December 6, 2020

Hariavalee

(c) J. Singh, 2016

Sukhjit Kaur was unhappy. She was only twenty five years old, and just recently married. Harpal, her husband, was perfect — caring, loving, understanding, handsome, accomplished, and strong. All the things she had looked for. She was utterly in love with him and delighted to be his bride. His family had welcomed her with open arms, and his parents were rare gems, accepting her completely and treating her with as much love as they showed their own daughter. She felt blessed and was grateful. She felt deliriously happy with all aspects of her life.

Except for one thing.

It seemed like she couldn’t get pregnant. After trying to have a baby for over a year, she and Harpal decided to consult her gynecologist, who had run several tests and then finally informed her that she was unable to conceive. Harpal asked her if there was any chance at all. The gynecologist said with a sigh that it was very minimal. In her experience, she said, she had never seen anyone in this situation be able to conceive. Trying to use gentle language, she explained that what had happened to Sukhjit’s ovaries was akin to a plant drying up and the leaves turning brown. It would be nearly impossible to bear fruit on it’s own. She recommended that they immediately start looking into alternatives, such as IVF, fertility treatments or adoption. She handed them a pamphlet with names and numbers, along with a phone number of a support group in case they wanted to contact them as well. And then it was time for her to see her next patient, and they were ushered out of the room.

Harpal and Sukhjit were so stunned that neither of them spoke during the ride back home. Eventually, Harpal said to her that it was alright - even if they didn’t have any children, he would be alright with it. She looked at him with tears in her eyes, seeing the pain he was in, and wondering why he should have to be deprived of the joys of fatherhood. She silently blamed herself, but didn’t say anything to anyone. She remained quiet for several days. Her mother and sister called her several times a day, but she didn’t talk about this subject with them. Everyone offered their moral support, but she didn’t open up to anyone, and instead chose to brood quietly on the matter by herself.

It seemed to her that everything was sad and mourning. As she moved around her house, she noticed that even the potted plants were wilting, the leaves drying up and turning brown. She tried watering them but either she was too late, or she was giving too little (or too much) water. If all their leaves fell off, she might have to throw these poor plants out. That was another depressing thought, so she decided to just ignore it and leave the pots where they were. “We are alike,” she mused to herself while looking at the plants, “both of us drying up inside.”

It was on a particularly busy and hot Sunday that she found herself at the Gurudwara. She was still feeling the sorrow of the news from the doctor, and so she did what she had always done in times of sadness. She stood in front of the great Guru of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, with eyes closed and hands clasped in front of her, and she quietly performed the Ardaas, her supplication. She poured her heart out to the Guru, she expressed her feelings and her thoughts, her anguish, her fears, her disappointment in herself, her deep yearning for a child of her own, and her grief at not being able to have one. And her feeling of guilt for having put dear Harpal in such a situation. If she could not have children, she reasoned, perhaps he would better off with someone else who could? Tears streamed down her face as she stood silently, surrounded by people in the sangat. At the conclusion of her Ardaas, she begged for guidance and she asked for a child.

A few weeks later, Harpal suggested to her that they should have a prayer and keertan gathering at their home. He had spoken to the folks at the Gurudwara, and they had agreed to help with all the requirements, and the ragi jatha were available on the weekend after the next. She agreed, and they began to make preparations.

The sangat that attended their prayer and keertan were delighted to be singing and praying at their home. It was the height of summer, and the days were very hot. In spite of the heat, Sukhjit had thrown herself wholeheartedly into the work for getting everything set up, from the cleaning to getting the fresh flowers to cooking all the langar. By immersing herself totally into the preparation work, she had obtained a reprieve from her grief and sorrow, as her mind was occupied and distracted. And she felt so much better now than she had in all the weeks since she had received the news from the doctor. She was finally smiling again.

After the conclusion of the program, Sukhjit and Harpal talked with various sangat members as they ate langar. There was a tall, thin woman wearing a dark blue dastaar who seemed to be the center of attention, and Sukhjit came to understand that she was quite highly regarded by the local sangat. As she sat and ate, her infectious smile and bright eyes seemed to attract everyones attention. She seemed carefree, light, and full of joy.

“May I ask one question, bhenjee?” Sukhjit ventured.

“Of course!” she replied, smiling warmly at Sukhjit.

“What if there is a situation someone is in, and it is an impossible thing, as even the doctors have said,” Sukhjit chose her words carefully as she phrased her question. “Can it still happen? I mean, can a person still get what they hope for?”

The bhenjee laughed, her voice sounding musical.

“If Guru Sahib has ordained it,” she replied, “there is no way that it can not happen. It will surely happen. Guru Sahib is ever merciful, more than we can possibly imagine.”

As she spoke, she gave Sukhjit a knowing look, and there was a twinkle in her eye.

The conversation turned to other topics, and peoples attention was diverted. But Sukhjit didn’t hear anything more. In her mind, she kept dwelling on just this one thing that the bhenjee had stated.

Later, after everyone had left, Harpal and Sukhjit cleaned up and moved the furniture back into the living room. They both felt a settled sense of calm and well-being. It was the same feeling they got whenever they visited the Gurudwara, only this time it seemed to be lingering longer. Sukhjit opened the kitchen door to the back-yard to let in some of the fresh, cool evening air. As she did so, she noticed the brown grass of the lawn. Except that it wasn’t brown anymore. It was a bright and fresh green. Puzzled, she turned and asked Harpal, “Harpal, have you been watering the grass in the back yard?”

“No,” he replied from the couch, “been too busy getting ready for today’s keertan, why?”

“No reason,” Sukhjit returned to the couch to sit with him. She rested her head on his shoulder.

“We have enough food left over for lunch and dinner tomorrow,” she observed.

“Hmm, we should give some to the neighbors, and maybe some to Girish and Nina, since they were not able to come today.”

“Yeah that’s a good idea, and what about Amy and Brian?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about them. We’ll have to make the rounds tomorrow.”

Sukhjit was up early the next morning, before dawn. She was quietly reciting her morning prayers as she wrapped herself in a warm shawl and walked downstairs to the kitchen. She opened the blinds and put a pot of water on the stove to make the morning tea. That’s when she noticed it. The potted plant by the kitchen window. The one whose leaves had all dried up and turned brown, the one she had been on the verge of throwing out. It was all green and fresh. Fresh, new leaves, of a vibrant green color, pulsing with life. Not only that, but it had bloomed. There were tiny purple flowers all over, giving off a delightful scent. She stared at the plant for several minutes, unable to believe her eyes.

She checked the other potted plants in the house. All of them exhibited the same characteristic. She couldn’t believe it. What was happening, she wondered. It was all green, all fresh, all renewed.

She didn’t mention any of this to Harpal. And, being a man, he didn’t notice. The next time they were at the Gurudwara, she sought out the bhenjee with the dark blue dastaar. She told her about what she had observed.

“How can it be?” she asked in earnest.

The bhenjee just smiled and said “That land, where my True Guru comes and sits, becomes green and fertile.

It was several weeks later when Sukhjit discovered the extent to which this was true. She wanted to be absolutely sure, so she had scheduled an appointment with her gynecologist for a blood test. The gynecologist was baffled, and she sat there shaking her head. “I guess you must be the first I have ever seen who this has happened to,” she said.

Sukhjit drove home in a daze, clutching the medical report in her hand the whole way. She made her way inside the house to find Harpal standing on a chair reaching up to the ceiling to change a light bulb.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, when he saw her standing in the doorway as if in a trance.

She looked up at him. “You might want to get down from there to hear this,” she said slowly, holding up the paper in her hand.

He stepped down from the chair and ran over to her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked again.

She shook her head, as a smile finally appeared on her lips.

“Nothing is wrong,” she replied. “Nothing at all. I just went to see the gynecologist. They checked everything.”

“Are you alright?” Harpal’s brow was furrowed in concern.

“I am better than alright,” Sukhjit said, handing him the report, “I’m pregnant!”

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