I sit uneasily on the hard wooden bench; my feet in those tiny sandals constantly swaying. Everybody looked uncomfortable and most of them were shifting their weight from one buttock to another after every few minutes. At specific intervals people would get up from their places and walk into the inner room either in pairs or sometimes alone and would come out after varied periods and leave the place. I stare at a large parrot, stuck to the wooden panel in front of us. The parrot was mounted on a spring and everybody else who looked somewhat similar to me would keep rocking it every time they would go in or walk out with their mothers. I was there with my mother, ‘I will also rock the parrot’ I thought to myself. Suddenly I felt a warm soft hand on my head and my mother stood up and took me along with her to the inner room.
I was made to sit on a soft mattress and a man in a large white coat came to me and smiled. I knew something was wrong. My mother watched as he raised my tiny right arm t-shirt sleeve and dabbed the region near my elbow with a chilled sweet smelling liquid. I am almost about to cry and he says, “Hold still” before he drives a large needle into my arm and in the next three seconds pulls it out. I cry silently as he dabs the large wound with the same cold sweet smelling liquid again; I stare at my mother with the angriest teary eyed look.
The man in the white coat places two triangular mints in my tiny palm and my mother helps me down the tall bed. I pull myself away from her in flimsy anger and try to run out of the door. My head suddenly bumps into something soft, like a cushion. I look up with the widest eyes and stare at it. My world becomes still; I have never seen anything like it before.
My small mouth became a little ‘O’ while I stared at the woman with a large round belly, almost like a pot. My eyes twinkled with mischief and I drummed my tiny palms on her belly with great energy; I couldn’t help it, it looked terribly similar to some musical instrument an old man was playing on the TV the other day! My mother gave out a hushed shout and grabbed my arms hurriedly. I looked up at the woman with the large round pot belly and she gave me the dearest smile, a smile second in dearness only to my mother’s. I rocked the parrot violently on my way out.
I impatiently repeated the question to my mother, “Ma, what’s inside her stomach, huh? Ma, what’s inside her…”, and she angrily replied, “An elephant”.
My mouth became a bigger ‘O’ this time but I decided not to ask her anymore questions. I slept that night with images of an elephant inside a woman’s stomach, “Had she swallowed it?” I asked myself before sweet sleep took over me and I was lost in dreams of elephants, the woman and her big round belly.
That was 21 years ago.
My shopping basket kept bumping into knees, shelves and carts as I weaved though a thick mass of Sunday supermarket shoppers. It was no longer a large space with shelves with neatly arranged products on them; it was a stomach; with several hundreds of microbial people picking up products from shelves like carriers pick up nutrition from stomach linings and circulate around before finally excreting their way out of the super market.
The lines at the cash counters were restless and fidgety. I had everything I needed so I resolutely found my way around the thickening puzzle to one of the lines; stood patiently; no, actually hoped I had the patience this line was going to need. My eyes turned and watched things aimlessly till they found a place to rest upon. An elephant flashed before my eyes, I smiled.
There she was; her legs spread apart even as she walked. An expression of saintly calmness never seemed to flicker off her face even in this maddening pool of people. Each step she took was slow, steady, patient and careful. A man walked next to her pushing a cart irritably, probably more so because he did not have the patience to walk at her pace, especially not in this stampede, no!
Her eyes were twinkling with inner joy. She was several kilos overweight and beads of sweat lined her forehead; top it off with that large round belly! The super market was maniacally noisy now but her aura; her world was unwearied. She walked with such poise, that the composure of the Earth’s rotation around its axis came close, only to a short resemblance. So much love she holds within herself; for a moment I was jealous and felt unfortunate to be born a man and to never be able to experience the sublime contentment of being able to truly give life.
By the time it was my turn to get past the cash counter she made it to the line and was standing two spaces away. I requested her to take my place and also asked the other two people between me and her to move out of the way. She gave me a quite gentle momentary smile. My eyes welled up with tears of nostalgia as I watched her move out of the supermarket and get into her car and drive away.
Only two things in my living experience are capable of giving life; God and a Mother. I have heard that the human body is biologically and scientifically capable of withstanding only seventeen units of pain at one time, maybe it is true. But I know for sure that a pregnant woman when delivers a baby, bears nearly forty units of pain; equivalent to the pain of breaking 20 bones in your body at one time.
A large face, an overweight body, the compulsion to make every movement with loving and devoted care, glowing skin, an unimaginably huge stomach and the dearest of all smiles; I never seen anything as beautiful as a pregnant woman.