10 May When I cried & pleaded to be with my baby
On MOTHER’S DAY here’s a slice of my life…
The year was 2002…
The obedient thing cries at the precise second. It doesn’t care if we are dreaming up a rosy world or nursing a sore back or even if we have postponed our wake-up time. It makes for the lack of a dog – faithful to a fault – sun or rain, in sickness or health, in joy or sorrow, the nasty thing is the only body in this whole universe that gets away by yelling at us each morning. We let it cry, then scream and later screech, before the husband drags himself out and I prepare to follow.
But the morning of December 20, 2002, was different. I yearned for it to ring. All night long, I saw it tick away. Its arrogance louder with each passing second. As if saying: ‘You can choose to sleep or lay awake but cannot threaten me or buy me out. You. Tow. My. Line. Is that clear!’
In the small yellow bedside time-piece I saw my destiny. In its needles I heard my heart tick. I strained across to see the red seconds needle and caught my husband awake, too.
We couldn’t wait to hear our child – our one-year-and-nine-days old little girl. We threw ourselves in bed without having the nerve to look into each other’s eyes the previous night after seeing-off my mother leave with the love of our life in her arms to board Emirates airlines from Dubai to Hyderabad.
It took me several years after that night to even begin understanding that time is of the essence when one is to define love and life.
When love had beckoned, my aim in life took a volte-face. Enviable three years in each other’s arms we spent. Writing and reading was replaced with cooing and whispering. Career moves and financial stability took a back seat.
And then the yellow monster raised its head. We woke up to the fact that in nine months we couldn’t change our visa status. With both of us on our respective company visas, the new addition to our family would be stranded!
No, she was not a mistake. We had prayed to be blessed or as the husband, in his moments of pride, says: “I sculpted our girl meticulously”. Then why didn’t we wait? Well, our doctor’s advice – ‘have the first child before you are 30’.
No worries, commanded my dad. The couple was over the moon. Their only regret was waiting the three semesters. They drafted a plan. Or did they decide for us? And was it the only solution? Definitely not, told all who claimed to have had the best interest of the mother and child.
But they could never see our interest. We decided to let my mom take the newborn to Hyderabad, India, after my delivery in Dubai, while we sorted out the visa. Love and time weighed heavily in our decision. Had we got a family status even, we both had to work to make ends meet. So our baby would live with a stranger during the day. She would do her duty for a salary, unlike her grandparents who would nourish her with love and nurture her with their undivided attention.
My aim in life changed again. Soon I found the aisles at the warehouse of the logistics company in Jebel Ali, where I worked, akin to prison cells. The morning trips I undertook without a complaint for three years seemed long and arduous. Traffic snarls, which earlier were time to catch-up on sleep, became stressful. Dreaded the weekends that we eagerly waited for…
Ugly thoughts raised their heads… Neither did I have my child with me nor the career I had embarked on. And comments such as ‘couple minting money in the Gulf leaving their only child behind’ turned me a bitter person.
So much so, I began hating my sex. All those who rode on their husband’s hard work and those who slogged at workplaces and rushed home to check-on babysitters. I disliked them all. “How can you stay away from your baby? You are really hard-hearted, Nisha.”
That phrase, by one of my colleagues, threw me off all vital life tracks. If psychological abuse is punishable under law, then I will sue them all! I was a wreck. Will our child feel unwanted…thoughts ran wild, fuelled by freely available info on the Web. If physically I was trapped in the desert lands, emotionally I was choked and mentally wired in questions.
I turned to what I knew the best. Poems had always helped me find logic in madness. Questions I weaved into sonnets wherein my heart and brains gnawed on each other and sanity I sieved through the turmoil!
…In the deepest bosom of my heart
I hear the voice of righteousness…
This life you need to play your part
love and labour you address with piousness…
The truth unfolded thus…Even if I were to give a million-dollar gift to my parents it would not substitute the joy they experience with their grandchild for a second.
“My child is my gift to their labour of love to me,” I concluded.
With the new moral status I socialised cheerfully and strutted fearlessly across the dark aisles. My office cubicle was amid stacked pallets in the middle of the warehouse. So what if that was a globally successful logistics firm? With a Masters in Journalism what the heck was I doing amid trolleys, fork-lifts and stock-taking?
Soon I saw myself preparing for the exit interview and instantly became a Paulo Coelho fan – “When you really yearn for something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it!” Here I also need to quote my manager Ronnie’s words – “You need to take risks in life if you want to do what you love doing.”
It was a gamble, indeed. I was throwing away a five-day-48-hour weekly job for a lower salary, in a new publication with no survival guarantee, ready to work six-day-weeks with 10-hour-a-day shifts. My only request to the CEO was Dh4,000 to sponsor my child. And it was verbally granted.
I plunged head-long into my job, with new-found verve I started living my passion of writing and interviewing personalities.
After the probationary six months, I requested to sponsor my daughter and the management replied, in no uncertain terms: “We can only give you a salary certificate. The rest is between you and the immigration.”
Dashed off to DNRD only to be told women journalists cannot sponsor their families. Whoever said ignorance is bliss!
Our baby’s first birthday was nearing and we couldn’t bring her to Dubai. At my husband’s MNC workplace, things moved at a snail’s pace…half-a-step at a time after each annual appraisal. Which meant, according to the promises with the due KPIs in place, he could possibly be considered for a family status the following year.
However, they were kind enough to let him avail the annual leave before time. We decided to fly down. The next day, I waited anxiously, leave application in hand, for the CEO.
What’s it?” My leave ap…”Nobody’s going on leave now. We’ve just launched. It’s a crucial period.”
In understand, just 10 days.
…(pause, no reply)
It’s my child’s first birthday.
I haven’t seen her for 11 months.
“I’m sorry, Nisha.”
I felt like a bonded slave. Opened a word document and typed out my resignation letter but could not print it as I was running late for an appointment. This is my last story for the damn publication, I vowed to myself and stepped out to hail a cab as I needed some time to myself. But the in-house driver was on his way looking for me.
A Pakistani Pathan, he was a happy-go-lucky talkative guy. My lack of geographical knowledge was his favourite topic. “God, please keep this man’s mouth shut today,” I prayed before getting into the car.
Almost 30 minutes later, I heard him say “Madam yehi hey building.” (This is the building).
Gosh, my guilt knew no bounds. He hadn’t spoken a word. Just wanted some time to myself…the guilt ride didn’t last long as the lift took me to the lobby.
A fruitful interview and an hour-and-a-half later, I walked out to see him wait patiently for me.
“What happened Muneer?”
“Kya bathayein, madam. Humare waha laddayi shuru hogaye phir se. Ek hafta huya biwi se baath kiye…Uski tho thabihat bhi sahi nahi the. Thum Indian log acha hai. Mia, biwi dono kaam karo aur saath raho, tension nahi… (Factional fights have begun again in my place…haven’t spoken to my wife for a week and she’s been unwell for some time. You Indians live life well. Both husband and wife work and stay together…no tension)
Returned to my desk and deleted the resignation!
I was blank. Sat staring out of the window from my office. The mobile ring broke into the silence inside me. Hello! The voice at the other end choked me. Before I could say another word, I heard: “Listen, how about bringing them on visit. That way we’ll get to spend three months with her.” Holding back tears, I said that was a brilliant idea.
“Now, go have your lunch,” the husband said and cut the line, as if he had been witness to the morning episode. But I couldn’t swallow a morsel. Had gotten used to telling Sanjeev each minute detail by crossing every single T and dotting the Is… Redialled and poured out the dialouges, requests, swearing, helplessness and the rest in no particular order.
“I expected this. Now have your lunch, it’s already 3,” is all he said.
I was liberated and already had the title for my article at the tip of my fingers. If any speckle on my sincerity to work had surfaced during the day it was only in my thoughts.
Both of us were excited. Our little lady was coming home! We sat down and made an exhaustive list of things to be done to child-proof the house, items to be bought, friends to be invited… I even decided on the menu for the birthday party that night. I had never experienced such joy until then. The last time I sensed something similar was while travelling to Dubai to join Sanjeev or was it when I realised I’m expecting? Well, on both occasions, I felt pretty much the same – a sense of relief and excitement peppered with apprehension and weakness in the knee coupled with a hyper-active mind on a roll – a sort of hotch-potched senses making me feel dizzy with joy and tall with pride… so how did I feel? I still do not know. I can’t put words to describe the two occasions. The feelings were absolutely nothing exactly like the first but something similar to the second.
Feelings are, indeed, conundrums! The more you try defining them the more they drift apart!
The next few days were hectic, both at home and our offices. An active mind always finds the surroundings vibrant!
“Heard from the PRO?” became my way of greeting the husband, be it over the phone or in the evenings. A week later, the PRO returned to say “infants cannot be brought on visit visas”.
“What do we do now?” I asked. “Let me check,
I’ll speak to him once more, there should be a way out,” he assured me.
The PRO advised us to meet the mudhir (head) at the Immigration Department. We could be considered on humanitarian grounds. Immediately, drafted a request and called my editor to say I would be late the next morning and returned home. That was the first evening in our marriage where we didn’t have anything to tell each other.
Early next morning at sharp 7am we were at the Immigration Office . After being directed to four counters, one typist led us to the office of the mudhir. There we had to first present our case to the secretary and wait. After almost half-an-hour the man returned and asked us for the application. He disappeared again. Twenty minutes later he emerged to say: “Baby, visa no. Sponsor.”
“Can I meet him, please”, I asked.
“No. Mudhir. No” he replied. I stayed put. Whatever I said, the reply was: “No. Mudhir. No.” Was he saying the official was not in or was it a ‘no’ to the visa request, we weren’t clear. I understood the importance of knowing Arabic then.
My husband had given up. But I was determined. “We need to meet the official. How can we believe he showed the application to the concerned person? How do we know he understood right…?”
I was too loud, I realised, when an old Emirati man intervened. Probably took pity on me, he spoke to the secretary in Arabic, pointed to the door and left. The man once again disappeared inside. But this time he came out in a few minutes and asked us to go in.
In a sprawling office, which I thought was more a living room, with a sofa, TV, coffee-maker, et al, sat a young Arab, slightly-built, seemingly busy writing.
“Good Morning,” we said in unison.
“Yes”. Was it a question or a greeting? I didn’t know as he was bent over a letter pad.
I began explaining that my baby was born here…and we needed a visit visa as…”No visa for baby”. I’m not sure if he even listened as he replied before I could finish.
When I refused to move and persisted, “please”, with absolutely no expression in his voice, said: “People bringing babies on visit and no going back. Problem.”
“What the hell does he think of himself? Isn’t there a way to speak to people?”
The fact that he didn’t issue a visa became secondary. I felt insulted. “He never looked at us. If we were to go to him with another application, he wouldn’t even know us. Is this the way a responsible and senior official conducts himself?
“You have no control over others’ behaviour. Forget it,” said Sanjeev and drove me to work.
But I couldn’t and not until this day. His haughty indifference as if we were some measly infested creatures who didn’t deserve being looked at even!
Power intoxicates…but it is injurious to other’s health, I was soon to learn.
“I’ll speak to my CEO. I’ve heard he helps office-boys bring in their families on holiday by turn,” I said and waited for his opinion…but the husband draws strength from silence in times of anger, disappointment and helplessness…so I walked off.
The moment the CEO walked in I requested for a meeting. “Yes”, he said, reclining back.
But no sooner than I began presenting my case than he turned to his right and began sorting out files. “I’ve stopped entertaining such requests. Check with Emirates,” he spat without looking towards me.
The second time I felt insulted in less than an hour. It was not the ‘no’ but the manner it was told that hurt me. I walked out, straight to the toilet, closed myself in a cubicle and wept my heart out.
I was at the mercy of others to see my child. My own baby!
The next morning, we were off to Dnata office. The receptionist there, on hearing our case, suggested we wait for an hour when a lady supervisor would take over. “Women will understand better, Madam,” said the Filipino.
“We do not give visit visas to children below three years,” said the lady supervisor.
But at least she was polite and explained that there have been several cases where parents get their newborns on visit and do not return on time. In our desperation, we even suggested to have someone stand guarantee on our behalf.
We returned to our respective workplaces. I was numb. Absolutely no feelings. No tears, no words, no questions. Around mid-day, I placed my regular call. Sanjeev’s mobile was switched off. “Could be in a meeting.” Two hours later I tried again… then tried his colleague’s, who asked: “How’s he feeling, now?” Well…I stammered something incoherently. “Oh! Probably he didn’t want to disturb you. Sanjeev has called in sick.”
I called home. No reply. I had noticed he’d become silent and knew that’s the way he reacted to pressure. I was devastated. Sent him several messages. I called to cancel an appointment scheduled. No luck. So I headed to meet the Dean of Hospitality College, mobile phone in hand, mind blank. As I walked-in, I received a message “I’m Ok. I’ll pick you up.”
“I’m sorry, I’m travelling tomorrow…”, is how the gentleman greeted me. “It’s Ok,” I said politely and started. But the reply to my very second query was a question: “Are you sure, you’re OK. I’ll sent you the answers by e-mail if you can wait for a couple of days.” Grabbed the opportunity and took leave.
Waiting in the lobby, I saw students at their chirpy best, some strutting along, others falling over their friends, a few comparing notes… all free souls, happy in their small world! And my eyelids could no longer contain the thrust…
Getting into the car, I saw a beaming husband. “We’ll get the visa.”
All my determination to be strong for him flew out in a jiffy. Even before he could recount the happenings of the day, I gave him a piece of my mind and as usual, repented in leisure!
It so happened, that morning he couldn’t concentrate on his work. So he locked himself up in the car and broke down. Watching him inside, the security informed his friend. This friend knew someone whose acquaintance could help us. The trio was with the said noble businessman, while I bled my heart out.
So what happens to the rule?
“Influence is all that matters.”
My baby is coming, I announced to all who gave me an ear.
My colleague, a woman again, said: “Will the baby come to you guys? Will she know you both are her parents?”
My mind went on a ride, yet again…
Smile, my love!
Mamma can’t wait
I love you so much
And you know not that!
Papa can’t wait
He loves you so much
And you know not that!
You are our world
Our only aim in life
Is to see you smile!
The system kept us apart
The rules separated us
And we pray not to be anymore apart!
There has been no single day
When you were not in our thoughts;
There has been no single occasion
When you were not within us!
Each time we stepped ahead to hold you near
Circumstances pulled us back, my dear
With heavy hearts we stepped behind in tears
And prayed to let us be near!
My heart’s aching, so is your papa’s
People say you will not recognise us
That you will not rush into our arms
Will you not just smile, my love?
You are our world
Just smile at us
When we walk towards you!
She arrived on December 3 and we celebrated her first birthday.
BTW, she did come to us in the first few minutes itself. Blood is thicker than filth in minds!
But the dirty minds far away were at work. Bush was determined to attack Saddam. Now their safety became our concern. Not that Dubai would be in the line of fire but we couldn’t foresee the repercussions an US attack on Iraq would have on regional air travel. And if her stay were to be extended, it would be letting down the kind-hearted person who sponsored her.
So the three-month stay was cut short to three weeks. On December 19, 2002 she was scheduled to return.
We spent that whole day with her. Driving to the airport, she sat on my lap gurgling, clapping and babbling. She was excited. She loves outdoors, mom said.
At the airport, again the rule played dirty. Only one person could accompany passengers up until the immigration check. I opted to stay back for two reasons: My husband could help with the luggage and each passing second was getting more torturous. Walked up in the queue until the barricade, placed her in my mom’s hands, turned and walked. Neither could I look at her nor my mom.
Walked straight to the car waited for Sanjeev. Returned home and plonked ourselves in bed…
The yellow monster began shivering. That one morning, it didn’t have to cry or scream to call our attention. Instead, we were doing it the whole night through. Calling out to someone, seeking someone’s attention to set things right for us!
Got up to call home and the phone rang. An excited dad at the other end: “They’ve just arrived…she was fine…slept on the flight…she’s in my arms now…didn’t forget me…the moment she saw me she jumped out of your mother’s grip…she’s tanned a bit, my little one…”
What could or who else could make my dad scream his lungs out in joy? During my 26 years with them, I had never seen him or heard him in such joy. Countless instances after that have only reinforced my faith in the labour of love logic!
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About the author
Nisha Sanjeev, is a Transformation Strategist specializing in Practical Spirituality. She brings her real world experience of being a Journalist for over 20 years and her learnings from Spiritual Masters to her signature courses. Nisha is on a mission to help transform people, especially women, to love and respect themselves and create the life of freedom.
She is the author of 2 books. First book ‘Anamica’ details how an Indian girl goes into the verge of depression by sacrifising her self-worth and desires to live for others.
‘Step Out ‘n’ Step It Up’details how one can tap into their Inner Power to create the life they so desire.
Click here for my latest book on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GtxBzT
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