Mother India 2015

She is 48. She hails from Bihar, a state that sadly connotes poverty and true to that conception she belongs to an extremely poor family. Her husband is a poor Brahmin who survived by being the local priest. His flock belongs to the poorest of the poor. I presume she was married when her sisters on the other side of the fence are still playing with dolls or learning the art of being a teenager in a world replete with gadgets and gizmos. And when they are about to experience their first love, she is already a mother. She soons learns the art of going to sleep hungry or worse lulling her hungry baby to sleep. By the time her rich sister steps out of school she is a master in the art of surviving.

It is not hard to imagine her life. Her village is one of those that get flooded over and over again, when bunds break, or water is released from higher regions, or when the river itself change courses. She would have had to rebuild her life each time to see it washed away again and again. She would have lived through droughts looking at the parched land and the unyielding sun. And yet every year she would have stood in cold water worshipping the same sun in the hope that her family would be provided for. From sunrise to sunset her life would have been dictated by the wants and the needs of her family. She also must have mastered the art of neglecting her health and hiding her pain as there was no place for her ailments in her hard life. A quick and hushed visit to the local shop for a pill prescribed by the shopkeeper to keep the nagging pain away. But for how long.

One day it all became unbearable and the secret had to be shared. There must have been umpteen visits to the local quack, the small town quack, the district hospital. Then the verdict: she had to be taken to Delhi, to the hallowed All India Institute where every needy Indian lands when all else fails.

That is where she lies today stunned and bewildered; unaware of the reality: she has advanced ovarian carcinoma that needs surgery. Her family has been handed an estimate: a whopping 1 lac 50 thousand (150000) Rupees, a sum they have never seen. I guess that even if they sold all their belongings they would not be able to garner the amount.

As she lies helpless on a hospital bed, her husband is running from pillar to post dazed and helpless. Where does he find the equivalent of 2500 US$ and the rest needed for the expensive cancer treatment that lurks unrevealed around the corner. I guess it is all in the hands of the Sun she worshipped for years.

My heart goes out to them in more ways than one as I am a cancer spouse survivor. I know the futility of the treatment propose but also know that to family like hers modern medicine is the panacea to all ills. Had I had the money, I would have given it to them, not so much for the cure but more so that the husband would not feel that he had failed her. I shudder to think what I would have felt had I not got the funds to buy all the cornucopia that I fed Ranjan. I would give it so that her children and grandchildren would not bear the guilt of not having been able to help her. I would have given it so that the family did not fall deeper into the debt trap. But I have no money. I can only add my prayers to hers.