Saturday, March 07,2020
That clacking of heels stood out despite the cacophony in the OPD room. I glanced up to see the source and the grimace (that sometimes involuntarily jumps onto my face while trying to scold a non-compliant patient) ebbed into a smile. She was the next patient. Standing tall at a little more than four feet, she walked in with a confident smile and wished me good afternoon. She looked like a twelve year old gifted with more maturity than her childish eyes could contain. She was accompanied by an older girl who was around twenty years old. They were tailed by a young lad with a squint who was busy playing with the OPD door. Yes, even a normal door can fascinate a young child.
I inquired of my young patient as to what brought her to me. “I am having weakness…” she said in a sing-song manner. I tried my best not to smile too much. By then the older girl had taken over and narrated a story that would pull my heartstrings ( and hence find a place here). The young girl and the little boy were her neighbors. Their mother had passed away few years back. Their father had remarried and their step mother had given birth to a baby boy few days back. So our little lady was now taking care of the household. “So, does she not go to school?”, I had to interrupt. Apparently, she does. She wakes up early in the morning, cleans the house, cooks food and then goes to school. After returning, she has to do the laundry and prepare food. “So ma’am, please do write some tonic to improve her strength,” the older girl requested. One part of me wanted to yell at her that a twelve year old will not have the strength to do so much, no matter what magic potion I prescribe. But that would not change anything. “Is there no one else to help her?” , I asked rubbing my forehead. I was having a headache by now( or was that a heartache?). “No, not really”, the older girl was the one still replying. The little lady still stood as poised as ever. And the young lad’s latest fascination was the blood pressure monitoring apparatus.
I gave her a prescription and made her promise she will not stop going to school no matter what. “No ma’am, I will not. I love going to school. I want to become a teacher when I grow up”, her confident voice was reassuring. More reassuring than what I could imagine would happen to her. Probably that was all the reassurance I would have about this meeting. She thanked me and her heels clacked away. I sat still till that sound faded. She was the strongest woman I had met today. Yes, sometimes, age is just a number. Some of us are blessed to retain our childishness forever. But some like that little lady are forced to grow up faster and adorn roles beyond their age. This women’s day, as I think of all the women that have inspired me, this little one also makes it to the list. She will never know that though.
Sunday, March 08,2020
“Ma’am, I am getting discharged today. What about my medications?”, a thin hand was waving a prescription slip at me. It was her third post natal day and she was taking her little one home today. An older man was standing next to her. “Is this your first baby?”, I asked her. Looking down, she replied, “No, its my fourth child”. “So you will be coming back for sterilization right?”, I asked. “No”, the lady and the old man answered in unison. “How many kids do you want? Do you know having another baby will not be good for your health?”. “But it is a girl this time too…”, came the most logical explanation from the older man. “So??”, my tone had definitely become harsh by now. The man grumbled something and left the room. The woman looked at me helplessly. “How old are you?” “Twenty four”. Wow. Twenty four and four kids. Since this was not too uncommon in this setting, I had taught myself not to be too shocked.
“Ma’am, I do not really want another baby. I will talk to my husband and plan about sterilization.” The absence of the older man in the room had installed a new confidence in the lady. I wrote her medications and counselled her on breastfeeding and vaccinations. “Make sure you come back……”, with that I handed her the prescription. I really hoped she would come back…but not come back pregnant. Despite all the talk on women empowerment these days, the quest for the boy child still continues. She was just one of the many. One of the many woman who survive one child birth after the other to gift their family with a male heir.I hoped this lady would have the courage to stand up for herself and her four girls. If only her family realized that these four girls were blessings and strove to bring out their maximum potential….I opened Whats app and replied to all the “Happy Women’s Day” messages with a pang. How many women out there are really blessed to be happy? Worth a thought.