This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 33; the thirty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is ‘Celebrations’
The young lady, lay prostate on the narrow table-type bed. Her nylon saree sticking to her sweaty skin in the heavy summer heat. A ceiling fan whirred noisily in the room. I watched her anxiously. She looked back at me, in a way that said “Don’t worry about me, I am OK!”
I couldn’t help worrying about her though. She could not be more than 19 or 20 years old. Her name was ‘Mahua‘. Short and petite like most of the tribal women I had seen around here. Mahua looked malnourished, and not at all like the full-figured, almost round pregnant women I had seen back home. She had walked 20 kms in the summer heat to reach this little hospital setup that Dr. Rani and Abhay Bang ran. Mahua had been experiencing intense labor pains since the last three hours. And though she had every reason to be scared and apprehensive, she maintained a stoic silence. There was a quiet dignity about her .
This was the first time I was going to attend an actual delivery. I had been watching Rani tai attending to the patients in her clinic since the last ten days. Today Rani tai had graciously allowed me to assist her in conducting Mahua’s delivery. Rani tai, spoke with Mahua in the local dialect, that I didn’t quite understand. But it was obvious that her words were warm and friendly, because Mahua was soon lying down comfortably on the delivery table. Rani tai then gave her assistant some instructions and showed me how to time the contractions. She then left to attend to her lengthy line of patients.
Each time a contraction came, Mahua’s body convulsed! her face contorted in pain. But she did not utter a single cry of pain. Soon the contractions became longer and started coming faster. From one convulsion to another, Mahua now seemed to be in a constant state of pain. Still, the assistant maintained that the baby was nowhere near crowning right now. I wondered if Mahua’s frail body could take this much torture? To give myself something to do. so as to avoid panicking. I wet a napkin and ran it over Mahua’s dry lips. Hoping it will give her some relief. She smiled at me graciously.
“Relax !” I wanted to tell her. “You don’t have to worry about the others around you right now. Just focus on yourself. Shout, vent, get angry if you wish to, scream, let us know you are in pain”.
I had heard my aunts speak of child-birth. It was the most painful process of a woman’s life! they said. On a scale of 1 to 10 they rated the pain of childbirth at 20! “It felt like your very insides were being squeezed and shifted about to make space for the child” said one. The other, a gentle woman who hardly ever uttered a loud word recounts, somewhat sheepishly, about the way she had constantly shouted and had almost hit the nurse when the pain during her prolonged delivery had became unbearable.
I almost wished the lady would hit me now. Anything would be better than helplessly watching her go through this silently. As the pains came sooner, Rani tai returned.
When I had asked Rani tai, if I could watch a delivery. She had been unsure. Laughingly she recounted to me the story of a city girl like me who had ended up fainting herself, as the baby crowned! Leaving Rani tai to tend to both – the patient and her! I had assured Rani tai, I was made of sterner stuff. Now with the delivery about to begin, both Rani tai and the girl looked at me with concern. Did I see them exchange a ” Is this girl upto watching this” look? My god! Mahua herself was barely my age, if she could give birth, I could at least watch! I straightened up , so I would look taller and tried my best to look calm and in control. Wetting more napkins, I applied them to the girl’s forehead and palms. Hoping the sensation would distract her from her pain and give her some relief from the heat.
As the baby started crowning. I tightened my grip on Mahua’s hands. She dug her nails into my palms. Where was her husband? or her mother? or mother in law? shouldn’t someone be here by her side right now? I wondered.
I asked her if she would like me to call anyone. No she nodded , not having the energy to speak. Rani tai indicated to me there was some trouble and she would need to cut a little bit. “Cut” The word itself scared me!Surely, now the girl will cry!
Rani tai explained to Mahua,l what needed to be done. Then proceeded to give a precise cut. The girl lying beneath me took in a sharp breath! her hands were clammy where she held me. Still Mahua didn’t scream. Not even a whimper.
The baby came, Rani tai held it to me. I was mesmerized! The feeling of holding a new life in my hands was too profound to be written in words. Time stood still for a second in the labour room. Next moment, we all burst into smiles. Mahua looked relieved and closed her eyes for a second. I lay the baby next to her. On seeing her baby lie next to her, Mahua smiled, a wide toothy smile!
Just then, there was a knock at the door. As I opened the door, a middle-aged woman stepped in . She strode purposefully towards Mahua. With one deft hand she uncovered the baby, took one look at the new-born baby girl. And walked out, without uttering a word. I looked questioningly at Mahua. She quickly turned her face away from me. But not before I saw a tear roll down her eye.
The girl who had not whimpered during the six-hour ordeal was broken by ‘silence’. The celebrations had ended, before they had begun!
This is a story from my own life. As a final year student of MSW (Masters in Social Work) I had chosen to work at SEARCH. SEARCH, in Gadhchiroli Maharshtra is an NGO run by Dr. Abhay Bang and his very dedicated wife Dr. Rani Bang. It works in an extremely poor naxalite prone tribal area. It attempts to provide high quality health care including reproductive and child care, besides many educational and empowering services to the poor tribal women and men living in the surrounding villages. Dr Rani Bang and Dr Abhay Bang are two of the most inspiring and humble human beings I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
Tai : A term used for an older woman/ aunt affectionately
Mahua: The name of a popular tree in this tribal belt. The flowers of this tree are used to brew a local liquor.