Manav was sitting in the hospital area, waiting for the news to sink in. The doctor had given him three months to live. At the max, he said his longevity could stretch to six months. The news came like a thunderbolt at this stage of his life. He was 57 years old and there was still so much of life to look forward to.
The coffee that he had ordered for at the Starbucks inside the hospital was delivered to him just in time. As the caffeine flowed through his veins, his mind started to clear from the fog that had started gaining in momentum and gathering dust. By the time he slurped in the last sip, he chalked three things to do before he breathes his last.
With a renewed vigour and a strange excitement, he rose from his seat and headed home. On his way back in the cab, he recollected his birth story and childhood years.
“Third time lucky”, said everyone to his beaming parents upon his birth.
Manav was the youngest child. When he was born, his home was lit up as if there was a grand wedding or Diwali festivities. His parents were relieved that they could end their baby making efforts for good. After the birth of two girls, they persisted and hoped that they would get lucky the third time. Fortunately, they did!
Manav was the central focus of his household. His parents shamelessly deflected all their love and attention to him. His sisters were seen as ´Paraya Dhan´ from birth anyway. However, Manav loved his sisters and wanted to be like them. He spent most of his time with them and rooted for them as long as he was living with his parents. He left home for higher studies when he was seventeen and never lived with his parents permanently after that. However, his parents still made the major decisions in his life.
They got the elder two sisters married at the ripe tender age of 21, with no share in property. After his parents´ demise, Manav was the legal heir to the entire ancestral property. His wife, Shakti insisted that Manav keeps the entire share for the sake of their children. Now that the doctor confirmed his death, Manav decided to change his will and give some part of the family property to both his sisters. It would make his soul rest in peace, knowing that he did the right thing.
Talking of Shakti, it was finally time to hit the nail in the coffin. They both knew that their divorce was inevitable, some day or the other. They put up with the sham initially for their old parent´s sake, then for their growing children, then for society. And now that their children were close to the marriageable age, neither of them wanted to rock the boat and spoil the chances´ of their children getting lucrative matrimonial matches. It was a very hard for Manav to pull this marriage so far.
Someone wise said that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. The best time in their lives came fifteen years ago when Manav caught Shakti in their bedroom with another man. He wanted to file a divorce right away. But Shakti came clean with her side of the story and Manav admitted that he was not the perfect husband material. Shakti urged him to think of the long-term implications of them as a family and their standing in society. Since then, neither of them asked each others´ whereabouts. Their marriage was a shattered glass but one that was quietly swept under the rug. But all that didn´t matter now that his days were numbered. He was going to file for divorce and let Shakti go. The children were adults now and free to make informed choices of their own.
A month passed by. Manav had called his family for a private gathering at his home – his ex-wife, children and sisters.
“IThank you everyone for coming! I have an announcement to make which I have been postponing for the last one month. Around the same time when the doctors declared that I have 3-6 months left to live. All thanks to a brain tumour!
I would like to live the remaining days of my life in authenticity, peace and freedom. I don´t want your sympathy but your understanding and space to let me be in these last few months.
Pushpa and Rupali, my beloved sisters and partners-in-crime, I thank you for the wonderful memories of childhood and being my inspiration. As a token of love, appreciation and justice, I am transferring half of our ancestral property in equal share to you.
Shakti, my beautiful ex-wife who has truly been the pillar of our wonderful family for twenty five years needs all the awards in the world for putting up with a man like me. Any other woman in her place would have walked out on me within the first month of marriage. But, she stood like a rock beside me and our family. As a mother, words would fail to do her justice and Shourya and Khushboo are her perfect testimony. Before I breathe my last, I want you to suffer no more. And hence, I am filing for divorce. Thank you for all your love and support. I´m sure the children and theirs will be well taken care as long as they have you walk on this earth.
Finally, there is one last thing to tick off my bucket-list. I should have done this a long time ago. I am going in to a sex-operation change later today. This is a secret that I swore would go to my grave. But, I cannot take it anymore. My whole life has been a role-play. I never felt male all my life. I am female in soul. I couldn´t come clean and break my parents´ heart and happiness bubble. I was the answer to their prayers not a sinful curse. I felt at ease with Pushpa and Rupali but couldn´t open up to them ever. I pitied Shakti for marrying a guy like me blindly.
All my life, I have placed others´ happiness in front of mine and ran away from my true self. I thought if I hid, the truth would finally give up on me and disappear as well. I´ve been a woman trapped in a man´s body all my life. I don´t want to die like this. At least, I will have the joy and satisfaction of knowing what it is to live life as a woman in the remaining few days of my life.”
There was an awkward silence in the room followed by thunderous claps lead by his children.
Later that evening, Manav become Menaka. Menaka got third time lucky as she crossed the third and last item in the ´soon to be deceased´ checklist. The happiness didn´t just stop there. Menaka received a windfall which came in the form of this SMS right after her operation:
‘Hi Manav! This is Dr. Shishir Gupta. Due to a mix-up in the medical reports, we erroneously informed you that you have a brain tumour and you will not live for more than 3-6 months. Your reports are normal. I take full responsibility and am sorry for the terrible lapse on our part. Goodnight!´
I’m participating in the Write Tribe Festival of Words – June 2018