DOUBLE DOSE OF LOVE

Nobody had realized that I was a miracle baby when I had arrived twenty-five years ago. I went through my childhood in leaps and bounds, literally, owing to the seamless energy I had, thanks to my extra heart.

Yes, I was born with not one, but two hearts! This went undiscovered till I reached the age of about seven years when I happened to dislocate my right shoulder. Till then my parents were bursting with pride because they were under the misconception that the genius that they had produced was due to their exceptional genes! When my shoulder was X-rayed, the right heart showed up. To check if my heart, unlike most people, was indeed on the right, my whole chest was X-rayed to reveal my second heart on the left! This turned my, so-far-awesome, life upside down.

For somebody who is one in billions, 7.125 billion to be exact, I expected to be treated better. Scientists are still befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother’s womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere and they have labeled me as a freak mutation. It’s so rare — literally one in all humankind — that they didn’t even name the anomaly (as they call it), I will call it awesomeness. I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea’s Heartawesome, but the doctors aren’t thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?

An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate- are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation! Why would I ever give up?

I didn’t. And, believe, me it wasn’t easy. “I am a pair of conjoined twins joined at all parts of their bodies except at the hearts.” I argued against the intense pressure from many quarters to give up one of my hearts.“If babies can be born joint at the chest, arms and even brains, why not everywhere but the hearts?” ‘

Somehow, I held on to both hearts stubbornly. Enjoyed my doubly energized adolescence. They say the heart needs to be in sync with the mind for bliss and mental peace. I had both, thank you! Not one but both my hearts were perfectly aligned with my mind. There was never a problem because of my unique condition till……

Till my hormones kicked in! I fell in love for the first time. The object of my affection was this light-eyed, long-haired, good-looking guy called Shaan at my college, a year senior to me. Half the female population of the college drooled when this guy rocked the stage with his songs while strumming his guitar! I was flattered to note that my feelings were duly reciprocated by him. But I noticed a difference in the way my two hearts reacted to this all-new feeling. One seemed to have feminine feelings. I shall choose to call it FH (the female heart). It was just happy being around Shaan, happy to be doing things together with him and expectations from the relationship limited to being taken out on dates and given thoughtful gifts on occasions. Like any girl in love.

While my other heart- let’s call it MH (the male heart) — I noticed, though also happy to be in Shaan’s company, had different feelings. It seemed to be physically attracted to him much more and clearly seemed to want nothing more than to jump into bed with the handsome dude!

I had done a course in Vipasana, which had taught me how to stand apart from my body and watch myself. In doing so, I realized for the first time, that my two hearts were of two different sexual orientations. FH was straight and hence was attracted in the usual feminine manner to the male in Shaan. But MH was a homosexual! It was also attracted to Shaan, who was a heterosexual male. Fortunately, both my hearts were attracted to the same male species! Once again there was no conflict! Both of them produced love hormones for the lucky Shaan! He had managed to steal both my hearts! It was like killing one bird with two stones and both getting the kill! Reminds me of what the famous Tolstoy once said ,’ If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts’.

MH had no interest in my female friends. In fact none of them even felt ‘his’ presence!

There really wasn’t much I could do in the matters of the heart(s). I loved with all my heart, with both my hearts! Shaan was not the only one. Few more followed. I was very open and honest with my partners in all my relationships. I didn’t like hiding anything. I was used to wearing my hearts on my sleeve- one on each, so to say. Trouble always began when I opened up my hearts to my love interests. Most of them beat it soon after hearing about my double-heartedness. “It’s bad enough understanding one heart in a female, let alone two”, they said as they chose to dump me, leaving me heart(s)-broken each time.

Then along came Shekhar. He was bisexual. A very open minded, gentle and fun-loving guy who was attracted to both sexes- completely after both my hearts! We got along like, not one, but two houses on fire. His sexual orientation enabled him to not only handle but keep me dually happy! “This is the guy I have been dreaming of- to spend my life with, to have children from, and walk into the sunset with”, cooed my FM dreamily. MH on the other hand, was incorrigible. Like a typical male, of all species of living things, his had a one point agenda -“This is the guy I’d love to go to bed with”, he cooed, equally happy!

Shekhar and I were always very open about our relationship. Shekhar had no qualms about dating two hearts, and never shied from talking about it. Word spread about our unique love story. We were interviewed and featured in a couple of magazines. We didn’t exactly bask in our ‘glory’, for we, heart(s) of hearts, did not think much of it ourselves since it was all so natural to us. But the exposure landed me in big trouble.

People started expecting me to save others with defective hearts. It is a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don’t understand why it has been made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out! “Save a life. Donate” they shouted.

“Are you sure, Rhea?” asked my mother.

“Of course I am. Survival of the fittest, mother. I’m not going against Darwin. Also I don’t want unnecessary scars on my body.”

It was a tough resistance, but I managed to stand my ground and save both my hearts. Shekhar and I, eventually, got married and soon wanted to have children.

But God seemed to have other plans. I failed to conceive! Then began the unending rounds to the gynecologists and subsequently the harrowing visits to the IVF clinics. But to no avail. ‘You couldn’t bring yourself to save a life, why do you want to create one?’ whispered my troubled conscience. My mind had started going on these guilt trips now. Then, as it happened, life, in its inimitable style, hammered sense into me.

My maid, Kanta Bai, who had served us for a good part of my married life, and without whom, I didn’t think, my house could function, declared that she needed to quit. On enquiry, she revealed that her fourteen year old son, Rohan, who lived in the village with his grandparents, had a congenital heart disease and would not survive too long. His heavy-hearted mother wanted to spend whatever time he had left of his life, with him. Apparently, they had tried a whole lot of treatments but nothing had worked and now the doctors had declared that the only way to save him was to have a heart transplant. “The cost of getting him a new heart is so much, Didi,(meaning ‘elder sister’-this is how most maids address the woman of the house they are employed in, even if they are actually older in age) that we cannot even dream of being able to earn that much in one lifetime” said the poor woman trying to fight back tears.

“Why on earth didn’t you ever mention it to us, Kanta Bai”, I asked incredulously. I found my hearts beating, for a change, not for me, but for this hapless woman.

“I did mention it to Mata ji” (my mother), but she told me how you were very possessive of your hearts and would not part with any”, revealed Kanta Bai very hesitatingly.

My reaction, at first, was that of anger, at my mother’s response. But on reflecting on my past behaviour, I realized that she was also, after all, only a mother protecting her own child’s interest.

Sleepless nights followed. My mind was in turmoil and my hearts were getting insecure as my mind was veering towards letting one of them go!

As usual, it was Shekhar who helped me make the final decision.

“I will always love you, Rhea, with one heart or two. Will you love me any less, if God forbid, I lose one of my limbs?” he said.” And what makes you feel you will be losing a heart. You will be seeing the same in another person, who will love you with the same heart, probably even more than when it was inside of you. And this love will only generate more love for you- love from his parents as well. And more selfishly, we can have the child which we have been wanting all these years-all readymade for us with a heart which we can be sure will beat for us just like it did while inside you.”

I was convinced now that I wanted to save this boy even though it meant parting with one of my precious hearts. But there was still one problem. Which heart? I figured that FH would be ideal to retain considering it was a female heart in a female body. But outwardly, both the hearts appeared the same, as I had seen in the many X-rays that had been taken every so often. How would the surgeons know which one to remove? I worried about what would happen if MH was left behind in me and FH would be put inside the boy. I guessed that was a risk one had to take.

I revealed my decision to the maid. “Kanta Bai , thank you for making me realize how selfish and heartless I have been all this while. Only on confronting somebody’s pain at such close quarters, have I realized how myopic I have been all my life; in not seeing the pain of strangers who have been imploring me to donate one of my hearts for their loved ones. I would have hunted out a heart for you even if I didn’t have a spare one myself. But now I myself will give Rohan one of my hearts.” And then I proceeded to add in the most imploring tone,“ Also, if you agree, I will then adopt him from you. May I? Please Kanta Bai?”

Kanta Bai hugged me tight. With copious tears streaming down her cheeks, cried,” Oh, Didi! God bless you. I knew my prayers would be answered some day. You are the messiah He has sent for us.”

“Hang on, hang on, there is still one problem though;’’ I intervened trying to cover up my embarrassment. I proceeded to tell her about the different orientations of my hearts and the irresolvable uncertainty as to which of them will be transplanted into her son. “It will be a gamble, but I am ready to adopt him in either case. If you agree, of course”, I said.

“What more could I ask for, Didi? All I want is to see my son survive. And I will consider myself doubly blessed if I can not only be there to see him growing up in front of my eyes, but under the care of parents better than his own”, she cried.

So that settled it. Both my husband and the maid seemed to have larger hearts than both of mine put together! Shekhar was cool with whichever heart remained inside me since he was used to loving and being loved by both . Kanta Bai couldn’t care less as long as her child survived- as a boy, a girl, a homosexual or a heterosexual. She had already made a ‘Devi’ (female goddess) out of me. How could I now allow myself to be de-haloed!

It was thus that I allowed myself to be divested of one of my hearts. The gamble paid off. The Almighty was kind enough to let me retain the heart that I had wished to retain. But, I must admit, I do not miss MH. I can feel it’s presence in the love from Rohan, which, I must say, I get in plenty. Shekhar says he feels the same. Needless to say, Kanta’s and her husband’s joy know no bounds.

As often transpires with women who adopt a child, motherly instincts were kindled in me to such an extent that I soon conceived, and now have a sibling for Rohan. It’s a little baby girl with a single, throbbing heart and this time from my womb!

When I was carrying her, I often found myself wondering who I would love more- Rohan, with my heart beating inside him or the yet-to-be-born with a heart of her/his own, but, born of my womb. But now I realize that it really doesn’t matter. I love both to bits and find my one and only, not-so-large heart, oozing with love for both of them equally! And they seem to reciprocate in equal measure.

My baby is a girl but I am yet to know her sexual orientation. There is still time for that to reveal itself. But as long as her heart beats, and beats with love, it really doesn’t matter.

Vasanthi Meattle