When President Kalam passed away on July 27th 2015, I mourned along with the entire nation. A man of extraordinary vision, his belief in the inter connectedness between freedom and self dignity / respect resonated deeply. It is he who had said “If we are not free, no one will respect us “.
Few days back, I remembered these words of President Kalam in a very strange scenario. I was in a group of women of varied ages. The common factor amongst all the women was that their husbands are quite highly placed in society and hold responsible jobs. Majority of the women are not financially independent. All of them are literate, some even holding Bachelors’ & Masters’ degrees. I shall refrain from calling them ‘educated’.
One of the women had not been keeping well for sometime and had certain gynecological complications. Conversation centered around her health issues and a doctor amongst them was asked to opine whether the line of treatment being followed was correct.
A questions that was asked of her was ‘Whether you have had a MTP ( Medically Terminated Pregnancy) done ever ?”.
I was aghast at the answer, the attitude that went with it and the reaction of the other women. ‘Around 4 MTP’s’ was the answer. It was said with a little titter and surprisingly, accompanied with a coquettish look. The group also tittered and voiced their camaraderie of such action and attitude.
Questions raced through my mind. What prompted such action ? The preference for a male child ? Possibly, to some extent. Or was it, even a more sinister reason, because the women did not have a voice ? That voice which gives them the right to decide what and how their bodies are being used ? Did not they, despite their degrees and position in society, have this basic freedom ? And what about their husbands ? Did they not love their wives ? More importantly, did they not respect their wives ? So Ernest Hemingway says “Love is that dirty aborting horror that you took me to. Love is my insides all messed up. It’s half catheters and half whirling douches. I know about love. Love always hangs up behind the bathroom door. It smells like lysol. To hell with love. Love is making me happy and then going off to sleep with your mouth open while I lie awake all night afraid to say my prayers even because I know I have no right to anymore. Love is all the dirty little tricks you taught me that you probably got out of some book. All right. I’m through with you and I’m through with love”.
Let me state that I am not against abortion and do not support the religious argument behind anti-abortion . I do not think it to be a sin in circumstances like rape, teenage pregnancy, foetal disorders etc. For that matter, even in matters of genuine contraceptive failure to an extent. I am not a pro-life movement hardliner.
But what I do think is a sin and completely degrading to human life, when MTP is used as a family planning measure or happens because of callousness. It is doubly appalling when a woman titters about it to show how desirable she is or maybe how virile her husband is ? I wanted desperately to tell the group of women that their cowardice has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. I did, In the words of Mother Teresa; ” If a mother can kill her own child – what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me – there is nothing between “.
Perhaps, I speak very strongly on this. I will ,however, not apologize. I am really not a bra-burning feminist too! I love my Victoria’s Secret lingerie. But one should not keep silent about anything that degrades dignity. That is what I have learned from Martin Luther King Jr : “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
Women are ‘individuals’. Yes, life is a tad difficult for them because our society is patriarchal. The tendency to objectify and victimize women runs horribly strong. But, it is President Kalam, who said “Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birthright to be a person”