“Daddy, where are we going?” Shruti asked her father. She was sitting beside her father, who was driving the car.
“Somewhere special,” Rajan said, “to help you decide…” He was the Chief Surgeon at Sacred Heart Hospital. Shruti had just completed four years of education in the city’s medical college. For the fifth year, she had got the opportunity to study and work at a London Hospital. While she was excited about the upcoming trip, her father had mixed feelings.
“Decide what, Dad?”
“Decide whether you want to continue in London.” Her father scorned the idea. She could recognise that in his voice.
“I’m just going for one year. I haven’t thought about what to do after that. But even if I do… Is that such a bad idea? London is a beautiful place to settle in,” she said.
“Not when India needs you, dear,” he said. The car swerved into the huge rusted open gates of the Government Hospital. “Since you want to pursue specialisation in gynaecology, I thought you should have a look at the Gynaecological department here.”
As soon as they entered the place, Shruti couldn’t stop herself from exclaiming. “Is this the labour ward, daddy? It is so dirty. Look at that doctor. He is using the same glove for examining both the patients.”
“Just look, Shruti. Don’t make loud remarks,” her father hushed her.
Just then, a woman in labour was being wheeled out of the labour ward. “Where are you taking her?” Rajan asked the man who was pushing the stretcher.
“The lady doctor is absent today. I don’t want any man touching her,” he said.
“What are you saying?” Shruti couldn’t control her anger. “She needs help immediately.”
“I’m her husband. I know what is right,” he said and forcefully wheeled away the screaming lady.
“A day here shows you the absurdity of male domination and superstitions in our Indian society. The pains of a woman in labour is not understood. Family name, nakshatra, time of birth—all this is more important, than the lives of the two humans.”
A nurse, with a baby in her arms, walked towards them. “Rajan doctor, is that you?” she asked.
“Sister Maria! How are you?”
“I am fine, doctor. Another abandoned baby girl today. Every month, we have a couple of such cases. It is becoming a challenge, doctor.”
Shruti caressed the sleeping baby’s cheeks. A tear formed in her eyes. “How do people have the heart to do this?”
The nurse closed her eyes and shook her head. “At least, I think this one will survive. Most babies don’t take well to the bottle and die immediately.”
After another hour, when Rajan was back home, Shruti said, “I will not settle abroad daddy. I’ll come back and work in this very same Government Hospital. I’ll change things there. It’s a promise.”
Rajan pulled up the car onto the side of the road. He kissed his daughter on her forehead. “You’re my princess,” he said. He did not tell her that she was an abandoned baby too and he had found her in this same hospital.