by Cindy Ryan (with Aarti Kalro) (photos by Aarti Kalro)
Maya’s howling, healthy, full-term baby girl, born in a cramped, low-ceilinged home the size of a small bathroom in North America arrived not in a hospital as we had hoped, but in her home with the help of neighbours. Prem, Suman and Nandini have a new sister named Radha. The news of Radha’s birth was given to us by Aarti Kalro who, along with Jaita Guha, has been helping Maya keep her appointments with the Foundation for Mother and Child Health. Dr. Rupal and her excellent caring team were responsible for giving Maya the much-needed advice to keep her healthy during her pregnancy and give hope to all of us that she would have a healthy child.
Just before I left Saki Naka, I helped Maya register at a municipal hospital with the thin shred of hope that she would manage to give birth there when the time came. While municipal hospitals are in need of scrubbing and staff with more time to give, giving birth in one is possibly cleaner and safer than giving birth in a slum home. A hospital birth ensures the baby will have paperwork, a leg up on the system of becoming a bonafide person in India.We can only speculate as to why Maya gave birth at home. Her husband may have been at work when Maya’s labour started and Maya may not have had time to make it to the hospital or she decided she wanted to give birth at home. Radha was born without benefit of doctors, nurses or bureaucracy, as well as being a girl, all a possible recipe for poverty in the mired caste system. What she does have is a loving mother, a father who seems to be excited by her birth and two sisters and a brother who have managed to live through malnutrition and stunted growth to become healthy, active, very smart children. Given a chance in India’s complex social system they could live a fruitful life. Maya is about 25 years old and is a strong, yet physically very tiny woman who is able to stand up for her children and herself and do what’s best in very difficult living conditions. Since Radha’s birth about 6 weeks ago, Maya’s family has chosen to move from Saki Naka to a different community in Mumbai where they will have some help from her husband Pramod’s relatives and a larger room to live in. For that we are all grateful. DWP will continue to assist Maya’s children and support the family with much help from Aarti and Jaita.
Below, in Aarti’s words, are her thoughts on Maya and her involvement with the family.
More than words I am overcome with emotion when I think of Maya.
While many who don’t know her, might make the assumption that she is shy and a victim of her circumstances, I think differently.
Maya has been a positive influence in my life. Rather than me giving her anything she has given me a lot. Maybe (it’s my hope) that we give each other strength. I know that Maya has become more brave now that she has DWP’s support. In return, she is an inspiration for me and a reminder that your circumstances do not dictate your happiness. With her perennial smile, and her innocence, she lifts my spirits when I feel low.
The last nine months have been exciting and also fraught with worry. Maya calmly left it to us, accepting help and suggestions with full faith. We all hoped at DWP that Mayas pregnancy would go smoothly and the baby be born in a hospital with a birth certificate. We tried. It was not to be so. The baby was born at home with the help of the neighbour . However the baby is healthy and that is most important. She has an aura of calmness about her and beautiful curious wide eyes like her older sister Nandini. Will she be mischievous like Prem ? Or bubbly like Nandini ? Will she be blatantly truthful like Suman? I don’t know.. She will be loved without doubt.. By 5 wonderful people-her family-and then many more. While she may not grow up with the chances that a lot of us are fortunate to have, I know that she will grow up into a loving individual and have a vibrant life.I hope we can give her a chance to study and a chance to dream.
Aarti was given the honour of naming the baby which required her to think passionately about what she hopes for this new life. Below is her reason for choosing the name Radha.
Radha was Lord Krishna’s advisor and friend. He was in love with her but she was married. However they are always depicted together, and some say she was even more important than Lord Krishna himself. She is also supposed to be the original goddess of Shakti ( power/energy ).
It is a beautiful name and just has a loving feeling , and softness to it… Aarti.