Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Woman's Day

It is woman’s day. And she is just next to me on the bed, moaning, panting, squealing, and every two minutes or so writhing wildly in the explosion and the aftershocks of the tempest raging in her loins. Her spine arches, her eyelids coil tightly shut and she bites her lip to bleeding to keep from physically shouting. As she twitches about, her hands primally grasp at anything within reach, hoping to traffic out some of this surfeit of sensation her frail body is finding impossible to contain. Sometimes it is the metal railing of the bed. Sometimes it is the cheap cotton sheet on the mattress. Sometimes it is my hand as I touch her abdomen or take her pulse.

For over four years, Sunita has been trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child. Being punched below the navel by her drunk husband some 30 minutes ago is the price she pays for her failure.

“Pehle kabhi maara hai tujhe?” (“Has he ever hit you before?”)

The first time, she doesn’t answer, she only looks away instead. I ask again.

This time round, she nods. Though definitely a more grevious one, today is clearly one of many tipping points on the couple’s mad dash for parenthood. So too say old burn scars on her forearm and a denting of her left cheekbone.

Things today don’t look too good.

For one there’s these spasms, and her abdomen is beginning to bloat. Most ominously, a stethoscope put next to her navel doesn’t send back any of the normal gurgling sounds her gut should be making.

There is only a hollow silence.

That one drunken punch may well have punctured her intestine.

As we loaded her onto the ambulance to get an Xray of her abdomen done, her story heresays itself in my head, and in doing so answers the question as to why she’s still in this marriage.
A Nepali girl who’s parents were dead by age 13, illiterate, relatively pretty and so prone to predation, is the most completely alone creature conceivable. So even an Assamese boy who gets drunk and hits her every fifth day is family enough.

It is perhaps why she is so desperate to have a child – to believe in being enough of a person for someone to need her, instead of her having to always need this excuse for a someone. She is rendered so afraid by the thought of this reversal of need never coming about.

Her XRay arrives and I know what I’m hoping isn’t on it – a sliver of black right below the line of her diaphragm signifying the air that has gushed into the abdomen through a hole in her gut, and which will force us to slit her open from her sternum to her pubis and seal it up.

It isn’t. But she still quivers and cries. Being hit by the man she looked to for everything as punishment for not bearing him a child had to hurt infinitely more than a perforated gut.
It probably would be frowned upon but I hold her hand as she weeps.