They say birth is about 'new life'. Birth is not about ‘life’; it is about 'new'. Society must accept, no matter the level of sophistication, that birth is about change rather than addition. Mothers may die. Children may die. Nevertheless, there is something 'new'. There is change. Always, birth brings change.
-- Excerpt from ‘Living A Philanthropic Philosophy’ by Hari Patel (B.A.), Page 41, Unpublished
I'm seeing stars again, Ashok thought to himself, as he lay in the crib. He was a peaceful baby, cried less than the others and did not seem too disturbed by the drugs and check-ups they administered him.
He stirred, never having been this awake in quite a while since birth. Not even when the nurse came by with the milk. He'd been moved. It was a different mobile.
The stars! he realized, and recognized, what he'd been seeing now: another mobile. He was hospitalized, he was an infant, he was content; again.
Everything carried with it an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Perhaps he'd never seen it clearly or understood it all before, yet he knew this had already happened to him. The colors, the smells and the voices all stirred something deep in his memory. Nothing about this seemed new, except that it was coupled with his awareness and intelligence.
This has lasted far too long to be an illusion. This can't possibly be an endless, drug-induced walk down memory lane. Ashok was sure of himself, I won't make the same mistakes again.
Nurse Cain was on duty again, and walked back into Ashok's shared room. He grinned from ear to ear, an earring dangling from his left ear.
"Oooh, look who's awake!?" he said. "I love your itty bitty toes, Ashok!"
Ashok's uncontrollable movements had pushed his right foot out from under his blanket, and sure enough there were tiny toes showing. As much as he liked the familiar voice, heterosexist thoughts surfaced, Get away, you queer bitch!
Nurse Cain watched as the infant's face contorted, "I see, you're doing business, mister. Well, I'll leave you to it."
I've lived sixteen years in this body, I should be able to... his face turned red, briefly, and he managed it. The motions took all his willpower, all the force of his being. His fist clenched, and his middle finger rose in a crude gesture. Then, he raised his tiny hand and wailed. Pain... yet, totally worth it.
A fleeting smile flickered across the corners of the nurse's face, and he assumed the gesture was merely a coincidence.
Two months passed, and Ashok was still in the hospital. The mobile spun erratically. His bedmates cried. The nurses came in, and out. Milk was given. Diapers were changed. Nurses were intentionally pissed upon. And fun was had by all.
Mother and Father should be adopting me soon, Ashok thought. Then again, this confirms what I had been suspecting: I should really be thinking of them as Auntie and Uncle Patel.
The first time around, he was sure of it, there was pain in his juvenile mind. But now, he simply had not felt it. There simply was no reason for Ashok to mourn her once more.
He waited, patiently. When nobody was around, he set about reclaiming his body's motor skills, and training his body's weak, infantile muscles. It was grueling work, more so mentally than physically, and he found it tougher than any high school exam. But he knew it would pay off.
Soon, he would be able to lift his head. Surely, those muscles were developing faster with exercise and the steroids the nurses had to give him. Eventually, he would be able to talk again. However, Ashok never attempted anything as nerve-wracking as the gesture he had given Nurse Cain. That had taken far too much effort. And it was only a finger and an arm, a crude movement.
All the while, he had an uncanny patience and serenity. Perhaps that came with being a baby again. He did not even fuss when he needed something, unlike the other babies in the room. And most of all, his mood was normal -- the depression that desolated his teenage years was gone.
Miss Patel came to visit often, when she got off work. Mister Patel did not check in on him so often, and seemed to be holding out for the paperwork to be processed.
You're so beautiful, Ashy. She towered above his bed in an indigo sari. I'll love you, forever. As my own.
Her right hand played with his toes, as they stuck from under the blanket's edge once more. She counted them softly, and then repeated a rhyme in Hindi as she tickled his feet.
Ashok looked up at his biological aunt, and noticed the bruise upon her left eye. It matched her garb. I never knew he'd started hitting her this early in their marriage.
"I have a surprise for you, little Ashok!" Her voice was gentle, "Lord Ganesh has blessed you."
As her right arm continued to tickle his left foot, she lifted a plushie out of her handbag and placed it beside Ashok, tucking it under the blanket. He was amused, Sacrilege!
Lord Ganesh sat stoically beside Ashok. His large, elephantine head sat atop a stout, four-armed body. His legs were crossed, and each of his four arms was adorned with a unique object.
Well, that's certainly ironic! Ashok noted. I guess it has been a while since I was paying much attention to my Islamic faith, let alone my Hindu roots.
He could not directly remember seeing the plushie before, but it did not seem to disrupt the familiarity of the situation. How long can I keep this up before someone realizes I'm more than just a baby?