Thursday, June 22, 2006



He looked at me in alarm…As if I had suggested castration..

“Yes vasectomy.”.

I spoke sweetly. Hiding the anger and disgust rising within me..

“But I will have to undergo anesthesia..”

“It can be done under local anesthesia..”

“I wont be able to go for work..! I will need rest..”

“Just a few days only.. you are a clerical staff.. you can go for work.”.

“Side effects..?”

“What side effects..? Nothing..” I was starting to enjoy myself..

She sat there staring at him with hopeful eyes.. Eagerly hoping that he would agree..

The man who had promised to cherish her.. protect her..

His wife the mother of his three kids.. She had undergone three caesarians..

And three induced abortions..

Why couldn’t he take up a bit of pain..?

Was chivalry something you read only in romantic novels..? Not to be expected in marriage..?

She was missing her periods again..

Her caesarians had been in a mission hospital that didn’t do family planning procedures..
His company paid for treatment there.. So she had not been sterilized even though her abdomen had been cut open thrice..

Our hospital was conducting a free laproscopic sterilization camp..

Someone had motivated them to come for the camp..

The surgeon was a bit reluctant.. there was bound to be adhesions inside the abdomen after the three surgeries.. passing in the laproscope and navigating it to ligate her fallopian tubes would be difficult..

The anesthetist was reluctant.. she had a history of allergic asthma.
He had created some nuisance in the ward when he was asked to sign the consent form for the surgery.. asking hundred and one questions to the duty nurse.. that’s why she sent him to me..

“I suggest that you undergo vasectomy and spare her from all these risks..” I smiled sweetly..”

“Anyway medical termination of her current pregnancy can be considered only after one of you undergoes a permanent sterilization procedure..”

I was firm.. I knew he wanted that.. didn’t want the burden of one more child..

He started to squirm on his seat.
“Well… what do you say..? There is definite risk for her.. I can understand your reluctance to sign the consent form.. “

I was really enjoying myself now..

Cos he didn’t want any risk for himself. was willing to put his wife to risk..but was not willing to sign the consent form.. wanted to blame the surgeon probably if something happened..

“Well what do you say..?” I persisted..

He wouldn’t look at me..

I leaned back on my chair..

“There is a definite risk for your wife. even though she is willing to undergo the procedure.” I couldn’t help making the dig..

“You can undergo vasectomy instead.. The procedure is much simpler and you are a healthy man.. I drove in the point..

“Hmmm.. hmmm.”...

I shall think about it.. He started to rise.. He wanted to make good his escape

“ I don’t think you have a choice.. abortion shall be considered only after one of you has undergone permanent sterlisation..and the surgeon is reluctant to do lap sterilization for her.”
He had vasectomy two days later.. he was sullen .. brooding … probably scared about his self-image... About his masculinity..

She underwent MTP two days later. ..quietly.. no fuss..

Didn’t she know that she had a choice..? I wondered.. Why were her needs not given importance..?

To use contraception..? To find a surgeon who would do sterilization along with her caesarian..?

To refuse abortion..?

Maybe she didn’t have choices.. I told myself.. Only he had that privilege..

After all he was the breadwinner.. Wasn’t he..?

Thursday, June 15, 2006


“When I was captured I was placed in an underground prison. I was angry and afraid, but I was also determined that I would not be defeated by the experience. During the first week of captivity, three points came to my mind, which were of considerable help during the long days alone. They were.

No regrets.

No self-pity.

No over sentimentality.”

-Thoughts from a prison cell from Terry Waite

Friday, June 09, 2006


My father often tells the story of an old man. Who went to a temple in the Himalayas. He traveled long and after a tiresome journey, finally walked up the steps of the temple, to see the poojari locking up the gates of the temple.

“Please open the gate I have traveled long to come here” said the old man.

“The temple is closed for the next six months. The deity has been taken to a temple in the valley.”

The old man was disappointed.. It was getting chilly and dark. The poojari felt sorry for the old man. He handed over his shawl and told him “Sleep near the verandah. U can make your way back in the morning.”

The old man sat in the front of the temple, shivering in the chilly, misty night, and surrounded by the huge, silent mountains. He must have dozed off. He felt someone patting him awake and saw the poojari standing in front of him.

“I couldn’t leave u here. I will stay with u. We can play dice to pass the time.”

They spent the whole night, playing dice. Finally it was morning and the old man’s eyes were moist as he walked down the steps. He knew that he wouldn’t be healthy enough to make the long journey 6 months later

As he walked down, he saw the poojari climb up from below.

The poojari looked amazed. “Are u still here?”

“Still here?” The old man was confused.

“Yes I remember you were here 6 months back. I am here to open the temple again..”

Realization dawned on the old man. He had been playing dice with the deity of the temple…! He had been protected in God’s arms, not for a night but for 6 months..!!

My father used to tell this story to impress upon us that God would protect us and look after us.

We just had to trust in him.

The gates of the Gangotri temple are closed on Diwali and are opened again after 6 months in May. During this time, the idol of the Goddess resides in the Mukamba village near Harsil.

I wondered if this was the temple where the old man in my father’s story had played dice with God for 6 winter months. I was also surprised that Mukamba village was the group of cottages that had caught my curiosity during my morning walk.

Gangotri is a small pilgrimage town. The place was crowded with pilgrims. Lots of tourist buses and jeeps were parked.

There is a lane winding up the mountain side, to the temple. The lane is lined by restaurant and small shops offering curios, brass vessels, bottles to carry water and beautiful chains made of Rudraksha and exquisite tiny coral colored beads

The temple painted in silver was a small one with huge bells hung in a row in the front ... Water from the Ganges is offered for pooja there. There was a meditation hall and broad steps leading down to the Ganges.

I was amazed to see people taking bath in the freezing water. Probably the belief that they would be cleansed of all their sins made them tolerate the cold chilly bath….

Some people were offering pooja. Some were floating small bamboo baskets of marigolds and lighted candles in the water. I too collected the water and floated the baskets of marigold.

Somehow, I didn’t feel any spirituality among the chattering crowd all around.

Few young men approached us asking if we were interested in trekking to Gaumukh. It was 19 km from Gangotri where the Bhagirathi River emerges from the snout of the Gangotri glacier. One gets a fine view of Mt. Shivaling from there.

Six km from Gaumukh is the Tapovan, a beautiful high altitude meadow above the Gaumukh.

I knew I wouldn’t make it. Gautam wanted to try it, but there was nobody else to accompany him. So the idea was dropped.

We spent two more days at Harsil, soaking up the nature. ..

The stimulating scenery was slowly becoming too much for my senses…. Somehow I felt burdened with all the beauty. The poverty and hardships that the locals faced were striking. The people seemed to cling to spirituality for comfort. There seemed to be a tiny temple every hundred meters.

Women worked very hard.. I saw women chopping wood…. carrying logs, firewood, provisions and water up the mountains.. And doing manual labor and tarring of roads alongside men. There seemed to be no natural source of income.. Not much agriculture. Tourism was confined to the few buses filled with pilgrims who came to visit the temple.

There were very few hotels … they served only roti, sabji, dal and chaval.. we had to sit and wait for the hotel people to go and buy the provisions from the nearby shops and then cook it for us. My boys were getting restless. Their tummies were growling for chicken and mutten..!!

I was getting restless too..

The harsh cold climate… the terrain. The strange food , The poverty and hardships around me were making me homesick.

‘Gods own country’ with its soothing scenery, swaying palms, serene backwaters, gentle rivers , mild climate and homely food was beckoning me back. I wanted to go home..