“I’m sorry,” he whispered, mortified.

“Try again,” she said, consumed by desire and unwilling to give up just yet.

“It’s not happening, it hurts,” he said.

‘Oh, the irony,’ she thought wryly, and slumped back on the bed. As her passion ebbed away, she began to accept that the moment had passed.

“I’m sorry,” he said, visibly crestfallen.

Breathing deeply, she rearranged her features to hide the disappointment she felt, and flashed him an encouraging smile.

“It’s okay, relax,” she said, with all the tenderness she could muster, and pulled him towards her. Dipping his head under the covers, he clung on to her in shame and relief and desperately tried to erase the memory of the past few moments from his mind. Removed from his view now, she stroked his hair absent-mindedly, gazing blankly at the circular motion of the ceiling fan.

Mr. and Mrs. Singh had been married for exactly 1 month and 2 days. They were, however, unable to consummate. Luck had favoured them in everything but this. The families had arranged the match, hesitatingly and with no small measure of apprehension. Arranged marriages were, after all, becoming rarer and rarer among the present generation. They needn’t have worried. Love at first sight may or may not exist, but they had certainly not required a second meeting to decide about each other. They were perfect for each other: oodles of common ground and shared opinions, both of them ambitious, driven, compassionate and loving. Everything was hunky dory, everything but this.

“Maybe I should finally consider going to a doctor,” he said, lifting his head suddenly, the blanket draped comically around his face.

“Are you sure it’s time for that?” she said, tracing his cheekbones lovingly.

“Yes, I think so,” he said with some conviction. “We’ve tried enough, haven’t we? I don’t want to wait anymore. What’s the worst that could happen?” he said, sticking his chin out as if in defiance to all that could go wrong.

“It’ll be just fine, love,” she said, squeezing his hand, taking care to prevent her expression from betraying her furiously beating heart and – she noticed, to her surprise – her quickening arousal. She’d hoped, for a while now, that he would say exactly these words. Unable to bear it any longer, she climbed on top of him.

“Let’s do everything else till then.”

*

The next day found Mr. and Mrs. Singh at the urologist’s. They sat awaiting the appointed hour, hands clasped tight, feeling a heady mix of dread and anticipation.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” she said, noticing that he looked a little pale. He nodded, tightlipped, his dread trumping the anticipation for a moment. He’d spent the previous evening reading up on the internet, as the contemporary ailing tend to do, and was now visited by the spectre of the ghastly diseases and disorders that several poor souls had described, many of whom had been sexually incapacitated for life, and had, as an addendum to their sordid medical histories, inserted a sagely bit about life beyond sex. That was all very well, of course, but he didn’t want a life beyond sex just yet, if it could be helped.

“Mister…Singh?” a nurse with a clipboard called out plaintively.

“That’s us,” he said, getting to his feet heavily, his heart beating a mile a minute. Surely it would be nothing major.

“Do you want me to come with you?” his wife said, standing up as well.

“Sure,” he said. “You’ve seen everything there is to see,” he added with a brief smile.

She grinned back, and said, “Come, it’ll be over before you know it.”

*

The doctor – a Mr. Desai – was a pleasant little old man with a large nose and comically thick eyebrows that bounced up and down as he spoke. After asking a few crisp questions, he sought a physical examination, which was rather brief.

“Please be seated,” Dr. Desai said, straightening up and pulling off his surgical gloves. Mr. Singh took his place next to his wife, and she took his hand once more. The doctor took his time to wash his hands methodically at the basin in the corner, and then lumbered back up to his high-backed chair. After he had settled in, he smiled across at the anxious couple.

“What’s wrong, doctor?” Mrs. Singh said, unable to wait any longer.

“Well, everything seems to be fine at first glance. No visible reason for any major discomfort.”

Mr. Singh relaxed, exhaling the tension that had been his constant companion for the past few weeks.

“So it just hurts, you said?” The doctor scratched his head vigorously.

“Yes, doctor. I’m just not able to…” he trailed off, somewhat ashamed.

“Don’t worry, several young men face this problem.”

“And what’s the solution?” Mr. Singh said, his anxiety returning, and writ large on his face.

“Well, I’d certainly recommend some regulation blood tests,” said the doctor, beginning to scribble busily on his prescription pad. “You can get them done at the adjoining clinic. I doubt there will be a problem, though. So what I’d recommend as a potential solution is a simple circumcision.”

“What?”

“A circumcision. The foreskin is too tight, that appears to be the only hassle. This condition is fairly common – it’s called phimosis. If the discomfort is too much – as you say – then circumcision is an easy solution. It’s a benign procedure, no danger at all,” the doctor said, responding to the fear now visible on his patient’s face.

“But something could go wrong, couldn’t it?” Mr. Singh said. While doctors and hospitals had always made him a little apprehensive, he was downright petrified of any procedure affecting his eyes, hands or nether region. They were much too important.

“No, don’t worry! We do several every week right here. Like I said, it’s a very common problem, and this is the simplest solution. I’m only recommending the blood tests to rule out anything more sinister. The circumcision should solve your problem immediately though – and don’t worry, you’ll have a very normal and healthy sex life post. It won’t affect a thing,” the doctor said, smiling reassuringly.

Mr. and Mrs. Singh exchanged a look.

“You can discuss it and get back to me,” the doctor said kindly.

“I think…we’ll do that, doctor,” Mrs. Singh said, and her husband nodded.

“Thank you so much, Dr. Desai,” Mr. Singh said, standing up. He waited as the doctor completed the prescription, signed it with a flourish and handed it over.

“Do get the tests done immediately – the clinic staff will take care of all the necessary formalities,” said the doctor, also standing up. “Please clear the bill on your way out – Nithya will take care of that.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Singh, gathering her bag and making for the door.

“Do let me know of your decision soon! And more than anything else—don’t worry! Everything will be fine,” the doctor called out as they nodded at him and shut the door behind them.

*

They spent the rest of the day reading up on and debating the doctor’s suggestion. They’d submitted a blood sample at the clinic; the results were expected the next day. Mr. Singh wasn’t too bothered with that, he’d been afraid for the most part of the physical examination and what horrors it might reveal. Something told him that circumcision was the answer. It didn’t sound too bad; the procedure – if done right, he reminded himself as a cautionary note – was painless, and wouldn’t affect him in any way. After all, he reasoned with his wife, Christian and Muslim males had it done all the time. There was nothing abnormal about it. And if it solved their problem, then… Mrs. Singh remained silent. She did feel that her husband should agree to the procedure, but didn’t push. It was his body, his decision after all. But she couldn’t help imagine that the problem they had faced – the one barrier to a very complete happiness – could disappear as early as the next day.

That night, as they lie side by side in bed, Mr. Singh said, “That’s it, I’ve decided.”

Mrs. Singh set aside the book she’d been reading and looked up expectantly.

“I’ll do it,” he said, and hugged her in a burst of affection.

“Are you sure?” she said with concern, though wildly happy. “We could always ask if there’s any alternative treatment.”

“No, I’m sure. I’m tired of us dithering over this. We should have gone to the doctor a long time ago. There’s no point delaying it now that we know what’s wrong.” The word ‘circumcision’ made it sound more ominous than it actually was – it was, in the end, just some skin being surgically removed – and so, he couldn’t bring himself to say it again. It would have to be “it” or “the procedure”, as the doctor had said.

“Yes, I think you’re right,” she said, grinning. “But what about the blood tests? When do the results come out again?”

“The results are due around 3 tomorrow. I think I’ll take a half day, collect the results and go straight to the doctor’s. I’m pretty sure all the tests will be normal. In case they are, I’ll have it done immediately.”

She broke away from the hug for a moment, her eyes shining.

“Oh, my love, I just know that this will work out!” she said. “And then we can make up for all the lost time.” Her eyes twinkled as she rested her head on his chest.

“Yes, I can’t wait.”

“And have so many babies,” she said softly, her eyes beginning to close.

“Yes, my love,” he said.

That night, Mrs. Singh slept more peacefully than she had in a month. Mr. Singh, on the other hand, lay awake, following the circular motion of the ceiling fan.

*

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come?” Mrs. Singh said as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

“Yes, I’ll be fine. Both of us don’t have to take time off work for this. I’ve made the appointment – Dr. Desai said we can have it over with as soon as he’s had a chance to scan the test results,” Mr. Singh said as he bent down to tie the laces of his gleaming leather shoes. Shoes with laces had been a bad idea; he absently made a mental note to buy a pair of slip-ins the next time they went to the mall.

“Did he sound confident?” his wife’s anxious voice broke into his musings.

“Yes – much like yesterday. He seemed happy with the promptness of my decision – and assured me that I’d be completely fit by tonight.”

Mrs. Singh burst out laughing.

“Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way,” Mr. Singh said, though he couldn’t help but laugh along.

“Well, okay,” she said, bending down to kiss his cheek. “As long as you’re sure, don’t worry about a thing. He’s the best doctor around. You have a nice day. And make sure to text me throughout.”

“I will,” he said as he stood up, grabbed his briefcase and made for the door. “Bye!”

“Okay, bye.” She watched him fondly as he walked down the road towards their car. Then she turned around to get ready for her own workday.

*

Mr. Singh could not, as can be expected, concentrate on anything at work that day. Ordinarily a highly motivated worker, he just couldn’t get himself to focus on the abstract world of shares, debentures and mergers – not when very real things were at stake. He simply could not stop thinking about the procedure he was about to consent to. As the document before him swam in and out of focus, he decided to just give up for the day. Some of his old worries and fears had returned. A couple of poor chaps from the internet – firmly etched into his memory for some reason – came back to him and made his palms sweat in spite of the superb air-conditioning at the office. The procedure was irreversible, was it not? Looking furtively over his shoulder, he opened a new tab on his computer and decided – although he knew it was a bad idea – to do some more internet reading. If nothing else, it would pass the time.

A couple of hours later, a slightly more relaxed Mr. Singh received a call from the laboratory. The test results had come, could he collect them within the next hour? Yes he could, he thought as he checked his watch: 2.46 pm. Just in time. He would be slightly early for his 4pm appointment with Dr. Desai. Just as well, he thought to himself, as he stood up and gathered his bag and lunchbox. If everything went off as planned, he would surprise his wife by getting home early. He nodded to his boss – he’d informed him about the half-day in advance, of course – on his way out. The guard at the front door watched, mildly surprised, as Mr. Singh, perspiring slightly in the afternoon heat, got into his car and drove off for the day.

*

“The results are fine, Mr. Singh, just as expected,” the doctor said, an hour later, as he finished reading the last report. “Everything is well within the prescribed levels.”

Mr. Singh heaved a sigh of relief and quickly texted his wife. She would be relieved too, although they had both expected this part to go off without incident.

“Which leaves us with…” continued the doctor.

“Yes, I haven’t changed my decision. Although…”

“Yes? Do you have any questions before we start? Or would you like to defer the procedure for a while?”

“Oh no, it’s not that. I do have a couple of things to discuss. Actually, I was doing a bit of internet reading about…” Mr. Singh trailed off rather sheepishly.

“Oh, Mr. Singh, not you, too!” the doctor laughed. “This internet reading is actually the mother of all diseases – the enemy of the medical community! We should really start printing a disclaimer against internet diagnosis on our prescriptions!”

Mr. Singh looked on, abashed.

“Well, it’s no problem. I want to put you completely at ease before we begin. Fire away.”

His eyebrows danced higher and higher as his internet-educated patient fired away a barrage of questions.

*

Forty minutes later, Mr. Singh emerged from the bathroom in a standard issue blue hospital robe. Dr. Desai was milling around the bed, directing two nurses to gather various instruments.

“Ah, there you are, please lie down here, and relax.”

Mr. Singh checked his phone one last time and, in reply to his wife’s several anxious texts, quickly typed:

Going in now. See you on the other side! I love you.

He climbed onto the bed and lay down gingerly. Taking care not to look at the sharp instruments next to him, he glanced instead at the doctor and nurses, who smiled.

“You’re absolutely sure, aren’t you, Mr. Singh?” the doctor said grimly.

“Yes, doctor. I’ve talked it over with my wife and we’re sure. We won’t have any problems after this, will we?”

“Oh no, not at all. Well, great, then, I think we’re ready. Nithya here is going to anesthetize you for the procedure – it will be fairly short. Keep still and we’ll do the rest. Don’t worry at all!”

So saying, the doctor and his team began their work. ‘I can’t wait for tonight,’ was Mr. Singh’s last thought before he faded out of consciousness.

*

Two hours later, Mr. Singh left the clinic, a spring in his step. He was still a little tender – the doctor had asked him to be careful for a few days, but had otherwise declared the procedure a success. It felt odd, to be sure, but Mr. Singh felt light, happy, giddy with excitement. It was as if he’d stripped away a great burden, and it had been so awfully simple. The worry of the past month – and indeed, of the future – far behind him, Mr. Singh drove home quickly. Mrs. Singh was already there: she’d left her office not long after he’d sent her that last text, too nervous to work. They’d spoken briefly post – she was happy, but still tense, and wanted him by her side. As he waited at a red light, Mr. Singh noticed a florist close by and smiled – why not? Mrs. Singh could wait a little longer. She deserved to be pampered for all the patience she’d shown him. Flowers and…a cake, maybe, which they could have in bed later at night. The light turned green, and, grinning to himself, Mr. Singh turned right and parked near the florist’s. A lovely bouquet of roses had already caught his eye.

*

“So now can we…?” she said, clinging to him.

“Yes, yes, we can,” he said breathlessly. “I mean – I’m hoping it won’t hurt anymore. But I’m telling you, I feel the difference.”

“Oh, darling, I feel it too,” she said, and kissed him.

She broke apart from him, suddenly, a minute later.

“Wait,” she said. “One last question.”

“What?”

“Did you remember to get…condoms?” she said, lowering her voice conspiratorially as she uttered the last word.

Mr. Singh stared at her, his eyes widening. “You know what, I think I actually forgot those. Are we all out?”

“Yes.” She emitted a peal of laughter. The irony of the moment finally caught up with him, and they both doubled over with laughter, giggling like 12 year olds. When their mirth had subsided, she clung on to him again, wanting to savour the anticipation of the moment.

“Never mind that, I’ll take a pill tomorrow,” she said, and got a prompt kiss in reply.

“I love you so much,” she whispered in his ear. “Thank you for doing this. It means so much.”

He kissed her in response, wanting to bring her to the heights of arousal.

“We’re going to make the most amazing love,” she said, as they began their foreplay. “And have the most amazing babies soon. Aren’t we?”

“Yes, my love. Lots of babies.”

‘Lots of babies,’ he thought to himself, with a glint in his eyes that his adoring wife missed. As he pulled her onto him, Mr. Singh made a mental note to tear up Dr. Desai’s receipt.

That night, Mr. and Mrs. Singh had the most amazing sex.

 

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Abhinav Kumar is a 22-year old law student from India, presently studying at National Law University, Jodhpur. Though he is not a regular writer of fiction, he does write extensively – he has published several academic papers, and has distinguished himself at both national and international essay competitions. He writes the occasional short story, and has recently begun to devote all his time to writing fiction. His first literary publication was a short story, Razor-Sharp, which was accepted by Indian Literature, a leading Indian magazine. He hopes to become a regularly published writer of short fiction!

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