Monday, September 17, 2007

Gender preferences? Murphy can have an answer
The sharp showers outside the press club was loud enough to soften the speaker's voice. Three continuous assignments had taken a toll on my energy level. I shut down my notepad and prepare to leave. When I reached for my key inside my handbag, I hear a familiar voice. "Rajesh!" I say, regaining my vitality. Rajesh is my counterpart working in a vernacular newspaper. He is well-known among journalistic circle for his left-liberal thoughts and philanthropic bent of mind. "Yeah, I had taken a week off since my wife was weak after a Caeserean section," he says, preparing to continue his lamentations about his wife's health problems. "Are mother and child safe?" I ask.
"Yeah, they are. But my wife is still too numb to even walk a few metres."
"She will be ok," I console him. "Thank god that your baby is healthy."
"Yeah she is. For all my wife's suffering, it would have been happier if we were blessed with a boy. This is our third girl child," he sighs. Though the feminist urge in me prepared to rebuke him, my voice trail off seeing his distraught face. I take leave mutely, wondering what made the gender preference transcend social strata.
When I park my two-wheeler on the open parking lot in front of my flat, I felt a heavy rain drop hitting my shoulders and I hurry to enter my home. "Amma, can you spare me a minute," Kannan, our watchman, asks.
I stare at him for a while. Being a relatively new tenant in that flat, I still was not very familiar with the maids and watchmen around. Preferring not to notice my hesitation, Kannan continued: "Amma, people say you work in a newspaper organisation...," his voice fades. By now I've predicted what he was up to. "Yeah anna. But there are no vacancy in our organisation. Probably, I will check out elsewhere," I assure him. Kannan doesn't seem to have appreciated my assurance. He still stares at me and finally seem to have mustered courage. "Amma, how much it would cost to publish an ad in your paper?"
I explain to him that I did not know about ad rates but give him the numbers to contact and prepare to leave. Instinctively, I turn back to ask him what was the matter. Tears begin welling up in his eyes. "My son is missing," he chokes and the rain drops kept lashing at his bony chest ruthlessly. "When was it?" I ask, still trying to find a word to console him. "Ten days ago, amma. I slapped him for failing in his exam. He left home fuming. I expected him to turn up for dinner. But till now he did not," he says.
"Why didn't you register a police complain?" the journo in me, crops up. "I have amma. But no use. My wife is working in Dubai. I don't dare to tell her that her son is missing. I have two daughters, who are all bread-winners of our family. We were quite happy when my wife delivered a son. Now I wish my third one was a daughter too ," he wept.
Rajesh, I thought, hasn't been all that mean. After all, he might not have been aware of Murphy's law - whatever can go wrong, will." So, what's gender to do with it?
P.S: Kannan's son returned after a couple of days.