“The journey to be a woman is truly a magnificent one. We live so many lives in a single day, We adapt so many roles everyday, that everyday truly becomes a journey for us. A woman is a mother, daughter, girl friend, wife,..but these all roles are perhaps in the social strata of the society. A woman foremost is a well a woman. All the roles which she adapts or adopts are awarded to her.”

Seema glanced at the speech she had written. Pathetic, she thought and she deleted it all. I wish i were a man, she thought again. But for once she was grateful of being a woman at her workplace, because no one celebrates Men’s Day at work.

She settled in her bed comfortably, with her laptop comfortably nestled in her lap. Suddenly she had an excruciating pain in her stomach. Seema moved towards the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat, till the pain numbed into a dull remembrance. WTF, Seema thought.

She put a hand on her stomach and felt it. The bulge around her stomach had increased considerably . She had this sudden realization, either she was putting on weight or she was pregnant. The thought that she could be pregnant sent a chill through her spine. she glanced around her spartan bathroom and stared emptily at the mirror. she got up and walked towards the basin. Above the porcelain basin, was an antique style mirror. she whispered to the mirror “am i going to have a baby.” “yes” her mind whispered. she stared at the mirror uncomfortably and went out of the bathroom.

She lied down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “i cant be” Seema said to herself. She tried to sleep and sleep calmed her nervous nerves . Sleep perhaps can solve everything, well except an upcoming pregnancy if there was one.

But for now, Seema was safe in slumberland.

Seema woke up early in the morning. The thought of being pregnant weighed heavily on her mind & She looked at her bulging stomach and stared at the blank wall.

Seema had already missed her period for two months, but thanks to PCOS , irregularity of periods was normal to her. It was only the in between activities, which had cast doubts in her mind.

She placed her hand gently on her vagina and closed her eyes. She could still feel the slight tingling sensation and smiled at the memory. It was good. “the session” as her boyfriend called it.

They didn’t have any active session from last 2 months, because Seema and her boyfriend Mayank were in a long distance relationship. Their desires were only  satiated once in every 3 months, when Mayank visited her.

Only two months had passed from their last meeting and Seema was already craving for Mayank’s next visit. If craving was the right word. It was love all right, but it was filled with lust & they were not guilty about it.

But this time, something didn’t feel right. Seema had felt a strange tenderness and swelling in her breasts, & the bulge around her stomach was saying a different story altogether.

The only way to find out, Seema thought was to buy a pregnancy test kit and check it out. That one elusive purple line would save her life. Otherwise the stigma of becoming mother out of wedlock, was definitely frowned upon & this very thought scared her to death.

The phantom pregnancy followed her everywhere.

The only respite in her life right now, was the speech she had to prepare for women’s day at work. She knew that if she cracked this opportunity, then other windows of opportunities would open for her.

Seema began to work on her speech with a new fervor. She began furiously typing on her laptop again.

“the basic question for each and every woman in this world, is that does she feel free ? Are we as women in all parts of world, feel free. Are we being molded into human beings the way we want to be or is the society still molding us. Do i feel free to do or to say anything. OR do i still need to behave lady like. If we talk in the broader context of being independent or to feel free, then society is happy to term as and point out that women are now financially independent & that is it..This is the end. Because we are not yet emotionally independent, we are not yet emotionally free. We are still being judged on what we say or what we do. We are still labelled by our behavior, by the way we talk or move. We are still judged whether we like it or not, still monitored.”

Seema went through her speech..It seemed a bit harsh. She again deleted the speech & stared at the blank screen. The laptop warmed her thighs & suddenly she felt a tingling sensation in her vagina. She smiled at the sensation and then suddenly realized that might  be due to change in her body due to pregnancy.

The biggest disadvantage of staying in a small city, was that it was also inhabited by small thought minded people. Their minds were so narrowed, that sometimes it scared Seema, that the townies would strangle her with their thoughts and views.

Luckily she still survived wearing the same conservative garb. But what scared her actually, was going out to a medical shop alone and buying a pregnancy test kit. Pharmacy store owners were those strange breed especially of small towns where they scanned you with a roving eye and quizzed you mentally if you were a young girl/woman asking for something as simple like a sanitary napkin or something complex like a pregnancy test kit. Why would someone’s private life mattered to others, was a question Seema would never fathom.

She wished Mayank was here now, he would have easily bought a test kit for her. And she didn’t want to involve any of her friends or colleagues into this mess. If the things went out of control, she would be labelled as something imaginable & there would be no cure available for the irreparable damage to her reputation.

Seema smiled at the memories of her & Mayank’s pseudo identities, while checking into hotels for their rendezvous every 3 months. Sometimes they dressed up as a fiesty Goan couple or one time they went as a loud kacchhi couple, it was fun. And they were good times becuase, even “decent” hotels didn’t demand any ID proof.

Seema decided perhaps, this was the time called for action. Luckily enough, there were no rules and identity cards or signatures required to buy the kit. The stares & whispers behind her back could be later on, Seema thought.

Seema went ahead with this trail of thought and fell asleep. Next morning at work, was spent in the frenzy of organizing women’s day & non-stop meetings. Meetings never bring solutions, Seema thought. They were only useful for showcasing excel and ppt skills. At times, Seema thought she had mastered the art of sleeping with her eyes open.

Luckily enough, she had this opportunity to finally present a speech on Women’s Day & she knew that no matter what happens, this is going to be the best speech ever her company had come across. Nothing would stop Seema, from conquering this challenge and making her mark in HR .

8th March was 2 days away. Two things possessed her completely 1. the thought of being pregnant and second the speech.

Seema came home that day, tired, famished settled down in front of TV for dinner with her mom. Her mom whose dialogues and life now revolved around TV serials, suddenly remarked to Seema- “Your stomach has bulged out a bit, Seema. Even your dresses look tighter on you.” Seema suddenly looked at her mom & her worried expression prompted her mom to say more-“I think we should go to the doctor & consult about your irregular periods. I think we should go to Dr.Kumar, All our neighbours went to her hospital for delivery. She is quite experienced.”

“Mom..” Seema interuppted her. “I don’t want to go to the doctor now, I don’t have time..May be next week, for sure.” Seema said and silently went back to her completing her dinner. She looked at the plate listlessly, the thought of being pregnant numbed her taste senses and everything she ate felt bland to her. Is it another symptom of having a baby, she questioned herself.

That night, before Seema slept, she stripped naked and stepped in front of mirror. She stood front of the mirror and studied her body. She looked sideways, where her abdomen, stomach were out completely, bulging to a point, where yes she definitely looked pregnant. She had put on weight around her thighs & even her face looked puffed up.  The glow was missing from her face, as her nosy colleagues had pointed out.

Seema sighed and went to bed. The only solution to end this anxiety was to buy a bloody test kit and future precautions of course included safe sex.

Early next morning, Seema woke up and started working on her speech again.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great honor to put forward few thoughts on women’ s day. I am proud to be a woman. There is not a single day, where i don’t feel proud about myself. And i believe every woman present over here feels the same. Of course there are ups and down in anyone’s life, but i guess that we have learnt to adjust, learnt to be happy and that’s where our strength lies. To be happy and to adjust.

As a woman, we are lucky that we take on so many roles in our life. We are daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother too. We are good at adapting changes in our life. And early enough in our life, we go through so many physical, psychological & emotional changes. These changes sometimes make us strong or weak.

When we are weak, we become too scared of everyone. We start seeking approval from others. Is this correct, does the dress look ok, can i go to a restaurant and have dinner alone..so many countless things. The society wants to give approval to everything we do, everything we say. They want to keep a check.

This women’s day, i would urge everyone  to be bold, not to seek approval from others, to be as we are. Each one of us, be it  a male or a female seeks only one thing & that is acceptance and not to be judged.

We need to, no we have to be bold. Bold enough to make changes, to take decisions, so that we can change our lives for better. If each one of us strive to make a better version of ourselves, then i believe we are making a better society and a better world to live in. ”

Seema looked at the speech she had written. It looked ok now, may be her boss would go through it and correct her grammatical mistakes . Suddenly she had a major taste of acid reflux in her mouth, the sour taste almost killed her tongue and her eyes were filled with tears. She rushed to the bathroom & threw up violently. All the acid reflux and residues of last night’s dinner made a ugly mess in the sink.

She cleaned up and went to bed. She opened her mobile browser & typed- symptoms of being pregnant, the symptoms were there and it scared her. Her ankles were swollen, she touched them, they formed a slight depression and bounced back again slowly, she already had her first bout of morning sickness & the acid reflux was killing her.

Something had to be done, Seema thought. She googled again-Homemade Pregnancy test kit. She tried the available options at home. Seema squeezed out a little toothpaste and a few drops of her pee. But nothing bubbled up or sizzled. Next she tried putting a few drops of pee in a tablespoon of salt, but nothing happened there too.

It was useless, Seema thought. She suddenly pictured herself to be a full blown unmarried pregnant woman. And the stigma which came for free. Her parents would surely die of shame, her neighbors, friends would shun her. She would never get approval of being a good character girl in her society. May be she can run to the mountains and have her baby there. No money for that too, Seema thought desperately.

Desperate times need desperate measures, Seema thought. May be today late evening after work, Seema would drive to the remote part of the city & buy the test kit from a medicine store where perhaps no one knows her. For now, she would have to live with this anxiety till it killed her.

Her speech was approved by her boss and she got home late at night. No time to buy the test kit now. Seema finally decided, to buy the test kit tomorrow morning and till then she just wanted to calm down . Once when the results would be negative, she would never have sex again. OK may be twice a year, Seema smiled at the thought.

It was Women’s day today & Seema left home early to buy the test kit. The affair of buying the test kit went without any event & for the first time in many days, Seema felt relaxed. She even stopped for a coffee and a sandwich.

She decided, she would take the pregnancy test at work and then give the speech. Its going to be a good day today, Seema thought. She reached work, settled down in her cubicle. “Seema, Now.” her boss called out to her. Seema rushed to her boss’s cabin and found the Head HR already there.

“Hi, Seema.” Suvarna Lekha-Head Hr said to Seema. “Hello Ma’am.” Seema said nervously. It was going to be her first main event at work .

“Seema” her boss started “I want you to work on the PPT of our recruitment drive, then the branding mails & then the promotional letters. I need it immediately. So no break, anything you need will be given to you on desk..Function starts exactly at 12.15..” Seema looked dejectedly at her boss & the thought of taking pregnancy test was postponed for now. It loomed heavily on her mind. What if she was really pregnant. Will Mayank marry her or was it just lust between them.

She suddenly felt empty and sat at her desk. She began quietly working on the ppt, branding mails and letters. She didn’t know what she was doing & the mind already travelling on the focus of an unwanted pregnancy. Fear darkened the thoughts in her head & her hands were already cold thinking, what if the test kit, shows positive. What will she do then ? Die..No, Seema thought.

It was still one hour for the Women’s Day programme to commence. She desperately wanted to go to bathroom and take the test kit. The test kit sat smugly inside her bag, calling out to her.

Just as time passes, it was 12.15. Seema knew, this was her moment and she can’t afford to screw up. She walked to the stage, where all the chief guests were sitting. The speech paper tightly clenched in her hand, & suddenly Miss Suvarna called out to her- “Seema,” she said. ” we have received your name for promotion & i am working on that . ” Thank you Ma’am,” Seema said. She beamed happily.  She walked up to the the podium and looked at the crowd in front of her.

This was her moment. Suddenly out of nowhere, she felt a nausea wave building up. No God no, Seema thought i can’t be pregnant. She clutched tightly at the mike and glanced at the crowd before her. Her friends, colleagues, mentor would all shun her. No one would talk to her. She would be shunned out of the society. The Baby & I, Seema thought. I wish i could take the test right now, Seema thought. All the happiness evaporated from her mind as she stood in front of the crowd. Beads of perspiration formed on her forehead. She had to take the test now, Seema thought. After the speech, her mind rationalized.

She looked at the crowd wave. The Corporate society.  She had to win today, Seema thought. she opened up the crumbled paper and looked at it. I am not pregnant, Seema thought, please God. She began her speech- “I need to pee. Thank you.”