If you would know that there is an ongoing debate about the dispensability of fathers. The contention of some feminists is that from an evolutionary point of view, it is enough to have one caretaker (which would be the mother) for the proper survival and nurture of any baby. Lately, I have been giving hard thoughts to this contention. But I couldn’t take my thoughts any further, being stuck in an emotional turmoil. Two babies have triggered my heart; one passed away within a month and the other was given away in ten days. Both the babies had struggling mothers, and both the babies had absent fathers. For the sake of security, I will neither mention dates nor real names nor places. Let me narrate the stories of both.
Pooja was a fourteen-year-old girl pregnant with her baby in one of the slums we work. Her husband was just a year or two elder to her; nevertheless, he was still a boy. Pooja was anemic, and so we were worried about her health. We administered supplements to improve her condition. But she wasn’t improving much. At around eight months into the pregnancy, she gave birth to a tiny baby girl. Since Pooja was anemic, the doctors prescribed a few more days at the hospital. However, her mother was adamant about taking her home. Pooja’s parents brought her back home despite the obvious weakness she had. A week or more after the birth of the baby, on a chilling winter night, Pooja was burned by a flicker of fire that caught the tip of her Saree. Pooja was taken to a Government hospital; her body was seventy-five percent burned. The recovery would be slow. Pooja did find hope and love; we are glad we were there. However, it would take a few days before she could completely recover. When her condition improved, the doctors moved her from the Intensive Care to the General ward. She would soon recover; the doctors were confident. However, Pooja’s mother was not satisfied. She constantly complained that she is not able to go to work, and so she wanted to take Pooja home. We desisted them from doing so. Nevertheless, her mother persuaded the husband (who is rather a boy) to take her back home. So they did bring her back home one morning, without informing us. We were very upset. The next morning, the family began a series of magical rites and poured cold water over the young girl. Pooja fell sick in the afternoon. When the family saw that her condition was worsening, they called us. We made arrangements late night to admit her at the same hospital. Life rejected Pooja that night, piteously leaving a scarred young body. Grounded deep in pain, Pooja’s Parents started isolating themselves. They were sorry for what had happened but it was too late. The baby in the meanwhile was taken care of by some of our closest beneficiaries who were neighbors to Pooja. A few days later the Boy-Father’s parents took the baby away. They believed that as long as the baby is the hands of neighbors, Pooja’s spirit will now claim the life of the baby. The boy-father was just a puppet to his parents. They impressed upon him that the baby is no longer his responsibility, but he should get married as soon as possible. The parents were now forcing the Boy-Father to marry Pooja’s cousin. The baby was sick. The baby looked pale and her hands stiffened like a pair of wooden planks. Her feces had bloodstains. We earnestly pleaded with the family to let go and allow us to take the child to the hospital. They promised to do so themselves, only along with the continuing magical rites. It was late again. The baby died within the next two days. The boy-father was away busy with his work- an absent father.
On the day when death brought grief to our souls, Ankita started labour pains. Ankita is a sixteen-year-old girl. She was directly under our care at our Shelter Home. Ankita’s father passed away even when she was very small. Her father was an alcoholic and died inebriated. Her mother isn't free from the habit; she remains drunk all through the day. She grew up in this pathetic state. Her life hit rock-bottom when an old man promised her a better life. He then took her and drugged her. In that stage, she was being raped by men and later would be paid for it. She was then threatened and forced into prostitution. When life turned absolute hell, she decided to escape. When she got an opportunity she escaped to a government shelter home. She did not know that she was pregnant then. She was found with a baby when in the shelter home. Since there were many men who had sex with her, she had no clue who could be the father of the baby. The government officials called us and told us about Ankita. We were only glad to give her and her baby life. She came to Mekhi’s home as a broken vessel, abused, maligned and exhausted. Mekhi’s home gave her hope. She was happy to give birth to a healthy baby boy. Ankita loved him. But she wanted to give a good life to him. She knew she would never want to take him to the hell she lived in. Her siblings were equally addicted to tobacco. Her mother could never stop drinking. She knew that the safest place for her baby would be at a children’s home. Ankita knew that the earlier she surrenders the baby, the better it is for him. As far as we see it, it was a good decision and we respect her for it. She did not do it because she wanted to have a comfortable life. She did it because she knew that she would never be able to bring him up. Perhaps he would find a kind mother and father- who are destined to be his true parents.
As both babies trigger sorrow in my heart, I question the role of a father in the family. What happened? The Boy-Father is just another absent father. It resulted in death. Then I find a father who is unaware of the baby he has because he exploited the body of a young girl. A misery because no one knows who he is. Are they not both be blamed for the condition? What is better? Is it better to eliminate the Father and be relieved that there is the mother? But that has only brought harm to mothers. One died, and the other painfully surrendered the child. Both were miserable. But what if they had good fathers/ husbands? Would that have prevented those broken lives or sustained the lost lives?
Would you be the judge? Write to me what you think…