Womb to Tomb (An Odyssey of Gender) K. Chandramouli, IAS Thus spake the foetus : Maa! Why were you taken to a Doctor today? To know whether I am going to be a male or female child ? What if I am going to be a female? What if your whole family forces you to abort me? Will your sweet home turn into a heinous crime dungeon, Promise me a few things, Infant cries: Did the doctor say it is too late for abortion? Therefore, you allowed me to survive? But if I am born, will your mother in law not push paddy grains in to my tender throat? Foeticide could have been painless, but as an infant I will suffer pain, please decide! If I am to be born, will you ensure institutional delivery, your breast milk, immunization, health care? Please do them all as was done to my brother before I can stand the whole world discriminate, but you please don’t Child wails : Wasn’t it the same day I was born last year? I don’t want any celebrations But give me your warm embrace and hide me from those demons……. Child mortality Malnutrition Anemia IDD Child labour Child abuse And can you ward off all of them by continuing me in an anganwadi and then in school? Adolescent curses: I am anaemic, I see more food in brother’s plate, when I am more hungry than him I am pulled out of school and thrown in to child labour Please change me out of that work….. the jackal there may whisk me away for traficking and then to Commercial Sex Work And after, for no fault of mine, I can be a victim of HIV/AIDS Adult woman sobs : As a worker: This work place is not safe, My lone friend was sexually abused and she is not to be seen now, I am discriminated in wages, employment and with unfriendly tools, As a wife: Why have you married me off so early, You suffered early marriage, knew the perils, but didn’t stop mine My in-laws harass, husband beats up, demand more dowry, I don’t get enough to eat, I cant call any asset as mine, but can only be in drudgery of unpaid care work and farm work, I can be the victim of polygamy and sati, If I resist any one of them, I may be divorced or even killed, As a pregnant woman: Tell me maa, why am I anaemic, I have a baby shaping in me though I am not ready to be a mother, I am the last at home to eat, if there is anything left, I don’t know whether I would be taken to an institution for delivery, And I don’t know whether my baby would also ask me the same questions I am now asking you, Older women cant even cry (tears also dried out): If I survive all this, I reach a more vulnerable age, only to fall sick, to be a widow, a destitute, all my children have flown away, for they all got wings, And there is one place beckoning me……. “THE TOMB” Maa! Are you listening? Why are you silent? Promise me that all that I fear will not happen, only then shall I COME OUT!