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The Beggar Maid

Pushing myself through the crowd that throngs the hospital in the morning hours, I stumbled over this young mother. She smiled at me, as she knew me. I felt guilty, that I could not but give an affected response. She looked startlingly handsome! Clad in high embroidered crimson sari, wrapped meticulously and intentionally over her head. She defied no shyness. There was no stereotypical coyness. Yet I was reminded Tennyson’s ‘beggar maid’. I introduce Jaygun.

There was not a noticeable bulge indicating pregnancy, which hardly caught anyone’s attention. She was clearly pregnant. But it was difficult to believe that she was eight months pregnant. She had her two year old daughter resting on obtruding hip. I neared the couple who clung to each other. I greeted the little girl and blurted that the baby is mine. The little girl looked at me intently as if she said: “You are such a grown up and yet how could you be so stupid?” I shook away my embarrassment and turned to my wife who had brought Jaygun to the hospital. We had to make arrangements with the Gynaecologist. Despite her vibrant smile, we knew that Jaygun is in searing pain.

Shrishti knew Jaygun well as the lonesome one who attends the literacy class. She never spoke much since she knew few words of Hindi. However Jaygun hardly missed any class and Shrishti was glad that Jaygun was making progress. Jaygun had a passion: Her daughter. There was no one more important than her lovely daughter. Jaygun often said that her driving force in learning the letters is her lovely daughter. She swore that she would not send her daughter into rag-picking. In fact there was nothing she would not do for her daughter. Such was this Jaygun.

Shrishti is an ardent critic of child-marriage. She was often vociferous about the issue. Jaygun sits silently nodding her head, everytime the issue is brought up. She heard Shrishti talk about child bearing and pregnancy .Then came the medical camp. Shrishti was surprised to discover that Jaygun was pregnant. She had deftly hidden this fact from Shrishti. A few more days at the class and then she did not turn up. Shrishti was now worried. She visited Jaygun. Jaygun was in pain. She had a fall a few days back and now tiny bulge is paining. She was worried. Shrishti asked Jaygun to meet her Gynaecologist. Jaygun informed Srishti that she had never visited a Gynaecologist. Srishti decided to take her to the hospital and she informed Blessy, who serves as the project head. They wasted no time, but rushed her to the hospital. That is where I met this vibrant lady.

Jaygun went through some routine tests. We were glad that the Baby is safe and so is the mother. After we had brought Jaygun to the hospital, Jaygun’s husband was took the initiative to take her to the hospital. He was pretty guilt stricken that he had not taken her to the doctor. Jaygun says that her husband is one of the best men in the slum. She is happy to be married to him, as he supports her in her learning. But Jaygun is worried that things may change, since he is highly influenced by the other men in the community.

Jaygun is one of the fortunate ones in the slum. We are happy to help her and waiting to see her little child. Thanks for supporting us. Greetings from Jaygun as well.

So sweet a face, such angel grace,

In all that land had never been:

Cophetua sware a royal oath:

"This beggar maid shall be my queen!"

-The Beggar Maid: Tennyson



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