It’s a 180 second wait at the signal and the OA switches off the engine and we wait, chatting. The windows are rolled down and we are shaking our booties in the car to some Punjabi hit. A pleasant breeze is blowing, the moon in the sky looks like a shiny new dish all set to run off with the spoon.
The next moment we are besieged by beggars. An old woman with her glasses tied up with string, a young kid selling flags, a man with a missing arm. Ever since AC cars became de rigueur their pickings are poor. It’s easy to ignore the snotty face and grimy hands plastered against your window if you turn the music up. Not so much when your windows are down and they reach in and pull your dupatta and try to grab the packet of chips in your lap.
Anyhow, we’re waiting and shaking our heads firmly when I see another one approaching us. And this time I am torn by the familiar dilemma. Should I keep my purse firmly locked and discourage begging or should I give her something to keep her going. She’s a young girl in a filthy ghaghra and a tight shirt, the buttons below her breasts opened up to accommodate a very pregnant belly. Skinny and malnourished she’s clearly close to her due date. And unlike the missing arms and burnt body parts, this cannot be faked.
A split second before the light goes green I dig into my purse and grab some money to give her. We drive away and I ask the OA why such a poor young girl who can’t feed herself is bringing yet another mouth into the world to feed. He shrugs. The answer of course is clear. Procreation is such an animal instinct.
It’s such a luxury to have a choice. To be able to choose when to have a child. To say you will only do it after you make CFO or after you’ve bought a house and created a retirement fund. After you’ve had your folic acid and worked out to get to your optimum weight. After you’ve been bungee jumping and done that trip to Peru. After you’ve bought your parents a second sedan and a flat screen TV.
I wonder what it’s like to have no idea where your next meal will come from. To live under a plastic sheet on the roadside. To have two torn shirts and no certain bathroom or source of water. To stand at car windows and knock, hoping for some mercy. And yet have the strength to go ahead with a pregnancy.
I know the government and NGOs have birth control drives and help them with sterilisation too but they still pick choose to have that child. They didn’t get an epidural or a private delivery room. They have no idea if they’ll be able to nurse the child, so malnourished are they. They’re not reading Spock and worrying about timely potty training. They will not be able to educate them, they have no means of keeping them warm and safe on cold winter nights, but they’re sure they want them.
But they’re doing it anyway. For the joy of holding a child in their arms – just the same as every single one of us.
The many thoughts that rushed through my head – It’s funny how we have the cheek to believe we should have an opinion on their reproductive rights just because we’re richer/educated.
On the other hand, who will take responsibility for all these poor starving kids on the roadside.
Do they have a right to bring another child into a world full of suffering, hunger and poverty?
And this is why we have no right to smugly tell those who pick IVF, that its no big deal to give birth. Just adopt. For one, adoption is not the last refuge of those who tried and failed. It’s a happy choice. For another, it’s their choice and it’s a little rich when those words come out of the mouth of someone who got knocked up before they could say Jack Robinson.
Why would a person say Jack Robinson?