Jan 14, 2010
I am telling you for the last time
In my last article, I mentioned that my wife is pregnant. Many readers wrote me back asking whether it is a fact or a work of fiction. Apparently they thought I would joke about such serious stuff. People no more believe my articles. I don’t blame them. Sometimes I get a bit carried away and use a bit more literary license. Of late it has extended to such a derogatory state that I no more know what is real and what is false. I have fallen victim to my own imagination!
People read my memoir like articles: How much is real? they ask. Some skeptics question: Why so many curious things happen only in his life? I am breaking the fourth wall here to warn my potential fans. My articles are meant only for entertainment, nothing else; anyone seeking enlightenment or such noble virtues is bound for great disappointment.
However, for the records, I am telling you for the last time, my wife is really pregnant. This is no work of imagination!
This pregnancy was unplanned, hence unexpected. My family members, after years of relentless pestering, had finally abandoned the futile mission. My wife was taking a break from getting pregnant. Sometime back, while cleaning the basement, she found a few un-used pregnancy test strips. Instead of trashing them, she thought, Why not use them; that’s when she found out, for her horror and subsequent delight that she was pregnant.
The strips tell you instantly whether you are pregnant or not. This is amazing. You don’t have to go to the hospital or stand in the long queues. You can find out instantly at home! Things were different during my Mom’s time; she didn’t realize she was pregnant for almost 3 months. I was a quiet person even before I was born!
A question for the doctor
Once the pregnancy strip indicated positive, we immediately rushed to a gynecologist (A new addition to my vocabulary). In the US, meeting a doctor is like meeting the Pope. You can not pay visit whenever you want. Twenty people, some time more, who are not doctors, interrogate you, in different small rooms, before you actually see the doctor. More or less they ask the same questions, I think they check notes sometime later.
Finally, you get to see the doctor for a few minutes (like the eclipse!). Most of the time he tells you the things you already know! Like one time, a doctor, after an extensive blood work, declared: “I am afraid Mr. Lobo, you are a Homo Sapien!” – Which I knew for the better part of my life.
The Gynecologist did an Ultrasound on my wife. “I don’t see anything,” he said.
“The pregnancy strip showed positive!” my wife said.
“This could be a False-positive,” he suggested.
“False-positive is a result that is erroneously positive when a -”
“I know the definition!” cried my wife.
“Oh! Nevertheless, this is too early,” said the doctor.
“What do you mean by too early?”
“You probably had sex yesterday!”
Shocked! I exchanged looks with my wife: How did he know?
There was nothing else to do. We still had some time.
“Do you have any questions?” asked the doctor.
Since this is our first child, I had around 100 questions. But the time was short; I mentally sorted the top 10 questions.
The first among them - What precautions should a pregnant woman with Thyroid deficiency observe, if she shows the symptoms of Gestational diabetes? The rest 9 questions were equally complex, beyond the reach of any novice doctor. I have done so much research on pregnancy I am now a mini-doctor myself.
But before I opened my mouth, my wife hushed me. “Don’t ask stupid questions,” she said, “I am pregnant. I know what to ask.”
She composed herself. “Doctor,” she started, “Supposing I am pregnant, which is a strong possibility, though Ultrasound indicates otherwise, Is it advisable for a pregnant woman or In other words can I safely assume-”
At this point I gave her a small nudge. “Just ask the question,” I said.
Once again, she composed: “Doctor, now that I know I am pregnant or at least let’s assume for the sake of argument-“
I leant over and muttered: “Ask the damn question!”
Even the doctor got impatient, “Ma’am, what is your question?” he said.
“Now that I am pregnant, Can I eat pizza?”
That’s what she asked. That was her priority question. Can you believe that? You probably think I made that up. No sir! This really happened. You can always check with my wife.
A surprise for Grandma
Becoming a dad was one of the two long pending tasks on my to-do list. The other one was reading - War and Peace. This colossal book was lying on my desk for ages. Intimidated by its size, I had postponed reading it indefinitely – till I got a more relaxed time.
So when my wife announced she was pregnant, immediately I realized that I am going to be busy for coming 2-3 years, without thinking I said: “I want to finish, War and Peace before the kid arrives.” That’s what I said. Most husbands say many romantic things on these occasions. But I could not come up with a better line. In fact, that’s the same thing my Dad had told Mom, when she had announced her pregnancy. However he could not finish the book.
When I told my Mom, that I am going to have a child, first thing she said: “Now don’t write a stupid article on it!”
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t announce to the whole world.”
This made me mad.
“How long you are going to control me?” I retorted, “I am going to be a Father soon.”
“This is your wife talking!” she said, “You never had such courage.”
Discouraged by Mom’s warning, I thought of keeping my Good News a secret. For a while I kept quiet. However, Grandma was an exception - she is nearing 90. And, almost since my puberty, she has pestered me about my Good News.
“Grandma, I have a secret to reveal,” I telephoned her.
“Did you find out who assassinated Kennedy?”
“No, No this is not that kind of-”
“NASA: Fake moon launch?”
“Grandma listen to me, this is different.”
“What is it then?”
“I am going to become a Dad!”
“Is that your big secret?”
“Are you not happy?”
“I am very happy indeed. I am going to tell the whole world,” She screamed.
“Don’t tell anyone please.”
“This is not the right time,” I said.
“Oh! Come of it-“
“Grandma, I beseech you!”
“Beseech? Did you say beseech? What kind of a word is that?”
“Grandma, don’t forget I am a writer. I need to use uncommon words. Nevertheless don’t tell a soul.”
“I won’t,” she promised, “Not even to your Grandpa!”
Grandpa is dead for sometime now. But she thinks he is alive. She is losing her marbles.
Informing Grandma was a mistake; she broke the promise almost instantly, revealed the secret to everyone, including unconcerned pedestrians. She had waited such a long time, she went berserk. “My grandson is going to be a Dad!” She told everyone, also cautioned the listener, “Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.” I know this because a moron called me and said: “Don’t tell anyone. Your wife is pregnant!”
What is in a Name?
Parents struggle a lot to find exotic names for their children. Every parent wants the child name to be unique and super-creative. Hence often you come across children with names like: Tungsten, Andromeda, Hydra, Paramecium or rarely an immensely un-creative name like - Ravi Lobo. I have wondered many a sleepless nights, about, what kinds of people keep their child’s name as Ravi Lobo. It’s such a bland name.
Finally after pestering Mom a lot, I found out the truth. It seems nobody showed any interest in naming me. On the day before christening, Mom announced at the breakfast table, to a bunch of indifferent family members: “If you guys don’t come up with a decent name for my son, I am going to randomly choose any stupid name, say, Ravi Lobo.” And, well...
People stare at me when I announce my name.
“Pardon me?” they say, just to make sure they heard the right thing.
“You must be an outsider!” Mangloreans have concluded.
“Are you a Gay?” a few impolite people have asked.
Once I repeat my name, a thin smile appears on their lips. They think there is something fishy. They think I am a product of inter-religion or inter-Galactic marriage - or some such weird stuff. In fact all these things are false. Ours is a great family. All straight marriages, many priests and several nuns, children return home by 7pm, daily prayers twice - an ideal family. In fact I am the first person in the family, who went against it, to marry the girl I liked. My decision had created a great chaos in the ultra-religious super-ideal family.
“You are the anth-kuris in our family [sic],” some oldies had declared. Those were the exact words.
This all happened a long time back. Since then, I have cut my long hair, no ear rings, I no more fancy tattooing and piercing, no street drugs, no syringes. I am a different person now. I oil and comb my hair daily, tuck-in my shirt, brush daily twice, open doors for old ladies, and wave at school buses. I am a resurrected person.
Mom said in her last call: “I am going to find a wonderful name for your child-”
I got alarmed.
“Now, Wait a minute,” I stopped her, “You screwed up my name; Almost made me a psychopath. After 30 years you want to repeat the same thing.” Here I took a pause for the effect before continuing, “Let me tell you Mom, I won’t, I repeat, I won’t allow you to do the same thing to my child!”
That shocked her. “Ok, do as you like, don’t listen to me, listen to your wife,” and she hung the phone.
One time, in a train, a couple was sitting right across. I could not help listening to the following conversation.
“I think IIM is the best option,” said the man.
“Or probably GMAT or GRE followed by MS,” said the woman.
“Not MS, it is very common nowadays,” said the man.
“How about civil services?”
“That’s a good suggestion. But no software - Too common – Mushrooms! Remember the boy who had a head injury, the one who was talking funny; we thought he would become a vegetable?”
“What about him?”
“He is a software engineer now. Too low a goal to achieve.”
“Let’s keep couple of options open: Sports and Art. If the child shows talent in painting or music we should encourage that.”
At this point I intervened.
“Pardon my intrusion,” I said, “I could not help but listen to your planning for the child’s future. I am baffled by such extensive planning. You guys are truly very responsible parents. Where is your child? I would like to tell him or her, what a wonderful God given gift, to have such amazing parents.”
The couple looked a bit lost.
“Are you joking?” said the woman.
“Ma’am, did I say something wrong?”
“We don’t have a child, yet,” said the woman, “We are newly married, on our honeymoon!”
They were planning about a child not yet conceived! Modern parents do such laborious planning. Things were different during my time.
After my 12th, I didn’t know what to do. My parents had not done any planning. In fact, they were a kind of amused by the very fact that I did clear 12th. I was a kind of lost. I spent most of my time around Grandma, who narrated great imaginary stories. (This influenced me, in later years, to become a story teller). One of those days, I remember clearly, I was in the kitchen, eating the third plate of idli, which grandma had specially made for me.
“Grandma, Idli’s have come very good,” I said.
“My dear gundu-Grandson, one more plate is coming up,” said grandma, “keep some space in your abysmal tummy.”
“You are a gem Grandma! Gem-gem-gem-gem,” I cooed.
My Mom made a sudden unexpected entry. She was edgy for some reason.
“Don’t finish the whole stuff,” she cried, “there are other people in this house!”
“Mom, you don’t have to be sarcastic,” I said.
“Eating and sleeping whole day! Have you decided anything about your future?”
“I am not an astrologer,” I said. And immediately realized that was a big mistake. Mom raised her hand, and a sharp blow was on its way, grandma stopped her.
“Don’t hit the child,” she warned, “He may become a writer someday and write about the whole thing.”
This was no threat for Mom.
She looked at me, “You have two options,” she concluded. “Either become an engineer or help Grandma in the kitchen!”
“Okay, I will think about it,” I said.
“No thinking. You have already wasted a lot of time. Tell me right now – what do you opt?”
Sheepishly I muttered: “I will help Grandma in the kitchen.”
“That’s my boy,” Grandma applauded.
My Mom - she was standing in the far corner, on hearing my choice, covered the distance between us with a lightening speed, grabbed me by the collar, tried to air-lift me, but failed miserably because of my extra weight.
“Listen to me carefully,” she said slowly but sternly, “I am tired of a family full of men helping in the kitchen. This is not what I expected when I married into this family. Now you listen to me, this is time, I saw some real money!”
I ran out of the kitchen, called 911 from the study. This happened long back, at a time when the telephone exchanges were manual; a lady took my call at the exchange.
“My Mom is harassing me,” I narrated the whole thing. She patiently listened my story, “I am sorry, dear abused boy,” she said, “you can not call 911 in this country. This is not America!”
Crestfallen I went to grandpa for solace.
“What?” he said.
“Grandpa, I am done. I am going to be an engineer.”
“Yes! Mom has decided – sealed my fate. I am going to be the first engineer in our family.”
He gave a long weary look. “Of all the intelligent promising young men of this family, you got to be the first engineer. This is nothing short of a miracle,” he said. “God please take me, why are you waiting, what else you want these old eyes to witness?”
The great expectations
My Father is a simple man, so is my Mom. But they always expected me to be a scientist. I had reasoned with Mom, thousand times, “How can I become a scientist, when You and Dad are not scientists.”
Mom had coolly replied, every single time, “Einstein’s parents were not scientists!”
The only thing I have invented or going to invent is - my child. (I am going to be a co-inventor! I am incapable of inventing anything on my own.)
My parents had high expectations on me. My hand writing was pathetically illegible; hence they concluded I would become a doctor. However, some skeptics predicted the future of a bus-conductor, which was a high possibility.
As a young man, I had an uncanny talent for the bus routes. Given any two places, I could easily come up with the shortest, fastest, easiest, toll-free, bus route. I also had a photographic memory for the bus time table. In the non-Google era, this was a promising art. However, my parents were mortified by my talent. The notion of their child becoming a bus conductor, therefore an underachiever, in a family full of underachievers, scared the hell out of them!
I am a living example of what happens to children with high expectations. I don’t want my child to go through the same hell. Hence, I don’t have any expectations from my child – zero expectations! I don’t want my child to go to the Moon or climb Mount Everest. I don’t want my child to do 4 digit multiplications mentally – if it learns to use a calculator, I am fine with that! However, deep in my heart, If I have the option of expecting one thing from my child, I want him or her to read: War and Peace.
The long wait
I grew up around a lot of boys. Hence, was always surrounded with - toy machine guns, airplanes, machinery, gadgets, suicide bombs – in short a lot of bang bang. As a literary kid, I was tired of fist fights, dissecting cockroaches, amputating frogs, brainless banter, and meaningless bow and arrow games. I actually want a person in my life with some sense. Did I tell you, that I am going to have a daughter? Yep, I kept the best part for the end.
Now that I am going to have a daughter, I hope she will bring some sort of order in my other wise chaotic life. I have composed a prayer for God, which goes something like this: “Dear God, Now that you have given me a daughter, please make sure that she doesn’t come across a person like me in her teen years.” It’s a complex prayer. But I am sure God will understand.
Pregnancy is a great challenge. Before the pregnancy I had thought of going for 3 kids – with or without the consent from the government. But now, after living with a pregnant lady 24/7, I don’t have any plans for another kid in the coming 200 years.
My wife has become a totally different person. It’s like a resurrection for her. I have often wondered whether she is the same person I married. Often she is exhausted and tired. The present she is going to get at the end of this pregnancy is what keeps her going. You can not understand this joy, unless you are a woman.
As for me, for once, I am out of words. This is a big thing in my otherwise uneventful, black and white life. I am content though and could not ask more from life. For now, I am just waiting. It’s a long wait.
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