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DEMISE OF A FATHER----A SHORT STORY OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS!
Sanket was attentively listening to the TV news report on creation of artificial male sperm in the laboratory by a team of scientists from New Castle University of England and ‘North East England Stem Cell Institute’. The report had claimed that the male sperm was created artificially in the laboratory from a stem cell taken from the arm of a man. This sperm could be injected in the women to fertilize an egg, thus cutting out the requirement of male partner for producing a child. Sanket began to wonder on the social implications of such a child. Did it mean the end of the institute of marriage? Is it the demise of the word ‘father’? What would be the status of children born from such artificial male sperms? Will they be called ‘bastards’? As he was pondering about it, his phone began to ring.
It was a long distance call to Sanket from his younger brother, Sandeep in Chandigarh, India where he was working with PGI as a junior doctor, after completing his internship there. Sandeep and his mother had been staying in Chandigarh after Sanket had left for USA in the year 2005. Earlier they had lived at Ludhiana with their mother. They had come to Ludhiana from Delhi in 1995, after their father had suddenly left them.
Sanket replied, “Hullo, yea, Sandeep. What’s up? What is this news about artificial male sperm?”
Sandeep: It is a latest revolution in human reproduction. In times to come, the word ‘father’ will bloody disappear from the human dictionary.
Sanket: Don’t be so rash with your judgment. It has got a lot of moral, ethical and social repercussions on society.
Sandeep: Damn these moral and social ethics, brother.
Sanket: Any way—forget it. What else is happening?
Sandeep: Nothing much except that same old thing----that lady had come”
Sanket: Which lady---oh --- our Step mom---what does she want?
Sandeep: She was pleading to get Mr. Satish admitted in PGI for treatment.
Sanket: Come on Sandeep. Don’t call him Mr. Satish---after all he is our father.
Sandeep: No brother, I don’t think I would ever accept him as my father-----He is no more than a bloody ‘stem cell donor’--------to me he will remain Mr. Satish.
Sanket: Relax Sandeep. Cool down. Show some compassion.
Sandeep: No brother—not for this ‘baaaastard’------never.
The word ‘bastard’ sent an electric current through Sanket and he was in flash back--------He was no more replying to Sandeep---------after some hullo- hullo at the other end the phone was disconnected----------Sanket had got lost in his thoughts.
He remembered the 27th day of September 1995-------he did not see his father that morning at home. He also recollected the incident of the previous night which had led to his father leaving home. That midnight- squabble of his parents was agonizing. Sanket was disturbed—terribly disturbed that night. He was just 14 years old, then,—just two years elder to Sandeep, his younger brother. He knew his parents had decided to break up. He had heard them saying so.
However, what disturbed him more was the fact that his parents were not legally married. He was astonished that they had been staying together for so many years without any formal relationship. A number of uncomfortable questions had risen, then, in the young mind. What would be their fate? What was their status in society? The young mind was puzzled. “Would they call us bastards”, he had asked himself. He had clearly heard the conversation of his parents in the dead of the night. Even today the conversation of his parents was echoing in his ears-----he could recollect----------
“I had trusted you always, till you------”, she moaned.
“Trust was mutual as long as it lasted.” he thundered.
“But you became unfaithful first.”
“You were no saintly lady. I made a mistake. You made a mistake. It is quits”
“No, Satish, life is not a zero sum game. We ought to have behaved responsibly.”
“Well! We had a relationship based on mutual understanding. We were two grown up adults. We knew what we were doing.”
“But, if you had not started being unfaithful I won’t have done what I have done.”
“There are no, ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. It has happened the way it had to.”
“Is this the end?”
“Oh, sure this is it. We break up.”
“You will go with her.”
“Why should it be your concern as to where do I go and what I do?”
“Just wanted to know because we had lived together for 16 years”
“Forget it. Do not make me emotional.”
“Dammed, we have two grown up kids. It is for their sake. Can we re-consider?”
“I will take the responsibility if the children want to stay with me.”
“They are your responsibility, Satish, you are their father.”
“Stop this crap, Sanjana. We were not married. They were born out of our living together. I do not know the legal position but I do take this stance that they ought to stay with me if I have to shoulder their responsibility.”
“Rubbish---just rubbish—don’t call my children ‘bastards’------after 16 years it occurs to you that to be a legal father one ought to have been married.”
“Sanjana, I told you I don’t know the legal position but the fact remains------it was you who insisted on having children----I just accepted it. I love them. But they must leave you if I have to bear their responsibility.”
“No, it will not happen. I can look after them-----I am financially independent-------you go---go to hell------.” So saying Sanjana slammed the door of the bedroom and walked away.
Sandeep’s call had opened the old wounds. Unlike Sandeep he did not hate his father. But he did not understand as to why their parents didn’t marry each other. It baffled him that they could live together for 16 years and produced children without getting married. Indian society had not approved of such siblings, then. Even now, he thought, it was very hard to see social respectability given to children born through such ‘live-in’ relationships, unless of course the mother was a financially independent woman. He would invariably pose some questions to himself: What happens to the children deserted by fathers whom mothers can not financially support? Don’t they live under the shadow of some kind of a social stigma, still?
Sanket also wondered as to how his mother and father took this daring step in the late seventies of the last century. It was against all social norms, then. Was it love that brought them close to each other? Had love faded in 16 years? If love fades, is there no binding force which could keep the ‘live-in couples’ together? Is marriage this binding force? Is society a ‘Human Farm’ without the institute of marriage? All these questions, often, swarmed his mind, whenever he thought of his parents.
At least, they could stay together for children’s sake. But there was no social contract for this life long affiliation. He thought his parents followed the rules of the Animal kingdom. It hurt him always when he saw other kids of his age happily growing with their moms and dads. As a grown up person, he had understood that after sometimes both had become unfaithful to each other because there urges were selfish. He contrived that their very reason for coming together had become the cause of their separation. He realized that social living demands certain social restrictions and compromises.
But if you live for yourself, there are no rules you will follow. Children could have been the binding force but his dad had some other overpowering reasons. What were they? He had not known till then. His mom had tried this but his father had decided to move out. What made them fall apart? Was it the ‘other woman’? Mom had once told him that her name was Anjana. She had never, thereafter, talked much about her. Sandeep used to abuse her but mother never said anything. Sanket, though, did not like her but he never held her entirely responsible for his family’s ordeals. Today, after being emotionally charged up, he decided to talk to her.
He rang up Sandeep and took the mobile number of his so called step-mom. He rang her up.
“I am Sanket speaking from Chicago in USA”, he introduced himself.
“How are you son?” A sophisticated voice greeted him.
“Well! I want to check up the condition of my dad. I leant from Sandeep that-----------------.”
“He is not well. He is seriously sick. He remembers you all. He feels guilty about it.” Anjana spoke in a dignified voice
“Remembers us? Feels guilty? Then, why did he leave us? Even after mother died, he never contacted us.” Sanket said in an emotion choked voice.
“We tried to contact you but you people had left Delhi in November 1995. We too shifted to Chandigarh in 1996. It was by chance I had met your mother in PGI in November 2005, when she was admitted there. She was badly sick. I had taken Satish for a medical check up. It is then; we learnt that your mother and Sandeep were also in Chandigarh. By the time I came back with Satish to meet her again, she was dead and gone. We contacted Sandeep but he refused to even see us.” Anjana, the step-mom, had replied.
“Auntie, I want to ask you a personal question---don’t you think you have broken up our happy home? Aren’t you feeling guilty?” Sanket fired the salvo.
“Son, sometimes truth is bitter, very bitter----absolutely bitter---perhaps you don’t know the truth. It might be other way around. It was your mother, Sanjana, who was the ‘other woman’. Satish and I were happily married since 1973. We were a happy family with a son and a daughter. But then, Sanjana came into Satish’s life in 1979 and he left us. I had pleaded with your mother for my own children’s sake but she did not listen to me.” Anjana clarified.
“Oh, my god!?Then why did you accept him back?”Sanket shot back.
“He is my husband. He was the father of my two children. It was the question of my own family. He had accepted his mistake and apologized for the same.” Anjana said.
“How about your children, auntie? Were they happy on his return?” Sanket queried.
“No, they did not like his return? In fact they were angry with me; they continuously fought with me till they stayed with us and never returned emotionally to me after 1995. They never spoke to their father as long as they stayed with us. Suneeta, our daughter, got married in 1997 and never visited us again. Her brother left for USA in 1999 and never came back. ” Anjana said in a choked voice.
“Where are they, now?” Sanket asked matter of factly.
“Suneeta is married to a Software Engineer and living in New Jersey USA. My son, Priya Kant, is also in USA but I am not sure, where?” Anjana gave the information.
“Thank you auntie”, so saying Sanket had disconnected.
Sanket was engrossed in his thoughts when his boss, Ahmed Nissar (AN) Project Manager, entered his cabin. Ahmed was some 10 years older than Sanket. He was from Pakistan; he had never been to India, though he claimed his parents belonged to some village near Nawanshahar in Indian Punjab. Ahmed was a very popular project manager in the company, ‘e-Bay’. He had got US citizenship recently and had also acquired a new home. He saw Sanket in a very serious mood.
Ahmed: What’s wrong? You seem to be down.
Sanket: Nothing much. Just a small family problem.
Ahmed: Family problem? You said that you have only one younger brother. Your parents have been dead. I suppose your mother had died in 2005 and your father had died in 1995. Am I correct? Both of you are unmarried as yet. Which family you are talking about?
Sanket: Partially, yes you are correct, Ahmed.
Sanket then told him about his father and the story of his family and extended family.
Hearing this, Ahmed was silent for a minute and then said, “Very strange story. Anyway, I had come to invite you for dinner with us tomorrow. You know we want to celebrate our US citizenship and also the new house I have bought. Some other friends are also coming. Do come over. And get over with this feeling soon. You are in USA and not India. Don’t feel guilty about your parentage. It was none of your fault. In USA, we find such things very common. We, from the oriental societies, unnecessarily worry for these obsolete social moralities. The world is getting INDIVIDUALISED. Social moralities of the past must adapt to the Individualized world or be discarded altogether. Society is as good as its people; so are its norms. What you call social stigma is a thing of the past.” On this note they parted company.
Ahmed Nissar had a big house in the outskirts of Chicago. He had been living in Chicago for almost 10 years. He had bought this house for three million dollars only two months back. He was very hospitable at home. All his subordinates and his peers knew about his hospitality.
His wife Shamima, a graceful and a dignified lady, was an excellent cook and she had prepared many dishes. She was a second generation American and had married Ahmed when he was doing post graduation in computers in Stanford University. Her father was a professor in the same university and a known mathematician. Shamima was the only child of her parents, who had emigrated from Pakistan in 1972.
Ahmed and Shamima had married in 2000. No one had attended the marriage from Ahmed’s parent side because they had been long dead. Shamima’s parents were disappointed but Ahmed had hidden the truth about his family. When, after the marriage, Ahmed told his father-in-law about his family background, Professor Anwar Husain was furious. He wanted the marriage to be dissolved but Shamima stood by her husband. This had earned her not only deep respect from Ahmed but he began to display blind faith in her judgments. It was an unshakeable and a deep-seated mutual trust and confidence between the two.
As a boss of some 150 employees, Ahmed was very friendly to all his subordinates. He was easily approachable and displayed personal rapports with each of his subordinates. He not only knew them by name but also knew their family histories. He did not lead his team by remote control but through personal touch. In so doing, he often invited people for dinner at home.
July 17, 2009 was one such occasion when he had organized a party at his home to celebrate his US citizenship. He also called it HOUSE WARMING UP for the new house he had acquired. The party started exactly at 1900 hours.
The party was going very fine. Sanket had been enjoying his drinks. He was talking to an American, Steve William, when Ahmed came and remarked, “Steve has a step brother working with us, and you know Sanket, both of them are very good friends.”
Sanket: Oh, I see. Is it Steve? Who is he?
Steve: Oh, he is Larry Jenkins. He is here. I will call him.
Ahmed: They can meet later. But do you see that guy just behind us?
Steve: Yes, the man in red shirt---I know him ---He is PK.
Ahmed: Yea, he is related to Sanket. He is his step- brother.
Sanket: What? PK? My step brother? This ‘baaaastard’ is Priya Kant?
There was a tap on Sanket’s shoulders and some one was saying, “Yes, this bastard is Priya kant.”
Sanket turned around and saw Priya Kant.
Sanket was stunned. But PK said, “Ahmed has told me everything, you bastard---Don’t feel guilty----our father was a victim of his lust---as anyone of us can be---but I won’t pardon him. Would you?”
Sanket was quiet---he did not say anything---he did not want to say anything---he still carried the guilt of ‘Other woman’s Son’. He was not feeling well---“There was still a lack of social legitimacy to my birth” he thought.
He held not only his father but also his mother a victim of her lust---he would perhaps not pardon his mother for this. He suddenly blurted out to PK, “I might pardon my father but I will never pardon my mother for this stigma I carry. She had known that father was married yet she------------------------and then she--------------------------.” He left it half said.
Ahmed: come off it you two! Get over these negative emotions. The world has changed many times over. What would happen to Children born without the father? Will you call them bastards too? Social or religious norms are for a particular time period. They must change with the changing times. The societies and civilizations which don’t keep with times, they decline and disappear into the black hole of times. Move on.”
Steve: Yea, well said Ahmed. May be, I ought to visit India or Pakistan to understand the cause of such a social stigma. Here we have no such ill-wills towards our parents. May be our society is different.
Ahmed: yea, we are socially different but those differences are fast disappearing. We are becoming a globalised society---where only global norms would apply. Do I care, now, though my mother was from famous HIRA MANDI of Lahore? I don’t know who my father was. I can not keep crying with this stigma. But my mother catered for all my needs. It was fine. Who is bothered for that wretched person who came for a few minutes pleasure and impregnated my mother?
Sanket: you mean your mother was---a prosti------tute?
Ahmed: Oh yea, “Hira Mandi’ is the famous Red Light Area of Lahore. I spent my child hood there. Anyway---it has no meaning today. I have everything in life. I rub shoulders with all those dignified people. So, why should I carry the baggage of my stigmatized parentage on my sleeves? In any case the role of a father in a family is no more seen as the sole bread earner? In the future, I see him no more than a ‘Stem Cell Donor”. Mothers are equally adept at that, who, like my mother can give the best to their children. Move on man, 21st century is well on its way.
Sanket: So, do I see the end of the road for the word ‘Father’? Would it have no meaning in a technologically advanced but a globalised society of tomorrow?
PK: This is the hint. We will all become, as Ahmed has put it--------mere ‘Stem Cell Donors’. No more; no less.
Sanket: So, ‘Father’ is dead; long live the ‘mother’—the ultimate giver of life. Well! Then, I am relieved of my guilt consciousness. My dear mom weren’t you the pioneer of this emerging society? I hail my mom.
PK: So, you see these 'sperms' will be sold in the market, may be in the medical stores, initially. The ladies will come and select.
Sanket: You mean they will be traded like anyother commodity. Ladies will say, ' Give me this bastard PK's sperm or that lanky gentleman 'Steve's sperm' . Right Pk?
PK : Exactly like this, you thick headed 'other-woman's son'. But no one will call them a 'bastard', like they call you.
Sanket: Shut up, PK.
PK: You started it---you shut up.
Ahmed:OK, friends! Let us disengage from this topic. What do you say Steve?
Steve: It is getting hot though it is a very amusing conversation. I think we are going too far into the future. Let us revert from the time matrix. Let us hail ourselves into present times. We must move on now. It is getting close to midnight.
They all said in a chorus, “Oh, yea.” Sanket was little angry with PK but controlled himself for the time being. Shamima had sensed it.
The effect of liquor was obvious on their slurring tongues. They were all getting dead drunk and Shamima knew they were getting closer to their real instincts---the animal instincts. She knew they could any moment show their true animal worth, if they continued to discuss like this. She could see the next stage of debate and discussions developing into a street brawl as most drunken men get involved into in all such parties. She told Ahmed to cut it out. It was the hint.
It was time to go. The party was over.
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