What do you appreciate in an advertisement? I kind of always sense an ulterior motive behind the soothing emotional abuse and I detest the hollow fecundity. But I remember one advertisement which displayed a good sense of value. In the first scene, a grown-up boy is being pampered by his mom at the dining table, when his greyed-moustached father joins for dinner. There is now silence, both mother and look at the father uneasily. We understand that the father is the traditional patriarchal sort, and not the modern plaything kind of father. So the father has to begin the discussion.
“What time are you leaving for your hostel tomorrow?”
“Around six in the morning,” answered the boy with fearful respect.
“Have you arranged for a vehicle to drop you at the bus stand?” The father asked with more scorn than concern.
“No, Papa… there are a lot of auto-rickshaws scooting in the morning.” There was much confidence now.
There was silence again and the scene closes. The next scene is early morning, with the son waiting at their doorstep, with his mother at his side. He has a duffel bag in his hand. He looks at his watch: he’s already late. He beckons every rickshaw that passes by. But none stop. The mother-son duo is anxious. Then unexpectedly one auto-rickshaw pulls by. He hurries into the vehicle but then stops. Whom does he see, but his father coming out of the auto-rickshaw. The boy is stunned. There is silence again. The father pays the auto-rickshaw driver asks him to drop his son at the bus stand. The boy slowly sits in the rickshaw and bows before his father. When the rickshaw leaves, the mother comes slowly beside her husband, leaning into him.
“I knew he wouldn’t get the auto-rickshaw so early in the morning, so I took the trouble to walk to the rickshaw stand and get one for him.”
The little act of a powerful father is the larger story of a successful son!
So why did I take the pains to tell you all this? We have a story: a little act by a powerful JanPragati in the larger story of Meena! Well, the fact is our power is no indication of the larger responsibility; it only means that you could be used for a purpose - large or small! Now let me tell you our story:
Meena* eloped with the boy she loved. She took her vows at the local shrine with her lover. She knew of no other way of marrying the boy she loved. But as most Bollywood love stories tell, her husband was arrested by the police for “kidnapping” a minor girl, and she was driven back to her family. She was just 17 and he wasn’t yet 21, to draw a legal marriage contract. So their marriage was nullified. In a few weeks, Meena found herself pregnant. She informed her parents that she was two months pregnant. Her family blatantly refused to accept the child into their home. They forced her to meet a medical practitioner for an abortion. But for some unsaid medical complications, he refused to abort the baby.
By the end of the fourth month, it became increasingly difficult to hide the pregnancy. The family was embarrassed and ashamed of Meena, continually pestering her to abort the baby. Meena refused. The parents now decided to disown Meena and remove her from her home. She was moved into a government children’s home, which definitely wasn’t the place for a pregnant teenager. Eventually the Child Welfare Committee of Lucknow informed us about Meena. Meena was welcomed into Mekhi’s home, and we were ready to take full responsibility for her. She joined the other four expectant mothers at Mekhi’s home, adding another baby at our home very soon! All the while when Meena was at Mekhi’s home, she felt comforted. She was given proper care, healthy meals, regular medical check-ups and counselling. She increasingly learned to read and write. There is one area she was never comforted: Her husband!
Meena knew that she would have to give birth to the baby without her husband at her side. She decided she would wait until she turns eighteen, and be declared as a major so that she could join her husband, once he’s released from the jail.
Four months into her stay with us, she was summoned by the high court for a hearing. We appealed to the honorable court to postpone the hearing because Meena was eight months pregnant and was not in a condition to travel. But then we received startling news: Meena’s husband was exonerated: the court-ordered so!
Things were taking a sharp turn now. To our surprise, the court ruled that Meena should go with her husband to his place. It looked like the judge had a clear conscience and ethical sense rather than simply following the rule of the law! There was more joy in our camp, because we had thought this ruling would be impossible! Yet it was made possible, and to her delight, Meena could deliver the baby with her husband by her side.
However, the court also ruled that she, her family and husband needed to undergo CWC counselling. We at JanPragati also rejoiced at this since Meena was struggling with a lot of emotional stress and rejection because of her condition and family pressures.
We had thought and had planned to take care of Meena and her baby. We were capable and we were ready. But that doesn’t mean that we were meant to do it. We were only meant to play a small role in the larger story of Meena and her baby. Yet, we played an essential role! That’s all that matters - if our purpose was just to pick up a baby sparrow and place her back at her nest, we have fulfilled our destiny.
*Name changed for confidential reasons