Before the Sunset - 1
by Lakshmi Menon
The lights shone brightly in all the houses on the 3rd street, except in the fourth house. It was half past seven and why has she not switched on the light yet, Raju wondered. Usually, when he returned home after work, his wife would be anxiously waiting for him at the door. All his weariness would disappear on seeing her warm smile and listening to her sweet words. He hoped nothing was amiss.
Raju knocked on the door repeatedly, but there was no response. He banged again, this time with a little bit of urgency, and still, there was no reply. He panicked when his wife didn’t open the door even after continuously knocking at the door and calling out her name.
"Viji,...please open the door. Mmm.... open soon....Viji.. are you there???.... Is everything okay with you?"
He pressed his ear to the door, and all that he could hear was a moan from inside. He felt as though a rifle pierced through his chest.
"What happened to my Viji? Has anyone harmed her in my absence?" he wondered.
According to the doctor, Viji was in her eighth month of pregnancy. She had six more weeks to go for her delivery.
"Tarun, .... son.... Tarun....." he called out his son's name. He was hardly two years old, and Raju knew he wouldn't be able to open the door. Panic sliced through every nerve of his body.
He made a big noise on the door, and his neighbours Suresh and his wife Ponni came out from their house.
He had no more time to waste; just broke open the door. To his utter disbelief, he found his wife moaning with pain in the bed and was soaked in blood. Tarun was crying on her bosom.
He tried to find out from her about what had gone wrong. By then his neighbour Suresh went out and soon came back with an auto-rickshaw (a three wheeled vehicle) to take Viji to the hospital.
Raju carried her in his arms to the auto-rickshaw. Leaving Tarun in the custody of Ponni, he rushed his wife to Sarojini Hospital, the only hospital in the small town, fervently praying for her safety.
Her first delivery was not smooth. She had high blood pressure, and the position of the baby was not safe. So the doctors had to take an immediate decision to go for a C-section, to save both the mother and the baby. At the time of her discharge, the doctor had advised him that it wouldn't be safe for his wife to undergo another delivery for the next 3-4 years. But three months after Tarun's first birthday, his wife was pregnant again.
Dr Manoj came to attend on the newly admitted patient. He recognised her instantly and was astonished to see her in a critical condition.
"Doctor, please save my wife at any cost," Raju begged him with folded hands, and tears brimming in his eyes.
During Viji’s last visit, she had complained about some spotting, and Dr Manoj had advised her to have complete bed rest until her delivery, but she hadn't told her husband about it. She didn't want him to either fetch water from the outside tap when he returned from work late in the evening or bother him with the household chores. She didn't realise she was committing an irreparable damage which would change their lives forever.
Raju waited outside the operation theatre, praying for the safety of his beloved wife. He had forgotten about the new baby, and now he wanted only his wife back. He couldn't think of life without her.
They were married for just three years and three months and had a wonderful life together. With the arrival of Tarun, their cup of happiness was full.
Viji had come into his life leaving behind a life of luxury and wealthy parents, ignoring all their advice, to embark on her adventurous journey. She was certain that she was not prepared to lead a life without her love. She had no complaint and ready to adjust to a simple life with minimum facilities, as long as her beloved husband was with her. She had never demanded anything from her husband other than his love and always appeared happy and cheerful.**
Sometime during the night, the door of the operation theatre was opened, and the doctor came out, with a pensive face.
Raju ran to him, with anxiety writ large on his face. "Doctor, how is my wife?"
The doctor lifted his head gently and said, "I'm sorry. You brought her very late."
"Doctor....," he screamed, at the top of his voice, holding his hand.
Though there was no query about the baby from Raju, the doctor said, "We were able to save only the baby."
Raju appeared as though he was least bothered about his new baby. He was not even bothered to know whether it was a baby boy or a baby girl.
"It is a baby girl," said the accompanying nurse. "She is in the incubator."
"Viji, my love, why did you leave me and go? How will I live without you?"
Raju's heart-broken cry echoed in the corridor, which resulted in making all the other patients' eyes moist too. He had never expected death would come as an unexpected guest to snatch away his beloved wife. ***
To be continued.......