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Dec 6, 2009


She woke up because the baby inside her kicked. The baby was due in a couple of days. It was night and she could see the moon from the window. A half-moon. "It will be full moon next week" she thought. She still couldn't understand why the moon changed its shape everyday. Her father had explained it to her when she was a child. It had something to do with the sun and light, she remembered vaguely. And suddenly grimaced. Light!

She remembered how her husband had mocked her because her precious plant that she had tended so lovingly, had died just after it bore fruits. "It needs the sun's rays and water. You have to select the place where it is to be planted carefully", he had told her before uprooting it that evening. "He threw it away as though it was a weed", she thought angrily. She had to hide her tears as she didn't want to be a laughing stock. No one understood her feelings. She couldn't explain the joy she had experienced when she saw a small plant bearing fruits, in her uncle's garden. When she had asked him for its seed, her uncle, maybe out of politeness, had not mentioned about the essential things required to grow a plant.

The baby kicked once again. "But the seed could still be there inside the fruits of the dead plant and it may grow", she thought suddenly excited. And if she were to plant it, this was the right time. All of a sudden, she was full of energy. "I will sow the seed and the plant will grow and bear fruits", she said to herself.

It seemed like an eternity when she finally walked out of her house, careful to not wake others. The plant was lying at the place where her husband had thrown it that evening. She plucked the fruit and placed it a little farther from where the plant had been earlier and covered it with soil. She was about to go inside when the moon shone on the roots of the plant.

"Roots. That's how women should be", her grandmother had told her when she was a child. "Unseen, unnoticed but still support the family, said her grandmother. "And never appreciated", her mother had retorted softly.

She stared at the roots. "Beauty lies in the purpose for which it was created", she thought. She gently touched them. It was very true. She had grown the plant only for its flowers and fruits, and not for the roots. And yet what was a plant without the roots? But again, what is the value of the root if the plant doesn't give fruits, flowers or leaves, which can be of use to mankind? She knew that some roots could be eaten, but she still felt depressed. "If it is of no use, it will be considered a weed and uprooted," she thought. She shook her head. She must go in. Yet in the moonlight the roots looked enchantingly beautiful. "What about the forest? No one has planted the trees and plants there carefully! Yet they grow", she mumbled under her breath. "Yes, I will ask my husband this question", she thought. But deep inside, she knew he was right. The plant had died because it didn't get sufficient sunlight, water, soil and perhaps those fertilizers. "Maybe many plants die in the forest too this way. And as it is vast, no one notices or cares for it." She nodded. Not just in life, but even in death, the place of your birth is important.

She got up. She looked at the moon. "I shall see you with my baby, when you shine as a full moon", she said softly, and went inside.

A week later the full moon shone on her house. It shone on the small newborn baby that was crying for its mother. The mother who was not there. One among every thirteen women in developing countries die during pregnancy or childbirth due to complications. And she was one of those unlucky ones. If she had been in a developed country, she would have been one in four thousand and one hundred!

We don't even know her name because it's a jungle out there. So, she will remain just a number in the UNICEF statistics Every Day, Every Minute a woman dies while giving birth.

Does it take a minute to read this? And has yet another woman died somewhere - unknown, unseen and unheard?

The seed she had planted may develop roots, but what are its chances of survival?


This is my first writing. I had just read the UNICEF statistic, was outraged, and was sulking when my spouse said, if I wrote about this cause to a local newspaper, I wouldn't win a pen it offered.
The next day I came across, the Sify Short Story Competition. The Theme : Roots. In anger within few minutes actually, wrote the story and sent it.
It won. And got the editor's attention and I started writing a series of Short Stories with Legal Angle. (Paid)

I hadn't written because I wanted to win. I genuinely believed, the world would change, if people knew this happened. I have come a long way in 7 years. I don't believe things would change so easily but I refuse to believe nothing can improve.

Republishing it, since its probably in the internet dust of the copyright owner.


  1. wow! i loved it!
    interesting yet informative...its a shame for us that our country's maternal mortality rate is too high..thats sad :(

  2. AS its 5 minutes a mother dies for India. Some of our neighbours have better stats..

  3. That was very poignant. I am glad you brought it out and dusted the cobwebs :).

  4. That was a heart-tugging story. Well written, well articulated and very informative.


  5. Beautiful emotions. Nice writing - very heartfelt. I love this line "I don't believe things would change so easily but I refuse to believe nothing can improve." I feel the same way too.

  6. Hello!

    Well written story! Very poignant, indeed.

    Yes, the problem is serious, and more important, difficult to counter. Like, so many other problems, this could be solved only with better education (especially of women), and their equal status (greater respect in the family).

    But what concerns me somewhat is your statistic. Maternal mortality rate even in previous decade had been 540/1,00,000 live births, which comes to approximately, 1 death for 185 deliveries (deaths solely due to pregnancy are negligible), which is not to mean, it is not bad, but is significantly less alarming than 1 in 13!

    In this decade the figure is slightly better at 450.

    The problems are complex - and one of the problems that's plaguing everything in India - is of adequate funding.

    Not just for buying of equipments, but for adequate payment of employees, who would be ready to work with dedication.

    Inadequate compensation is a huge factor for people to not join services that require dedicated, conscientious care (prominently, medical services). This is not just true of doctors, but even nursing staff, pharmacists, laboratory workers, etc.

    Fortunately, some of the things in rural India inspired optimism. For instance, a few anganwadis I'd visited, where children up to 5 are taken care (growth monitoring; one time meal; immunization; preliminary education) of - seemed to be doing their job well.

    But it's to be borne in mind that it was one of the more prosperous and educated districts (Ahmednagar) in a relatively more prosperous state (Maharashtra).

    In my 3-month rural posting during internship, to reach my primary health center (PHC), I'd to wait for 30 min at the bus stop, travel in the bus for more than 20 min, and from thereon WALK more than 2 km in scorching heat (easily over 40 centigrade; my class mate and I did not have a bike). Yet, for the first day, I kept up my enthusiasm, telling myself, let me try to be of help to rural people for at least 3 months.

    But when I actually reached the PHC, I was totally shocked.

    The fan wouldn't work 'cuz of load shedding (power cut) after walking for 2 km! Okay I know, some might sneer at me pointing out, how then village folks work in the heat in the farms? But then, I concede, I'm city-bred and it would take me time to adjust to such conditions....

  7. ...But that's not all! There was no sphygmomanometer (apparatus to measure blood pressure)! There was no thermometer! There was no paracetamol! The medical officer's stethoscope didn't work! So we realized that he used to auscultate (listening through stethoscope) patients only when interns would be posted at that PHC!!

    Because of load shedding the refrigerator wouldn't work, and so many important drugs would never be stored!

    There was a genset, but it was never operated, and had cobwebs all around. Possibly, no petrol was allotted to operate it, or it was being siphoned off elsewhere.

    Same, with a lot of necessary medicines.

    There was a delivery room, and a delivery table. To see it, we had to brush aside a few cobwebs at the entrance door. And the first thing I told my co-intern looking at it was the last thing that must have taken birth on that table must be a dinosaur!

    Okay, so what did we accomplish by traveling so much? For first 3 consecutive days, the total number of patients on every day was exactly 4! Imagine, 2 interns and a medical officer waiting in summer heat, for 4 hours (the length of the shift) to see 4 patients!

    That too, those patients who only came for a refill of their medications for chronic conditions like arthritis.

    Then, we were made to do health surveys of around 10 schools - all at least 2 km away. So, another co-intern got a bike from one his friends to accomplish this. Fortunately, again, most of the kids in the school were hale and hearty (prosperous district).

    For none of this were we provided with any allowance.

    Granted, I should not mind shelling out some money for larger good of the society, but how long!

    How long can one sustain oneself in such unmotivating environment?

    But then, my PHC could've been one of the odd ones. Some of my friends did get posted at PHCs that used to have good patient attendance.

    Now, it could be argued that I should've complained to authorities for such lapses.

    But which 'authority'? Right from medical officer at the PHC to the Union Health Minister - all are aware of these facts. To put it mildly, the status quo suits them for obvious reasons. Plus, doing such 'radical' things would make sure there would be problems in getting my attendance marked!

    There are many accusations leveled against doctors that they don't want to practice in villages....

  8. ...True, especially city-bred doctors don't want to practice in rural areas. But I know, many class mates (educated in villages) who would rather stay back and stick to their 'roots'.

    ...But even many of these people, start their parallel private practice - siphoning away drugs, equipments and patients.

    This attitude is part greed; part frustration. That medical officer (35 year-old) used to get 30000 rupees per month. Of course, before tax deduction. And he had a mild 'conflict of interest' to make the PHC run well! His wife used to operate a 'nursing home' in the village.

    Now, the pay scale has improved - and people get up to 45k/month. But this pay is very irregular. For instance, that officer had to wait for his pay for 3 months on occasions!! 3 months - without pay!

    Anyway, so what I wanted to convey through these experiences is that things are a bit difficult to improve.

    And as I said priorly - one of the major problems is funds, which in turn is 'cuz of high population density, which in turn is 'cuz of large population, which in turn is 'cuz of lack of education, populist government policies, desire for male child, ignorance of scale of problems plaguing India, and all of which 'cuz historically, we never had administrators who cared for India, which in turn largely 'cuz people don't care for OTHERS! Phew!!

    Despite this cynicism, I try do my bit (but not stretching myself much) whenever opportunity presents itself.

    But that I entirely devote my life to philanthropy and social service is highly unlikely.


    1. Extremely well written comment Dr. Ketan. Perhaps you should write this piece in your blog so that I can share it with others on facebook.

  9. Hi, I love your short stories. Created from very simple concepts, yet presented beautifully. Simply Great!!!!

  10. ketan that was world stats..
    In India its 5 mins a death..and worse than our neighbours..
    i think we should expect more from our netas and babus than jr doctors..

    tanushree thanks:)


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