Readers Write In #534: Balls of Steel

Posted on December 29, 2022


By Anonymous

PART 1 – Houston, we have a problem!

The period when you are 16-18 years old can be a harrowing phase in your life. There is not only a turmoil that is happening on the inside,  but also a battle that is being waged on the outside.  A period when every relative of yours is extremely KPI driven, a period when comparisons are so commonplace that even fortune 500 companies can take a leaf from your aunt’s book on how to do competitive analysis. 

“My sister in law’s son is studying astrophysics in Houston. Do you want to talk to him?” , asked the Aunt. 

“You should try the IITs. It’s the pinnacle of our education system” , shrieked the uncle. 

 The comparisons surprisingly stop at one point, akin to how the bursting of pimples on your face miraculously ceases. Maybe the aunt realised that her sister in law’s  son who did astrophysics has now ended up in the same line of work as me. The uncle , to his shock, found out that the IIT guy is not giving TED talks but is now posting quotes of Albert Einstein on LinkedIn. All is well that ends well I suppose.

But our story starts here. Like a recession that comes back after a cycle of progress , the period of comparison does make a comeback. In all honesty, this comparison is justified to a certain extent. When relatives & friends talk about the fulfilling experience of being a parent, they might be in fact telling the truth. While that aunt might not know that this might be the work of the selfish gene, she does understand the consequences of being childless, at least in the long run.

Personally I thought it was the right moment. I was married for a few years now and we had had our share of fun and adventure. It was time to go to the next level. Those eat & poop machines can be adorable, but there is also a statistical probability that we end up producing an ugly baby. The thought scared me. But better ugly than stillborn right?  Right? I am not sure if this joke will go down well on parents. 

But like any good story, there were twists to the tale. After trying for about a year, we were getting concerned that there wasn’t any “good news”. What could be the reason? Surely, it can’t be me. It had to be my wife. We started to do a slew of tests on my wife. And BAM!! It was my wife’s thyroid.  While we were worried about this new development, the doctor started her on a strict medication and things started to come back on track.  Six months later, her parameters had come back to normal. But still, there wasn’t any “good news”.  The pressure was beginning to mount and I had to bell the cat. I accompanied my wife to her visit to the gynaecologist. After reading her reports, she turned to me. Her long nose made her look sterner than she was. In a very reluctant manner, she suggested to me. 

“Sir, do you mind giving your semen test? “.  

She got uncomfortable! I got uncomfortable!

“Do I mind? “ Normally a guy would not hesitate the opportunity for a release, but these were different circumstances. We had to get to the bottom of the truth and I was willing to do anything for it. A few days later, I turned up at the fertility centre. The facilities and design was that of a high tech lab and looked right out of a sci-fi movie. Couple of friendly looking nurses greeted me at the entrance.


What seems to be the problem Sir? , asked the nurse.

“My problem? I don’t know! I am here to find out”, I said.

One of them pulled out a questionnaire and started asking questions:

“Sir, what is the abstinence period?”

“Sir, Please use only hands & avoid other liquids for the extraction”

If I had designed the questionnaire, I would have added words like “jizz” and made it a lot more fun but maybe that’s why I am not the specialist. For people who have Monday blues and dread taking that trip to the office, save a moment for these poor souls, They arrive at work every morning and the first thing they see is…well…extraction. 

Anyway let me recount my experience of the “Extraction”. A teenager might not have a problem in extracting a sample at any place, but for any adult who has been married for a long time, this might be a challenge. Furthermore, there weren’t any magazines as I had imagined. So much so for design thinking.  A few tough moments later, I had the sample. I neatly put the container in a ziplock and placed it in a box for the team’s analysis. All that was left now was the wait and we went back to our usual routine.

A couple of weeks later, we were on our way to meet the doctor. I held my wife’s hand and gave her a reassuring smile.  After a long wait, we finally went in to see the Gynaecologist. She sat there and looked at my wife’s reports, nodding with every page of the report. We started to feel better. Suddenly, her eyes widened. 

She said , “Hey your numbers don’t look right! “ 

I will never forget the look that she gave. The air had been sucked out of my lungs. For some strange reason, I also felt a pain in my testicle. It had to be psychological.

“Are you sure?”, I asked.

“Maybe do you wanna retest? Fluctuations are pretty common. “, she said.

I nodded. I couldn’t help but show my disappointment on my face, My wife, on the other hand, was stoic. She was more focused on resolving the issue than going into “self-pity” mode.

Back in the cab, she held my hand and gave me an assuring smile. I felt better, but a part of me would have been happy if the roles hadn’t reversed. My stream of consciousness was running haywire. Didn’t the covid virus allegedly start when some infertile men tried to eat some pangolin meat?  Was I part of that infamous group? Didn’t Lance Armstrong also face this issue? At least he was a champion and athlete. 

Amidst this pandemonium, one thought stuck with me, thoughts about my aunt’s sis in law’s son. What would he do if he was in my shoes?

He would have probably said  “Houston, we have a problem!”