Across her face a sour look plastered everything that amasses innocence with a tincture of naughtiness in the recesses of her cheeks when Sabira was informed by her father to nurse Khan Sahab’s daughter for some time. Her whiny voice for she was well-known in the family abruptly changed like a lamb under the merciless knife of a butcher who only knows how to expose the gut to make his earning.
Sabira was the one who used to take care of her siblings after her mother passed away. She was fond of her two year sister whom she used to endow with whatever was possible save breast feeding, yet at times in isolation she would take her little sister close to her bosom and would sob silently.
“I wish I could carry out your genuine demands baby, but how”, she would ask.
She would take her little sister’s mouth near her breasts hesitatingly, but in the next moment she would pull her little lips off the territory she was not willing to share and every time she did so, the baby would utter screams. These irresistible instincts would only make her ooze the salt from sea. For she felt every baby seems fond of teats and her little sister was the one, deprived of this right.
Keeping her kindness into consideration, Shamim agreed to Mrs. Khan’s request to engage Sabira as baby sitter for her younger daughter had given birth to a girl child and she was sent to recuperate and Mrs. Khan was not in a condition to engage herself to babysit so the baby had to rely on nurse.
“Sabira what are you thinking”, Shamim asked.
“Nothing Baba, but I don’t want to leave my baby”, she politely responded.
“How long would you take care of her, she won’t die without you”, Shamim roared.
Sabira lowered her neck like a goat ready to be sent for human consumption.
She dropped the baby on the floor for her brother to take care of and went straight to her room. After a while wrapped in a shawl, she came out and stood in front of her father who without wasting a fraction of a second understood her intentions.
Sabira received the baby of Nighat in her arms.
“Come I am already a mother to a baby at home”, she whispered.
“You can leave Baba; I will take care of this baby as long as you wish me to do so”, she assured.
It was getting dark; the sky was gradually changing its cloak from dazzling blue to romantic crimson. Sabira was losing a layer of patience with every passing minute for she was missing her sister, yet in her arms was a baby for whom she was appointed as baby sitter in return to the kindness Mrs. Khan had been doing for years together.
“Sabira, try to feed the baby”, Mrs. Khan asked.
A bottle was placed on the table, but she asked for a spoon.
“What for you need a spoon” Mrs. Khan asked.
“Bottle feeding is not preferable to new born babies”, Sabira responded.
“You speak as if you have given birth to many babies”, Mrs. Khan laughingly mocked.
She dropped her head in embarrassment; her cheeks were bathed in crimson reticence. She only knew how she had in isolations almost tried to break the barrier of sisterhood by breast feeding her sister at home to satisfy her motherhood within .
Late that night Sabira was informed to carry the baby to her mother in the ward.
Nighat was lying on the bed almost messed up with wires, lines and hanging bottles, aided with a blood pouch around her bed.
She tried to open her eyes to see the baby, but the weakness overruled her will. Her pale face, dry lips, motionless body besides agonizing looks wrenched the little heart of Sabira, but she stood there as a soldier to defend the fort she was appointed to defend.
“Sabira, go and take the baby back”, Mrs. Khan suggested.
As she was on her way, she stopped all of a sudden to observe a feeding mother. She was moved about how mothers readily exposed their breasts to feed a baby ignoring all eyes, lustful or sympathetic. She would often in her fancies imagine how she would suckle her babies, what wonderful experience it would be to feed a palpating baby.
Before the muezzin proclaimed “ Asalatu Khairu Mina Naoum”, the baby screamed, Sabira tried to sooth her, but her shriek turned into unbearable cries flooding those half closed eyes with tears that appear like molten crystals of a rosary moving down the cheeks . Someone in the room suggested “drop your teats into the mouth of baby.”
Sabira hesitated. “How can I”, she kept asking herself.
The cascading tears of crying baby would melt a mount and Sabira was only a human being with a baby in her arms and one at home at the mercy of her younger brother. She was in a fix whether to obey the voice of her heart or to let the baby be soothed with bottle teats.
Her screams gradually exhausted, her eyelids almost fallen back, her body was losing warmth. The baby kept feebly moving her lips for want of milk. This was excruciating for Sabira.
Sabira took the baby in a corner, and slipped her teats into her mouth but the baby was too exhausted to suckle when Mrs. Khan rushed into the room to see how this little mother had slanted her head and tightly closed her eyes cascading rivers down her cheeks.
“Sabira”, Mrs. Khan shouted.
Sabira only opened her eyes but this time her face had already buried humiliation and looked composed.
“Get up my dear Sabira”, Mrs. Khan suggested.
She hugged Sabira with all her might, kissed the baby and cried bitterly.
“O my poor baby, you have lost the one who gave you the birth, but you have found the one who nursed you.”