From Guilt to Gratitude
Gaervani Gangaraju must leave her son for a month-long retreat at a healing retreat in Mumbai. She sees a pair of small shoes, knock-off Crocs, a blue and white striped wide-eyed caterpillar that will be perfect for her small son. They become his favourite shoes, even after he outgrows them. They remind everyone of the miles the family has travelled from India and the adventures they have had.
“When will we go to India?” My nine-year-old son Shlok asks me.
“Next summer, maybe,” I answer.
“I miss my grandparents and my cousins. I miss playing on the swing in grandma’s living room.”
It was the summer of 2014. At four o’clock in the morning, in his blue and green shoes, Shlok announced, “Caterpillar and I are ready, Amma.” Waking up early didn’t bother him. We had watched videos for weeks, making a list of the places in Canada we would explore.
The year before, everything seemed to be falling into place. Our immigration application was in process, and I was pregnant. I could imagine our family of four at home away from home.
As I waited for the scan, I imagined the doctor saying, “The baby looks perfect.”
The operator was quiet during the procedure. Not the friendliest, I thought. She left and returned with the doctor.
“Is everything all right?” my voice choked. “Cardiac issues,” she said. I was referred to a pediatric cardiologist for further investigation.
I stood speechless in the hallway. “What does she mean, choose to continue with the pregnancy? How bad can this be?” Tears rolled down my cheeks. My hands and legs were trembling. I called family and friends, hoping for reassurance.
After more scans, the cardiologist told us that the baby would need multiple surgeries after birth and every few months for several years after. My own heart sank. He couldn’t guarantee the baby would live a healthy and happy life. I couldn’t breathe.
Although everyone said I had made the right decision, guilt wouldn’t let me be at peace. I killed my baby!
Two days after the abortion, Shlok sat on my lap, hugged me tightly, caressed my cheeks and asked, “What happened, Amma?”
At that moment, I knew I couldn’t let my guilt affect him. I needed time to heal, and so I left Shlok with my mom and headed to Mumbai for a month-long yoga retreat.
One day, I was out shopping. Two little eyes caught mine. They were adorable and playful, like Shlok’s. I could feel his presence. These little knock-off crocs were perfect for him—blue and green stripes, curious and wide-eyed. And for only 30 rupees (under one Canadian dollar). They became his favourite pair of shoes.
The next year, we landed in Mississauga. Caterpillar joined us on a trip to Niagara Falls, played with the fishes at Ripley’s Aquarium and jumped with joy at the zoo. We lost track of time in this beautiful new place.
Six months later, we moved to Halifax for my husband’s job, and Shlok started school. Two cities in two years, and Shlok began to think he was on a world tour.
“Where are we going next year?” he asked me.
Since then, we have bought our first home in Halifax, and Shlok now has a baby sister.
“Halifax is home now,” I tell him. This is where we live.
Years have passed. Shlok has outgrown his Caterpillar shoes but still holds them close to his heart. The distance they travelled together, the adventures they had are often part of our conversations. As he read this story, he wondered if we could buy similar shoes again for him and his sister.
GEERVANI GANGARAJU (Vani) calls herself a “Jack of all trades.” She is a mom of 2 beautiful unicorns, a YouTube artist and works as a call center agent. She loves to dance, play ping pong and badminton, and is a big fan of adventure sports. She also loves to put her thoughts into words in a creative way.