THE ONLY ESCAPE?

It was strange, unfamiliar but beautiful- this land on which I found myself wandering. It was lush green everywhere and flowers, of the most vibrant hues, grew in abundance. There were pretty birds; some perched on branches of the many trees all around and some pecking on the green grass below. They were chirping away merrily, filling the air with a pleasant, all pervading melody. On the other hand, a melody of a different nature, but melody all the same, was the ‘din’ caused by the children playing in the lawns outside their homes- some squealing in delight, some little ones bawling for their mothers and some singing in gay abandon. They were a good mix of white, black and brown.

It seemed to be a quaint little town, thinly populated with people who seemed to be happy with their lives. And why not- it seemed such an idyllic place, quite utopian and away from it all.

The town had rows of houses with colourful, sloping roofs and neat balconies with flowers hanging out of pots hung on the balustrades. They made a pretty picture and it really felt like a fairyland out of a storybook.

I walked around the place soaking in the peaceful surroundings. I was greeted by each and every person who passed by, even if with just a nod of the head. One of them was a couple, where the husband seemed to be ill. His stomach was bulging out and he was holding on to his wife’s arm for support with one hand, while his other arm supported his stomach, as they ambled along. He seemed rather uncomfortable and I felt sorry for him and wondered what he was afflicted with, which had made his stomach grow so much out of proportion. Even he, in spite of his quite obvious discomfort, didn’t fail to nod his head in greeting.

I did not feel the time roll by as I wandered around aimlessly. I suddenly found myself joined by a group of girls. They must have been as old as me, but definitely looked and behaved a lot younger. They seemed familiar. I appeared to know them. In fact I recognized some of them as my close buddies with whom I had shared the deepest of my secrets. Yet they seemed alien in a peculiar kind of way. I couldn’t really put my finger on it but there was definitely some unexplained mental gap which separated them from me. And it was not just my lack of education.

It soon grew dark. I looked at my watch. My instinct told me that it was time to start heading homewards. But my ‘alien’ friends didn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry. They, in fact, were planning to go to a new bar which had opened a few days back. They wanted to go there for a couple of drinks and to “chill for some more time”.

“Isn’t it rather late already? How will we get back home?” I asked.

They looked at me with askance. “Just like we do everyday” they said.

“But there’s nobody to escort us back!” I worried.

“Escort us!” They all chorused, incredulously. “We don’t need any escorting. We all know our way home. Don’t you?”

“I do. But will it be safe to go home unescorted at this late hour” I said, still puzzled.

“Of course! What are you afraid of? Safe from what? Demons or ghosts or wild animals? What, what is it that you fear, my dear?” They asked, almost with amusement.

“Are you girls not afraid of being abducted by vile men who are often up and on the prowl at a late hour like this? My mother always tells me to be home before dark, before the sun sets. Haven’t you heard of all the horrid stories of rape of young girls by such men?” I cried.

“Rape? What’s that?” asked my friends.

Before I could reply, Ezra, who seemed to be the most well read and knowledgeable amongst them, asked, “Wait a minute. Are you from planet earth?”

I found myself answering in the affirmative. It was then that it dawned on me that I had been somehow transported to this strange, yet beautiful, planet. Ezra had also apparently realized that.

It was suddenly another day. My new friend, Ezra, from this new planet I was now on, was taking me along to educate me about life on it.

“Come with me” she said, “I’ll show you something which will help you understand this planet.”

We had now entered a hospital and she led me to its maternity ward. Outside it, was a line of benches on which were seated a row of pregnant people waiting for their turn to be examined by the doctor inside.

Yes, they were pregnant people- men and women. Not just women! In that line of about thirty people, there were at least twelve men who were pregnant. I also recognized the man with the bloated stomach who I had come across the other day! He was not ailing; he was only pregnant! Though an uncomfortable sight, because of the unfamiliarity of it, I must say, it was a most satisfying one! As Ezra explained later, when a couple had intercourse, it was a matter of chance as to whether the woman would get pregnant or the man. It was as much a mystery as that of whether the baby would be a boy or a girl! Though externally, the bodies of a man and woman were just like that of those on planet Earth, out here, internally, both had a uterus. After the egg gets fertilized, no one could tell as to whose uterus it would travel to and lodge itself in, to form the baby!

Also, between them, if they had multiple children, it could be either of them carrying the embryo. If the woman got pregnant the first time, it could well be the man the next!

Hence there were no rapes! It was indeed a great leveler between the two genders.

I was still thinking joyfully about the ramifications of this wonderful aspect of this planet, when Ezra, next, took me to the lobby outside the labour room. Anxious fathers and mothers were waiting there, their gaze fixed on the door to the room where their respective partners were undergoing labour to give birth to their babies. At regular intervals the nurse would emerge bearing the news of the new arrivals.

“Mrs.Martin”, she announced once,” Congratulations! You have been blessed with a baby boy priest”! The next moment, the announcement was,” Congratulations, Mr. Smith, you have been blessed with a baby boy plumber!”

Before I could ask Ezra the meaning of these announcements, which pronounced the profession of the baby apart from only the sex, there was yet one more new arrival. This time the nurse said, “Congratulations, Mr.Wills, you have been blessed with a baby girl engineer!”

Ezra was watching my perplexed expression on my face with amusement. She then proceeded to reveal yet another mind-boggling fact about this truly amazing planet.

When a child was born on this planet, he/she was born with a brain which was pre-wired to be any of these people — a doctor, an engineer, a nurse, a sweeper, a plumber, an electrician or anyone for that matter. He or she was born with an in-built software which made him live his/her life according to whatever job his/her brain was wired for! A baby with a brain wired to be a doctor could start performing all the duties of a doctor after reaching the age of eighteen years. He could not be taught to be an engineer or even a sweeper!

Hence there were no schools or colleges, or any kind of educational institute for that matter. Till the age of eighteen, all that the children did was to eat, drink, play and grow! I imagined how happy my little ones would have been on this planet! They could have played on and on without any breaks for home-work, school, or exams to study for!

Hence the birth of a child involved the unfolding of three mysteries — the mother or the father giving birth, the sex of the child and its vocation! And all these were a matter of sheer chance!

Even a doctor couple, for example, could be blessed with a baby who had a brain for being a clerk; and vice versa too- a clerk and a plumber could very well be blessed with a ‘doctor-baby’!

“Don’t people feel jealous or envious of each other because of the kind of babies born to them visa vie other people?” I asked with amazement

“Not at all!” assured Ezra. “Don’t you earthlings love your children as they are- short or plump, fair or dark, intelligent or not so smart? You do feel love for your own more than for somebody else’s however ‘better’ the latter’s might be. Am I right?” said Ezra.

I couldn’t but agree. This was a very big leveler again — this time for society as a whole. Since a family could have people of all levels of professions, there were no higher or lower stratas of society. Everybody respected each other’s profession and hence there was nothing like jealousy or envy or competition etc.

It was a world where people didn’t seem to know hate; everybody seemed to just want to share love and happiness with each other. It was almost too good to be true.

I hugged Ezra and thanked her for revealing such amazing facts about life on this planet. We became the best of friends. I continued to live there, leading a life free of fear of any kind, in spite of being not only a woman but an uneducated one at that. I enjoyed this new status to the hilt and felt alien no more.

Cupid struck soon enough and I had a man in my life. He showed me around, taking me to the most enchanting places on the planet. Our love blossomed as we enjoyed each other’s company and got closer every day. I had never experienced the love of a man to be so gentle!

One day, as we lay in each other’s arms under a clear blue sky on a hay stack in his farm, enjoying the warmth of the sun as much as that of our love, my man drew me to him and proceeded to plant a kiss on my lips. Just like in the many moments of intimacy on earlier occasions, I felt the magic of his love wash over me. Yet, my earthy conditioning, even after so many days, made me pull away. He cajoled me back into his embrace and just as I felt myself giving in….

‘Trrrinnnng……’ went my alarm clock on my bed side! I woke up with a jolt. With one sleeping child to my left and two on my right and one growing inside me, ready to come out in less than a month’s time, I barely managed to reach out and put the wretched thing off.

I have now come to my senses and how I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop and go back to my dream! If only I could resume my ideal life on that planet where a woman did not fear a man, where a woman was more than a child bearing machine. Where, for the first time, I had realized why it was called ‘making love’! I want to go back to that utopian space where I had been just a moment ago, where a woman as well as a man has an opportunity to experience both the pain and the beauty of child bearing and childbirth. I hate my life here, where, in spite of being married for over four years I have not experienced ecstasy in the physical union of a man and a woman; where I am used, day in and day out, insensitively by a man to satisfy his lust, just because I am his legally married wife; irresponsibly unmindful of his incapacity to even feed his ever-increasing family let alone provide for their other needs.

Is sleep the only escape from it all?

By Vasanthi Meattle