The Stage

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It was 7 o’clock in the morning. Shilpa was hurriedly chopping vegetables. She has to pack both the lunch boxes. How she hates Monday mornings! Getting back to the weekday routine is such a tough task.

Ronit entered the kitchen and asked, “Should I help you with the rotis?” She answered “No, not required. I can do it myself. You arrange the bed and get ready. I don’t understand why the cook decided to take an off on a Monday. As it is, Monday is such a pain.” Quickly they both finished the household chores and left home together. As usual, Ronit dropped Shilpa at the fitness centre and headed to his office. It took him an hour to reach his office. Shilpa’s workplace was nearby. She used to attend yoga sessions, change to her office formals and then walk down to her office.

That day, as always, Shilpa was dressed in Capri style yoga pants and t-shirt. Her hair was neatly tied into a bun. She was fairly tall, slightly dusky with beautiful features. Her eyes were the most attractive feature of her face. With a hint of kohl, they looked radiant. Her curves were perfect owing to years of disciplined yoga sessions. At the fitness centre, she saw a cute lady for the first time. After the session, Shilpa hurriedly went to the changing room.

Much to her surprise, the cute lady came in front of her. She was a plump, fair complexioned lady with chubby cheeks. She looked like a grown up baby. She said “Hey! my name is Ranita. You look so pretty.”

Shilpa was taken aback with the sudden appreciation from a stranger. But it certainly brought a gleaming smile on her face. It had been ages a stranger had complimented her. Facebook comments appreciating her beauty had been a part of her happy moments. But to hear it right from the horse’s mouth was really special.

Shilpa: “Thanks a ton. You certainly made my day. My name is Shilpa.”

Ranita: “So you come here everyday?”

Shilpa: “Yes, I do on weekdays. Weekends, I am too lazy.”

Ranita(laughs): “That’s nice!”

Shilpa: “I saw you for the first time today.”

Ranita: “Yes, we have recently shifted here from Kolkata. I attended one demo class in the evening. My kids are in school. This slot suits me well. I will come in this slot everyday.”

Shilpa: “Great, See you tomorrow. I have to go to office now.”

Shilpa felt nice after talking to her. She thought to herself “Ranita is so friendly. Typical Bong lady! Sweet and eager to talk. In my mundane, robotic life at least I will have some cuteness to look forward to every morning.”

On the way to her office, a train of thoughts crossed her mind.

She would also have been a mom of a school going child. Ronit and Shilpa had recently completed nine years of their marriage. Shilpa’s efforts to be a mom had not yielded any result. She had been to several gynaecologists but no one was able to offer her any solution.

The ladies she met at the clinics had medical issues such as polycystic ovaries, tubal blockages, issues with the uterus. She had none of these. Even Ronit’s reports were all fine. Still, she was not able to conceive despite medication and efforts by different gynaecologists. There was no obvious cause for their infertility.

Their condition was diagnosed as ‘Unexplained Infertility’. Shilpa could not understand why was she chosen for this kind of problem. A problem where the ‘actual problem’ was not known. Hence, no solution.

Initially, after her failed attempts to conceive, she cursed her fate a lot. But as days passed by, she learnt to camouflage her emotions, wear a mask and pretend to be happy. Deep inside, the void remained. The sense of incompleteness prevailed.

Next day, at the fitness centre she met Ranita near the reception.

Shilpa: “Hey Hi! You seem to be in a hurry today.”

Ranita: “Need to rush. My daughter has a Kathak performance at school. I need to go there and dress her up.” The very word ‘Kathak’ brought a big smile on Shilpa’s face. She asked enthusiastically “She learns Kathak?”

Ranita: “Oh yes she does. In Kolkata, she used to learn Kathak. Here also, she has joined Nataraj Dance Academy.”

Shilpa: “That’s great. Where is this academy?”

Ranita: “It’s nearby. You haven’t seen? Just a right turn from that Bakery shop.(Ranita points her finger in that direction)

Flashes of yesteryears ran in front of Shilpa’s eyes. She used to love to dance. She was a trained Kathak dancer. She has attended classes for four years and participated in several school and college functions. After job, marriage, then infertility treatment she had completely forgotten about her passion. The same evening, she googled about the dance academy. When Ronit came home from office, she told him about her desire to join the classes. Ronit, like always, was very supportive of her decision. Infact, he told her, “Why did you waste so many years? You should have pursued your passion. See, I never left cricket.”

Shilpa was bit hesitant initially. She was the oldest student in the academy. But, in a month she became everyone’s favourite. The moment she used to enter the class, the girls used to rush towards her. The hugs would continue till the time the instructor called them.

Shilpa forgot about the void in her life. She felt alive again. Soon, it was time for the annual day of the academy. Rehearsals were in full swing. Shilpa was supposed to lead the troupe. She was both nervous and excited for the big event. Rigorous practice in the academy was followed by disciplined rehearsals at home. Weekends were no longer lazy for her. She was passionately involved in giving her best performance. After all, she was all set to be on stage after years.

When she was rehearsing on the Sunday before the event, Ronit was looking at her spellbound. He said to himself “This is not the Shilpa I knew. She is a different person. She looks so radiant and powerful.”

With every movement of hers, he felt as if she was speaking. It was as if she was conveying her love for him, her love for life, without actually saying a word. She looked serene.

After the rehearsal act, he asked her “How are you feeling Shilpa? This dance has magical impact on you. You have transformed.”

Shilpa smiled and answered “I feel very much at peace, Ronit. Dance has healed my soul.”

Ronit hugged Shilpa “Indeed. I too felt the same when I saw you practice. Love you dear.”

On the annual day of the academy, Shilpa left home early. She had butterflies in her stomach. Backstage, she was getting ready. Ronit occupied a seat in the front row. He was eagerly waiting to see her on the stage. It was time for Shilpa and her troupe to perform. She looked resplendent in her orange and golden Kathak attire. Her beautiful eyes looked enchanting with the thick eye makeup. She danced gracefully leading the troupe. Ronit could not take his eyes off her. The young girls matched steps with Shilpa. The entire stage dazzled. It was such a spectacular sight. Ronit fell in love with Shilpa, all over again. After the performance, Shilpa asked Ronit “So, how was my performance?” Ronit gave a sheepish grin and said “I was completely bowled over. You were mesmerising.” It was their day of love. They got back that spark and charm which was lost in the monotonous routine of everyday life.

Few days later, Shilpa was feeling a bit uneasy. She went to visit a doctor. He examined her and advised her to take a pregnancy test. She said to herself “When medical procedures such as IUI and IVF have failed, what will happen all of a sudden?” Yet for diagnosis and to confirm the doctor, she took the test. Screaming, she rushed out of the bathroom. Ronit got scared. He came running from the living room.

He could not believe what he saw. Those two pink lines they were waiting to see for years. She took the test several times and got the affirmation. With tears in her eyes, Shilpa looked at Ronit and said “Our tenth anniversary gift has arrived.”

By Ivy Choudhury

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