Her face fell as the recounted the tale of her loss.
Shockingly, this is the prevailing reality of millions in our country. We lose
16.5 Lakh children every year-one child every nineteen seconds-India. In addition,
women in India have only a 50/50 chance of anyone skilled to help them give
birth, and in most cases, they pay with their lives.
These are not mere statistics but a reflection on how, as a nation and society,
we treat our women and children. Poverty is a vicious cycle that pushes people
to dire circumstance that we may be oblivious to. Deaths remain uncounted and
families learn to copy with loss becomes an irreversible reality that is beyond
their control. The sad truth is that one’s chance of survival mostly depend
on where one is born and into which strata of society. For the poor, it is the
lottery rather that the right to life and survival that determines their future.
Save the Children's campaign against needless child deaths attempts to make
this invisible reality visible. We know change is possible. It need will and
a commitment from each one of us to create a nation free of diseases, And a
word of equal opportunities for children. Each of us has a role to play.
On behalf of Save the Children, I thank Jaishree Mishra who joined us in our
efforts to champion this cause. I must also thank Zubaan in taking up this project
and getting the book out in time I thank all the writers whose moving and inspiring
pieces from this anthology.
Finally, our hope remain that the efforts will translate into timely political
commitments towards mothers and children in our country, and that to gather
we can create a nation where each of them counts. May this project move all
its readers, and inspire them to contribute to the positive changes that we
On the one hand, India is emerging as a global power and on the other, Save
the Children’s annual State of the World Mother table on 'the best place to
be a mother' places India 76th out of the 80 middle-income countries listed.
In assuaging how we look after, educate and offer opportunities to our women
and children, we do not come off well. At the same time, India accounts for
one fifth of world’s burden of child mortality with 1.7 million children dying
every year. We lose one child every nineteen seconds what’s worse most of these
deaths can be easily prevented.
The number of woman we lose due to pregnancy-related issues in one week in
India is more than in all of Europe in a whole year. In other words the number
of woman that we lose in one year in India due to pregnancy-related issues is
the same as having 400 plane crashes annually. Can you imagine what would happen
if that were the case? Government would fall. But because in this case it is
largely poor rural woman who are dying, nobody Is paying the slightest attention.
The question arises-are we, as a nation, failing to make woman and children
count? Or have we simple become numb to large numbers?
I've been campaigning on this campaigning on this issue with Save the Children
since 2009. Despite our huge efforts to raise awareness of the daily struggles
of families at our very doorstep, there is still a long way to go.
Why are we lagging behind? To be honest, it’s hard to know where to fix the
blame: we score below average on practically every front. I can’t help but notice
that our that our biggest black mark is the fact that woman in India have only
a 50/50 Chance of having anyone skilled to help them during childbirth.
Statistics like this reflect on how, as a nation and a society: how we treat
women and girls: How we discriminate against them, disempowered them, relegate
them to the margins and once they're there, neglect hem. We've done this for
During my visit to a slum in Delhi with Save the Children in 2011, I met woman
too young to be mother and health workers who have the tell task of 'changing
mindsets-something that will not happen overnight. One of the crucial areas
that Save the children has been focusing on is the importance of nutrition or
both mother and child. Often overlooked this is in fact the cause of a third
of child and a fifth of all maternal deaths here again we are not taking home
any prizes. We have the highest rate of child malnutrition of all middle-income
countries and the second highest rate in the e entire world. A tenth of women
in our country are undernourished themselves, and this is being passed on to
their newborns from the womb as they start to develop, and on it goes.
The reality is that we are stuck in a vicious cycle. But with political will
and increased social awareness, and with the excellent work being done organizations
such as save the Children, I believe it is a cycle that can be broken.
Taking care of our women and children build not just a generation but the
nation itself. We neglect mothers at our own peril, at the of society. If we
are to lead as a nation, we must put our women and Children first.
The massage need to reach many more till our society is moved to redress this
situation. This anthology is a small step in the right direction.
A little over the ago the wheels were set in motion by Jaishree Misra when
she pledged her support for Save the Children by undertaking the book that you
hold in your hand today . On behalf of save the Children, I would like to thank
Jaishree the whole team at Zubaan, and everyone who has worked so hard on this
project. Thanks to you all, and here’s hoping that the book will be a big success.
It started with an event organized by save the Children where I found myself
promising to edit a book that would highlight the problems some woman face in
caring for find that children. Rash, yes, but I had been staggered to find that,
in India, we lose a child every nineteen seconds to easily preventable diseases
and seemed worth trying to help the organization employ more health workers
to assist struggling families. In such instances books are my preferred currency
because they are more likely to change perceptions than all the money in the
Typically, on reflection, I found myself I a state of panic. Publishers have
good reason to shy away from 'worthy' book, which are usually considered However
there are fortunately still a small handful of publishers around, like Zubaan,
who, despite who despite the many difficulties, ways to continue producing material
that pushes boldly at all such boundaries Zubaan Come up with an enthusiastic
offer of publication which was accompanied-almost like a good portent-by an
excellent ready-made piece on the relationship between food and mothering by
editor, Anita Roy. As we excitedly pooled names of writer friends that first
meeting, I could start to see an anthology that would overturn all those glib
presumptions about motherhood that are churned out by commerce and advertising.
Yes, of course, the subject would be celebratory for those whose experience
of this gift has been positive. But-if I were to stay true to my original promise-this
would also be a book that would startle people out of their complacency, even
if only to have them accept that motherhood isn’t always the comforting 'cuddly'
experience we like to think it is. Not that I enjoy upsetting cherished notions
but this is one way to help readers glance, for a moments, into the abyss that
some women stare at every day.
Our guideline to contributors was this: Anything that examines the subject
of motherhood is welcome: an essay or short story or poem. First, Second, third
person, comic, tragic, soft, savage.... pick your style and be as bold as you
like because it is exactly this variation in experience that we need to convey.
In the hands of talented writers, this was sure to open all sort of windows.
And, to our delight, the response was overwhelming Almost everyone immediately
had an opinion, an idea, a story; some wanted to waive even the token payments
that were on offer, given Zubaan's excellent credentials and because this was
an awareness and fundraising initiative. What astonished me further, as articles
and stories started to gather in my mail-box, was the honesty with which everyone
seemed willing to tackle such a personal subject I hope reader area as comforted
by some of the pieces as I was my own feeling about motherhood being mixed at
the best of time I should explain.
Motherhood come early in my own life, following an arranged marriage while
I was still In my teens. I was too young and too confused to cope at well with
cloth diapers and colic and swiftly turned into one of those anxious young mums
my heart now goes out to. I'd had my child at the wrong and for all the wrong
reasons and when, a few months later, it also emerged that she was mentally
challenged, I thought, aged twenty-three, that life had ended. But I grew to
love my daughter with fierce protectiveness and, as the years passed, it was
the prejudices she faced that catalyzed me to take on and change many things
that a more 'normal ' kind of motherhood might have shackled me to. Essentially
she freed me from society’s expectations-a test which I had apparently failed
anyway by having her at all-an so I got a divorce, rediscovered my first Love,
moved to England become both a working woman and a novelist and embraced life
in all its fullness. Paradoxically, it would seem, Motherhood become the driving
force in my liberation as a woman.
Then, just as I finally started to enjoy my daughter, come a series of miscarriages.
Four incomplete babies followed each other, all in the space of life Years It
looked like motherhood wasn’t meant for me without all sorts of attendant heartache.
There were the Years when I was in English and much help was at hand in the
form of solicitous nurses, self-help groups, a sweet faced social worker who
talked to us in a beguiling voice about the possibility of adoption. My husband
and I were open to the idea, but were sure we only wanted a body from India,
Partly because children of Asian origin hardly ever come up on the Adoption
Register in Britain and we could have languished forever on a waiting list,
no doubt growing increasingly desperate. This was when we found that British
Home office rules at the carried a price tag of six thousand pounds for overseas
adoptions. It wasn't parting with the money that worried us but, having spent
most ouf our lives in India, we both knew of the circumstances under which most
children end up in orphanages and six thousand pound was certainly a sum large
enough to keep such a child a her own natural home for some considerable time.
I wasn’t sure I could comfortably become mother to a child by the mere good
fortune of having more money than her biological mother did not so, rightly
or wrongly, that door was closed without further consideration. Doubts about
whether we had made the right decision stayed with me for a long time and I
have to say that the pieces on adoption in this book made me re focus my thoughts
to a great degree.
Nevertheless, I learnt along the way to deal positively with this set-back.
I stopped counting in my head the ages my miscarried brood would have been:
the youngest, fifteen this year and my goodness, the oldest would have been
twenty! Quite probably a college student bringing home dirty laundry, slouching
on the sofa, mumbling a lot and finding fault with his father all the time.
If it did come up in our conversation, my Husband and I would laugh wryly and-mostly-we
genuinely stopped minding. I learnt to derive joy rather than envy from the
successes of friends' children and the more generous of them freely gave me
access to their rites of passage. Vicariously, thus I too heard of cooking experiments
lived through the stress of board exams and college admissions, an experienced
that motherly heart in mouth moment at first mention of back packing adventures
in places I hadn’t even heard of .
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