“Are you sure, Rhea?” asked my mother.
“Of course, I’m. Survival of the fittest, mother. I’m not going against Darwin. Also I don’t want unnecessary scars on my body.”
It’s a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don’t understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. “Save A Life. Donate!” they shout.
For someone, who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother’s womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labeled me as a freak mutation. It’s so rare – literally one in all humankind - that they didn’t even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I want to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea’s Heartsawsome but the doctors aren’t thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?
An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and phenomenal metabolism rate – are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up? (*)
That’s how I began my tale to Dr. Ramya, about my age, at the Kidney Research and Rehabilitation Center at Kodur, and for better effect, followed it while undergoing dialysis. With a purpose that is.
Those slogans still ring in my ears though it happened some ten years back when I was twenty-something. It’s when my twin-hearts were fronting the fountainhead of my Rand-inspired head, that’s what it was like. But now my kidneys can’t even handle half of that outflow, how times change! If only my father were alive then! Wouldn’t he have backed me to the hilt? That’s what fathers are for daughters. Don’t we have psycho analysis about that, but that’s beside the point. Why, even my mother wouldn’t have toyed with that idea, so to say, in normal times. But then, she had to contend with her widowhood and the insecurity it brought along with it. Damn the sense of insecurity, the source of insensitivity, at least part of it. So she envisaged bartering my hearty thing for her secured living. And to be fair to her, she revealed her mundane self without putting on a Samaritan garb over it. But did she really, was it a full disclosure. I doubt. Since the needy fellow was a Bollywood star, wouldn’t she have eyed some elderly role for herself as a badi bahu or a choti maa on the celluloid that is? Well past her prime then, she was still good enough to enamour even younger eyes, and she hasn’t lost much, as of now. If only she could’ve made it to the silver screen then, who knows, she could be adorning it, some way or the other, even now. Why won’t that hold a great promise to my mate in lovemaking? Be that as it may, I played foul with that which could’ve been an antonym for a double whammy for her. Yet she didn’t bear any grudge against me, on that count at least.
Even as I poured water over my mother’s calculations, how the mob at our gates swelled by the day to overwhelm me! With what fury they began baying for my surplus heart, as they saw it. And they were all members of that star’s assorted fan clubs fanned all over. All financed by him, of course, any doubt about that. That’s not all. The electronic media went overboard in solidarity, ostensibly with its eyes firmly glued on the TRPs. And the celluloid intellectuals and the social activists began vying with each other to juxtapose the star’s philanthropic largesse and my surplus meagerness. Pig heads all. Why one hyper-active TV anchor even dubbed it as my double-hearted weak-heartedness, and no marks for guessing who. Not content with all that, legions of the star’s million fans took to Facebook to bleed my hearts all over it. It’s a mob mob world. So it seems.
Then appeared that fateful post on that very website, “None would’ve cared a damn for Rhea’s second heart, if it were to save the life of a slighted soul, not that of a soulless star.” Well it’s an allusion to that actor’s off-screen omissions and commissions. As that propped up my tenuous position, I initiated spirited chat with him that is without a slightest idea that he could be an imposter! I should’ve known all that glitters is not gold. Lo, he led me to his bed behind the back of his wife that is. That I came to know much later that is as he started avoiding me. What irked me was not the loss of the silly virginity that society wants us women to preserve for the sake of an unknown man. That is until he turns up as husband. But then, it’s his deception without contraception that blackened my face before my mother. Seems like life is merciless to those who fall by its wayside, but thankfully, my mother didn’t make it any worse for me. Well, she left the choice to me. It’s not that I was averse to becoming a single mother but I had no stomach to bear that bastard’s bastard child; so I climbed onto the table.
But what an irony the symbolism of abuse is; even if its object is the male, yet its subject is ever the female! As my mother’s tenderness, contrasting his crudeness, gave birth to my softness to the fair sex, I insensibly began to develop lesbian leanings. It’s as if my mother gave birth to me twice, first as a girl and then as a lesbian. Two hearts and two births! How freak! And yet it took a veteran to spot my proclivity and make me adept at handling the hardware and the software of it. It’s all latent in women but it takes the favour of life to make it more than fantasizing, so it seems. Sadly my first love met with an untimely death but not before ensuring the flame she lit would forever singe in me. My later mates, few and far between, left me at some stage, opting for a male, in marriage that is. Who knows, they saw lesbianism as safe pre-marital sex, and there is merit in it. If only one of them was a misandrist like me, it would have a different story. But why fate brought me all the way from Mumbai to Kodur, and to its Helen in abstinence, may make a different story.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?” she said
“It’s only a corollary to your story told yesterday,” I said.
Raghu was three years senior to Ramya in the Kodur Medical College, where ragging was traditionally bawdy. When she stepped into the campus that morning, he was the first to step up to her. As she was at a loss as to how to handle her first encounter, he counseled her how to take it in its stride. He said he abhorred the idea of ragging as he felt it’s a violation of human rights but conceded that there was no way he could help her avoid it. And that set the tone for the love tunes of their long courtship. Soon after her graduation, they tied the knot, but, owing to her miscarriages, they had to give up the idea of augmenting their union. With both of them specializing in nephrology and endowed with his family wealth, they set up the Kidney Research and Rehabilitation Center. Though conceived to cater to the ailments of the locals, in a short time, it grew in size as it gained on reputation. And that was owing to his attitude to perfect and her zeal to excel.
While she was sorry she couldn’t make him a father, and even before they could adopt a child, fate made her his widow. The drunk driver who rammed a goods carrier into his Santro was aghast at realizing that he caused the death of the doctor who had given a new lease of life to his wife. That was two years back. While the repentant driver is serving the sentence, vowing to fight against drunken driving after his release, she had taken his wife as an ayah at the hospital.
Her parents and in-laws alike want her to remarry but she was averse to the idea of a fresh nuptial for the possibility of it bringing into her life a lesser soul than the departed one. But as she wasn’t able to overcome her craving for a companion, she was truly in a dilemma, to be or not to be a bride again. When we met, she felt like I filled the emotional void in her life. But diagnosing the impending threat my heart-excess posed to my life that is besides being the bane of my kidneys, she was wary of losing me to go back to square one. But yet she thanked God, with all her heart, for placing me in her expert care to try and secure me for her sake.
So she flew heart surgeons from Mumbai post-haste to sever that which I held dear to save a pregnant woman. She was glad that my other full (that’s her phrase) saved not one but two lives, besides mine that is. By the way, as the beneficiary was not a male, that didn’t tickle the misandrist in me. As for my scar, she saw it’s akin to a plaque that kings of yore laid to symbolize their exploits, and wanted to have one for her by donating her kidney to me, even as I have another receiving hers.
“Yet you may remarry, why scar your body?” I said to test the waters.
“I told you I’m not inclined,” she said.
“But it’s difficult to resist a right guy, right.”
“Maybe, but …?” she sounded tentative.
“Didn’t Oscar Wilde say the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it?” I said invitingly.
“A tempting proposition from a temptress,” she said laughingly.
“Wordplay apart…” I began tentatively
“Why beat around the bush,” she said meaningfully.
“Who’s doing that?” I said looking straight into her yes.
“Both of us I suppose,” she said caressing my head.
“Who’s to break the ice?” I said.
“It’s my turn I think,” she said leading me into her chamber.
She confessed that it’s the intimacy my post-operative care afforded her that came to induce lesbian leanings in her. Though she envisioned our union as her life time solution, given my situation, she hid her enamour, clothing it in camaraderie. So she sought my professional assistance at the hospital and friendly closeness at home as a prelude to our lesbian bonding. When I grabbed both with both hands, she was wondering how to play her hand. Well my full disclosure provided her the trump card.
“What a hearty turn?” I said spreading my arms in invitation.
“Until death us part,” she said sinking in my embrace that I tightened symbolically.
This story was developed on the prompt (*) by author Durjoy Datta for January 2016 ‘Write India’ short story initiative of Times of India