(Awareness short story published in DNAme magazine in 2007)
‘…will you still take him…?’
“……. Will, you still take him home?” asked the salesman in the Woodart gallery in the lanes of the Caribbean where I was honeymooning with my week-old husband. My eyes remained glued to the handsome wooden doll with a broken arm and his question kept ringing in my ears, minutes after he had spoken. What a sense of déjà vu. I had been through this before and it all flashed before me in the next instant…
My parents were married in their mid-30s. I was born soon after but that had to be it. The doctors diagnosed my mother with premature menopause ending her dream of having a sibling for me. I was the apple of my parent’s eyes and they showered me with abundant love. We were well off and had everything money could get but the void in my life… the want of a younger sibling preferably a brother remained. One day my father declared, I would get a younger brother soon and the next thing I knew we were in the orphanage in the neighboring town. I can never forget the moment I laid my eyes on Vedant (yes that was what I named him almost immediately) chubby and cuteness overloaded with lovely brown eyes. He was just five months old and holding up his tiny hands waiting to be taken out of his wooden crib… It was the most beautiful moment of my life. The adoption process took another five long months but by then Vedant was family and none of us could imagine life without him! With just one more paper short for the court formality, we got him home… my baby brother…
For the next few days, I was embroiled in my role of the quintessential older sister dominating him but also caring for him. Vedant in turn followed me all over the house and never went to bed without me next to him. I was a goner. All looked well, till Joshi uncle, our family friend, and a doctor visited with his family. He called Vedant several times but my naughty little brother was immersed in his new gift… a lovely car…. his favorite toy. “Sharayu,”, he said to my pa, “…I know you do not have any knowledge of Vedant’s birth medical history… but I think we must get him assessed for hearing loss…”. The whole room suddenly grew quiet as if all were stung at the same time. For me, the time had stopped right there.
The scene at the government speech and hearing center was etched into my memory forever….
“ Mr. Doshi, …”, said the Audiologist after testing my brother, “ … I understand this is going to be difficult for you… but your son is… profoundly hearing impaired. He’ll have to be fitted with hearing aids and be trained…” the Audiologist kept telling us the different options available to rehabilitate Vedant but all seemed to fall on deaf ears. I saw my shocked mom shedding silent tears watching Vedant through the glass partition of the test room even as my brother played away to glory unaware of the catastrophe that awaited him.
Joshi uncle intervened and told the audiologist about Vedant being ‘almost adopted’, the single court procedure suddenly weighing heavy in the air. The audiologist thought for a while and looked at my parents. She turned towards my Pa. “Sir, will you still take him? Now that you know about his problem…?”
The whole room was silent. Except for my mom’s weeping, no one was talking. I then saw my demure mom walk up to my dad and an unspoken conversation happened right there. Even as I held my breath, Pa nodded and spoke up, “ …Vedant is OUR son. He’s born out of our souls and resides in our hearts. He is God’s gift to us. A ‘special’ gift. And we will take him…No second thoughts over it….” Ma rushed into the test room and picked up the clueless Vedant who only enthralled her with his cherubic grin. Pa followed her and to my utmost joy, took Vedant from ma and kissed him holding him tight.. close to his heart.
Today, twenty-five years had passed and I felt the same emotion grappling my heart and I was a seven-year-old sister waiting for her parents to accept her brother in that sound-treated audiometry room. I couldn’t be prouder of my parents and my little brother. Vedant is now a commerce graduate and managing my Pa’s business. My parents, especially my ma left no stone unturned to help him learn. He has been well trained and speaks just like us except for a few errors. He has been my constant pillar of strength in the ups and downs of my life, including my decision to marry out of my religion. His resilience, the way he has endured social discrimination with an unfaltering smile is a lesson to all of us who crib about trivial matters. This honeymoon was his gift to us. He is our family asset. And the reason behind it being… my parents took him that day!
I took the wooden doll…