Silence prevailed in the room. Maya and Sid stared at the ceiling as they lay on the bed. After 20 minutes, without looking at Sid, Maya said, “I think, I know what’s missing in my life. I want a baby.” Sid said, “You know my answer. I am not prepared for it.” First time in the seven years of her marriage, she felt that the age difference between her and Sid had caused a huge difference of opinion. It was the first time; she was forced to contemplate whether she made the right decision by marrying a guy who was 5 years younger than her. Till date, Sid’s silence had never perturbed Maya. But Sid’s curt replies with regards to this topic made Maya furious. She said to herself, I am 35 and am I wrong if I desire a child? Tears rolled down her eyes as she thought along those lines. Her tears were not hidden from Sid. He turned her face towards him and said, “I will think about it”.
They turned their back towards each other and pretended to sleep. Sid never wanted to be a father. He just did want to be responsible for someone else’s life. He knew that he would never be able to forgive himself if he failed to give his child the right upbringing. He hated the atmosphere in which he was brought up. Born in an Indian family in Mumbai, Sid had abhorred the Indian education system and the appurtenances that came with the Indian culture. Children were forced to respect all elders irrespective of the ways the elders behaved. The elders never earned the respect and it was just that was given to all older people by default. For most of the lessons that were taught in school, there was no reasoning. Certain things had to be believed and not questioned. The same was the case with religion. Sid thought that ideally every person should have the option to choose their religion. But he knew if he ever divulged his thoughts to people in his family, he would be termed as an American. He also knew that the only person who understood him was Maya. In years, Maya never questioned Sid’s opinions. She may have not agreed to them but she respected them. A true Hindu by religion, Maya always told Sid that I agree to what you say but I am at an age where it is too difficult to alter my beliefs. I have been conditioned to think a certain way since I was born and it too late for me to change my ways. Maya had always been there for Sid. She loved him unconditionally and put up with his weirdest quirks. He realized that a child was the least he could do for Maya. An hour later, Sid said, “Maya, I think we should give it a try.” Maya immediately turned towards Sid, kissed him on his cheeks and said,” Everything will be fine.” They went back to sleep or perhaps acted to do so. For the next few weeks most of Maya and Sid’s love-making sessions were governed by the sole thought of conceiving. One night, over dinner, Sid said, “I cannot do it. I cannot do it to you with a purpose in mind. Sex has always been a natural extension of our relationship. I hate the fact that the emotions that once seemed so innate are now ruled by the idea of conceiving.” Maya felt hurt but she knew Sid was not wrong. She sipped sangria from her glass and said, “I agree. Let things happen the way they are meant to happen. Let’s not force ourselves into this.” For the following two months, Sid and Maya never got involved in anything remotely passionate. Life went on as usual. Before going to bed, Sid and Maya would talk for hours about books, music and movies. Sometimes in bed they would also read out loud, short stories of famous authors. Maya missed the sex and felt somewhere she was responsible for it. She wondered whether Sid missed it too.
One evening, Maya was just about to head out to a party. She wore a turquoise colored dress with fine steel gray embroidery. She accessorized it with a steel gray purse as well. She looked in the mirror and she knew she looked pretty. As she opened the door to leave the house, she saw Sid coming. She looked stunning and Sid could not take his eyes off her. She said to Sid, “I am off to a party and will return late.” Without saying a word, Sid just grabbed her by her waist and kissed her zealously. The purse slipped from her hand. Sid could not figure out the way to remove her dress. She tried to say,” The zip is right below my right arm.” But even before she could complete the sentence, Sid had shut her mouth with his. Sid had no patience to find the zip and almost tore her dress. Typically Maya would have taken offense to Sid tearing off one of her expensive outfits, but not this time. In no time they were in bed. They just took a break in between to have dinner and then they were back in bed. All the pent up sexual energy had finally found an outlet after a hiatus of approximately 2 months. It took them 2 months to come back to square one. Finally they enjoyed not only dinners and discussions but also sex. One night as they lay with their naked bodies intertwined, Maya declared, “I am pregnant.” Sid kissed her on her forehead and said, “I am happy for you’. Maya wondered if the ‘you’ would someday be replaced by ‘us’.
Nothing changed for a month to follow but then Maya said that her mother would be visiting her during the last 2 months of her pregnancy and it would be best if they moved to a bigger place. Maya said in fact she loved Jersey City and thought some neighborhoods were perfect to start a family life. Apartment hunting in Jersey City kept both Sid and Maya busy for the weekends to follow. They finally zeroed on an apartment in Newport, Pavonia and Maya was absolutely delighted about it. On the train ride back from Newport to downtown Manhattan, Maya could not stop talking about the new apartment. She kept describing to Sid how she would want to set up her new apartment. Sid listened silently and feigned a smile. Maya said she had to do groceries and so Sid decided to head home alone. On his way back from Union Square to East Village, Sid kept thinking about the new apartment. He chose to walk instead of taking the subway. He hated the idea of moving to Jersey City. Newport had one bar; they would not go bar hopping any longer. According to him, the place lacked character. It was not cosmopolitan in nature. It was perfect dwelling for Indians who wanted to mingle around just with Indians. Every fourth person they saw was an Indian. The town seemed silent, fine-looking, convenient but seamlessly boring. He said that the neighborhood seemed beautiful only because of the spectacular views of midtown Manhattan which lay across the Hudson River. He knew that they would no longer watch movies of Coen brothers or other great directors in the IFC center at 12 since it would take them approximately 30 minutes to reach the city. And to top it all, the frequency of the trains on weekends was not that great. He wished if they stayed somewhere near SOHO but Maya wanted to move a little away from the city. These were all the things that came slowly with a marriage and he detested all of them. He thought eventually all of it would just make him complacent. He did not want to say all this to Maya. He had already thrown a tantrum about having a baby. He did not want to make Maya upset especially when she was expecting a baby. He feared any further arguments would impact her health negatively.
On the first of the following month, Sid and Maya moved to Newport into a 2 bedroom apartment. She also changed to a 9 to 5 job in Exchange Place so as to save time commuting. The new apartment also brought a whole new gamut of changes to both Sid and Maya’s lifestyle. Maya made it a point to go in the evenings along the waterfront for long walks. She would admire the exquisiteness of the city from the other side of the Hudson River. New York City looked gorgeous but somehow she always preferred to stay on the other side of the water. She also made it a point to eat on time which meant that she would no longer wait for Sid so that they could have dinner together. She was more conscious as she knew there was no one to take care of her. Had she been in India, she would have been totally pampered. She missed home a lot more these days. She was more conscious about the books she read. Slowly the frequency of Sid and Maya’s discussions reduced. Typically Maya would have loved to see a movie like ‘No Country for Old Men’ but now she evaded any type of movies which had even the slightest streak of darkness or violence in them. She sometimes wanted to see them but she feared it could have a negative effect on the baby. She remembered her mother’s words, “Be very careful or what you read and watch during these nine months as they help in shaping the mindset of your child.” Not that she agreed to what her mother had said but she did not want to take any chances with the baby. She also sometimes wondered why most great movies always had at least a speck of darkness in them.
Sid missed those long late night discussions. Sid realized all of it was lost. Life was so much fun without the child in the picture. Now it had become a routine and Sid hated routines. He loved to decide what he wanted to do just on that day’s morning and was never fond of planning ahead. Maya would want to sleep on time and would no longer adjust her schedule according to Sid’s schedule. The only movie she had seen in the past 2 months was Namesake and she could not stop weeping after the movie. Sid got bored and had left the movie half way. He could not understand why the movie touched Maya so much. Maya thought that Sid had less of an Indian cultural baggage or perhaps no baggage at all which is why he did not relate to the movie. Not that he was Americanized but he carried no baggage of either culture. She hated herself for thinking of Indian culture as a baggage rather than a heritage. Distances slowly began to grow. Sid started staying late in his office working on his research. By the time he would be home, Maya would be asleep. They would see each other only on weekends initially. After a few months, Sid would party out with his friends on Friday nights and return home Saturday mornings and would spend the entire Saturday completing his sleep. He never felt like going out with Maya on Friday nights since he knew she would avoid any sort of alcoholic consumption. Also, all the topics he wanted to talk about were softly dodged by Maya. Now the only day they saw each other was a Sunday. Sid would just ask how she was feeling and how did her appointments with the doctor go. Sid himself never accompanied Maya to her gynecologist. Maya felt horribly lonely. She wished Sid was around to talk to her in the evenings. She looked at herself in the mirror and noticed that the baby had begun to show. She found herself ugly and said, “If I find myself so ugly why would my husband want to be around me.” Sid was perpetually absent for all the important events. Be it visits to the gynecologist, the first time the baby kicked and now he did not even inquire about her health on Sundays. The only question he would ask her was “What’s for lunch today”? He would quietly take his lunch to his room and start working on his research.
Maya’s cell phone rang in the middle of a Tuesday night. It was her mother. She said, “Your father had a paralytic attack and will be bed ridden for a few months to follow.” She wept loudly and she wished Sid would hear her but Sid was not around. She was terribly upset about her father’s health condition and equally upset about the fact that her mother would no longer visit her. She felt very lonely. She had not been out on a vacation for a year. Sid and Maya had planned a cruise to Alaska around this time but all the plans had been scrapped for reasons unsaid.
Sid’s silence had never troubled Maya. In the seven years of their marriage, Sid had never gifted Maya. She was perfectly fine with it. In fact she would always say to his friends that Sid buying flowers for her was completely out of question. Or in fact Sid buying ladylike gifts for her was next to impossible. He loved to take her out for vacations and gift her books, music albums. But buying her cards, soft toys, clothes, jewelry was not something that he had ever done. Maya had adjusted to it but now for the past eight months, they hadn’t gone out for vacations and Sid had not gifted her anything. Today, she needed someone to make her feel special especially since she was so lonely, unattractive and was experiencing a lot of hormonal changes. But now she could never imagine that happening. In fact she pictured Sid having a one night stand with a random girl. She still did not suspect him to have an affair. But if he had one, she would not be completely taken aback.
She fell asleep thinking about the imperfect atmosphere that had been created for her child. In her obsession to create the perfect ambience she had unknowingly created the opposite. Around 3 hours past midnight she heard a weeping sound. She immediately turned on the lamp placed on the table next to her bed. She saw Sid sitting on the side of the bed with tears in his eyes and a rose in his hand. She knew what his next words were going to be. She guessed he wanted to part away and wanted to give her a rose before they parted away. This was the last thing she wanted in the eighth month of her pregnancy. She was about to tell him, “Please don’t say anything. I know it and I won’t be able to deal with it alone. And most importantly Mom is not going to be here and I have never felt so lonely ever before in my life” But instead, she said, “What happened?” Sid said, “I was mugged at gunpoint while returning home from NYU. On the train ride back I just thought of the things I wanted to do before I die. And the first thing that came to my mind was to gift you a rose.” Maya and Sid hugged each other and wept.