By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
“Where and when did we go wrong”- James asked his wife Martha.
James and Martha were happily married couple. Friends and neighbours envied them.
James worked as an accounts clerk and Martha, as a primary school teacher.
Three years after their marriage they got their first born child, a son whom they named Charles. The first two years of their married life, they thought they would not be having any children. So when Charles arrived, their joy had no boundary. They adored him, loved him, pampered him and spoiled him. He was under constant surveillance. He hardly walked. He was always carried. While playing with friends, if he cried little, Martha would scold the friends, sometimes even punish them physically.
After another three years, they got a baby girl, Mary. The girl did not get much attention from her parents as Charles did. Luckily she was a healthy baby right from the beginning and a happy go lucky child. When she was only 2 years old, she started overpowering Charles physically. She developed the habit of snatching things from Charles. And Charles in turn would cry and seek his mother’s help to get back his things.
As the children grew up, there was very little of common interest in both the children.
Charles joined the school where Martha was teaching, for his primary education. In the school also, he being the child of one of the teachers, escaped the punishments for not taking active part in the school activities. All the children had to take part in cleaning the school compound, planting and watering flowers. While others were cleaning, Charles spent the time with his mother. He never had any close friends.
Mary was naughty from the beginning. She could never sit quite. All the time she would do something destructive and disturbing. One time she even got a mild electric shock after pushing a nail in the electric socket. She had seen her father doing something like that several times. She loved copying her father in action.
The table and couch handles had several dents from her hammering.
James loved her very much. He once told Martha that God had made a little mistake in timing- “Mary is a boy born as a girl”.
When she started schooling, in the same school where her brother was also studying, she was totally different from him. She was always the first one to run out of the classroom when the school bell rang. She had strength and interest. She was always at the forefront in school activities.
All the girls including some boys in her class were afraid of her. Martha received many complains from parents. But the teachers liked her. She could control the whole class when the teachers were sometimes busy. She was very intelligent in studies too.
When Charles was a teenage boy, his father noticed that he did not have much interest in things where boys of his age would love. He never wanted to go to a disco; during public holidays he spent time at home. All his friends were only boys of macho type and his son was a timid boy. He tried to encourage him and engage him in manly house hold work at home, like to prune trees and make fence. But he was not interested. He was afraid of climbing trees.
Very soon he would be finishing secondary school. James and Martha wanted to know what his plans for further studies were.
He had no plans. He would like to go to university but no specific choice.
Mary was determined from the very beginning to become an engineer, a civil engineer. She would love to build big houses and bridges.
She never liked fancy cloths. She wore skirts only because it was a compulsory school uniform. Other times she preferred a T-shirt and jean trouser.
One look at her would make anyone agree with James’s remark that really God made a little mistake. Despite the tomboyish appearance she had her own charm. She could please people easily with her sweet tongue and jolly nature.
Charles joined University, degree course in computer science.
Soon after joining the university, Charles started showing drastic behaviour changes. He kept his hair long. When it was long enough, he started plaiting the hair, woman fashion. He pierced his ears and wore earrings.
One day his father confronted him and demanded an explanation about his outfits and behaviour. Charles simply kept quite.
James started suspecting something phony about his son. From the news media, he had heard a lot about same sex marriage scandals. But he did not like to think the possibility of the same thing with his own son. He tried to ignore the thoughts but it haunted him every time he looked at his son. He was convinced more and more as the days went by. He could not keep quite any more.
One night, he discussed about his fear with Martha. Later he regretted-he made a mistake by talking to her. Instead of discussing, they ended up fighting. Martha even accused James of thinking inhuman, that too about his own son. May be if it involved somebody else, she would have given James a benefit of doubts. But she was adamant; her son was not among such people. James was helpless. He was not even heard fully by his wife. With whom he could discuss about it again!
After a long thinking, James decided the only person who can confirm his doubts was Charles himself. He had been planning about ways of opening the topic to Charles and steps to be taken if he was found correct about his son. He prayed to be wrong. He also thought about his son’s reaction either way. He knew he had to do something before it was too late. They would have to face the consequences together.
While he was planning ways of confronting again with his son about the matter, he had already thought of several possible ways including one plan to catch him red handed and direct confrontation. Very unfortunately, the moment arrived sooner than expected. To his dismay and disgust, to his shame and shock, one day he saw with his own eyes what he would have not wished to see. He was correct. Charles was gay, a recessive gay.
He took this opportunity as the right moment.
Quietly, without raising his voice, he asked for an excuse from Charles’s boy friend to leave the father and son alone to settle family matters. Charles and his boy friend were not aware that James was in the house. Now that he was caught red handed, Charles knew that the days of his concocting lies were over.
James tried his best to keep cool. Sometimes he was failing. But the importance of the matter concerned made him able to control his emotions. He was very frank with his son. For quite sometime he had been consulting a psychoanalyst. He had been given tips of handling such a situation.
He suggested that both of them should exchange opinions, in writing, about same sex relationship and later they would try to discuss about it openly.
When James read Charles’s version, he immediately knew his son was very much influenced by his friends. But at least his effort was worth. Charles was starting to open up. He would not let the chance slip away. So James asked whether they should sit at home and discuss or they should go somewhere. Charles preferred to go somewhere else.
They set off on their bikes to a place about 20 Km from their house, to a nearby village. They were well equipped for the trip. They had snacks packed, water and soft drinks. They also took a machete and a straw mattress.
When they reached an isolated but comfortable place, James started working-clearing up the area and putting up a cloth to get some shade. He asked Charles to lend him a hand. Charles did not see the necessity of all the trouble just for spending hardly an hour. They settled and rested. James opened up the topic but gave the chance first to Charles to defend his version.
According to Charles, as long as two people love each other, understand each other, had common interest and can satisfy sexual desires, there was no harm in calling them “a couple.” They could stay like any other married couple, a couple comprising of a male and a female. Life is as William Shakespeare described “a play where everybody is an actor.” One had to act according to the role they choose.
James got a chance to express his opinion. He agreed with Shakespeare’s definition of life. But he differed with Charles “One does not choose the role they want to play. They are chosen to play the role. The director chooses the role. Likewise for the universe there is a director, the creator of the universe. He had already chosen you to perform a role and in order to perform that role he has moulded you accordingly. Some are born as male and others as female. Each has to perform as you are directed. Like you and me, we are born as male. We have to act like male.”
Charles criticized his father’s opinion of not able to have children from equal sex couples. According to him, one could always adopt a child; have the parental feelings and responsibilities. Raise the child and develop the bond of love.
James was ready to answer. He had expected this question.
- Yes, why should one worry about not having a child when there are so many orphans and street children, just go and pick one up;
- Why should one take the trouble of building a house when there are so many cozy hotels to live in
- Why should one cook the food when there are so many restaurants, cafes and eatery places?
- Why should one feel lonely when there are more than 3 billion people on this earth?
“You see Charles! Even the orphans belonged to their late parents. What belongs to somebody is not yours. Every human being needs a belonging. Every living being belongs to a society. Every society has norms. The norms are set to fit the needs and necessities of the society. It is not one individual’s need or necessary. The norms are the common acceptable characters of the constituents of the society. Our society is “Generally acceptable common human nature society”. We are made with the ability to identify the needs and necessities, the ability to acquire the needs and necessities, the ability to control the needs and necessities within limits. Once the controlling power is lost, all the abilities get destroyed.
According to the “human norms”, a man’s sexual desire for a woman or vice versa is physiological. Human are given the power to differentiate between the love of a mother, of father, of sister, of brother and of one’s own children. Another man should not look at you as a woman.
You are grown up and an educated man. Think about yourself. Don’t allow others to think for you. You have a long path of life to go. On behalf of your mother and sister, please I request you to change your friend circle and let us be a happy family.”
To ease the tension, James talked about his work, about the lives of his cousins back in the village. He narrated some jokes learnt from his colleagues. They had a good time together. Father and son shared the rare and short but valuable hours together.
James felt guilty of the times they lost. Actually he had never given his son the chance to know his father well. He had only been ordering his commands and demanding the execution of it from the wife. He had never confronted or praised the children directly.
He had been a strict and conservative father. He was never friendly with his children.
Martha noticed the changed atmosphere between the father and son when they came back. She prayed the same atmosphere to last forever.
For some weeks, Charles was trying to behave as his father requested. But slowly, he drifted to his old self again. James did not bother to interfere again. He realized it was too late.
While James was busy dealing with Charles affairs, he had completely ignored Mary’s existence. She passed her A- level with flying colours. She joined University, doing engineering as she always wanted. Charles had not graduated yet as he had to repeat one year.
Hardly one year was left to James retirement from job.
Charles did not manage to get a permanent job. He was working as locum in different places. Mary graduated in time and got a job immediately. She was working as a junior engineer in a renowned construction company.
Once in a while she bought her father some presents and jokingly asked whether he knew that she was earning.
Few days before James retired; Charles informed his parents about his intention of going away from home and starting his own life with his friend. They neither objected nor showed any enthusiasm to the news. Silently Charles walked out.
After retirement one day, James decided to go and have a look at the construction site where his daughter was supervising. He didn’t even recognize her. She waved at him and called out, and then only he knew it was his daughter. Suddenly he felt dizzy. Mary was supervising the workers on the 7th floor. She was wearing a helmet, the jacket with the fluorescent lines and a pair of gum boot. One worker saw James and told Mary about his presence. Mary peeped down from the 7th floor to greet her father. James was standing on the ground, looked up at the direction of the sound of his daughter and saw the face of Mary. He felt Mary falling on him. Felt dizzy and sat down on the floor.
Seeing him falling, Mary came down to help him. James recovered and felt little ashamed. He excused himself from the scene and went home straight.
When Martha came back after work, he told her what happened at the construction site. ‘Martha! Things are going on the opposite direction. Our boy is behaving like a girl and our daughter is doing man’s job. May be as soon as you retire, we should go back and settle quietly in the village. All my dreams are shattered.”
Martha understood her husband. She did not like to disturb him more. She would have wanted to know more about the provoking factor for coming to that decision. But she knew whatever the factor was, it was not a pleasant factor.
Mary was late to come back home on that day. Martha waited eagerly for her to come back. It was already late evening, she had not come back. She was worried but could not say anything to her husband. James had decided to wait and watch his destiny. All his efforts were turning against his wishes.
Mary came in a taxi, very unusual for her. She looked pale and worried. She went straight to her bedroom. Martha followed her. “I know your father shouldn’t have gone there and embarrass you like that. Just that he is very frustrated with Charles, so he is behaving abnormally, oversensitive. He will be O.K after some time. Just give him some time.”
Mary did not speak much. She requested her mother to bring her food to her bedroom.
The next day Martha did not see any sign of Mary preparing to go for work. James had ordered Martha not to bother about their children. “They are grown up; let them do whatever they like”. But Martha felt reluctant to leave without seeing Mary. She glanced at Mary by opening her door without knocking. She was surprised to see her daughter still on bed.
She rushed to her and checked whether she had any fever.
Mary let out a wry smile. “I am not sick, it’s my baby. Yesterday I was running down the stairs from the 7th floor to see daddy. Later I felt abdominal cramps. So I passed to see my doctor that is why yesterday I was late to come home. Now I am fine. I just need to rest a bit.
Martha did not even listen to Mary’s last words. She ran out of the room shouting with excitement.
James got annoyed. He found his wife hysterically calling out his name and jumping, dancing like a little girl. She hugged him and continued wriggling and babbling words. James could not understand her at all. He had to shake her and forced her to stop.
She kissed him and congratulated him “you are going to be a grandpa” After blurting out the words she ran back to Mary again. Mary heard her mother’s hysteric laughter. When she came in, Mary was smiling. Martha could not control herself. She kissed her daughter frantically again and again.
There was a persistent knock on Mary’s door. The person did not wait for an answer. James ushered himself in Mary’s room with a broad smile and sparkling eyes.
“Mary, I am sorry about yesterday. But today I am very happy. God bless you my child”.
The sparkling eyes became wet, his voice muffled, he could not say any more words.
Mary stretched out hands to her father. James hugged his daughter and cried.
Mary broke the emotional moment “Don’t you people like to know who the father of my child is”
James and Martha looked at each other and spoke in unison “our son-in-law”.
(The author can be reach at email@example.com)
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