The Corps of Signals is nothing if not tradition bound. And the oldest Signals tradition, of course, is daughters – plenty of them! My first born, sure enough, was a girl, and it was during our Degree Course at Mhow that we decided to provide her a sibling.
Now since I was a true blue Signaller, and since the `due date’ was 15th Feb, which was also the Signals `Corps day’, it was a no brainer that the sibling could only be a sister!
So the planning started early. We had named the first one Puja – though all my friends and course mates knew, and continue to know her as 2T/Tootie/Tooty (take your pick). Her sibling, long before she appeared, had already been named Aarti.
MH Mhow was no Apollo Hospital, but in those days it had on its staff Major Kandoth, who was arguably the most outstanding OB-GYN in the Army. I kid you not – student officers in Mhow actually planned their wife’s pregnancies only after first consulting Major Kandoth’s Leave Plan!
So we patiently waited for Aarti. Well not exactly patiently, because even as close as a month before her arrival, we went on a trip to Mandu - on scooters! The ghosts of Baaz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati (`Aa laut ke aa ja meray meet’, remember?) seemed kindly disposed towards us, as the trip went off without any `surprises’. Aarti handled the bumpy road like a true fauji!
On 28th January (1981 it was), the wife complained of a severe back ache, and asked to be taken to Major Kandoth. Now I was firmly of the `Iodex maliye, kaam pe chaliye’ school of thought as far as back aches go, but she was insistent. So off we drove (on a scooter, what else?) to the MH.
The hospital, however, was having their Annual Administrative Inspection that day, and the good doctor Major Kandoth was standing outside the Family Ward at ramrod-stiff attention, Sam Browne belt and peak cap in place, boots glistening like mirrors!
But seeing us in obvious distress, he quickly remembered the Hippocratic Oath, whipped off his peak cap, and summoned her into the examination room. He marched out a few minutes later, and informed me that he had administered some drugs to induce labour. “If nothing happens in 30 minutes, we’ll do a C-Section!”
I was flabbergasted! 15th Feb was a good 20 days away. But Aarti seemed to be in a hurry to make her appearance. So 30 minutes later on the dot, the wife was wheeled into the OT for a C-Section.
|Pacing up n down here|
I did the customary pacing up and down in the corridor outside. I practiced my welcome speech to Aarti, mentally drafted the telegram I would send my folks `BLESSED WITH DAUGHTER STOP BOTH FINE STOP’. And I waited. For Aarti.
A nurse rushed out of the OT looking harassed. “Anything wrong?” I asked her. She hadn’t noticed me till then. “No, all well” she replied curtly – apparently not one of the `hail-fellow-well-met’ types. And she turned around and swiftly marched off, clickety-click, as only an Army nurse can.
At the door she paused, and turned around. “Oh, by the way” she added, almost as an after thought, “it’s a boy!”
Again, I was flabbergasted! Ten minutes later, she brought the proverbial `bundle of joy’ out of the OT, and walked towards me. My flabbergasted, incredulous expression was still frozen in place.
“It’s a boy” she repeated, “here, look!” and promptly unravelled the lower part of the bundle, to show me his weenie. “I believe you, sister” I assured her “now can I please also see his face?”
Of course, all my plans went for a six. I quickly had to come up with a name. My favourite pen in those days was a Japanese roller tip (in 1981, mind you!) called Tiku – so the nickname almost suggested itself. It was later corrupted to Tiki, but that was fine.
So Puja did get her sibling, only it wasn’t Aarti, but Siddharth. Maybe he in turn may give us an Aarti, who knows?
The wait, in any case, was a joy in itself!