She sat absolutely still. Quiet and composed. Draped in a cheap cotton sari. Inexpensive, but pristine clean. Starched and pleated very neatly and properly. Black as a polished black slate, carved by a superb artist, she sat. As a junior doctor, working in a government hospital, managing crowded out patients’ chambers of the gynaecology department I felt drawn to her immobile beauty. She was such an unfit sight among the smelly, sick, sweating impatient crowd.

I took her outdoor ticket to check the information
Residence: A remote village near the Sundarbans. Age: 19. Reason for registration: Wishes to terminate her pregnancy. Status of pregnancy, early first trimester.
I called her name to the examination table; she came quietly and sat across the table, with lowered eyes.

I asked her name. Silence.
I asked her age. Silence.
I questioned about the cause of her visit to the hospital. Still no response.
When I started repeating my questions, the girl’s elder brother and sister-in-law came forward.

They said they had brought this girl for an abortion.
I asked my patient, “Do you want an abortion?” She was quiet.
I said, “Until my patient wants to abort her baby, I will not operate.”
The brother started shouting, “What is this? We are the guardians, and this doctor does not listen to us.”

I silenced him sharply, and asked the girl again, “Don’t you want this baby? Tell me. If you want to keep your child, nothing will be done without your consent.”
The brother had started rambling, “Her husband died last month, and we will have to marry her off to another man. Who will feed her otherwise, huh?! And why will any man marry her with some other man’s baby? We are too benevolent, so we have fed her till now. But this will not go on for very long. I have a limit…”
I looked deeply at my patient again. She sat as still as a statue. No sign of life, no flicker in her eyes. Stiff and straight she sat.

I told her in a low voice, “Look, if you want your baby, I will not let anybody kill it.”

The statue moved. The spine relaxed a bit. She started speaking in a monologue.
“The wedding took place only two months back. It was fagun (the spring),  flowers everywhere. He went to collect honey from the forest. The tiger took him. It happens in our Sundarbans, , you know. It happens… he was only twenty, you know…”

Her voice became low like the droning of bees. Her vision went out of the hospital window, far away.

May be she did not talk; I could hear her brain buzzing. “Only two months, and that was so sweet. Only two months. But a part of him still remains alive inside me, na?…isn’t he still alive inside me....”

My brain said “yes”. My scientific knowledge said “yes”. I fell in love with that unseen twenty year old lively youth. He was still alive in his living gene pool, nestled in the warmth of his  beloved’s womb. He still was.
Until poverty and social pressure tears him out and kills him so easily. It really did not matter what the mother wanted. She had to fill in the forms, no way out. Medical termination due to social cause is justified.

I just thought of those days when termination was not legal. May be then mother could have lived with her baby by working on her own. Way back so many mothers did. May be she would later curse the baby as a burden, who knows?
Does law become a double –edged sword? I could never forget that finely carved black statue, that young heart-broken mother. That grieving widow frantically wishing to keep her lover’s genes alive.


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