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Bindi Bottoms
Minu Manjari Asst. Manager RBI, Mumbai

“It sounds exactly like they show in films!’ Weird it may seem, but this was my first thought when my baby was born. Half-immobilised on the operating table, I heard the voice first and saw the face later. There was this moment of immense relief, ‘Thank god, my baby is alright.’ Finally my child was put in my arms. I started to count the fingers and toes. While my baby and I were skin-to-skin, the nurses started stitching my stomach up like a piece of cloth.

In the middle of all this, the nurse reminded me, “Check your baby. Kya hai?” Oh, I had forgotten to check the gender. She held the child in her arms and I saw, “Girl.” The nurse suggested that I should check the number again. She showed me two tags. I saw that both the tags had the same number- 74. It was sure that she was my baby girl.

Behind the obvious surge of happiness, I could hear a little nagging voice in my head - a whining bit of disappointment, ‘Now they will tell me to have another baby.’

Suddenly, the doctor interrupted all these thoughts. Hers was a matronly presence -- prim but compassionate. She asked the nurse about the delivery in the room next to mine. The nurse answered, ‘Udhar boy hua hai (Its a boy there).’ The doctor, irritation palpable in her voice, said, ‘I did not ask about a girl or a boy. I just asked whether the delivery was routine or complicated.’ The doctor’s reaction shook me up. I was ashamed at my disappointment because of having given birth to a baby girl.

Whenever I recall that one moment of disappointment I had in the labour room, a sharp pang of guilt rends me. This is what social conditioning does to us. It does not matter to me whether I am mother to a girl or a boy. It might matter to others, and for a moment, it influenced me. The perpetual conditioning affected me. I feel ashamed about it even today.

Today, my girl is seven. Her name is Vanya, the grace of God. In these seven years, I have not known any happiness deeper than the one that comes from raising a child.

I have decided to raise Vanya in a way that she will take the world in her stride. She might face the conditioning sooner or later, but I want to make sure that she has the strength to withstand it.”


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