The day she spoke (Short story)

Aradhna placed her hand over her tummy and a smile spread across her face. Her face glowed and eyes shined, no wonder people said “Motherhood is a life changing experience and the glow on a expecting mother’s face tells it all”.
The foetus was 18 weeks old, and Aradhna could not wait to catch a glimpse of her little one in the next scan. She longed for these scans, though the images were a bit hazy but listening to the heartbeat of her little one and watching the baby on the monitor as the Gynec explained about the stage of development was something that she looked forward to. The most amazing part was the heartbeat- it felt magical and  made her realise each time that here was a little soul right within her who had the ability of bringing her so much joy.
The doorbell buzzed and she went to open it. Her mother in law and husband Harish were at the door. “Areee does it take so long to open the door, were you sleeping? Go fetch us some water and make tea, I am so tired”. Aradhana just nodded her head and went into the kitchen. She had been married for close to 1.5 years now. It was not the fairytale that she dreamt of. She hardly got time to get to know her husband, the pact was signed and before she could even fathom what was going on, she was no longer Aradhna Sharma but Aradhna  Maheshwari, the bahu. She thought things would change after marriage but it became clear to her that it was an illusion. Her husband hardly spoke to her, in fact he hardly opened his mouth. He just went about his daily chores, left for the shop and came home very late. Her mother in law Sita Devi ruled the house. From day one she made it crystal clear that I am the queen and this is my kingdom, you are the dasi (maid) here and stay within your limits. The days just flew by in household chores, attending to guests and meeting her MIL’s various demands.
In a few months, Aradhna missed her periods. The news was confirmed after a visit to the doctor. Things changed for Aradhna. Her MIL hired a maid to take care of the household chores though cooking was still done by the bahu. She was given a glass of milk with kesar every morning, dry fruits and chapatis laden with extra ghee. Her life seemed less physically stressful. Harish remained indifferent, just like earlier. She hoped that once the baby came, things would change. Aradhna was exuberant and felt the happiness of becoming a mother. She knew that her family wanted a male child, someone who would continue the family legacy. Secretly though she wished for a girl. As she brought tea, her MIL asked her to get ready. We are going to the doctor. She was puzzled, the visit was not due until a few more days. She dressed up quietly and took her reports. She was surprised when they took a different road and finally landed in front of a different doctor. She sensed something was amiss. They went in and she saw Harish and the receptionist exchange some notes of money, it looked like a bigger sum than the regular fees.Then she was asked to go in. There was a doctor who looked really grim, she did not even say hi to Aradhna, unlike her Gynec who chatted so much with her. Take out your payjama and lie down, the doctor said without even glancing at her face. Things then happened on auto mode, Aradhna could see the doctor apply gel on her abdomen, she could feel the coldness of the scanning machine pass over her and it was done. It’s a girl -the doctor proclaimed. Aradhna was taken aback but did not react. This is not legal she thought, how can we find out the sex of the foetus. She turned towards her MIL , the look of contempt on her face showed it all . Aradhna was asked to dress up and they went home.
From that day her MIL stopped talking to her completely, the glass of milk, extra ghee, dry fruits also stopped. She knew it was because of the girl child that she was carrying. As she lay in her room talking to her little one,  MIL came over and told her ” We are going to the doctor tomorrow , get ready early in the morning, the first child in this family will be a boy, we are getting rid of this mess”. Aradhna was shell shocked, she opened her mouth like a fish but no words came out. By the time she could find her voice,  Amaaji was not even in the room. She instinctively placed her hand over her tummy. How could they even think of it? Her baby, her life and they just decide to end its life – what did she call it – a mess? Being a woman how she be so heartless? Aradhna was seething with rage.
Her childhood flashed before her eyes. As a young girl who loved going to school, one day her schooling was suddenly stopped as they family did not have enough money to send all the kids to school and preference was given to the boys. She toiled at home and her brothers studied in school. She got a small job in a store and she felt happy when she got her salary. A sense of independance but was asked to hand over all the money to her father. She had to beg him for money for her daily needs which he always grumbled and gave. What an irony when the money had been earned by her. Then suddenly she was asked to leave the job , her marriage had been fixed. She sobbed in her mother’s lap” beta you are a girl, this is how a girl’s life is” her mother consoled her. This is not the life my daughter will lead, she had thought that day.
She opened her eyes. She knew what she had to do. She opened her old diary and made a few calls. The next day her husband asked her to get ready. She stepped into the living room with a small bag. Let’s go her husband said. She stood rooted at the door. Her MIL moved forward and held her hand forcefully trying to drag her. “Stop it, No I will not do this”. Her voice was loud and clear. Her MIL and husband were stunned. This was not the same meek and docile woman they knew. The MIL was the first one to recover. “Shut up and come along else we know how to make you come with us”.
Aradhna spoke calmly ” Ammaji  I will not abort this child, I am her mother and this is my decision. She is not a mess as you call her. She is my daughter and I will give birth to her.”
“Not in this house” Ammaji snapped.
“Fine. I have called my friend Tara she works with an NGO for women empowerment. She will be here any minute. I will leave with her. Harish if you want to see me and our baby, you know where to find me. And Ammaji please do not try any tricks of putting pressure on me through my parents or using the Harish will divorce you kind of trick, let me me tell you that Tara has good contacts with the police and the NGO she works for has arrested many people who tried to get rid of the girl child. This would just be another case for them”.
Amaaji was dumbfounded. Harish just gaped at his wife like a lost puppy .
Aradhna smiled and calmly called out to the maid” Areee Radha please get me a glass of kesar milk”

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