The maid who comes to our house is aged about 40 and has many daughters and sons and umpteen grandchildren, thanks to a series of child marriages (a phenomenon still ever-so-existing in the below-poverty Indian populace). While sipping coffee after her daily chores, she usually narrates a tale of her life or my mom does the same.
In one such tale-telling-moment, the maid related an event wherein her daughter’s parents-in-law threatened her - while the daughter was in labour in a Government hospital - that she will be welcomed back to the home only if she delivers a baby boy. As it turned out, the daughter delivered a baby girl. In panic, our maid bribed a nurse to replace the new-born daughter with a new-born son. In just Rs 5000, the job was done. Perhaps the mother of the new-born son needed some part of that Rs 5000; or perhaps she never came to know about the switch and wasn’t even aware what child she had given birth to.
Whatever be the case, the maid’s daughter had to forego her own dear daughter – whom she carried in her womb for the last 9 months – to some one else’s son just for the sake of entering back into her in-law’s house and continue staying with her husband. This switch, to this day, is known only to the maid and maid’s daughter. The grand son thinks of the maid’s daughter as his mother while his own mother is somewhere out there and the maid’s real granddaughter is somewhere out there without even knowing who her real mother is. Or perhaps she is already dead in a ditch.
During pregnancy scans, the gender of the child is not to be revealed as per the Rules and Regulations set forth by the Indian Government just so to avoid female genocide. But of what use is this rule if it is manipulated in this manner, that too in a Government Hospital, for a sum of money?
In the above tale, every one has played a criminal act – from the in-laws (threatening) to the husband (meek) to the maid (bribing for the switch) to the daughter (agreeing to do the switch) to the nurse (doing the switch and taking the bribe) to perhaps even the son’s mother (if applicable) (accepting part of bribe).
At the same time, every person had a reason to do what they did - from the in-laws (desperate need for continuation of the family generation) to the husband (ditto) to the maid (future life of her daughter) to the daughter (her own future life) to the nurse (compassion to the daughter and daughter’s future life) to perhaps even the son’s mother (if applicable)(desperate need for money).
The only innocent persons are the new-born-son and the new-born-daughter. What did they do to lose their real mothers? A fitting welcome to the cruel world.