<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 107 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 30, 2003

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A Silver Lining…

At Last!

Richa Jha

The Hubby and I entered a room full of eyes that keenly followed our steps and shoes. We were hopelessly late in arriving at this party at a friend's place. Though no one demanded an explanation for the cause of this delay (it's The Hubby's firm belief that frankly, no one cares; but I don't see how others could be so self-centred), I felt we owed them one.
“We're so sorry we're late. Actually, our little one is not well. I had to make sure he was fast asleep before we could slip out of the house.”
A few heads, mostly of other women present there, nodded out of politeness. I waited for someone to ask me details on the illness, but none came from any side. The Hubby may have been right in his analysis of human nature, afterall.
But I had to talk about the harrowing past few days I had spent nursing a sick child. About how little I had slept, about how little my child had eaten, about how weak this illness had made him, about how the doctor was shocked to see such a complicated case of this illness (not really, I would have made up that last bit). You see, if you've had a toughie, you want the rest of the world to know how well you coped. You want others to believe that you can handle adversities as efficiently as you can bake a cake. What is little realised is that self-congratulatory words can be cathartic. And it's only human to expect others to be all ears when you expatiate.
No such luck from this set of ears, I could see. So I started, “my child had an acute stomach infection, which refused to go away. It was a nasty one. We nearly had to get him hospitalised. He would rush to the toilet every hour, and then throw up any medicine we gave him. Uffff! Kids look so vulnerable on such occasions…phew! What a week we've had.”
“How old is your child?” asked a concerned voice from the far end.
“Oh, just two plus, and look what the illness has done to the tiny soul,” I replied. Now that they had learnt how little my child was, I thought they would commiserate with me with appropriate expressions.
“Tell me about it. My six month old daughter had a similar affliction about 10 days back, and it turned our worlds upside down. We were scared she would get so dehydrated that we'd have to rush her to the hospital. Poor baby…”
I didn't like that. It goes without saying that this tiny girl's case was genuinely more severe than my child's, so don't get me wrong here. I felt bad for the baby. What I didn't like was the fact that someone else present there had had a tougher time than I had, and had still managed to arrive on time, and worse of all, was feeling no urge to talk about it. (However as I got to know later, she had narrated the story before we had reached there.) But at that moment, her words pygmied me and my woes in my own eyes, and it seemed, also in the eyes of others present there. You are familiar with this feeling, aren't you? That she, a younger mother, a more competent crisis manager, hence, a smarter being…Oh Jealousy! Why dost thou sting so deep?!!
“That is what we were discussing before you came”, the lady sitting next to me said, “every one in Dhaka seems to be getting this diarrhoea. Especially the children. Look at my son. He's five now. And he was admitted at the hospital for four days. Poor fellow missed school for over a week, and his exams begin next week. You feel so guilty for these kids. They are overburdened with studies, and on top of that these illnesses. We parents of school--going children don't have it easy…”. All right, all right. So the room was full of women smarter than I am. Soon there was a barrage of similar tales from all sides. I sat through the rest of the evening without uttering another word.
On our way home, The Hubby saw me sulk and did his bit by asking just the right questions. “Why/ something wrong/ etc?”.
I told him about the kind of conversation we women had had at the party. “Oh! That's sad indeed. Poor kids. And it must have been terrible for the others because they had to tend to their office work as well. It was relatively easy for you, don't you think…?” Could someone throw this man out of the car please? And The Hubby believes he understands me!
But suddenly my face brightened, my spirit upped. “On second thoughts, don't you think that is what made it worse for those kids?”
“What,” he obviously didn't understand the sudden cause of my mood elevation.
“The fact that I was there at home by the side of our little one right through his tummy trickle. You know, the fact that I didn't have to be away at work every day, I think that is the only reason why our son's case didn't deteriorate the way theirs did. Don't you think so? Huh. And those mothers think they can do everything at the same time, and still be perfect at each work…”
The Hubby usually maintains a diplomatic silence when I propound my personal axioms. And I like him for that. Funny, I no longer wanted him thrown off the car!


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