We met a young Indian couple, at a dinner party with friends who are both physicians, while in India. He was an Ear, Nose and Throat doc and she an OBGYN. She had lots of stories with which to entertain the assembled group and also a number of phone calls to answer from her patients. We were amazed that she took calls and even went to her clinic once returning before the next course. She was in private practice with no partner so I guess she was used to interrupting phone calls. I am sure, though, that at some time she would have another doctor cover for her. Indians are very hard workers but 24/7 is an impossible task.
The stories that interested us most were about the families’ reaction when a baby is born into their family. When a boy was born there was celebrations and visits from extended family to see the new baby boy. There is a party room in the hospital for the joyful celebration.
This is a far cry from the reaction to the birth of a baby girl. The family is sad, quiet, and withdrawn. There are few visitors and no celebration in either the mom’s room or the celebration room.
Why is this the case? There is a long held tradition of a daughter’s dowry given to her groom’s family because they are now responsible for her upkeep after marriage. Traditionally, the bride’s family is responsible for the cost of the wedding. The young couple live with the groom’s family. A dowry for poor people and even middle class families is nearly impossible. There are laws on the books in India that this is illegal , but tradition takes many generations to change especially such ingrained ones.
There are areas in India where gender selection is practiced and girls are aborted. After years of this practice, there were not enough brides for the young men. A consequence unforeseen. The young doctor did not practice gender selection , thus her story about the celebration room for her patients.
India is changing on lots of levels. Women are being educated and having a careers. There is intermarriage between castes, but many women are traditionally keepers of the home. Now you know why the story of the village Piplantri is so amazing. And even more astounding in that is in the rural areas where people often speak o their conservative traditional lifestyle.
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