazmul, I can still see a glimmer of hope. I can try to save both if you agree.” Komol gave Rowshan a questioning look.
“Right after separating the baby from the mother’s body, I’d have to push a live-saving injection.” The doctor almost whispered, as if lost in thoughts.
“So? What’s wrong with that?” Komol was getting impatient now.
“The injection has a fatal side-effect. The organ it will be pushed through, will not develop properly. Your child will be alive, but physically challenged.” Rowshan stood still, waiting for his decision.
Komol felt as if someone was hammering on his skull. Physically challenged people were considered as social burdens. It was a dark side of their society. How could he, being the father, endure his child’s sufferings?
“Go ahead, doctor.” Komol declared, signing the documents required. “Please save my child.”
Sultana was taken to the operation theatre. About half an hour later, a young nurse came out:
“Congratulations, Mr. Nazmul. It’s a little girl. Your wife will regain consciousness soon; I’ll tell you when to meet them.” She smiled.
Komol put his hands together, facing westward. “Oh Lord Almighty, thank you, thank you so much!” He prayed silently.
The happy father held his wife’s hand, as she rocked her newborn, wrapped up in a yellow blanket.
“See Komol, it seems as if she has caught all our delight in those tiny fists.” Beli whispered. Pleasure sprinkled all over her pale face.
“She needs a name now. Let’s see…” Nazmul pretended to be immersed in thoughts.
“I’ve already thought of that.” Sultana announced. “Farhana Hussein. The Arabic word ‘Farhan’ means ‘joy’ and she’s our bundle of joy.”
“I’ll think of a nick…yes! Golap (Rose). That’s my favorite flower.” The father grinned at his little princess.
“I love you, my sweet Rose.” Beli whispered, kissing the small fists.
A tiny smile spread across the baby’s soft lips, as if she was trying to say: “I love you too, Mom.”
A pink Band-Aid on the tiny left foot did not escape Komol’s eyes. “The Injection.” He murmured, out of Beli’s audible range.
Cuck- coo… Cuck-coo… Cried the cuckoo clock. Golap remained entwined with her mother, sleeping peacefully. Beli, though awake, was not willing to leave the bed. Golap was just three years old. Her arrival at Hussein Lodge brought immense joy.
Komol never forgot to bring gifts for his little rose, on his way back from office. Beli always prepared mouth watering dishes for her Farhana. The older siblings forgot their toys, and began playing with the living little toy. The older siblings could even sacrifice their lives for little Babu.
Golap had everything except happiness. (As told previously, she was physically challenged). The little girl always wondered: “Why can’t I walk like the other girls of my age?”
Golap could never put her left foot flat on the ground. Her left leg was about 1.5 inches shorter than the right. Doctors, medicines, therapy and injections…these were common words for her.
However, the little girl never liked the word “Khora (Handicapped)”. As a result, she tried to excel in everything possible for her.
Golap’s eldest sister Piyal, loved to make dolls. The little toddler was really close to “Boro Apu”(elder sister), who was about fifteen years older than her.
Little Farhana was completely addicted to music and painting. Anything melodious soothed her mind, and colors soothed her eyes.
Three-year-old Rose, was always curious. “Eta ki? (what’s this?)” or “Ota ki?” (What’s that)? Her constant bombardment of questions entertained the whole family.
Sultana Hussein wanted her daughter to be a good human being. Siblings taught Golap how to stay away from negative feelings like pride and jealousy. Her sisters used to study, while Golap sat down under the dining table with a huge collection of dolls and colors. Tricycles were really enchanting to little Rose, they reminded her of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.
Ding…dong! Went the recess bell. Everyone except Farhana Hussein rushed out of the classroom.
“Hey Golap, don’t you want to play?” The games teacher asked.
“Miss, I can’t play, you know that.” Golap answered in a trembling voice.
“Well, always remember one thing: Life is not a bed of roses, but you must learn to make it so.” The teacher replied.
From that day onwards, Golap tried to make the most out of life. She always relied on herself, and kept making friends wherever she went.
Nazmul Hussein’s hair was turning grey gradually. Sultana Hussein grew older too. Golap became a teenager, but for her parents she was still a little kid. Golap enjoyed being the youngest one of her family but at times her physical battle got on her nerves. She suffered from a constant foot -ache which never left her. Still, she never stopped smiling. Golap preferred to keep all her pains buried in her mind.
Golap always tried her level best to be lively. She did not succeed in doing so every day, but she seldom talked about her pains. Rather, she liked lending a hand to others whenever she could.
Days passed. Golap slowly evolved as a woman. Life was like a battlefield for her, but she never learnt to give up. As a result, she managed to be happy and satisfied.
Books and pens were her best friends. Golap loved to read and writing was an ardency which got into her since early teens. Bit by bit, she learnt to be an asset instead of being a burden for everyone around her.