On Thursday I had another session of interviews in the village outside of New Delhi called Nagafgarh. While I was doing interviews in hopes of constructing a profile of challenges for women (and especially mothers) in the village, another Apne Aap staff member was delving into the issues of prostitution in the community.
In my interviews the most salient issue that surfaced was that of maternal health and public health in general. Hardly any of the women I interviewed ever went to a hospital or consulted a doctor throughout their pregnancies. Nearly all of them had birthed each of their children on to the dirt floors of their huts. One woman recounted how they cut the umbilical cord with a twig. The same woman explained to me that she didn't go to the hosptial because she couldn't afford it, and she was also afraid of "the medical knives".
The most moving interview by far was with Nandini. She is 19. She had her new born baby with her. I have tried to put into words several times what it felt like to sit across from a girl my age and her baby and try to hash out the issues of motherhood with her. I have failed miserably in trying to articulate the experience. The best I can explain it was the sensation of looking into a weird mirror, or parallel universe.
What was more disturbing was comparing notes after with the other staff member. Apparently many of the woman leave the village leave the village in the middle of the night and solicit along the road to Gurgaon. The most horrific stories are the abuses (sexual and otherwise) that they suffer from the police.
Another facet that came to light during the interviews was the issues of the rising cost of living. One of the women in my interviews cited the fact that she could not afford to send her kids to school due to these rising costs. This was fascenating to me. We all read the news: oil prices are up, the cost of food is soaring. But what is it to us? It costs a little extra to fill up the SUV? The grocery bills go up by a few bucks? It is a sobering experience to see and talk to the people who are living on the margin. Here are the people who simply cannot survive if the cost of food goes up. These people are prostituting themselves in order to feed their families already. A food crisis is simply not acceptable.
Half an hour away the Prime minister of India is negotiating for nukes....I guess we all need to take a hard look at priorities....