*Purely Fictional Story*
"We won't trouble Mali Paati ammi." Tri stated, sitting on the sofa's arm with her legs resting on Sivaangi's lap. Her small palms were caressing her mother's cheeks willing away the exhaustion that was clearly visible on the pregnant lady's eyes.
"We'll be good girls." Dvi quipped, prancing around the hall. She was currently engaged in the game of testing how well she knew their hall and whether she could navigate the space with her eyes closed. Judging by how she steered clear of all the objects, Sivaangi was sure the tot did not have her eyes closed after all.
"Dvi, please oru edathula okkaru. Else you are going to hurt yourself." The tired mother warned her daughter.
"Dvi, vandhu sit" Tri voiced out in the same stern tone that Sivaangi usually used with the girls to discipline them.
"I will paathukaren" Dvi responded, lightly opening her eyes to see the direction in which Ashwin was entering the hall and went to hug his knee, closing her eyes again. She giggled when strong arms came to lift her but feigned panic and screamed "Ayyaiyo ayyaiyo who who!".
"Don't act Dvi. Adhu appa" Tri rolled her eyes and looked at her mother for her reaction. When she saw Sivaangi roll her eyes too, Tri giggled, hitting her forehead with her petite palm for her sister's drama. Whom else did her twin expect would lift her in their house!
Ashwin nuzzled the daughter in his hand and went over to the sofa to lift the other daughter as well. The tots clung to him and started dancing while still in his arms, waving their hands in front of his and each other's faces. "Paathu maa, kanna kuthika poreenga" he cautioned. The girls, not paying heed, urged their dad to sway too, pulling his tee-shirt to the tune of their made-up song. When their actions got loud, he groaned under the dual weight and told Sivaangi "The girls are getting heavier."
"You are old appa" Tri casually told him while still dancing in his arms. Dvi stopped her actions, glared at Ashwin and then went on to dance with reinforced vigour.
"Ada, I should remember more often that my darling daughters can now understand and speak ara-gora English" Ashwin laughed, dropping the kids on top of the dining table. The girls clambered down to the dining chairs and sat to have their dinner that Ashwin had plated for them while Ashwin fetched them water in their Dora water cups and settled with them to ensure they ate properly.
On seeing Sivaangi lift herself and walk towards them, he pulled out a chair for her to sit next to him, ensuring there was much space between the table and her pregnant belly. It pained him to see her this tired; he was waiting for their baby to come to the world soon – he knew it would not be a cakewalk thereafter, but at least he'd be able to share that tiredness with his wife. Sensing the direction of Ashwin's thoughts, Sivaangi stroked his newly grown stubble and gave him a flying kiss. When he didn't catch it and fuse it with his heart like he usually did, she phony-glared at him and nudged her eyes towards his chest. Chuckling, Ashwin waved his hand around in the air as if trying to catch the wandering kiss and then tightly hugged it to his heart. His goofiness made Sivaangi smile, but she had other items in her mind that needed attention now.
Going back to the topic that she had initiated with the kids, Sivaangi advised them for the nth time "Mali paati veetla chamatha irukanum. No fighting, no crying. Appo dhan amma anga happy a baby a deliver panna mudiyum. Purunjudha?"
Sivaangi had been advised to admit herself in the hospital early next morning for her delivery to be induced. Due to the hospital restrictions, only one attendant was being allowed with her and Ashwin was adamant that it ought to be him. He did not want his parents to fly in the current pandemic situation as he was worried for their health – while his parents understood his concern, they somehow wanted to help the young couple. It took a lot of assurances from Malini for them to agree to stay put "Naa paathukaren pasangala, kavala padadheenga. Delivery ku apparam-um samayal lam naa paathukaren. Enaku vera enna important-a iruku idha vida?"
While they had to leave only the next morning, getting the girls ready then and sending them off to Malani's house that early in the morning felt impractical. Ashwin Sivaangi and Malini had been finalizing the hospital schedule the previous day when Malini offered "Naala rathriye inga vandhu thoongidattum rendum. You both enjoy your night." with a wink before she left.
"Maami ippadi solli solli dhan ippo indha nelamai." Sivaangi had grumbled while Ashwin patiently gathered items for their hospital-delivery bag. Ashwin had kept mum as he knew anything he said now would be met with either tears or harsh words from the extra-emotional bundle that his wife had become the past few days.
"Dvi, Tri, inga vaanga." She had called them. Dvi had made herself comfortable on their parents' bed near Sivaangi's leg while Tri had inquisitively poked around the bag that Ashwin was putting together. "Kelunga, baby seekaram varapogudhu. Adhuku amma and appa have to go to the hospital seri a? Appo neenga rendu perum Mali paati veetuku poi irunga."
"Evalo neram ku?" "Naanga hospital varuvom." "Enga saaptu thoonguvom?" "Baby ku engala pidikuma?"
The tots had piled up all their questions, some of them being asked again despite the parents having clarified it in the earlier months. Ashwin patiently answered them again – Sivaangi and he had decided that that they'd do their best to ensure the girls knew that they would always have their parents' attention even with a new baby in the picture.
"Oru two or three days ku amma appa hospital la irupom. Baby porandhadhum neenga vandhu paakalam. Mali paati veetla dhan neenga irukanum. Teach paati how to build your 'pillow walls' on the bed before you sleep seri a?" he had answered while he sorted the small soft used clothes their friends had given them for the baby to immediately wear after birth. Turning his full attention to his daughters, he had then assured them again "Baby ku Dvi Tri ya than romba romba pidikum. Neengale kettu paarunga?" The girls had made their way to Sivaangi's tummy and questioned it and had been delighted when Sivaangi made them feel the kicks they had received in response to their voices. They had gone on to tell the parents the list of chores they would be responsible for once the baby arrived, making Ashwin and Sivaangi beam with pride.
With the same pride along with some tears at having to be away from them, Sivaangi kissed her daughters goodnight while the tots comfortably settled in the bed at Malini's house with the television set to a cartoon channel. The girls didn't seem to be overly affected by the temporary separation though they did confess they will miss Sivaangi's big belly and kissed it goodbye, much to Sivaangi's annoyance and Ashwin's amusement. As the kids dozed off one by one, Ashwin and Sivaangi thanked Malini and made their way back to 7D.
"Ashwin, enakku emotional a iruku, happy a iruku, tensed a iruku, hungry a iruku. Unakku?" Sivaangi snuggled as close as she could with Ashwin on their bed, drawing patterns on his stubble that she found highly attractive.
"Ennaku thookam jaasthiya iruku. Thoonga vidu ma." He responded with his eyes closed, pulling her hand from his stubble and locking it with his hands near his chest. He had had a busy day at work, having had to transition his work to his colleagues as he was going to leave for the next few days; plus managing the kids and the kitchen – he was drained of energy.
"Ashwin. Don't sleep la? Pesu enkitta." She demanded, purposely twisting her hand that he held captive while she put her other hand to use on his stubble again. All she got in response was her free hand too being imprisoned in his gangly hands.
"Kai pidichuko. Aana pesu ippo."
Knowing he wasn't going to be allowed to sleep anytime soon, he opened his eyes and found hers looking right into his. He moved one of his hands to her face, cupping her chubby cheeks, and tenderly asking her "Sollu maa."
"Onnum illa." She said, placing her face in the crook of his neck. He felt she was starting to stiffen in tension. Not wanting her or the baby to get tensed, he lifted her face and placed a soft kiss on her lips. "Bayapada koodadhu. Everything is fine." He assured her, knowing the impending delivery was scaring her. Ashwin gently stroked her belly "Baby come soon to amma appa and your akkas. Inga ellarum waiting for you." He waited for a few seconds to see if the baby responded to his voice and grinned widely when his hand was met with multiple kicks. He continued speaking to the baby for a few more minutes but was interrupted by Sivaangi's mild snores. "Adi paavi" he murmured in her ears chuckling. Giving her a nethi kiss, he closed his eyes and let sleep wash over him.
For once, Ashwin did not snooze his alarm. He promptly woke up, his heart racing with excitement. He patted Sivaangi's shoulder gently and woke her up "Sivaangi ma, va ezhundhuko. Happy new baby today!" Ashwin knew she had not had great sleep through the night and was just beginning to go to deep slumber, but they had to get to the hospital – the admission process would be time demanding and he didn't want that to interfere with the inducement schedule.
"Dora, please wake up?" he cajoled her with kisses. More out of annoyance than his love, she woke up. But once she saw the excitement on his face, that day's speciality dawned on her, and she quickly joined him in his enthusiasm.
"We are going to have our third baby Ashwineyy" Sivaangi exclaimed, clapping her hands.
"Actually, I am having my fourth." Ashwin corrected her with a wink.
"I will take that as a compliment." She hmphed and gave him a loud kiss on his cheeks before getting out of bed and heading to the restroom.
The sun was hardly up but the couple was already ready to leave to the hospital. Ashwin went over his to-take list multiple times, assessed the packed bags and the medical files. Sivaangi was waiting impatiently near the lift – she missed her daughters who always stood with her while Ashwin would be busy locking up the house. She looked yearningly at Malini's door – that's how Ashwin found her when he walked towards the lift – and he felt the same way.
"They will be fine. They are our kids." he told her. "Our kids." She repeated.
"Ready to get one more?"
As Ashwin guessed, the admission process took its own time. They were then allotted a room and on cue, the kids called Ashwin for a video chat. Tri's lips trembled slightly as she observed the room and Sivaangi in the hospital gown, but Dvi calmed her down saying that their mother is a big girl and can handle being in a hospital, all the while looking at Ashwin for assurace. The dotting father quickly chimed in and assured them that the hospital and their mother were safe and that the twins should get ready for school.
The gynecologist and the nurses made frequent visits to check on Sivaangi's status. With time, the pain increased – so did Sivaangi's foul language and her slights at Ashwin. Unable to sit, she'd walk from her bed to the side bed where Ashwin sat, trying his best to offer all the support he could concoct. While some laps ended with her wanting to be held by Ashwin, some laps ended with insults which Ashwin would have otherwise found funny. "Pillows wall inime unakkum enakkum nadula dhan. Nee en pakkathula vandhe na paaru. Mani mani a rendu ponnunga irundhum un aasai kaaga paaru nan dhan ippo thavikaren." "Chance kedacha Malini maami veetuku anupida vendiyadhu pasangala. Inime before them I am going to go to her house."
Ashwin thanked his stars that Sivaangi didn't utter these whenever the hospital staff called in on them; They'd have thought I am an unsatiable monster he thought to himself chuckling. But each time the nurse came in, he'd resort to pray to Kadavul, wanting the pain to end soon for Sivaangi.
And before long, it was time to deliver.
"Kriti or Ishaan?" the twins chorused, rushing into the hospital room early next morning. They spotted the midnight-born-baby in Sivaangi's hands, wrapped in a soft blanket.
"It's Ishaan." Sivaangi told them and lowered the baby to the twins' vision. The family had pre-decided the names – Kriti if it were a girl, selected by the parents to rhyme with the twins' names; Ishaan if it were a boy, named by the twins after a curly-haired 1st standard funny anna from their school van with whom they are very close. Not wanting to disturb the new-born but wanting to touch the baby, they looked at Ashwin for guidance. He crouched near his daughters and showed them how to gently stroke Ishaan's head and to tenderly hold the infant's feet and hands. The girls were fascinated by the pinkish baby and exchanged notes on how wrinkled yet cute their baby brother looked.
As the baby had been fed, Malini went on to claim that it was time for Ishaan to get to know Mali paati and took him from Sivaangi. Sivaangi instantly turned to her daughters, stretching out her hands. The twins immediately got onto the bed and sat on either side of their mother. When Ashwin looked over at the bed, he found Sivaangi side hugging the twins tightly, Tri was patting Sivaangi's still-bulged tummy while Dvi was exclaiming she was happy that they did not have to go to school that day. He then looked at Ishaan, as if to tell him silently that they both were the luckiest to have these three girls all for themselves. The luckiest.
Suddenly and as if to test Ashwin's theory, Ishaan let out a loud wail and began to cry incessantly. Dvi and Tri instantly closed their ears and started worrying. Ashwin took the howling baby from Malini and slowly rocked him, murmuring sweet nothings to the infant. The twins were so mesmerized at how Ishaan could turn on and off his bouts of crying and did their best to imitate Ashwin in pacifying the baby. Once Ishaan was calmer, Ashwin passed him to Sivaangi to lay him on the bed. Dvi and Tri stood near his legs, softly touching his feet and cooing to their baby brother while Sivaangi taught the girls how to handle the new-born and how to keep him comfortable.
Ashwin sat next to Sivaangi and drank in this sight – the moment his own family felt complete - a memory that'd forever be etched in his memory – his girls fussing over the new boy who had already swiftly stolen all of their hearts.
Dei Ishaan, we are the luckiest da.
"Sivaangi maa eppadi eppadi? En aasai kaaga dhan namma pyyan a? Nadula pillow wall kattuviya? Maami veetuke nee po. Nee sonnadhu ellam nan record pannirkanum, cha miss panten. The next time nee en kitta 'Ashwin va Ashwin' (he imitates how she would use her husky seductive tone on him) nu varum bodhu adha play panni kaamichurukanum." Ashwin glared at his wife as she fed their son. "Record pannirkanum" he repeated twice more.
It was a week since Sivaangi and Ishaan were discharged from the hospital. The couple and the kids were yet to settle into a routine – they were taking each day at a time. Exhausted from all the running around to fetch things for their brother, the twins were napping in their bed, while Ashwin and Sivaangi sat on sofa, reminiscing about the day of the delivery and how freaked out they had been in the delivery room. And that's when it struck Ashwin that he never mock-chided Sivaangi for the foul language, and better yet, the slights she had hurled at him then.
"Ashiwneyy podhum! Adhu edho vali and stress la solliten. Sorryyy!" she pouted and patted the space next to her indicating him to sit adjacent to her instead of near her foot on the other end of the sofa. When he playfully ignored her, she nudged his thigh with her toes and pleaded "Ashwin va Ashwin". Once he grudgingly took that spot, she patted his arms and blew him a flying kiss. He, on purpose, didn't shift his attention to her but continued looking at Ishaan and stroking the bald baby's head, making Sivaangi pull Ashwin by his tee-shirt, drawing his attention to her.
"Nan one more ku ready. Nee ready a?"