The first born was planned on an impulse. Now those are two words that shouldn’t be together – impulse and planning. But that’s the story of my first born. Initially, the idea of the first born was a whim. It drew out a chuckle. ‘Yeah, right!’ I said. But the idea lodged firmly, and nudged and nibbled at my brain. Like the tongue feeling a loose tooth. ‘I don’t want to start something that I can’t finish!’ I said to myself. And drowned myself in grand novels, insipid movies and longer walks.
As time went by, the idea had morphed into a fever, tormenting me. I would lie awake for hours, in suspended animation, as I watched the fever devour my thoughts ravenously. I saw faces, places, heard voices. I tossed and turned. I woke up with red-rimmed eyes. I wanted to sleep peacefully, dreamlessly, thoughtlessly. But every waking moment, every sleeping moment, I would hear sentences echoing in my head.
I could not take it any longer. ‘What do you want me to do?’ I whispered. ‘Create us!’ the voices commanded. ‘Damn YOU!’ I cursed.
I wrote a word. And many words. And a sentence. And many sentences. And pages. And Chapters. I sat back and saw the creation taking shape slowly. Initially with blurred outlines. Without features. Without voices. But the fever dictated. And I mutely followed, enslaved to my own imagination. The creation became sharper. Details were added. And added. I could now hear the tone and tenor of the voices. I could see the distinctive body languages. I could see the clothes, the hair, the smile, the frown. The line between the reality and my fever-induced imagination became blurred. Could I just draw a curtain aside, and step into the world that I’ve created? How I wish I could. How I wish I could touch my creations. Feel their warmth. Feel their breath. Look into their eyes.
10 months. The first born was delivered. I slept well now that my duty was done. I had been exorcised of the idea that had possessed me for over a year.
Only a few dear friends beheld the new born. They had only nice things to say about my creation. Of course...they will never say anything otherwise – they are my family, bound to me by some unseen cord – not of the blood. Yet, I know they spoke the truth.
My hands trembled. Do I? Dare I now show my first born to the world? Have more people find joy in those few hours as they hold and savour my creation? I wanted someone who feels as strongly as I do about my baby, to take over the responsibility. I ventured out slowly. I have not let go yet, but each day, I am getting there. A bit nervous. A bit afraid. A bit confused. But every bit thrilled.
Last week, I sat up. The room was dark, and only the street light filtered in through the windows. Venus had risen over the eastern horizon, chasing the moon. It was 1:30 AM. I had woken up to the sight of a floating word. ‘NO!’ I said to myself and grabbed a news paper. Reading about banks always puts me to sleep. I had a disturbed sleep.
The word now had a voice. A feeble whisper. ‘Not before the first born is shown to the world!’ I was adamant. For a few nights, I slept fitfully.
Last night, the face was back. With many other faces. There were no whispers this time. The voices were distinct and strong. The faces had sharp definition. The faces smiled at me mockingly. ‘You will create us! You have no option!’ they laughed.
‘NO!’ I said with vehemence. ‘I cannot live like a hermit again. I will study this year. I will learn music this year. I will learn German this year. I will learn Salsa this year. Hell I will comb my hair and wear good clothes this year. I will do something different this year.’ The faces smiled and faded away.
I woke up this morning to a cacophony in my head. Words were pressing against my fingertips, as if they would bleed from my body if I held a paper beneath my hand. There was a tableau playing in my head. Some of the faces coyly told me their names and smiled. They showed me places. I saw villages and paddy fields and oceans and islands. ‘This will be my story!’ one particular face said, pouting at me. I still shook my head. ‘You lot have to wait,’ I said, ‘The world has to see the first born yet. And I have to get on with life.’
I thought the faces understood. They left my mind. I reclined on the sofa as I had my morning coffee. Today is an unusually sunny day. The rays reached out to me and caressed my face. I loved the warmth and closed my eyes.
‘But we ARE your life!’ the voices sprang up again, startling me. ‘You did not create the first born for the world. You created because you loved that act of creation.’ I could not argue. How can I argue with the truth? Yet, I feebly said, ‘Just a few more months.’
But the faces had dissolved into words. They were bursting from every pore of my body. I was in agony, and in ecstasy. I finally succumbed.
I am at peace again, as I stare at the cursor blinking next to ‘Chapter 1’.
© Sumana Khan - 2011