“We can’t postpone the delivery anymore,” Shiv Kumar told his wife.
Lakshmi’s labour pain had started long ago. A week ago, to be precise, the day after the Prime Minister had declared all high denomination currency of the country invalid. There was only one private hospital in the small town near their home where delivery cases would be entertained. That hospital flatly refused to admit patients who didn’t carry valid currency.
“We can pay by debit card,” pleaded Shiv Kumar.
“Sorry, we don’t have that facility yet. Take your wife to the government hospital. They will accept invalid currency.”
Lakshmi flatly refused to go to a government hospital. “I won’t have my son born amidst filth and that too paid for by invalid currency.”
Son, yes, they knew it was a son and not a daughter they were going to beget. Lakshmi had conceived after they had undergone the Divya-Putrasanjeevani treatment carried out by Gurudev Baba who had miraculous cures for everything including girl children, let alone ailments such as AIDS and jealousy.
“Let’s consult Baba,” Shiv Kumar was suddenly enlightened. “He’ll have a remedy for this.”
Baba prescribed Divya-Sahanamritam which could prolong the delivery as long as they wanted provided Lakshmi was willing to bear the pain of the labour. “What’s this pain, after all?” asked Baba. “Think of all the soldiers fighting at the borders. They suffer protracted cold and hunger for the sake of the nation. Can’t you suffer a little pain for the sake of your own son? It’ll be a matter of a week at the most.”
Lakshmi accepted Baba’s counsel and medicine with bowed head. She endured the pain for a whole week when Shiv Kumar thought it was long enough.
Banks could not give him valid currency, however. “Can we print currency?” The banks asked him when he approached them with suppressed tears. The ATMs remained closed for days and days. Friends were ready to help him, but with invalid currency or cheques. What use were cheques when banks refused to cash them?
Shiv Kumar learnt that you could become a beggar overnight even if you have a whole treasure lying in your bank account.
Finally he managed to convince his wife that it might not be safe for the baby to continue as an overdue foetus. Not that he or his wife did not have faith in the Baba, but it was wise to respect nature’s ways too.
But how to reach the government hospital which was a little out of the way? They couldn’t hire a taxi as taxi drivers would not accept invalid currency. An autorickshaw would not be safe on that road which had too many potholes for a country that had just become corruption-free. “All the jerks and shakes in the auto will make me deliver in that cubbyhole itself,” protested Lakshmi. She didn’t want their prince to be born in an autorickshaw.
With some cajoling and an extra dose of Divya-Sahanamritam, Lakshmi agreed to take the chance. And they reached the government hospital whose very air reeked of something like rotten cabbage. “Couldn’t they clean up the government institutions before cleaning up black money?” She asked covering her nostrils with the end of her dupatta.
“Don’t speak like this, darling.” Shiv Kumar did not hide his terror. “They’ll arrest us for being antinational.”
Lakshmi lay on the bed with her legs spread out. “Come on, push out.” The doctor was telling her for the umpteenth time.
“I’m pushing and pushing. But the baby refuses to move.” She said helplessly. She had shut her nostrils to the smells around her.
Her labour continued baffling the doctors and nurses. Outside her husband was sitting on a mouldy chair and in his snooze he dreamt that the ATM outside the hospital had opened and he could get a couple of hundred rupee notes.