To be a woman.. a mother... ailing.. in India

Life throws challenges at you, when you expect them least or when you have sunk too contently into your comfort zones. It happened to me today. For some time now things have been running smoothly at pwhy, and due to some personal worries, I must admit I have been playing the role of an absent landlord. I do show my face every morning, but then leave to carry on other activities, many related to pwhy of course. This morning I was all set to repeat the daily routine and had climbed into the auto rickshaw when a man, in his late twenties I guess, came to me  and mumbled something while handling me some papers. I was perplexed when my driver tried to explain that the man's wife was sick and needed help.

My first reaction was to tell him that unfortunately we were not sponsoring medical emergencies any more have lost the persons who once helped us do that. But something in the eyes of man stopped me half way. There was desperation of the kind I had not seen. He told me that he had knocked at every door and gone from pillar to post for the past 8 months hoping to find the funds to treat his wife. He seemed to be at the end of his tether and looked at me with a supplication I could not ignore. Somehow the fact that the man had not given up touched me deeply.

I looked at the papers and found out that Noori Praveen - that is her name - had a cerebro vascular condition and her treatment would require 100 000 Rs- roughly 2000 US$ -. He had papers to prove that. I knew from looking at him that there was no way he could raise that amount. I wish I had deep pockets and could have reached into them but alas that is not the case. But I knew I would not be able to look at myself if I did not try to raise the amount.

Noori is a woman born in this land just as I am. But she was born on the wrong side of the fence. She was denied all the rights that we appropriate ourselves so easily. Nobody must have asked her whether she wanted to get married. Nobody told her that she had right over her body. She had no choices. She must have been married in her teens and become a mother soon after that. She started having headaches  but would have ignored them till they became unbearable. Some quack in the village must have treated her. Then, when nothing seemed to have worked, she would have been taken to a close by town and then ultimately to the portals of the last hope: the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

In a land where swanky hospitals are mushrooming by the day, the poor have no option but to go to the State run facilities. And even there free treatment is only partial. There comes a time when you have to pay, and pay big! Noori is at that juncture. Her husband has not given up and is still knocking at doors in the hope that someone wil hear. Noori sits waiting hugging her children and her excruciating pain.

I could not pass by. I only had the power of my words to be her voice and hope against hope that someone out there will hear he pain and reach out.

I can only hope and pray that the fact that a man stopped my this morning was because someone had heard the prayers of this young woman and her little children.