Venue: Labour (delivery) room in a deluxe hospital. A woman is about to give birth to a child. The labour room has, however, been converted into a studio. There are more film technicians and items of equipment, including several video cameras, than doctors and hospital equipment.
As soon as the woman starts to have labour pain, the cameras start rolling. Audio and video recording of every painful movement, every painful groan was done in as much detail as possible, using close-up scenes and from different angles. As the time for delivery neared, more cameras were focused on the point from where the child is supposed to come into this world, head first.
And then the moment they all have been waiting for nearly ten months arrived – the child was born. The whole process was shot by several movie cameras with a number of close-up scenes and from various angles.
The scene ends with the doctors looking at the child and telling to the woman excitedly, “Congratulations, it is a girl”. One camera was still focused on the woman’s face recording every moment of her relief and relaxation, every drop of her sweat, every movement of her eyelashes.
Sreeta’s father is a businessman, a very successful one at that, and mother, a film actress. They were considerably rich and Sreeta didn’t have any unfulfilled wants or wishes. She always got what she wished. She was a pampered girl, too, being the only child of her parents. She was studious and intelligent and topped in all classes. She wanted to study medicine.
There was, however, one question which she did not know whom to ask. Right from her early school days, her teachers took special care of her. She thought it was because her mother was a famous actress. But when she grew up and became more mature, she thought there was something more to their peculiar behaviour. She also thought there was some hidden meaning and some kind of sarcasm in their pampering her and in their meaningful smiles. Initially she did not give much importance to it. But when she found it increasingly disturbing, she thought she would tell her mother and seek her advice.
Her mother, however, tried to brush away the problem as silly and asked her to ignore them as those were probably only her imagination and immaturity of her thoughts. She tried to do that, but could not. Sometimes she even felt humiliated. But she dared not ask her teachers about that.
The occasion was Sreeta’s 18th birthday. She invited all her friends from both school and college. They partied well into the night. After all, she has grown up and become an adult that day! She got a lot of gifts. She was wondering why her parents had not given her a present on this very important occasion. She used to receive presents from them on every birthday. She had hoped that they would give her some expensive gift and she was eager to know what it was. But they didn’t give her anything. At last she impatiently asked her mother, “Mom, what are you and Dad going to present me today?”
With a peculiar and meaningful smile her mother told her that their present was very special which she would cherish for the whole of her life and feel proud of herself. She was curious but didn’t press her mother to reveal the secret. Maybe it could be a car for herself, which she had very much wanted. Her curiosity increased with each passing moment.
When the last of the guests left, which was past midnight, Sreeta’s mother told her, “Okay, it is time for us to give you our very special present”. She looked at her husband and smiled. He too was smiling. There was some kind of an expectation in their smiles.
Her mother said, “Come on, let us go to the theatre.” They had a small theatre in the basement of their home where they used to watch movies.
Sreeta’s father brought out a CD kept very securely in the locker and played it. She was aghast when she found that she was watching the video recording of a delivery. And she was terribly stunned to realize that the woman was none other than her mother. She did not know how to react. This was totally unexpected. It was like a bombshell. This was something which she could not digest at all. Suddenly some kind of fear or panic or nausea struck her as if she was watching a violent horror movie. She didn’t want to watch it, nor did she want to hear the groans of her mother. She closed her eyes and put both her hands over her ears. She started screaming.
Her parents were worried. They had hoped that she would be proud to realize that she was probably the first girl at least in this part of the world, to be born in front of video cameras. The delivery had been shot as part of a film. But they had kept an unedited version of the CD. They had been waiting for the past 18 years to surprise their daughter with this ‘special’ gift.
Sreeta was very upset. She ran to her room and locked herself in. The realization now hit her like a thunderbolt why her teachers treated her specially and what the meaning of their hidden smiles were. Probably they have all seen the film and watched her birth. She felt like her world had turned upside down. She wondered how she would face her friends and teachers now. Earlier she didn’t know the reasons for their secret smiles or the sarcasm. But now she knows. She knows the meaning of their smiles, their sarcastic comments and the peculiar looks that they gave her.
She didn’t open the door despite her parents’ best efforts to persuade her to. And then, slowly she fell asleep when it was nearly morning.
It was late in the afternoon when Sreeta emerged from her room. Though she had had enough sleep her face had a small swelling. It was clear that she had wept for a long time the previous night. She wanted to believe that last night’s events were a dream and tried to forget it. But her teachers’ sarcastic smiles and meaningful comments came back to her stronger than ever. How, then, can she forget the ‘film’ she saw of her own birth?
Sreeta didn’t go to college that day. Her parents were worried. They have never seen her in such a mood, as she displayed the previous night, even when she was young. They thought probably it was wrong to show her the documentary. Maybe she was not mature enough yet. They decided to give her time to recover from what they thought was a shock to her.
After the daily chores and her lunch, during which she did not utter even a single word, Sreeta sat in the drawing room and was carelessly turning the pages of a film magazine. She looked very composed and carefree. When her mother came into the room and sat on the sofa opposite to her, she didn’t even look up. Her mother was slightly relieved to see her daughter behaving somewhat normally.
Slowly, without looking up from the magazine, she asked, “Mom, may I ask you something?”
“Yes, darling”, her mother was eager to bring her daughter back to normal life. She had cancelled all her shoots for the day to be with her daughter. Sreeta’s father too stayed back home that day. He too joined them. He sat with his wife, facing his daughter.
“Er … that CD which you showed me yesterday … um … that was me taking birth, right?”
“Yes, of course, darling. It was you. You know I have no other child.” The mother said eagerly quite happy to get the conversation going.
“Thank you. So … I am your child. The proof is there on the CD”, Sreeta continued, very composed, while she leafed carelessly through the pages of the film magazine. Till now she hadn’t looked at her mother or father.
“Now … Er … who is my father?” She did not display any emotion while shooting this terrible question in the most matter-of-fact manner to her mother.
“What??!! What the heck are you asking, Sreeta?”, her mother shouted and suddenly got up as if to strike her daughter.
Sreeta’s father tried to calm her down and forced her to resume her seat. There was a long silence. Sreeta did not lift her eyes from the magazine. Looking at her, they felt that their daughter had suddenly grown up. She had become a stranger to them. The girl sitting opposite to them was somebody else in the body of their daughter.
Her father said in a controlled voice, “Sreeta, do you realize what you are asking?”
“I asked mother, and I want her to respond”, Sreeta turned another page and looked at the picture of a new hero.
Her mother began to tremble with anger at the way their daughter was behaving today. Till yesterday she was the most nice, the most obedient, the most loving and lovable girl. And today …! She clutched the sofa seat with both her hands as if trying to calm herself down. Then she said as calmly as such a situation would allow her, “This is your father … as if I needed to tell you.”
“Oh, yeah? Where is the proof?”, Sreeta turned another page.
“What??!!”, mother flared up again. This time even her father thought Sreeta was going too far.
“Sreeta, there is a limit to everything”, it was now her father’s turn to reprimand her.
For the first time since the conversation began, Sreeta lifted her eyes from the magazine and looked straight into her father’s eyes.
She said, “If you can videotape my birth and show it to the whole world in the name of artistic freedom, I have the right to get an answer to my question.”
Both of them fell silent. It was terrible. For the first time they doubted if it had been wrong to do what they thought was a revolution in the world of art. They never ever imagined that they would have to face such a situation. Both began to perspire despite the air conditioner. Both of them didn’t know how to deal with the situation. They thought they had become so small in front of their daughter.
Her mother began to cry, partly from the tension and anger, and partly from fear. Where is this discussion leading to? With trembling voice she asked, “Sreeta, darling, this is your father. How can I prove it? What proof can I show to you?”
Sreeta calmly said, “A CD.”
Her mother asked, “A CD? What kind of CD are you talking about, baby?”
Sreeta answered as if she was casually asking for a glass of water, “A CD with a video of your intercourse.”
This time it was her father’s turn to suddenly flare up. “You, … you …”, words refused to come out.
Her mother suddenly got up and rushed upstairs to her room crying loudly unable to bear the tension any more. After a few moments the father too followed his wife.
After several minutes, which seemed like hours, Sreeta’s mother told more to herself than to her husband, “It was wrong to record her birth.”
Her husband agreed, “Yes, it was.”
Both of them realized, for the first time, after boasting about their boldness and artistic freedom and after fighting the so-called ‘conservative’ society for long eighteen years, that there was a limit to everything and one should not cross that.
[Recently delivery of an actress from Kerala was videotaped to become part of a film.]