Fair Child – Nuzhat Khan, New Delhi

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It was a very happy moment for Birendra and Mamta Negi. They were going to have a child soon; their first. Soon the news broke in the family and a gush of advices started flowing.
“Drink Kesar-Milk for a fair child”…. “Eat for two people”…. “Keep garlic in your purse every time you step out of the house”….
And Mamta Negi did follow most of the things as she saw no harm in those, especially “Eating for two” and “Kesar-milk”.
“Who wouldn’t want a healthy, fair-child?” She reasoned with herself. As time flew, she gained a considerable amount of weight. Everyone teased her if she was carrying twins or a big fat baby in there. But Doctors scolded her for eating mindlessly. Her blood-pressure shot up as she progressed in her pregnancy and her blood-sugar was always on the brink. As the time baby’s ninth month in the womb started, she had to undergo a caesarean section. The baby’s heartbeat was fluctuating beyond margins and doctors did not want to take any risk.
The delivery was smooth. Not even once the doctors had to face any complication. As soon as the baby was out, the heartbeat became normal. It was a hard day for Mamta, she bore a lot of stress and all she wanted now was to hold her beautiful, healthy baby in her arms.
“Congratulations! It’s a boy.” The doctor smiled through her mask.
Mamta could not control her tears of ecstasy and whispered a silent prayer but she had to stop unfinished when she noticed a little commotion in the labor-room. The nurse took her baby out leaving her perplexed.
“It’s okay we well give you your baby after some time. We will have to keep him in NICU for some time.”
The Doctor gauged horror in Mamta’s eyes, thus added quickly, “Oh there is nothing to worry! It’s just that the baby’s weight is little on a lower range and keeping him in NICU is just a precautionary measure.”
Mamta could not believe what the Doctor was telling her. How could that possibly be? She did eat for two! All the time she thought that her increasing weight was courtesy her baby! The doctor explained her that because of her high BP, the fetus was not getting enough blood supply and that could be the reason of his low weight.
She waited to meet her son eagerly. After a few torturous hours, the nurse brought her son in and she held her arms out in profound happiness to finally embrace her baby. Her eyebrows pitched up but then she had to contain herself. The baby in her arms was nowhere closer to the image that she had in her mind, he was really small, wrinkled and purplish in complexion. She caressed his soft cheek lovingly and pledged to take care of him now.
After a couple of days, Birendra and Mamta Negi brought their first-born home. They named him Shakti, hoping him to grow to be a strong man. But as of now, little Shakti was weak and delicate. Mamta wanted to feed him properly but for no apparent reason, she was not having proper feed for the baby. When other kids were growing rapidly with chubby cheeks, little Shakti maintained his own pace.
Mamta was getting desperate, and as soon as she got a signal from the Doctor to top feed her son, she turned into a mother with a mission. The little baby would throw up after being overfed but then she would clean him and feed him again, fearing the loss of nutrition. And, she could see the results. The complexion was still dark but the cheeks became chubby and got chubbier, little frail hands developed dimples on elbows and his weight was finally at par of those other babies his age.
The mission continued beyond the toddler stage, with forcing half a chapatti, half a glass of milk more as Shakti grew. Soon came a time when Mamta stopped finding clothes for Shakti at the Kid’s section. She would buy him pants at the Men’s section and then alter the length as per his height. Shakti started growing big both vertically and horizontally. When other kids his age would run and play incessantly, he would stop mid-way panting hard.
Mamta was worried again. She took him to the Doctor and what he declared, shocked them both. Shakti had become obese. Mamta had to portion his diet and Shakti was confused, he loved eating and his mother who used to lovingly feed him another big piece of cake was now restricting him to even have a proper meal. The confusion made him a rebel. He would not eat in front of his mother but then sneak in the night and attack the kitchen.
In spite of Mamta’s focused efforts, Shakti did not reduce in size. He was okay with what he was and did not even bother about names and comments that he would receive from other children. They would make fun of his size, laugh ridiculously every time he tore his trousers from crotch while playing cricket but not even once it troubled him, in fact he would laugh with them every time they did that. He found encouragement in making people laugh, even if that was at his own expense. Never had he realized what he was missing, until he came to an age when he noticed girls ignoring him. He was witty, intelligent and charming he thought, all the teachers loved him in the school but what could be the reason that none of the girls paid attention to him anymore? That day he looked closely at himself in the mirror.
It was a hot afternoon, he returned home after school. His mother called him to come quickly for the lunch but he ran to his parents’ room and after locking the door, took a good look at his face and body in his mother’s dressing-table. For the first time he paid attention to his outer self. He saw his dark face with a darker line of immature moustache over his lips; his cheeks were full and bouncy, sinking his eyes deeper in their sockets, his chest looked like it belonged to a young girl and his stomach was awfully bulging out. Disgust took over him as he saw his dark body drenching in sweat, revealing the hidden flabs.
Warm tears rolled down his cheeks, anger engulfed him and when he took another glance of his image, he was confirmed, he abhorred his body. He had to correct what was wrong with him. Fat, dark and moustache could not go together. He picked his father’s razor and after giving himself multiple cuts, he got rid of his moustache. Complexion he could not do much about, but fat yeah, fat he was going to lose, forever!
He came out of his parents’ room only to lock himself again in his room. His mother cried, pleaded but he did not listen to her. Hours passed, he started feeling sick, but this time with hunger. He swore to have just one chapatti and stop. Determined, he came out of the room and asked for food. Mamta wiped tears from her face and happily served her son a big plate full of six ghee-smeared chapattis, big bowls of dal, curry and chicken and a small bowl of steamy rice. His son’s favorite sweet was served in a separate bowl.
Shakti looked at the mouth watering food. He started eating his meal slowly but then his pace increased and then before he could stop himself, he devoured every last bite that could be eaten on his plate. Only after licking his fingers he realized the blunder he had committed. His stomach felt happy but his conscience not. Silently he came back to his room, cursing his will-power. Impatiently the guilt increased as he searched on the Google for the calories he had just consumed.
He started feeling ashamed of himself, his lack of will-power to stop when needed and laden with mortification he rushed toward the bathroom to throw up everything he had eaten. He tried, subtly, then loudly but food was happy in his tummy. Enraged, he put his finger inside his mouth and scratched the throat. This time he succeeded.
Next day when his mother served him breakfast he knew that a heavy heart could not be made happy no matter how hard he tried. So he chose to opt for a happy heart than a happy stomach. He started avoiding eating and when forced, he knew how to get rid of the calories consumed.
Gradually he started losing weight; the girls started finding him attractive. The jokes sounded funnier when they are heard from a lean, tall dark guy. But this time too he did know when to stop. His weight loss lead him to emaciation, but the good part was, he could still find his share of girls drooling over him.
Today when he goes on the stage and starts his act with the line, “I was dark, I was fat and I had a moustache…” the audience rolls in to peals of laughter. Another dig at fairness products and people go mad. Apparently, his dark, bony face and close to skeleton structure enhance the humor he wishes to bring in his jokes.
He is one of the successful stand-up comedians in the country. He is brilliant at making people laugh at his expense. It’s all shallow he knows. But at least he is happy for he now knows that he is at par with the society he lives in.

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