Award-winning author Shobhan Bantwal calls her brand of fiction “Bollywood in a Book,” romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture – stories that both entertain and educate. To date, she has six novels published by Kensington Books and one anthology. Her debut book, The Dowry Bride, won The Golden Leaf Award in 2008. The Unexpected Son won the National Indie Excellence Award in 2012. Her short stories have won awards and honors in various fiction contests. Read her interview here. Below, you can read an excerpt from her book, The Forbidden Daughter.
The Forbidden Daughter
Today was the day! Today Isha would most likely have an answer to that single question she’d been obsessing about for weeks—ever since she’d found out she was pregnant: Was it a boy, or . . . God forbid . . . a girl?
Nonetheless, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know. Even if she did, would her doctor be willing to reveal the fact, since it was illegal to discuss the sex of an unborn child with its parents? For Isha it was a case of mixed emotions and desires. There was a popular Americanism that described her feelings perfectly—damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Nervous anticipation made her stumble a little as she stepped out of the car to walk toward her obstetrician’s comfortable and well-appointed medical office.
Nikhil, her husband, quickly grabbed her arm to steady her. “Are you all right, Ish?” he asked with a slight frown.
“I’m feeling fine,” she assured him. No point in scaring him by saying she had huge butterflies, the size of bats, flitting around in her tummy. She was jittery enough for both of them.
He kept a protective hand curled around her arm. “Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
The black and white sign outside the single-story brick building was both prominent and impressive. Karnik Maternity Clinic—a proud testimonial to the doctor’s professional success.
Isha was at the clinic to get an ultrasound test done—one of the most brilliant inventions in the medical field since the discovery of antibiotics. It could reveal whether the baby was healthy or not, and the most interesting thing was that one could see the foetus as a three-dimensional image on a computer screen. How fantastic was that!
Twenty minutes later, it bubbled up like a fountain, warm and effervescent—the emotion that could be experienced only by a mother-to-be. Her baby! With damp palms and a racing heart, Isha observed the fuzzy movements on the monitor. The word amazing hardly described it. It was like watching a fantasy show on television.
But the elation quickly dampened when other thoughts began to crowd her brain. Oh no! What if . . .? She said a quick, silent prayer. God, please let it be a boy. Please! If I don’t have a son this time, I’m finished.
Dr. Karnik allowed both Nikhil and Isha to gaze at the image on the screen for several more seconds. Isha looked for the small but significant part of the baby’s anatomy that would establish its gender. So far there was no indication of it on the screen. Was it something that didn’t appear until the foetus grew a little bigger?
The doctor looked at her and Nikhil by turns. “So, do you want to know the child’s sex?”
Isha closed her eyes for an instant. Did she really want to know?
But then she heard Nikhil say, “Um . . . yes.” He sounded hesitant.
“Are you sure?” The doctor gave him a pointed look.
They exchanged brief glances. It was an unspoken agreement that the three of them would keep this confidential.
Deep down, she already knew the answer. The tiny image on the screen was plain enough.
“It’s a girl.”
Silence fell over the examination room as Isha and Nikhil tried to digest the doctor’s casual announcement. Nikhil stood motionless, his gaze fixed on some unknown spot on the wall.
Assuming their silence indicated disappointment, Dr. Karnik said, “It is not the end of the world, you know. We can fix that.”
“Excuse me!” Isha stared at the doctor. “What does that mean?”
“We can easily perform a clinical abortion,” the doctor replied. “You’re only in the beginning of your second trimester, and it is a fairly simple procedure.”
“Fairly simple!” Isha felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.
“Simple, safe, and fast, with today’s techniques,” assured the doctor.
“No!” Glancing at the screen again, she saw the foetus move. Her baby! “That’s not an option.”