Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where do babies come from?

My maid, Swati (name changed) barely 19, got married a month back. Then one day she came to work looking tired. Around lunch time, she said she had started feeling giddy. I thought it was all the hard work any newlywed in their community probably goes through. I told her to go home and take rest. The next day she came to me with tears in her eyes. “I am pregnant”, she said. “What?”, “How?”, “Why?”, I just spurted out questions in a fit of anger plus amazement. “Both my husband and I, do not want a baby so soon. My husband has taken a loan of Rs. 1 lakh for the wedding. We want to repay that first. Only then can we think of a child. We want our child to study in an English medium school. We need to save money for that. All our dreams are crashed now”, she continued. “Did you not talk about this, Swati?”, I asked. ”Tai, we were so busy after the wedding my husband and I never got time to talk”, she said. “Ha! And you had time to do all that has gotten you in this situation”, I said to myself angrily. But she probably read my mind. What she told me next was something I really could not believe. These were people who actually did not know how babies were born!

When my maid had told me she was getting married, I had thought of enquiring whether she knew about family planning and the different types of contraceptives she could use. But “how can I ask something like this?”, I had thought at that time. Now I was angry on her, “How could they be so dumb? When will things change?”, I kept thinking. But I think I was angry more on myself for not talking about it when the time was right.

Two days later Swati told me they had taken the decision to abort the child. I could see the stress on her face. The financial burden was also evident. She would be spending more than Rs. 5000 on the doctor and the abortion pills (each pill costs Rs. 1000! Her monthly income is Rs. 2500). But more than anything the emotional burden was too big to handle. “Am I doing a sin?”, she asked me. I could not answer. I felt like I was a partner in the crime. A jaadu ki jhappi was all I could give her.

Swati was paying for a crime committed by not just the two of them but by our society, her parents, me. Why can’t we deal with sex more openly? Why can’t we talk about it? Why don’t we have sex education? Forget other’s, why couldn’t her own mother warn her of the outcome of unprotected sex. I don’t know how large my audience for this blog is, but here is a sincere request to all you educated folks out there. If you come across a similar situation, make sure you ask questions and educate others when the time is right. You could be snubbed for interfering. On the other hand, you could be helping another Swati.

To each her own

As I lay on bed, I kept thinking of the conversation I had with mom in the evening. Mom had recently attended a function at a relative’s place on the occasion of Guru Pournima. It was to pay respect to some ‘Swamiji’. She was narrating the incidence to me. About 30-40 ladies of different age groups gathered and recited Mantras and sang Bhajans. My mom felt out-of-place. Each of them seemed to have forgotten about their daily worries and sat there completely absorbed in the mantras. There was a sense of devotion, a sense of contentment while they sang ‘Shree Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’. They all seemed in a happy place. My mom on the other hand was completely bored. She felt weird that when most ladies of her generation enjoyed spirituality why then did she find no pleasure in it. She asked me “Is something wrong with me?”

Incidentally, the very next day she was invited to her sister’s place for lunch. After lunch, my aunt asked her to stay a little longer as her Rummy club members would be arriving soon for an afternoon session of rummy. My mom agreed. All the members of this club really enjoyed the game. Amidst all the packs and paplus, my mom felt an uncanny similarity between what she saw yesterday and then. Here too, they all seemed to be in a happy place.

When mom told me about this, my thoughts went back to a couple of years when my sister was visiting me in the US. The dual purpose of her visit was to stay with me and also meet her fiancĂ© who was studying in the US. He had managed to take a small break and had come over to my place for just about a week. On the day he left, naturally my sister was very depressed, since they would be meeting next, only after a year. She wanted to buy some clothes, so we went out shopping. We shopped like crazy, probably that’s the only thing we did the whole day. In the evening we came back home, extremely tired. My sister slept as soon as she was on the bed. She seemed to be in a happy place; or at least I felt she was.

Swamis and gurujis may appear bogus to many. People might look at a group of rummy-playing ladies with a frown. Being a shopaholic doesn’t do much good to your husband’s credit card. But every person has his own way of dealing with stress and the worries of life. What one chooses may not necessarily befit the other. In the end, it’s all about happiness.

With that thought I went off to sleep. I was in my happy place.