She wasn’t looking forward to seeing them at the O’Hare airport in Chicago. They were her former husband, his new wife and their newly-born son. Not that she was in Chicago on pleasure; she was there to hand over her daughter Ramya to her ex-husband, for the summer. However, she was determined to sail through this situation with as much dignity as possible.
It was a bit of an anticlimax, then, to see that the waiting group comprised of ex-husband and his mother, but no wife or baby. Heaving a sign of relief, she handed Ramya over and turned to the luggage console. After hauling the bags off the console and onto a trolley, she turned to hand over Ramya’s bags and noticed that the composition of the group had abruptly shifted. Her former mother-in-law had been replaced by the man’s new wife. A scan of the waiting area revealed the elder woman hiding behind a pillar holding something in her arms, and Ramya cooing over the something. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to ascertain what the bundle contained.
She had to pass by the pillar on her way out of the airport and was amused to see the elderly woman scurrying to yet another pillar in an effort to screen the bundle from her no doubt inauspicious eyes.
For a brief moment, she was tempted to go up, peer at the baby and bless him loudly and cheerfully. Why make an awkward situation even more awkward, she thought, and left the airport.
Midway into Ramya’s holiday with her father, the girl fell ill and, of course, called her mother who, like she did every summer, was doing her waiting stint at a friend’s place two blocks away. She rushed over and found Ramya down with a flu bug. This entailed a couple of days’ nursing, something her ex-husband explained his new wife was simply unable to do because... and here he trailed off.
All the times she had to go to her ex- husband’s place to tend to Ramya, much care was taken to see that she did not catch a glimpse of the baby. One time, she actually caught the wife pulling in the diapers from the drying rack in a furtive manner. Another time, she’d dropped by sans warning and they’d had to rush a sunbathing baby behind the mulberry shrub... no pillar here, she reflected in irritated amusement.
Meanwhile, Ramya reported that the baby was a cute little tyke. “How come you haven’t seen him, Mama?” the little girl asked. “Oh, it’s to do with the placement of pillars,” she replied wryly.
The month was over and they were all back at O’Hare airport. The man had actually exchanged a couple of civil sentences (to do with Ramya, of course) with her and she contemplated congratulating him on the birth of his son. She decided not to, simply because this time, it was the wife’s mother who had chosen to hide behind one of the many pillars in the airport hall, holding a bundle. Ramya ran over to the woman and tried to turn the face of the bundle towards her mother. She watched in amusement as Ramya and the woman became locked in some sort of tango. Finally, taking pity on the ungainly pillar dance, she called, “Come Ramya, we’ve got to go.”
And she walked off with nary a backward glance. On cue, the baby began to wail, loud and clear. Okay, she got to hear it, even if she didn’t see it. The baby existed.