Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The decision....


Sumitra was in pain. The labour contractions were just about 10 minutes apart and she knew it could be anytime now. But it wasn’t the contractions that were causing the pain, this would be her third child and she knew how the birthing process would be. Her pain was rooted in something deeper, something more emotional. Having had two girls one after the other, she had been under tremendous pressure to deliver a male heir to the family. If only she knew how to magically beget a male child, it would all be well. Her husband and in-laws had told her in no uncertain terms that if she had a girl child again, she would have to fend for herself; they would never take her back. She let out a loud scream. It was almost like a cry. Her sister-in-law assumed it was the contractions, and gently massaged her hands and feet. Sumitra was just happy to let out her anguish in a scream. She didn’t want to think what would happen a few hours from now, if the child happened to be a girl.

The contractions were quicker now, and dai ma, the midwife, was encouraging her to push harder. Sumitra prayed fervently for a male child, numb to the pain her body was experiencing right then. And then she felt the baby gush out of her womb and let out a shrill cry. She looked expectantly at her sister-in-law and at dai ma, as they cleaned the baby and wrapped it up. 

“It’s a girl, Sumitra,” announced her sister-in-law, like it was her fault. She looked at Sumitra disapprovingly, before placing the child next to her and exiting the hut.

Sumitra looked at her daughter, her eyes filling with tears. She looked so beautiful. She ran a finger on the little one’s cheek, and heard her gurgle. She struggled to get up as everyone just seemed to abandon her at having delivered bad news. She sat up and held the child close to her bosom for a very long time. As she nursed the baby, she felt a surge of happiness run through her. Outside the thin wooden door of the hut, she could hear her brother and sister-in-law fighting.

“If her husband does not come to get her, let her go to hell. I don’t care if she decides to die, but she cannot stay here; let me make that very clear. We have two mouths to feed; I cannot bear an additional four mouths.”

“Where will she go? Don’t be so unkind to my sister. Let me talk to kunwar-sa.”

A little while later, Sumitra heard her brother talking to her husband on phone.

“Kunwar-sa, don’t say such things…. Where will she go…..you have two daughters…..yes, kunwar-sa, I understand….I have a suggestion…..”

Then she heard him talking to his wife again.

“Kunwar-sa has agreed to take her back, there’s only one condition….”

Sumitra let out a deep sigh. Peace had been brokered between the heartless husband and the hapless brother at the cost of her new born daughter. No one thought it fit to even ask her. As if she didn't matter, as if she didn't even exist. But what would she have said if they had asked her?  What happened to Rukmini and Tejo when they refused to part with their daughters was like a folk tale in the entire village. Her sister-in-law had told her horrifying tales about them, how they were starving without food, being assaulted by unknown men, and in short, how their their life had turned into a living hell. God alone knew how they would raise their daughters all alone. She didn’t know where she would go with her daughters if she was thrown out. It would be better to sacrifice a child than make her other daughters beg.They needed a roof over their heads and food in their tiny stomachs. 

No one really spoke to her about what she was supposed to do. She had heard stories of how little infants had been drowned in cauldrons of milk or fed ground seeds of cotton, so that they would choke on it. She wondered what they would do to her daughter. 

She threw up at the thought of it.

The police were more vigilant now and killing an infant like that would complicate a lot of things. But that wouldn't deter her brother or husband from getting "rid" of the baby. They would find out a way. She thought about it for three whole days. And then her decision was made. She regretted making that decision, but that seemed the only way out of the whole mess. Moreover, it was her entry pass to her husband’s home.

The cold winter night had claimed several lives in the village. She hoped it would claim her three day old daughter’s life too. She would then raise a cry in the morning and no one would suspect that she had been killed. The policemen would not suspect a thing. She removed every shred of clothing on the baby and laid its tiny bare body on the charpoy in the verandah.  She closed the door and went inside and sat by the window waiting for the baby to breathe its last. A tiny cry could be heard from time to time and then even that ceased to be heard.

She didn’t know when she fell asleep, but when she woke up, it was early morning, and the sun was still deliberating if it should cast its light over the darkness that had shrouded the village. She looked at the baby from the window, and saw it had turned bluish-red from being out in the biting cold. It wasn’t moving, it was probably dead by now. Preparing to scream and alert the neighbors, she ran to the verandah and picked up the child. To her utter shock, she heard the tiny heart beat, though faintly!

Her eyes filled with shame and remorse as she looked at her little fighter. Here, her three day old daughter had almost fought off death, and she wasn’t even capable of being as brave as her! She huddled her child to her bosom and wept for a very long time. And with that another decision was made. And she knew she wouldn’t regret it this time.

                                                           **********

(I heard this story at a satsang, and it really moved me...Reproducing my version of the story here, because I feel it might help someone take that one decision to square their shoulders, grit their teeth, but smile and face their fear.)



22 comments:

  1. My God, Titli ! I have tears in my eyes as I type this. This is so emotional.
    How could she even think of this !
    How hurt she must've been, to be able to take such a decision !!
    I'm glad the little champion fought off the cold and the possible death.
    That leaves me happy. Happy for the mom and for the child.

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    1. situations can make or break people....perhaps the thought of her being homeless, the thought of her other two daughters, and so much more would have made her take such a decision...to decide to kill a child whom u have borne for the past 9 months is never even a thought, and if that thought has come, it could only be an extreme situation...
      it moved me to tears too,listening to it, and that is why the urge to reproduce it here...

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  2. Oh God how can a person be so cruel! The pity is that both the mother and the daughter are blamed. It is so shameful. There should be a strict law to punish those who indulge in such devilish act.

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    1. there are laws, but when have we ever been a law abiding nation? there is neither fear of law nor god.... so this will continue till the women decide not to let this happen....

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  3. Ouch this is so so poignant. Is this a true story?

    Aren't people yet aware that it is the father's sperm that is responsible for the sex of the child? Are we living in such an ignorant world? Deeply saddened.

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    1. that's what we hear....that is how rampant the craze to beget a male child is...logic never holds good here, and it is always the mother's fault.

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  4. such a sad story.. why is this happening.. and whats worst is I can understand MEN the husband being like that .. but the sister in law being herself a woman she thinks like that about other females ..

    now that is so sad..

    I wish things change I wish and pray no daughter has to die .. what will the world come to if there are no daughters ..

    what are people going to do with just sons.. atrocious.. I do wish I have a daughter and I am a good father to her

    Bikram

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    1. this is not a "what if" situation any more...this IS the situation in so many places in the country....there are so many places where the male : female ratio is so less that people are "buying" brides from other states! but when it comes to having a daughter of their own , it will be a strict no....

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    2. oh yes I know that.. In punjab itself i have stories from my own village where men have gone to buy wife's from bengal and other places .. it is a bad bad situation ...

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    3. this story is from nearby Haryana....and the situation there isn't good either.

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  5. seriously only proper education and moral can help such people .. Happy ending always leaves me happy :D

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  6. Replies
    1. nice to have u back after that long hiatus!

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  7. Such a sad story but I liked the positive ending. Nicely written. It really makes me feel bad that we are surrounded by people who still think girl child is a curse. Even after educating lots of people they do not tend to change their mentality. Only solution remaining that girls have to fight for themselves and kudos to the baby girl for fighting for her life and changing her mother's perspective ...

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    1. that's the biggest challenge, teaching them to fight, teaching them to fend for themselves, teaching them skills so that they become financially independent, guiding them where to go if such issues crop up, taking the guilty to task, educating the men specially...there's so much to be done...

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  8. Courage is all about rising above the odds. Easy to say, difficult to practice - great to, at least fictionally, read of such courage.

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    1. rising above the odd is just the first step, the actual struggle begins after that..

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  9. Hatsoff for such a wonderful writeup...im in tears

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  10. It's easy for us to read the story and pass judgement on the various persons involved, particularly on Sumitra and her decision to kill her child. That's because we cannot even begin to imagine the kind of existence people like she have to go through. If any one of us had gone through similar circumstances, maybe we would have decided likewise.

    Secondly, while it's good to applaud her final decision, how many of us would even think of helping Sumitra if she approached us for help?

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    1. yea, very difficult to be in her shoes indeed...when ur own family can disown you, what can u expect from the society... that is why is said, after bearing a child for 9 months if a woman has to take such an extreme decision, then it cannot be easy for her at all.... to kill her own child is never even a thought for a mother....

      and it is also true, that there is rarely any help for these women, there are many who will take advantage of her situation but no help will be forthcoming...a woman in such conditions will not even know whom to approach for help...

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At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person..deep gratitude for those who have lighted the flame within me!! your comments will be appreciated..

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