Six Years Ago — Part I

“So, where do you want to start from, today?” a patient Dr. Rebecca Thomas asked. After almost six months, it was coming to an end. I felt like a free bird, even though, every time I visited Rebecca, I felt a lot lighter than from the time I arrived. For me, I preferred meeting Rebecca rather than going to the gym and losing few kilos. 

“So, you are going to tell me the last part of the story?” Rebecca asked once again. I could feel her getting impatient suddenly. “I am going to meet Rahul after six months, I am very happy,” I replied, as that is all I could think of that moment. “Yes, yes, you are meeting Raul. So, how are you feeling?” 

For six months now, I have been meeting Rebecca, and all we did was she asked and I replied. Never once, she went beyond her professional accoutre and spoke about anything that didn’t have a place in her 500 sq. ft. office.

Feeling a little lost and probably observing the room properly for the first time, I answered, “I am excited, though, a little lost. Honestly, there is a fear in me about how Rahul will react. It has been six months.”

Even though it was part of her job profile to listen all that the patient had to say, I could sense that she had had enough of me. She wanted these long unending meetings to end. I was curious and finally, I asked her, after much hesitation, “Will you miss me? You do not have to answer that if you do not want to but just asking.”

She smiled and got up from her chair. She moved towards the left side of the room, where all her cutlery stood victorious. She removed the teapot and poured some tea into two cups, she handed over one to me and she took the other. 

“Honestly, I am not supposed to have any feelings for my patients and neither am I supposed to share anything with them. That is why people come to me, with their stories and hoping that I will be able to help them. But many a time, I am lost myself too. Sometimes, I feel like an agony aunt. You, although, is a different story. One, because you are sweet young girl or a woman, whatever title you like to use and secondly, you somewhat remind me of my sister. Lost, creative, impulsive and heroic. Yes, I am going to miss you but not because of you not coming here and telling me all those stories but for the fact that I will receive a little less money,” she completed and we broke into laughter.

“Now, before it gets too late, let’s get started. You are going to take the whole day or else and you need to meet Raul too!”

“Uhmm, yaa,” I felt a little uneasy every time she called Rahul as Raul and my mind would end up watching a Spanish footballer by that name dancing on the Madrid ground. 

Six Months Ago

Social services officer Ms. Wilma Roberts stared at me from the opposite seat, as we sat at the hospital lounge waiting for the doctors to let me know how Rahul was doing. Even though the cuts on my head, hand were yet to be taken care of, I sat there staring at the floor and all I could think of is how my one year and three-month-old baby boy was doing. ‘I was reckless, but I was not a bad mother.’ That is what I wanted to tell Wilma. I looked up and I could see her staring at me, my gaze went back to the floor of the hospital. A few hours later, unknown of the time and situation around me, a doctor came and asked for me. I quickly got up and went towards him.

Seeing me in a state of shock and distress, he called for a nurse and asked her to stitch my wounds. Then he pointed her to bring me to the room where Rahul was shifted, while I had to wait for hours to know what was wrong with him. As the nurse sat down with me to stitch my wounds, the doctor spoke to Wilma, who had been following me like a hawk. I could smell alcohol, which was coming from own body. I have been drinking non-stop for three days and then the impossible happened. I could not recollect what went wrong or what happened and how we ended up here. All I remember was, carrying Rahul and rushing into the emergency ward of the hospital.

A few minutes later, when the nurse was done with me, the doctor came ahead and spoke to me.

“Ms. Rawat, I hope you have already met Ms. Wilma Roberts. She is from the social services. She and I would like to know what exactly happened.”

I looked at them, unable to understand the situation and worried whether they will be taking my son away from me. “Do not take him away from me, he is all I have.”

At that point, Wilma butted in and said, “Do you have any family staying over here?”

“I have my friends here and my parents are flying over from India. They will be here in a day. Will you guys take him away from me?”

“Can I have the number of your friends? I need to talk to them.” I didn’t argue and gave the number of Meena and her husband. Having known Meena for eight years now, I knew that she will be able to handle the situation the way I would want her to. Wilma took the number and went away. Doctor Paul Wood, from the neuro and Doctor Owen from the pediatric stood there for a while discussing among themselves and then looked at me. I could not wait any longer and asked, “How is my kid?”

Dr. Owen looked at me and said, “He is fine. He is young and small, so hopefully, he will be fine and take less time than adults to heal. I am more worried about you.”

“Why did it take so long for the surgery?”

At this point, Dr. Paul spoke. “Well, we were done with the surgery long back. He just had a minor block, which we were able to remove. Ms. Rawat, were you drunk when you were driving? Even though Wilma will be asking you all these questions, we should know too, as your son’s doctor.”

I could not speak, I wanted to cry out loud, I wanted Meena, I wanted to meet my kid. “I was not drunk. I was drinking the previous night and next morning when I woke up, I decided to take Rahul and drop him off at my friend’s place. They take excellent care of him, while I am at work. I was going to meet my ex-husband. I guess, while I was driving, I fell tired and banged the car against a tree. Rahul was sleeping when I carried him in the car. He was in child safety seat and after the collision, I looked at him, he was still sleeping but I guess he had hit the sides or something. I tried to wake him up, but he didn’t. So, I decided to bring him here. He will be okay, right?” I was getting impatient. 

“Yes, he will be okay. Nothing serious. Just a block. It is clear. He will be under observation for few days and then we can release him. But I would prefer Wilma to take the decision whether you can take him with you. Given the situation and the law, the social services will be very tough. As he was born here, he is ideally an US citizen.”

I felt lost. I wanted to grab Rahul and run away, where no Wilma, no Dr. Owen or Dr. Paul would disturb us or separate us. But all I did was wait for Wilma to return. I felt a sudden pain, my back started disturbing, my stomach wasn’t making it any easy.

Few minutes later, Wilma returned, still talking to someone. She kept the phone and looked at me.

“I am going to ask few questions, Ms. Rawat. By that time, your friend Meena and her husband will be here.” By the time she could complete the sentence, I butted. “Will you take him away from me?”

She replied, “That is not for me to decide. The court will take the decision. I know it is difficult that I want to know exactly what happened.”

I told her exactly what I told the doctors. She heard me patiently. When I was finished, she turned back and asked for a nurse. “I will be asking the nurse to take few tests. We will see few things and then get back to you. Till then, I suggest you stay here and please do as we ask you to.” 

“What about my son?”

“You can see your son. But, when he is awake, you cannot meet him, till I get an order that you can. Uhmm, before you ask any more questions, let us just wait for your friends to reach.” She left the nurse with me and went.

Hours went by, as the nurse took my blood samples, urine, etc. She asked me to lie down on a bed and asked me to wait for her to return. In the meantime, I could see Wilma seated at one place; I could see Meena and Rajneesh arrive and then Wilma walk towards them; I could see them talk. The nurse came back and gave me few injections and told me that it will help me sleep. I couldn’t understand one bit about what was going on. All I knew, that this is not how I had imagined my life to be. And somewhere, thinking about all this, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, I saw Meena sitting near me. She was holding my hand. I tried to get up — hold her and cry — but I felt heavy and chained to the bed. She came near my ears and whispered, “Babes, just relax, everything is fine. You need to rest. There is a muscle tear on your back and you need to rest. It will take some time for you to heal.”

“What about Rahul?” 

The long wait for the judgment was killing me. I wanted to hold my child.

“Rahul is fine, he is awake. Rajneesh is with him. I am more worried about you. What have you done to yourself? Do you deserve all this? You of all the people? I will not say that you have disappointed us, but this is not how we thought you will handle the situation. You could have at least thought about your son!”

Meena was angry but she could not stop being considerate. 

Meena and I go back a long way. Same neighbourhood, same school, same college, same university, same office (initially). We were soul sisters. If never told by our parents, no one realised that we were actually not real sisters. However, a lot had changed, after my life decided to take a 180-degree swing. She stood there, for hours, sat beside me, held my hands, as I could do nothing more than crying. 

Rajneesh came back to say that Rahul was fine and that my parents had reached town. I wanted them to disappear, I did not want them to see me in this position. I booked their flight tickets, asked them to come over. I wanted to fix things and now everything was haywire. Rajneesh told us that he would go and pick them up from the airport, as I was supposed to go. They called him up after they could not reach me or Meena. I asked Rajneesh not to bring them here and if he could let them stay with him for few days. 

“Naina, I do not know about Meena, but you are like a sister to me. You do not have to request or beg. They are my parents too. So, yes, they will stay with me, till you are better.”

I could not argue. I nodded as Rajneesh left. 

As soon as Rajneesh left, Wilma returned. She had a cold face, one that didn’t give me a good feeling. She came near my legs, stood opposite to me and looked straight in to my eyes. I knew, this was it.

“I spoke to the higher authorities and to the judge. I also spoke to your friend and her husband and got to know the whole story and passed that information to the judge too. However, a decision had to be taken. Keeping in mind, your situation right now, the court has decided to hand over your son’s custody to your friend Meena and Rajneesh, temporarily. In the meantime, you have to undergo, rehabilitation, and once the doctors feel that you are good enough to have the custody of your son, he will return to you. Till then, you need to work on yourself.”

I remained speechless. “Any question?” I could not speak. Rahul was the only thing left in my life, and he was gone. Meena held my hand, “Naina, are you alright? Are you okay?” 

I could not speak. Tears started rolling out of my eyes. My child was gone.

At one point, I was happy with the fact that Meena and Rajneesh would be taking care of him, but I was angry with them. I thought they would have told something against me that would have made Wilma decide that Rahul should be with them. I took away my hand from Meena. 

“So what now? Rahul stays with Meena?”

“You will be assigned a counselor, whom you have to meet regularly. You need to get yourself alcohol-free. The Social Services will get back to you, once you are out of the hospital. For now, get your back fixed. We will be looking at you, regularly.”

“And what about Rahul?”

“Rahul will be with your friend. You cannot meet him or even see him. If you do anything of that sort, you will be jeopardizing your own chances of being with your son again. Till the time, the social services think that you are ready to be with your son again, he will stay with Meena and Rajneesh.”

I could only say, “Thank you.”

Wilma left a few minutes later. I felt angry, hurt, weak and destructive. Meena came near me, after speaking to Wilma and held my hands.

“Well, that is what I guess you wanted. As you guys do not have a child of your own, why not take Naina’s?”

Meena shouted, “Just shut up! Look at yourself. What the hell do you think of yourself? You are messed up badly and rather than Rahul ending up at foster care, he will be with us. Can you be happy about that at least? Whatever that has happened with you today, it is because of you. So, stop blaming others. Either fix it, or just disappear. I love you Naina, we love you, but we cannot tolerate to see you destroy yourself like this. Especially Rahul with you.”

I remained quiet, as I stared at the opposite walls.

“I am going to see Rahul now, Rajneesh will be here any minute. So, think about how you want to fix your life or you want to kill yourself and let go of all the love you have, of all the people you care about you.” With that, she left the room.

And my mind went six years back to the time when I met him.

To be continued...

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