Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!
But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn’t working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.
‘I am sick of this!’ she grunted loudly.
‘Why mother’ questioned her little daughter Hardiki, with eyes squat, with an endearing little face and slowly lying down on her mother’s lap.
Hardiki was six year old kid and she was brought up with oodles of love and care by her mother. Hardiki had brown eyes, captivating face and looked like a charming little princess. Though her father Budha, was not very happy having a girl child, Ilaa never made that feeling occur to Hardiki. Not only was her father, even the whole family was not actually very contented with Hardiki’s birth. They had expected a male child, one who is going to bear ahead the family name. Though they had tried for the second one, Ilaa was not able to conceive until last few months.
After a lengthy gap of around 5 years, Ilaa was expecting a second child. The d-day was almost near. She had all the assorted feelings of what if it was the girl child again and how the family is going to receive her. The hormonal rush was to its peak and she used to be literally anxious every single moment, though knowing it’s not healthy for her and as well as the baby.
How will the family pleasure her? How will the family pleasure the kid? On top of the whole lot of things, there was an assortment of work piled up. If the bales of cotton were not ready and if they don’t have the seasonal earnings, it would affect the whole family of twenty members staying together. Every year she used to enthusiastically stand beside with her husband and help him with the effort. Budha used to get a bundle of support from her.
This year, with her pregnancy it was all different. Though she used to work more than her capability would permit, it was still not keeping up to her own expectations. She had even started an innovative work to support the family from her side. She used to sit and work on weaving saris. She had created some design and patterns and wanted to possess her own variety and trademarked saris calling it as ‘Hardiki Paithani Silk’ saris. She had created new patterns intricately embroidered with gold and silver borders. She had secretly used some of her ornaments not letting her family know about it. She had sent around ten samples to the market and there was no reply yet.
All along everything around ten of her family members were to the shrine of great saint Eknath, as a part of paithan yatra to pay the home-age and had not returned yet. She used to share her feelings with cousin Sopandevi and now she been in yatra, she was missing her too. Ilaa was lost in her thoughts. Completely, in a way which hardly made her realize the pains of carrying the baby.
‘Why mother’ queried the little Hardiki again.
‘I wish you will never understand or be in such a situation my little princess’ said the mother by moving her hands on her little forehead. I pray to god that there will be a day where women is not blamed for the kid she delivers. Instead it’s treated as the contribution of the whole family. I wish boy or girl, the greeting remains the same.
‘Mother, what?’ Hardiki was only confused.
‘Not a thing, Hardiki. I just love you. And want to see you happy at all times’, said Ilaa in a very delighting tone.
‘Mother, I want a little sister for me to play with. When will she arrive?’, said Hardiki with a never ending smile on her face.
Ilaa was clueless on what to answer. She kissed her forehead. She had the mixed feelings and the thoughts flowing all at random, just like the river Godavari. She remained silent.
The innocence of her daughter took her back to her childhood days when she used to play at the 12 Jyotirlinga temples. Being in ‘tirth khamb’ park was her all time favorite. She always used to drag her mother and father to the tirth khamb and spent most of the evenings. It was back then the days where, the only effort she used to put was in making new toys out of cotton every day. She used to demand variety of food to eat every day. She used to play with coins and collect them. She used to help her father burn bricks with her little hands in the way she could support. She used have a very deep sleep at night and wake up with unbounded energy every morning. She had never seen her father ignoring her because she was a girl child. All she wanted was the same here for Hardiki.
A while later they started heading back home. On the way Hardiki requested her mother that she would play in the fields for a while and promised to return back before the sunset. Ilaa could not say no and she started walking towards home. As she reached home, she noticed her husband being upset and sitting all alone in the garden. She slowly walked towards her husband and queried on what the matter was. Although she knew there was work pressure, but this was something else.
Her husband Budha declared that workers had eloped and there was consequently much to do in subsequently less time. It was the question of needing more workers at the time. He was also missing the support from his wife, like it used to happen every year. This year was different. Every year they used to produce around five bales of cotton weighing about 500 pounds each. This year they had an excellent cropping and looked almost the double. Budha expressed that he was entirely clueless and needed her support.
Ilaa had a rush of thoughts. She felt as if she was not from this world. She prayed to the saint Eknath for his blessings. She was looking very tired. Budha could see her tiredness in her eyes. He could see that his wife was not completely her. He knew she needed his support. The situations were being so much awful to him that Budha was feeling guilty on what time had turned him into.
Ilaa slowly moved towards the wooden chair and sat down. She made herself look comfortable, though she wasn’t internally. She wanted to be supportive to her husband. She had gathered her words and about to articulate. Then, just then, there was this moment! The moment when,
Ilaa got her labor pains and it was clear sign that she was going to deliver. She was rushed to the room and neighbor women were called. There was clutter, mess and running shouts all around.
Just then, the family members who had been to yatra had reached back home. Budha’s mother Muktabai quickly updated him that they are going to have a child which will change the family fortunes as said by one the saints. Sopandevi and other women rushed towards the room.
The person who had carried the sari samples designed by Ilaa returned back announcing everyone in the trade market had appreciated the patterns and he had a huge order of hundred saris to be delivered in next six months. The family members were happier when he proclaimed that he had already got some advance money as well.
Hardiki came running in hurry with a big surprise on her face holding a bag in her hands. The bag was full of gold coins, atleast a fifty of them. She had found a treasure in the farm while playing and was clueless of what it amounted for. She was only attracted by the glitter and wanted to share it with her father.
Suddenly a bunch of twenty people appeared in-front of Budha asking for work. They were hired by one of the rich families to work in cotton farm but due to farm fire he had lost the crop and workers, the job. So, these people who had traveled a long distance to earn bread and butter were ready to do the job even for half the price.
Budha’s heavy heart was now like thin air. It was like the life’s worst day suddenly turning into the perfect day in a moment’s time. Budha’s mother thanked the almighty and they all together offered the family prayers. The only wait was the news about the child from Ilaa. Budha knew he was going to offer infinite love to the child. He promised himself to give all love to Hardiki as well. So were the thoughts of the most of the family members of gosavi.
Sapondevi came out running, announcing,
It’s a baby girl’!
This story was submitted to TOI Write India Challenge (Month – July 2015)