A Good Indian Wife: A Novel (36 page)

BOOK: A Good Indian Wife: A Novel
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“See?” Neel said. “It’s going to be all right. I won’t even go flying unless you can come up with me.”

But Leila couldn’t stop crying, and Neel, nonplussed by her unexpected behavior, plunged on. “I’ll give up the plane. No more flying, all right?”

“I’m scared.” Leila finally got the words out. She felt—insecure—in this room, unprepared for its gadgets and pretty wall pictures, and a doctor operating a machine she’d never seen before.

“You don’t need to be scared anymore. I’m here for you.”

“It’s the baby.” Leila sniffed and wiped her face with a tissue. “Oona said one in five women have miscarriages.” She didn’t tell Neel that death always came in threes. Tattappa, Janni, and Oona’s baby. What if babies counted as half? What if her jealousy caused her to lose the baby?

“But Patrick said you were fine. He’s the best OB/GYN there is. Shh, don’t cry.” Neel held her hand.

“If I’m fine, why is he doing this, this sonogram?” It was the hard, cold machine with the wires that truly bothered her.

“Because you are my wife. You’re getting special treatment. If you were Mrs. Anyone-off-the-Street, you’d be home by now.”

“Neel’s right. We reserve the best for our own. Which is why,” Patrick paused as he looked at the screen, “I can tell you right now that your baby will have perfect Apgars. No doctor’s baby is allowed home without those nice tens.”

Leila had stopped crying and now looked puzzled.

“I’ll explain later,” Neel promised. “It’s just a routine test done when the baby is born.”

“Hey, you lovebirds, want to see what I see?” Patrick turned the monitor so it faced Neel and Leila.

A gray and white volcano came into view, the lines undulating, grainy. Patrick was peering at it, saying, “Good, good, everything looks fine. And see this? That’s your baby.”

“That dot?” Leila’s voice was doubtful. She hadn’t known what to expect, but it wasn’t a dot.

Neel had seen the fetus immediately. The tiny pulsing cells grew bigger as he watched, then changed into a ball, and slam-dunking that ball was a hand, strong and lean and brown. Somehow Neel knew he was looking at the first picture of his son. “That dot is our baby’s heartbeat,” Neel said, his words a little choked. “It’s a strong one.”

“That’s good, right?” Leila asked, relief making her cry again. But now she was crying from happiness. If the baby was fine, if the baby was not going to die on her, she could believe that the rest of her life would be fine as well. This was the way she had always lived her life. An old saree meant a husband, a green light meant he was home waiting for her, and a small beating dot meant being happy with that husband. And he was with her now, looking at their future together.

Neel wiped away the tears that seeped from the corner of her almond eyes and down her cheeks. “Yes, Leila, a strong heartbeat is good.”

“So the baby is okay?”

“Yes, Leila, our baby is okay.”

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 
 

THIS BOOK HAS BENEFITED
from the eyes and intelligence of many individuals. Sunita Chander above all, for speaking the truth; Barbara Bundy, Julie Connery, Krysten Cogswell Elbers, Yanina Rovinski, Oona Aven, Anju Basu, Marie Stael von Holstein, Anne Stein, Suhl Chin, Soo Chin, Alex Gansa, Philippa Levine, Shadi Bartsch, Carol Muske-Dukes, Bonnie Yates, Margaret B. Yates, Sue Hausmann, Anu Chander, Russell Leong, Mary O’Sullivan, Kitty Felde, and Jason E. Carmichael for their gentle suggestions and who, by taking the time to read various drafts, gave me the courage to keep writing; Ranjan Dey for allowing me to use his restaurant, New Delhi, in the novel; Prakash Abraham and Gursharan Kaur for providing important information and Bharat Sarath, Arvind Krishnaswamy, and Savitha Varadan for double-checking those facts; Nori Kurashige and Jan Ozaki for catching typos; Vonetta Taylor for finding me the right fonts; and Arlene Tademaru for driving me places.

I RESERVE THE GREATEST THANKS
for my wonderful agent, Bonnie Nadell, for returning that first call and staying on the line (you gave me so much more than the title of my novel); to Maria Guarnaschelli, my editor, for hearing the music in my novel; and to Ann Adelman, my copyeditor, for putting in those commas, etc.

CLOSER TO HOME
, my brother Sunny came up with that crucial scene in the novel, and my brother Paul offered me a room to write.

A NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 

THIS IS ANNE CHERIAN’S
first work of fiction. Cherian was born and raised in Jamshedpur, India. After receiving degrees from Bombay and Bangalore universities, Cherian moved to Berkeley, California. She received graduate degrees in comparative literature and journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. Cherian lives in Los Angeles and visits India regularly.

BOOK: A Good Indian Wife: A Novel
13.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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