You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.
- M. Scott Peck
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"All my nine girlfriends in last twelve years got pregnant, but this shameless sweet lady has ruined my reputation. Unfortunately, I am married to her."
Nilesh was fuming. He was seated in front of Shrikant, his childhood friend and a famous infertility specialist in the city. He was explaining his married life. They were very close friends for years. But they had met after a long period of almost three years and were chatting intimately in a café.
"Correction, they were ten." Shrikant chuckled. "I remember each one of them. Every time you introduced your affair partners as….this is your Bhabhi …. except Suma"
"And these nine girls were your patients for curettage within two months."
"Hmmm… Two months after your heroic and manly love business with them" Both of them burst into a chortle.
"There were still few more, including those one-night stands. I have lost the count. But, you know I put a halt to all this after I met Suma and married her."
"But you did not invite me for your marriage and I was never introduced to your wife."
"I am sorry. We had a court marriage and it all happened so hurriedly, I could not invite you. But I think you know Suma. She was my first girlfriend."
"But not pregnant in the affair."
"In fact she was. It was my first experience and I could not dare to speak. I acted very timidly and shrugged the responsibility. I left her heartbroken, came to this city, and after almost ten years, I met her in the high court. We got realigned. Deep inside my heart, I realised that this was the girl I really loved. And I was sure that she also had a similar feeling."
"And both were happily married thereafter." they laughed heartily.
"Yes. I apologised her and she also pardoned me of all my bad behaviour. I discovered that she was a different person altogether. A beautiful, shy, young village girl metamorphosed into a stubborn lawyer. It took six months to convince her.”
Nilesh was a celebrated lawyer; tall, fair, clean shaven young advocate; who was popular amongst his juniors for his forceful pleading with unfathomable knowledge of the Law. 'Professional Ethics and Ethics in the Personal Life are two different Entities.' was his motto.
With the countless court orders, releasing his well-known but iniquitous clients, he had hit the headlines in the top newspapers almost every month. He was an idol for many newcomers in the profession.
"OK. Both of you come to my clinic tomorrow around seven in the evening."
After finishing their meeting Nilesh reached home. Reclined in a spacious sofa, Suma had just finished reading a report of the murder case. All the accused were acquitted. The journalist had highly praised the defence lawyer, Advocate Nilesh.
"I am going to the office after half an hour. Tomorrow there is a hearing of a rape and murder case. I have to read few things and prepare. I will be a bit late."
"I have kept few sandwiches for you on the dining table. You will like it." Nilesh went inside the kitchen.
Nilesh and Suma were married for almost two years. The marriage had created waves of astonishment in the world of law practitioners. Both the professionals and students were shocked. For most of the people, Nilesh was a Casanova and Suma was Saraswati, the Goddess.
Suma, also an accomplished lawyer, had a good reputation in family court matters. She was a petite lady, with a sympathetic and caring nature towards her lady clients, harassed by the unfaithful husbands and cruel in-laws. Any distressed women entering her cabin, with sad stories and brutal incidents of the miserable family life; always used to step out with a smile of relief and confidence.
"Tomorrow evening, at seven, we are going to meet Shrikant at his clinic." Nilesh told her when he came out after finishing his snacks.
"Oh. Are we going to have a celebration party?"
"No dear, He is an infertility specialist and we are going there as patients. Got it?"
"Alright, but I will come directly there from my office," wondering over a deep crease on her forehead, he left for his office.
Suma had noticed few changes in Nilesh's during last few months. He was keeping himself extremely busy with the work, from Nine in the morning to Twelve at midnight. His health was also going down and weight was reduced considerably. He has lost that stylish smile for which he was admired.
She remembered the blissful days before their marriage. They used to go to the Royal Park, a scenic garden with a dazzling backdrop of beautiful mountains.Inside the garden was a serene and tranquil lake and at the far end of its basin, was a narrow place called as Peninsula. It was their dearest spot, where they had spent innumerable romantic evenings together; chatting, singing, touching and caressing each other.
Next evening, the couple was sitting in Dr Shrikant's consulting room. After taking their clinical history, he examined them separately. His assistants did the couple's X-rays & sonography. When the medical rituals were over, Shrikant ordered coffee for them.
"The only part that remains is your laboratory tests. Come here after three days, that is on Wednesday, early in the morning at eight thirty." He concluded while sipping the coffee.
"Sure. Are we supposed to come on an empty stomach?" asked Suma.
"Yes. And Nilesh, no sex in these three days. We will need to do your Semen analysis."
"Oh, really? Do you have some doubts?" Asked Nilesh.
" It is same as in your criminal law, my friend. One should not take anything for granted." All the three giggled.
The tests were carried out a decided and the lawyer couple was asked to come next Wednesday, at 7 in the evening, for the follow-up consultation.
On that fateful Wednesday, Nilesh went to see Dr Shrikant an hour earlier, than the scheduled time. "How come you are alone and an hour before our appointment?" Shrikant couldn't suppress his annoyance. "I was worried about my reports. If there is something weird there, I think it should be confidential."
The doctor took the folder containing Nilesh & Suma's reports. After reading the reports intently, he looked at Nilesh, took a deep breath and spoke in a very low intonation, with one word at a time. "Nilesh, a very bad news for you."
"Anything very erroneous? Is my sperm count very low? "
" No. It is normal, But…"
"What but? Tell me what is wrong?"
" Nilesh, this report says, you are HIV Positive."
"Oh no…" Nilesh almost screamed.
" Regretfully it's a truth. A gift from one of those one-night-stand professional girlfriends."
"Ok, ok, ok…." His voice which was upset a minute before became surprisingly calmed and his tone turned into his professionally acquired vocalizations. "Shrikant, please do not reveal this to Suma."
" As a matter of fact, I have to."
"No, my dear sir, you cannot. You must observe the professional secrecy. As per our law, you cannot disclose your patient's diagnosis to anybody else, without patient's consent." The lawyer continued in his pleading pitch." Or else, you will have to face a legal case."
The childhood buddy's words gobsmacked Shrikant for a moment. "Nilesh, you are right. But there is an addendum to it. In your legal language, a subsection. It says, if the disease is potentially dangerous to the society or the contacts around, a Doctor should make them aware."
"But you are my best friend. Please don't tell Suma. Doc, what is wrong with you? Why you are talking in this legal language?"
"Nilesh, if you are talking to me as a friend, I will respond like a friend. But if you talk like a Lawyer, a Doctor will answer."
"Ok Doc, Please don't break the news to Suma. And yes, as a good friend of mine, I pray you to do whatever possible, to make me a father of a lovely child."
"Again a big NO. Though You can, you would not become a father.I am talking this as a responsible doctor "
"Why?" Nilesh has lost his control which he tried to assume until now.
"No Sir, I cannot reveal everything to you, a part of our professional secrecy, between a doctor and a patient." Nilesh was almost in the tears, like any sensitive young man.
"Doc, tell me, is Suma also positive?"
" No. She has a negative HIV status. Our pathologist confirmed it. We call a pair like you as the discordant couples. There are a lot many like you in the society today. But there is something else about Suma, which I will have to examine her and decide"
" She will be here any moment. May I wait outside."
When Nilesh went out of the cabin, Suma was at the reception counter. Nilesh waved at her and suggested to go in.
" Good evening Suma. How are you?" Shrikant greeted her.
" I am worried as usual. How are our reports?"
" Hm. I am coming to that point. Suma, when I examined you last week, I inquired about a scar on your stomach."
"Yes. I told you, that my appendix was operated when I was in the college."
" Suma, you must tell the truth and nothing but the truth, when you are in court or in front of a doctor."
" But, that is a truth and all I know."
Suddenly Shrikant's voice became impassive. "When an operation for appendix is done, the healed scar never looks like this." He took a paper from her report file. "This sonography report of yours says that your uterus has been removed. Do you know this fact?"
Suma's face turned white. She did not say a word.She put her head down. Her eyes were moist. "Suma, can you clarify me, what happened?" Shrikant offered her a napkin and murmured delicately.
Wiping her eyes and looking somewhere beyond, Suma whispered, "Doctor, it is a black page of my life. Promise me, you would not tell it to Nilesh."
"I give my word." Confirmed the doctor.
Suma exhaled deeply. A tear rolled over her cheek. "I was in a town place during my college days. I had a boyfriend. I was deeply in love with him. We use to roam together for many days. Then he started calling me in one of his friend's room. I could not stop him from the intimacy. One day I realised, I have missed my periods. I told him, but he reluctant to take any liability. He started avoiding me and disappeared from the town. I was in fix, and ignorant about what to do? Two more months elapsed in this tense situation. I dared not go to any hospital. I kept on crying alone.
One day, a senior girl in my college spotted my wailing. After listening to my story, she suggested a brutal way to get rid of my predicament. She pushed a small and sharp wooden stick in my womb. It was horrifyingly painful. I started bleeding. It did not stop for a week. One day I got severe chills and a high-grade fever. My stomach became hard and I started puking. I fainted in the class and was taken to a hospital."
"I know what happened after that. I was a visiting gynaecologist there, during those days. Your case was an extremely serious one. A large amount of pus was there in your pelvic cavity and around the guts in the abdomen. You were in a septicemic shock. Though it was very unusual, but we had to remove your uterus to save your life. It was one of those most critical and delicate cases I ever did in my professional career. A case worth remembering." Shrikant said with a victorious grin on his face. "But for this very reason, you will never ever
be able to conceive." He ended his words emphatically.
Now it was Suma's turn to feel astonished. "Thank you, doctor, for saving my life. When I regained consciousness after the surgery, for the first time I realised that I am in a hospital. I was frightened. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.
Doctor, Please do me a favour once again, this time to save my family life. For god's sake do not tell anything about it to my husband."
" No, I won't.But he wishes to have a child from you. What should I tell him in that regard?"
" Doctor, do anything. He trusts you as a buddy and as a doctor also. Convince him in whatever way."
"Suma, tell me, who was your boyfriend, pushing you in the dire state?
Suma's face was overdrawn.
"Was it Nilesh?"
Suma couldn't resist an affirmative nod for the question.
" Ok. I will think over and tell both of you if at all I get any solution."
Nilesh and Suma did not talk much during the journey to home. Both were pondering over a singularly common reflection, "Does my partner know my secret?"
On that doomful night, all the three were restlessly curling in the bed and could not sleep.
Suma was remorseful for marrying Nilesh. "If a woman does not have a womb, she has no right to get married," was her mindful verdict. Her soul imbibed with the principles of the family court practice, was implying her that she had deceived Nilesh.But her brains kept reminding her that he was the one who has ruined her womanhood.
Trying to find the answers to this vexing case, Dr Shrikant, too, had a wakeful night. He was juggling with the two relations. How should he react? As a doctor and as a friend? Should he tell Suma about Nilesh's HIV report? Was it not necessary to make Nilesh aware about Suma's inability to conceive, in absence of a uterus? Being a wellwisher of the family, can he find a better solution to save the marriage? At the end, he concluded that it was a dead-end case.
Nilesh was cursing himself for the reckless acts he has done in his youth. He rang up Shrikant at three in the morning.
They all went into a slumber, sometime in the wee hours of the dawn.
Next day, when Suma got up, it was 10 in the morning. She called Nilesh, repeatedly but there was no answer. She came into the kitchen and saw a paper on the dining table. some words scribbled on it. "Dear Suma, our dream of becoming the proud parents will never come true. I have found to be HIV positive. I have ruined your life. I am guilty of all the worst things happened in your life. I am a culprit. I am going away forever. Please do not try to search me. I always have loved you."- Nilesh.
Suma felt that her legs were becoming numb, the world was revolving speedily around her, everything in the room was becoming darker like the sky on a rainy day. She caught hold of a chair and sat. She rested her head on the dining table. All the dimness vanished gradually.
She thought, "Nilesh must have hurt deeply when he learnt about my past. He was there before me and definitely seen my reports. I am sure, the doctor called him to tell my old record. Afterall they are bosom friends. That's why he did not talk to me while coming back from the hospital. But why should he leave home?"
As she got up from the chair, she could see everything around her was very obscure. The murky shadows were still lingering about.
"I must find out Nilesh." She called him on her cellphone. The announcement after dialling said,"The number you have called is switched off."
She left the home with her head full of deliberations. She took her car and drove out. Her car and her thoughts were speeding without any direction or destination. She was thinking, that how can he go away like a hot headed teenager? That too with such a short notice? A proficient lawyer, a man with profound experience in life, who had seen very cruel murderers, must know that I loved him and would pardon him. A confident person who solves other's problems should know I would never part with him.
The thoughts were gyrating in her head with a momentum. For a moment she was dejected by the negativity of the situation, but immediately at the next instant, she became hopeful. This game of topsy turvy state went on till she realised that she has approached 'Royal Park', their favourite spot before marriage.
She parked her car and started towards Peninsula. It was about the noon time. There were some senior citizens who were chatting about the children and sons-in-law, few school students in uniform were playing cricket, some young couples were sitting behind the trees. Without looking at anything, she kept on walking through the garden towards the lake.
She crossed the bushes near the lake and saw Nilesh seated below the solitary tree there. She was dumbfounded. Head down, legs spread and hands on the thighs, he was not moving at all. All the sinister thoughts ran through her mind. She walked slowly towards him without making any clatter. She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard him singing, an old Ghazal song about the desperation in love. 'Aye mere dil kahin aur chal, gham ki duniyase dil bhar gaya….Dhoondh le ab koi ghar naya.'
Nilesh was humming a song, his eyes were closed, tears were flowing on his cheeks. He was so much sunk in his mood, he did not notice Suma. She went closer and sat alongside. She put her hand on his hand and started singing with him. Nilesh looked at her, "I knew you would come " and embraced her.
"Yes Nilesh, we cannot leave each other. Whatever happened untill now, is the past. We will remain together and face the destiny"