As the mother sobbed, the camera slowly zoomed in. Her husband fought back tears as he supported his wife. The TV anchor gave a respectful pause, but mindful of the ticking time, inched closer. “I am so sorry Mrs. Kavlekar. We understand how painful this must be for you, but we feel it is important that the viewers know about the atrocities that are happening around us. Please continue.” Thus saying, he handed Mrs. Kavlekar a tissue, and one to Mr. Kavlekar as well, just in case.
As the red eyed women dabbed at the kajal stains around her eyes, her husband looked at the floor. He looked like he was deeply pondering over some philosophical truth, unmindful that thousands of viewers would be staring at him, wondering what would happen next.
Mrs. Kavlekar bravely faced the camera again. “I am sorry’ she said. “Please continue”
The TV anchor cleared his throat. “Mrs. Kavlekar’ he said “please tell the audience exactly what happened. You already have a daughter and you wanted a son but you could not conceive. Therefore you went to a sperm bank as your husband’s sperm count had dropped following an illness. Am I right?”
Mr. Kavlekar looked up. “Please be clear” he said curtly. “You should specify that the drop happened after a bike accident that led to swelling and pain of my testicles. It was after that my sperm count dropped. It is not zero. It is just low”
The TV anchor looked suitably chastised. “Yes, Mr. Kavlekar, you are right. We should make these things clear otherwise they lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. We are not in anyway questioning your virility. Mrs. Kavlekar, please go on.”
Mrs. Kavlekar had readjusted her pallu and make-up in the meantime. She seemed to take a deep breath and gather enough courage before she valiantly went on “Yes, I wanted a son, so my husband and I, after several attempts, decided to go for artificial insemination. We approached a brahmean sperm bank and had specified that we wanted brahmean sperm. After conceiving and giving birth to a boy, and after five years, we are now being told that the sperm was actually that of a……a………..a………..a……….a………..a……..”
Mrs. Kavlekar was turning ashen as she spoke and she could not complete the rest of the sentence. The TV anchor looked around in a state of panic. A heart attack may have increased his TRP, but would make sure no more people came onto his show. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. He toyed with the idea of putting words into her mouth, but he abstained, in lieu of the last remaining vestiges of ethics that he had managed to salvage in this profession.
“Please go on. What you are saying is important” he coaxed her gently.
Taking a deep breath, Mrs. Kavlekar held onto her husband’s hand tightly as he continued staring at the floor. “We came to know that the sperm was actually from an untouchable”
A collective gasp went up – from the TV anchor, the cameraman, the make-up artist, the light assistant etc. Even the husband gasped as though he were only hearing this for the first time.
The normally composed TV anchor was trembling violently. “This is a total violation. Tell us what you felt and what you thought. Difficult as this maybe, take us through your experiences and let us re-live them with you’
Mrs. Kavlekar spoke like one in a trance. She was looking away from the camera, unmindful, and transported to some memory that nightmares are made up of.
“ At first I didn’t find anything untoward. He seemed like a perfectly brahmean child. He did whatever we did and everything our community did. However at around the age of 3, we started noticing some unusual behavior. Everytime he got the smell of any meat, he started crawling or running towards it, pointing and saying Mam mam. Mam mam means food.” She went on to explain. “ My orthodox vegetarian mother was the first to realize that something may be drastically wrong. She did mukkashuddi (mouth purification) for him everytime he behaved like this, but soon even she gave up. She now insists that we give him away. She doesn’t even touch him anymore.”
“Are you planning to give him away?” asked the anchor
“Of course we are planning to give him away. What kind of stupid question is that?” said the husband angrily “ But we are not just going to give him away. We are going to sue that sperm company. They should never be allowed to do this to anyone ever again. They have violated all human rights by this vicious act of theirs. I don’t know how many other innocent couples are raising untouchables – polluting their bodies, their houses, their lives” He shuddered uncontrollably and it was his wife’s turn to valiantly hold his hand.
The TV anchor redirected his questions to the wife “Madam” he said “you carried this child in your uterus for 9 months am I right?’ When she nodded, he continued “I am sorry that these questions must be extremely traumatic but I have to ask you -did you breast feed him?”
Mrs. Kavlekar could only manage to nod mutely, looking abjectly sad while a single tear coursed down her face.
“ I fed him, nurtured him, carried him but I never realized that I was actually polluting my uterus by carrying him and my breasts by feeding him. But we have done the paschatapa (atonement of sins). I had a GSB obstetrician wash my uterus and tubes with holy water. I have pumped out all the contaminated breast milk. We have even had a semen wash of my husband”
“Of whatever little sperm is left” mumbled the anchor and went on to ask “What about that untouchable madam?”
“Now we are going to give him away. We will sue the sperm company. The next time we will take our own donor and make sure the entire procedure is done in front of our own eyes” Said Mrs. Kavlekar bravely. “I will go through the procedure again but I will be much, much more careful next time around”
On hearing this, the TV anchor stood up. He rushed towards the woman and folded his hands into a Namaste before her. “Madam, I feel truly humbled in your presence. You have the courage to go through this again. You are a brave woman. We are sure that you will be blessed in this single minded struggle of yours and you will indeed have a wonderful brahmean baby as you richly deserve”
As the couple resolutely moved away, the camera focused on the anchor ‘Friends’ he said ‘Today we have been witness to a couple that has faced the biggest trauma any couple can face. Yet they have been brave and are willing to bravely take on the challenge of conceiving a brahmean child. More power to them. Long live our heritage.Long live our caste pride. Today I feel truly proud to be a brahmean.”
Soon after, an advertisement for artificial insemination flashed on the screen.
The next program would start in exactly 5 minutes.