The Gift : A Short Story
‘So…what are you willing to give up for me?’ asked Gaurav, propping his head up on his elbow, tracing a line on Nandini’s bare back with his fingers. She was already sitting up on the bed, her back to him, hurriedly looking for her clothes.
‘Eh?’ she replied distractedly, trying to find her panties and bra, which were buried somewhere in the tousled sheets. She found them and quickly slipped them on, her back still turned to him.
‘What will you give up for me?’ he repeated.
‘Why should I give up anything, Gaurav?’
‘Just curious. Call it making conversation,’ he paused. ‘You’re still so shy! You act as though we’re having an illicit affair. Even after seven years of being my wife, you still scramble for your clothes.’
‘Shut up.’ She smiled as she slipped on her kurta and adjusted her thin, mousy hair that fell just below her shoulders. ‘I hate my hair,’ she said.
‘You know there’s nothing that can’t be fixed these days, right? You can get hair extensions if you really don’t like your hair. And hey, you always say this after a good fuck.’
‘Nah, no hair extensions for me. They cost a fortune. Besides, what I need is volume.’
‘You know, if you have regular sex it helps hair growth.’
‘Oh! Is that so? Wonder why it hasn’t helped me then.’
He chuckled at the genuine look of surprise on her face.
‘Oh my, Nandini. You are so gullible! You still believe anything I tell you! How did we ever find each other?’
She snuggled into him, resting her head on his bare chest. This was their post-coital ritual. They would lie in each other’s arms – she always fully clothed and he fully naked. Then they would talk. It was these little moments that Nandini looked forward to the most as they lightened the burden both of them carried in their hearts but did their best not to speak of. Gaurav had forbidden her from discussing it.
For six years now, they had been desperately trying to have their own baby, and failing. They had been through numerous invasive, painful tests.
‘Nandini, your tests are all fine. Gaurav, you seem to have a hypothalamic disorder. Treatment is possible but it may take a year or more of hormone therapy to get the sperm production to the desired level. Nothing that can’t be fixed,’ Dr Shah had told them. He had taken them through the procedure, explaining the process and outlining the costs.
‘It’s a little expensive but the success rate is 60 to 70 per cent, which is high,’ he had said.
‘Don’t you think we should go to a bigger hospital?’ Nandini asked Gaurav later.
At her insistence, they went for a second opinion to the best hospital in Raipur, the most expensive and most modern one.
‘You have no idea how horrible it is to jerk off into a test tube. Those dirty magazines they gave me did nothing for me. All I could think of was you,’ Gaurav had told her, making her blush.
The doctors at the new hospital said the same thing, that Gaurav needed hormone therapy. It would take a year, but the sperm levels would stabilize and after that they could try to have babies the natural way.
Gaurav and Nandini had tried everything medical science had made possible, including IVF – in-vitro fertilization – which Dr Shah had said would be a ‘sure-shot-success’. All it had succeeded in doing so far was blow up their savings.
‘The reasons for low sperm count can be varied. For you, Gaurav, it’s actually borderline. It’s not azoospermia, in which case there really would have been no option but to find a sperm donor. But in this case it could also be stress. Are you facing a lot of stress at work?’ the doctors had asked.