Stuck in traffic for four hours, Krishna looked around. Her eyes rested on a Kashmiri couple for a while then came back to her fellow passenger. He was a young boy with his eyes closed and headphones plugged to his ears. A smile ran on her lips. A wild thought came to her mind–holding her hand Peter Pan is taking her to Neverland, so that she will remain a girl…. forever.
No one could have ever assumed seeing the 60-year-old Krishna that she wanted to live her life again, right from her childhood. Since she was a girl she had a wonderful quality. She could read the minds of people. Yes, she could make out what a person was thinking. That was the reason while leaving home, a week ago, she could sense that her daughter-in-law was quite happy and relieved when her bus moved on.
“Come soon, Mom. Miss you,” she had said, as superficial as ever.
Krishna could not figure out what made her presence undesirable to her daughter-in-law. She had always been nice to her. “She could not have survived my mother-in-law for a single day,” she thought sarcastically.
It had been very difficult for her to adjust after marriage with such a terror of a mother-in-law. Her husband was less like a companion and more like a teacher. He always coaxed her to study, regardless of her unending household chores. Her only horizon was her kids—Avni and Akash—they filled her with joy.
“Poo…”The loud horn of the bus brought her back from the past to the present. She could not think of a single reason for the driver to blow the horn. The bus could not move even an inch. Might be he wanted to break the monotony of murmur within the bus. There was silence for a few seconds, but the silence was not absolute. Krishna could hear a soft deep moaning. She knew that it was that Kashmiri lady. She was in labour pain.

The picture of the labour room, women crying in pain, started coming back like a slide show before her. She closed her eyes tightly, but it didn’t stop. She tried deep breathing but her nightmare refused to fade away. She was about to break down. Suddenly, someone jerked her. It was that boy, her co-passenger.
“Aunty, are you all right?” he asked.
She just managed to nod. He gave her some water. She felt better. She took out a string of beads and started chanting some mantra that a life coach had told her. She had spent the last week in his workshop to deal with such panic attacks she had been going through since the past one year. But she had doubts about its success. In all this chaos and her chanting, she could hear the soft moaning. The more she wanted to neglect it, the more vivid it became. She knew that things would worsen with time. As time passed, the whole bus became aware of her plight. Her husband went out of the bus for some help, but soon returned empty-handed. This was the most deserted patch of the highway.
Everyone on board started advising him but his lack of knowledge of the local language made things difficult for him. Only Krishna was chanting mantras, indifferent to her surroundings. Past events were sliding before her eyes.
“Come on study, you are not that tired,” her husband was coaxing her to study.
She was running to college, wearing a white coat. She started getting respect from her in-laws as her career proceeded. Eventually, her kids got married. Avni came home for delivery. Her last breath… Hope in her eyes, “Maa, you will save me,” were her last words.

The leading gynaecologist of the city could not save her daughter. The labour room that earned her respect, confidence and prosperity in a career span of 30 years, took back everything she had in just a few minutes and left her shattered. She left her career and cocooned herself in guilt and fear.
“Maa,” the lady screamed in pain, and her voice penetrated through Krishna’s cocooned heart. It broke free from the chrysalis of despair and grief. She got up authoritatively, “ Don’t panic,
I am a doctor.” Her words changed the scene in the bus. She caressed the forehead of the Kashmiri lady and murmured, “Avni, this time I will not lose you. I am with you. Everything will happen naturally.”
“She understands only Kashmiri,” her husband said. Krishna smiled and said, “Doesn’t matter.”
She did what she was best at, keeping the other passengers on tenterhooks. Within a few minutes, a healthy baby boy was on the bus. The crying sound of the newborn brought cheer not only to the passengers of the bus but also to people in nearby vehicles. It took huge efforts of the driver, conductor and others to keep the crowd away from the newborn.
The new mom thanked Krishna. Her language was foreign to her ears but familiar to her heart. She glanced at her with teary eyes and a warm smile. The bus soon started crawling out of the traffic. An ambulance was waiting at the Toll Plaza, thanks to the smartphone of the boy sitting next to Krishna. They went.
Everyone on the bus waved out to them as if they were some long lost kin.
When the bus reached Jaipur, Akash was already there. He hugged her.
“Mom, you are a hero. Look.” he said, showing his phone to her. It was her with the Kashmiri woman and her baby. Someone had uploaded the whole story with the caption, ‘New Life in a Jam.’
“Welcome home, Maa,” her daughter-in-law said.
Krishna smiled because she knew it was a real welcome. A real home-coming for her, a new life.

-Seema Tiwary

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