Hardships galore, but villagers here say their children are safe even when out in the fields
Puja Bhattacharjee | January 4, 2013
Sumitra Mahato sits in a porch with her grandson who is scribbling in a Bengali alphabet book. A few minutes later her daughter-in-law also named Sumitra and is eight months pregnant arrives with a bucket of water and a metal pot on her head. The Mahato family of Nandaria has been drawing water from their neighbours’ well for quite some time now. “They don’t like sharing their well with us. But what to do under the current circumstance?” asks Sumitra (mother-in-law). “The nearby tube well pumps out red water. It is not suitable for drinking purposes,” she adds.
I inform them that they have to make a petition to the local representative of the panchayat to address their problem. Both of them look unsure. Sumitra (wife) mumbles something about her husband being too busy with work. I try to convince her to make a petition along with all of the families who are experiencing similar problem.
Sumitra has an eight-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. Given the not-so-affluent-condition of the family I enquire the reasons for conceiving the third child. She informs me that her son Bappa cannot speak properly and he has to be on medications for his entire life. Upon inspection I discover that the doctor has prescribed synthetic thyroid hormones. A doctor friend of mine informed me that the medication is for a condition called hypothyroidism where the thyroid hormone is not synthesized in the body and has to be supplied from outside via medicines.
Sumitra has never used contraceptives despite regular visits by the ASHA in the past few years. When enquired about her reluctance to use contraceptives, Sumitra only smile. “We wanted a third child because we are uncertain about the prospects of our son,” she says. Bappa can talk but for a three-year-old his speech is pretty slurred.
Stirred by the recent spate of crimes in the capital I enquire after the law and order situation in her village. Sumitra calmly tells me that her village is very safe and they need not worry. As I think of it I see clear pictures of children playing in the fields, women doing their household chores, scores of children going to school and none of them need any supervision. Children cycle for miles to go to schools sometimes through dense jungles and no mishap befalls them. Crime may be an urban thing after all.
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