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It was a vicious circle. The rigid societal desires gave rise to such unlawful procedures; and just because the procedures were available, there was an ever rising greed in the wants.
Radhika and Raghav had been married for two years now. They were were looking forward to starting a family. Raghav was a very homely person. The mere thought of holding a baby in his arms brightened him. Radhika was excited too. However, she had been asking for one more reason to double the joy. She wanted a son. Only a son.
Both of them came from orthodox backgrounds. Radhika was the eldest amongst her three sisters and a brother. Raghav was the youngest sibling to a sister and a brother. They belonged to a part of the society in which male heir was not only a privilege but also a necessity. A guarantee to carry on with the family name, the business and old age insurance for parents.
There was not a single female family member, either on Radhika’s parents or in laws side, who had not faced any kind of pressure for delivering a boy. The ones who were lucky were blessed with a son the first time itself. For other ladies, life had become a cycle of getting pregnant, followed by getting the gender checked and then either abortion or a gloomy delivery of a baby girl. All until the family finally achieved that son.
Radhika personally had nothing against having a daughter. Besides, Raghav never had this on his mind and was a very loving husband. But she feared that the stress that would build up in the family in the event of not having a son might take a toll on their relationship later on. She had witnessed this misery in Raghav’s brother and his wife’s lives ever since she had got married. Her sister in law had a ten year old girl and was pregnant for the fifth time now, nervously waiting every time for the sex determination test. Radhika dreaded if that was going to be her story as well.
She had gathered all information on ways to conceive a boy. Lunar calendar, Chinese calendar, gem stones, indigenous medicines, diet plan. Her mother and sister recommended a gynaecologist to her as well. Raghav was not very happy with the way his wife had been possessed by the idea. Often, he used to wonder why was she so insecure about it when there was no pressure at all from his side. But he loved his wife too much and conceded to whatever satisfied her. And so, he accompanied her to the doctor every time. Moreover, Raghav’s mother was more than happy with Radhika’s determination to give her a grandson.
Dr Suhasi was a reputed gynaecologist in the city. She had a hush reputation as well – a reputation for guaranteeing sons. Her clinic was the undeclared centre for sex determination, abortion of female foetuses and consultation for conception of male progeny. On their first two consultations with her, Radhika and Raghav were given a list of dos and donts. Having a baby was something Raghav had been looking forward to quite some time now. But this decision had become a careful act rather than a blessing to their happy marriage. Besides, he had seen his own sister unwillingly undergoing this torment. Unfortunately, she did not have enough support from her husband and had an abortion recently. This had made Raghav’s decision of not doing it to his wife even stronger.
On his third visit, Raghav could not resist but ask Dr Suhasi, “Mam, please don’t mind my asking this. As a a doctor, is it not your duty to encourage patients to work towards having a healthy baby irrespective of the gender. Of course, it is not a crime to wish for a son or a daughter for that matter. But going to such lengths is merely an obsession. I am sure the earnings are tempting. However, as a moral responsibility doctors should try talking people out of it rather than making it a lucrative business.”
Radhika stared at him and made a gesture to shut up. But Raghav ignored and waited in anticipation for the doctor’s response.
Dr Suhasi had a very detached and professional smile on her face. “Raghav, I do understand your concern. I am a mother of two girls. Being a doctor myself, neither I nor my husband and in laws ever ask me to try having a son. But not all women in this country are as lucky as I am. Most of my patients ask for such desperate measures because of family pressure. But there are still many who do it out of their own will. Many expectant mothers do it out if their own desire for a son or in fear of harassment by their husbands and in laws later on in life.
Just yesterday a young expectant mother approached me for sex determination of her baby. She did not want to continue with her pregnancy in case of a girl. That’s because she was well aware of her family expectations and did not have the capacity to go against them.Then there was a second time pregnant lady with a five year old daughter. She approached me to help her conceive a boy. She stayed in a joint business background family. A male heir would benefit her husband a long way. One mother got a baby girl aborted just because she thought raising a son is way easier.”
Raghav, in his heart, knew that it was not justified for him to corner the doctor as he, although unwillingly, and his wife had been asking for something similar. But he still asked.
“Doctor, but there is also the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. That makes all this illegal, doesn’t it?”
The doctor replied very coldly. “Legal or illegal. I do what I do only because people ask me for it. I have known patients who still live in misery just because they did not bear any sons. They suffer all their lives without any fault at all. In some cases, the girl’s parents too bear the brunt of in laws wrath. If a little service from my end helps them avoid all the mental agony then what is wrong with it. When doctors like me will stop these so called illegal practices, the ones who are hell bent for obtaining boys for their families will take up other drastic steps which I cannot even begin to describe.
What you are asking from me will not come from my end alone. It requires a very deep digging to the roots. It needs personal and social acceptance. A fundamental change in the thought process of every such individual is the only thing that can curb it. Do you know thar inspite of the national sex ratio moving up slowly, there are still pockets in urban areas especially, where the sex ratio is decreasong alarmingly? This means that the change is happening but not in the intensity and spread that it should.
I hope you understood my perspective. Because as I can see very well, your own wife wants a son only inspite of no such stance of yours. Ideally, whether the baby should be a ‘he’ or ‘she’ should not be anybody’s choice. But there are people who want that choice.”
Raghav kept glaring at her. Radhika was already embarrassed by the entire conversation and made a move to leave. Raghav did not know what to say. Sure, the doctor was justifying her illicit business through that lecture. But unfortunately, each and every point that she made was a fact. It was a vicious circle. The rigid societal desires gave rise to such unlawful procedures; and just because the procedures were available, there was an ever rising greed in the wants.
He looked at the doctor in agreement and left. Not in agreement of procuring her services but in acknowledgement of the harsh reality that she had described.
Published here earlier.
Image source: By SUNIDHI CHOUDHARY (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons, for representational purposes only.
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