[WSMDiscuss] On Mother's Day- Read a Short Story "Pain"

Umakant uk4in at yahoo.co.in
Sun May 13 18:44:28 CEST 2018


Greetings!On the link given below and also pasted here you could read a short storywritten by Urmila Pawar, a well known Dalit Woman Writer. 


Dopass it on to others in your circle/network. 





FrontlineMagazine, (Print Edition), May 25, 2018 



“Son”-worshipin traditional Indian families drives many women to lifelong unhappiness anddepression—either because they are not the sons their mothers wanted or becausethey cannot give their in-laws the grandson they want. “Shalya” from Motherwitby Urmila Pawar published by Zubaan (1988) is an unforgettable story about amother of five daughters giving birth to her sixth child, a —


I’LLhave a daughter this time too. I know it! Right from the first month of mypregnancy every symptom suggests a girl—my womb is heavier on the left, I leadwith my left foot, my left breast is heavier than the right, and I long for thesame foods as I did those other times. All my aches and pains and my drowsystate tell me that the little feet I hear belong to a girl. All the previousfive times, I have had the same sensations.


“Youwant a son, don’t you? Then you must go to the Potdar Hospital,” a woman whohad nothing better to do suggested, fingering my sore spot, and I followed theadvice despite many misgivings. I got some treatment in Potdar where they gaveme drugs through my nose. I thought hell can’t be any worse than this! I simplyput up with it all in the name of hope.


Mymother-in-law has begun persuading my husband to remarry. He joked to me aboutit before, but now he is serious. When I suggested that we adopt a son, he wasreally angry. He said an adopted child is never your own. 


Rightoutside the maternity ward, Jyoti sat thinking of all this. When she felt thelabour pains coming, her face distorted, she doubled up and clutched her waist,biting down on her lip. Then as the pain subsided, she went back into thecircle of her thoughts, exhausted. Even her mother-in-law did not come with herthis time. Her husband told her off-handedly, “Take mother with you.” Motherresponded angrily, “Why? Just to bring home the good news that she has had yetanother girl? The hospital isn’t far. She can go by herself.”


Itwas nine o’clock at night. Jyoti ate a few mouthfuls, prayed to the Kulaswaminiwho protected their home and went to the hospital. Her labour pains wereintensifying and she was frightened. Besides, her heart beat wildly because sheknew she was going to deliver a girl. That’s right, it would be a girl.


Aaiiii.... Jyoti could nothold her pain in anymore. She held down with her thighs in agony. By the timethis wave died down, her face was covered in beads of sweat. The pain subsidedand she looked ahead as her body relaxed. She saw two women coming down thehospital corridor towards the maternity ward. So this must be the other one inthis ward. She seemed very young; a first-timer. Jyoti wondered who the olderwoman with her was—mother or mother-in-law. Both came closer. The older onewent inside, leaving the first-timer outside on the bench. Mai, the hospitalmidwife, was inside—an expert at delivering babies! When Mai was around thedoctor was always at ease. Mai could handle four or five deliveries all atonce—she was that good! She called the doctor only when there was a caesareansection to be performed. Otherwise Mai took care of everything. She was assweet tempered as she was talented. Durga Kaku, the other midwife in thehospital, was not like Mai. She couldn’t keep a sesame seed moistened in hermouth. She paid more attention to the tips she collected from the pregnantwomen than to the women themselves.


Thefirst-timer was sitting just a short distance away from Jyoti. Jyoti watchedher carefully. Her face looked like a dried and distressed kevda. She lookedweak and her eyes were sunken. Her forehead was high and clear yellow. Herlabour seemed like the hissing of the cobra—sharp and fast. She was going tohave a boy, for sure. The symptoms were clear.


Maicame out. She peered at the first-timer carefully. Then she turned to Jyoti andsmiled, “Looks like both of you are going to deliver at the same time. I willneed to telephone the doctor.” Mai went back inside.


Theolder woman sat next to the first-timer. The first-timer was beside herselfwith pain. She was spinning like a potter’s wheel, while the older one satthere like a lump of clay, not consoling her, not caressing her back... andwith no kind words. Jyoti wondered what kind of woman would do that. Anyoneelse would be moved and affected by the sight of this pain.

Tryinghard to keep her heavy eyelids open, Jyoti looked at the first-timer again. Shewas sure the poor woman would have a son, how fortunate! She wished it would bethe other way around. She should have the girl and Jyoti should have the boy.If not, she should probably just exchange the babies. What if she really could?


Fora few seconds Jyoti thought that was a funny idea. She gave way to another waveof pain and as it passed she saw this idea was getting stronger. Like aharmless breeze becoming a big storm, the idea gripped her mind and ran amuck.Her whole being shook at the thought like a candle flame in the storm.


What’swrong if I do this? She thought about how awful it had been for her through allher pregnancies and all those girls. The neighbour who had been showing hersuperficial sympathy will have her nose out of joint. All her husband’s officemates who circled him like crows because he has five daughters will probablyhave seizures just hearing the news. Her girls will dance for joy. All of themfeel so sad during Bhau Beej and her husband will, of course....


Lostin her thoughts, Jyoti forgot her pain. She got up and marched straight inside.Mai was getting two delivery tables ready. There was only a curtain separatingthe two tables.


“Mai...,”Jyoti called out. Her whole body was shaking. Words seemed too thick to getthrough the sieve that was her jaw. 


“Isthe pain getting worse Jyoti?” asked Mai without turning around. The nextmoment, Jyoti turned and stood before her. “Mai... for me please... will you dothis for me?” Jyoti’s teeth chattered as if she were cold.


Maihad heard many pregnant women begging and pleading with her to deliver themfrom their pain. Mai expected this to be a similar plea. So she looked at Jyotismiling kindly and continued getting her tray of forceps and other tools ready.


“Iwill do everything I can. Tell me, what would you like me to do?”


“Exchangeour babies.”


“What?”The tray in her hand rattled.


“Thewoman sitting outside most definitely will have a boy. And I will have adaughter. If that happens exchange our babies,” Jyoti stood her groundstressing every word.


“Whaton earth are you saying? Jyoti have you lost your mind?” Mai turned away as sheput her tray down. Like a falling tree branch, Jyoti simply collapsed in Mai’sarms and started sobbing. 


“Mai,I am going to be driven mad, really mad. Only you can save me. Please oblige mewith this one thing. Take pity on me. I am begging you to help me. You can havemy gold bangles. The necklace, the ring and anything else... but please do thisfor me.”


“Jyoti,look, come here. Lie down on the table, will you? It isn’t right to gethysterical at such a time. You need to calm yourself. Pray, pray. You’ll get ason. Don’t be so afraid. Come.” Mai took Jyoti’s hand and helped her lie downon the table. But Jyoti was not just another pregnant woman waiting to bedelivered any more. She was holding cowries in her hand, prepared to gamble.


Shepressed Mai’s hand and said, “There isn’t much time, Mai. Please think aboutit.”


“Howdo you know that she is going to have a boy and you a girl?”


“That’swhat I think is going to happen. If it does—then I ask that you do what I ask.”


“Youdon’t even know anything about her...”


“Mai,is it time for her to be brought in yet?” asked the older woman from thethreshold. For a second, Mai looked at Jyoti and said to the woman outside,“Wait just a moment, please.” The older woman left. Jyoti was watching Mai’sface with a fluttering heart as if she had just placed a flower on the idolwith all her hopes and was waiting for a sign.


“Mai,how is the older woman related to her?”


“She’sher mother.”


“Hermother?” Even in this condition Jyoti was stunned.


“LookMai. The two women seem very well-off. Their clothes and their demeanoursuggest that. I am sure my daughter will be fine in their home.”




“No,please no buts. Aaiiii, I can’t stand this anymore!” Jyoti convulsed on thetable. Her thoughts disappeared as the pain seemed like a million ants stingingher at once. She fought the pain with as much strength as she could muster. Hertime was near.


Outside,the young first-timer struggling with her pain was being brought in by hermother. The door closed. Both were wracked by pain on the two tables. Betweenthem was the curtain and Mai. Jyoti was praying with all her might, “God,please grant me a son. I’ll call him by one of your names. Mother goddess,Jagdamba, I’ll make you an offering of necklaces, please bless me. Give me ason.”


Anincredible wave of pain was rending her body. She stiffened. Her life seemed togather in her throat and her voice cracked. Beyond her suffering, she felt anew life emerge in this world, to thrive and to flourish.


Withgreat hope and much effort she opened her eyes and lifted her head. As soon asshe saw Mai’s face, she knew, and her neck collapsed. Her mind was numb withdespair. Almost instantly, pain transferred itself from her body to her mind.One ended the same time as the other started. She simply stared with blankeyes. Mai showed her daughter to her, then washed and wrapped her in cloth.


Justthen the other woman screamed and Mai ran to the other side. She was thrashingher limbs, trying to strike her stomach. Mai stopped her and said angrily, “Itfelt good then, didn’t it, and now.... stop it .... lie down quietly. Don’tthrash about. Whatever theatrics you’ve done already are enough.” But none ofMai’s words seemed to reach her. She kept screaming. Jyoti’s ears were intenton picking up the first-timer’s movements. “God, please, at least give her a son,”Jyoti prayed intently.


Finally,she too was delivered. As soon as she heard the baby’s cry, Jyoti sat upright,moved the curtain aside and asked eagerly “What is it?” Mai looked at her withwide eyes to shut her up, but she brought the baby boy for her to see asquickly as she could. Mai too seemed shaken up. Both looked uncertain likeunseasoned thieves. Jyoti’s face lit up as if the baby boy was her own.


Newsof Jyoti having delivered a boy spread like the wind among her relatives. Herhusband came bounding to the hospital. He ran in to clasp her in his arms forjoy, then picked up the baby boy, held him close, and planted kisses on hisface.


“Iknew we would have a son this time. I had made a vow to the Kulaswamini, andshe has blessed us. My office mates had laid bets because they thought I wasgoing to have a daughter again. Now, let them eat their words—after all, wehave produced a son.” Jyoti stared blankly at her husband babbling with joy.She felt like the rock in her heart was not about to soften at this sight. 


Itwas two o’clock after midnight. Jyoti was in the bed with the baby cuddled ather side. Her mind wandered to the other bed next to hers. A baby was cryingand she wondered if it was her daughter. Between the relatives, her women friendsand their constant comings and goings for the last couple of days, she had notbeen able to fully see her daughter at all. Jyoti got up from her bed slowlyand carefully and went to the next room to look for her baby. It was herdaughter who was crying. The young mother was asleep with her back to the baby.The older woman was snoring on the floor.


Jyotiwent quickly to the bed and picked up her baby holding her to her bosom. Thebaby rubbed her face against her breast wanting to nurse. Jyoti felt a quickstabbing pain moving from the tip of her breast to her heart. She felt choked.


“Thisbaby is crying isn’t she? Let me take her.” Jyoti was taken aback to see DurgaKaku standing behind her, all dishevelled.


Nextmorning, all her five daughters came to see their baby brother. Watching thegirls coo over the baby made her forget that he was not hers.


“I’vebrought you some hot homemade badamacha shira,”said her mother-in-law pushing the container towards her, “Come eat while it ishot.” She turned her attention next to her grandson. So now she gets badamacha shira... but all the other times... Jyotisighed, thinking about it all. She recognised her daughter’s wail once againjust as she was about to eat. 


Herhand froze. The cry was getting louder. Jyoti felt her daughter was asking tobe taken to her real mother with all her might. Jyoti got up. She realised thather daughter had been crying since last night. What kind of mother is thatwoman, she thought angrily. The young mother was still asleep and her motherwas nowhere around.


“Aho bai! Your daughter is crying. Pick her up.” Theyoung mother turned around to see Jyoti was talking to her and turned her faceaway again. “Aho, get up. Take care of the baby,” said Jyoti againraising her voice. She picked up the baby herself and wished she could slapsome sense into the young mother. As if nothing out of the ordinary hadhappened, the older woman came in and stood before Jyoti saying, “What is it?What happened?”


“Thebaby is hungry. Ask her to feed her.” The older woman ignored Jyoti’s plea, andtook the baby from her as if she had pulled some clothes off the line anddraped the child over her shoulder. She walked up and down slapping the baby onher back.


“Aho,she needs milk....” Before Jyoti could say anything further, the older womansaid, “Go, leave us.”


Jyotireturned to her room frustrated. Durga Kaku walked in saying, “She will notfeed her.”


“Whynot? Doesn’t she have any milk in her breasts yet?” Jyoti asked forcefully.Durga Kaku closed the door to her room and whispered, “She is in trouble. Thatgirl is unmarried. Somewhere along the way she got into trouble.”


“Really?”Jyoti croaked, her tongue glued to her mouth.


“Lastnight her mother was telling the doctor that they don’t want to keep the baby.They were asking her to give the baby an injection or something.”




“Yes,they don’t want her to live. She is the fruit of sin, isn’t she? What if peoplefind out? So they want to abandon....” Jyoti could not bear to hear the rest. Sheran to the door crying hysterically, “No, no, this can’t be. I won’t let thathappen. That is the sin... murder.”


“Jyoti,why are you so upset?” said her mother-in-law, surprised.


Kakupeered at her face intently and Jyoti somehow pulled herself together. Tryingto smile she said, “But they shouldn’t do that. What has the poor baby done?Why must she pay for her mother’s sin?” In her own mind, Jyoti blamed herselfthinking, what have you done? You’ve sinned too. Just to have a son, youabandoned your baby girl. Did you think twice about what her future would be? Herthoughts were getting really destructive and violent like Shiva’s tandav and her brain felt numb with the stress. She wasfilled with remorse and her eyes filled with tears. She thought about her ownmother. After all, who else could she seek comfort from?


However,she asked, “Where is Mai?”


“Maihas taken a month’s leave and she is gone.” Jyoti’s tears fell into her hands.


Watchingher tears, her mother-in-law noticed her wrists, “Jyoti, where are yourbangles?”


“Itook them off and put them away in a bag when I came here.” Jyoti spoke a quickand unrehearsed lie. She was looking at the baby boy. She wanted to pick him upfrom among her girls and take him back to the young woman and say, “Here. Takehim. He is yours. Now do what you will with him.” The baby was moving hislittle arms. His little pink mouth was open as if he was telling her he wantedto live.


DurgaKaku and her mother-in-law were deep in conversation. “The man who committedthis sin, the father of the unfortunate baby girl, disappeared, I heard. Sowhat are they going to do? To avoid more shame and gossip, they are leaving thehospital tomorrow,” said Durga Kaku. Jyoti was waiting for her mother-in-lawand her daughters to leave them.


Assoon as they were gone, she went to see her daughter. The baby was in thecradle this time. The young mother was lying in bed with her arm over her eyesand her mother was sitting on a stool and dozing next to the bed.

“How’syour baby?” Jyoti’s question woke her up. She looked at her with her drowsyeyes. Jyoti waited a while before she said again, “What have you decided to doabout your granddaughter?” Both mother and daughter looked shocked as ifsomeone had pulled the cover off a naked body. The older woman looked aroundand sat up frowning. She didn’t like Jyoti’s forward, meddlesome attitude.Jyoti waited for an answer and then said, “What I have heard is true, isn’tit?”


“Whathave you heard?” said the older woman abruptly.


“Justthis, that you don’t want the baby.”


“Whotold you that?” The older woman growled looking over her shoulders.

“Nevermind who did, but it is true, isn’t it?” The older woman was subdued by thepassion in Jyoti’s voice.


Shedropped her voice as she said, “Look, the circumstances are very difficult...”


“True.But why did you let things get out of hand in the first place? Is it fair thatyou should sacrifice an innocent life because of it?” Jyoti’s tone of voicesounded like that of an attorney making a point in court. The two women lookeduncomfortable. The older woman really hated Jyoti for her presumption. Shewondered why this strange woman was meddling in their affairs. She hadreproached them many times: pick up the baby, feed the baby, what are you goingto do with the baby. In any other circumstance they would never have toleratedher arrogant presumptions. But right now they felt like their hands were caughtunder a rock.


Theolder woman then asked for sympathy, “If you were in our situation, what wouldyou have done?”


“Iwould have raised her. I would have fought to gain her respect in society,”said Jyoti looking directly at the young mother. She wished to challenge thiswoman’s sense of pride and justice. The older woman laughed sarcastically.


Jyotilost her temper and raised her voice, “Do you think your sin will be expiatedby the sacrifice of this innocent baby? Is it reasonable to try to erase onesin by committing another?” The older woman looked at Jyoti with distaste andgot up. Jyoti lost her nerve. She caught the older woman by her hand and said,“Forgive me. But I really think you shouldn’t do anything terrible. You shouldbe humane.” The older woman kept quiet.


“Sendher to an orphanage or let someone adopt her....”


“Whowill adopt her? If she had a baby boy, someone might have stepped up.” Jyotiheard her saying this and was disturbed.


“Aho,bai, your son is crying,” another new mother was calling out to her.


Theolder woman saw the distress and pity in Jyoti’s eyes. She sighed deeply andsaid, “Go, you need to attend to your son.”


Jyotidragged herself to her room. The baby was bawling inconsolably. She watched himwith distress. His voice did not seem to touch her heart. Her breasts remaineddry.


Thenext day her husband returned with their daughters. As he picked up his sonfrom his cradle, he noticed his wife’s face. “What’s wrong? Are you feeling allright?” he asked surprised. 


“Yesterday,you sent the food back untouched too. Is something wrong?” asked hermother-in-law with concern.


“Oh!Nothing.” Jyoti made an effort to smile. She went out on an excuse to get somewater. She heard someone say, “They are taking their daughter now.” Jyoti feltunstable on her feet and the water pot in her hand fell to the ground. 


Shesaw the two women taking the baby girl out, all wrapped up. Jyoti ran towardsthem screaming, “Please don’t kill her. Let her live. Please, let her live.”The two women stepped out of the door. Jyoti’s husband stepped up to supporther and stopped her from falling down. Her mother-in-law placed the baby boy onthe bed and ran to her daughter-in-law. Other women standing around weresurprised but praised her, “She has five daughters of her own, but she cares somuch about this unknown baby girl. She must really care about girls.”


Herhusband helped her to her bed and placed her son on her lap saying, “Aga, don’tbe so upset about the girl. Whatever is written in her destiny will happen.What can we do about it?”


Likespears many eyes were focussed on Jyoti—her husband’s, her daughters, hermother-in-law’s, and of all those who were standing there. In the midst of itall her heart seemed bruised. She wondered who she would ever be able to showher bruised heart to.


(Storyselected by Mini Krishnan). 




With Regards and In Solidarity 

Umakant, Ph. D 

New Delhi 


My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality. 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.openspaceforum.net/pipermail/wsm-discuss/attachments/20180513/45b25f2a/attachment.htm>

More information about the WSM-Discuss mailing list