28 September, 2020

Bearers Of Odd Burdens

Girls in a north Kerala district rarely make it through school before they are wedded to a grey, traumatic world of perpetual motherhood

Bearers Of Odd Burdens
Mothers at 15. Grandmothers at 30. And great-grandmothers at 45. They litter the social landscape of northern Kerala's Malappuram district. Here mothers and daughters deliver at the same time. Sons are breastfed by the grandmother and brothers are breastfed by the sister. For they deliver in the same hospital ward, and share the same room after delivery, taking turns to feed the babies. So entrenched is the practice that they feel nothing strange about it.

Like Aysha, 30, and Bilkis, 15, of Manjeri in Malappuram. They delivered in the course of a week in the Manjeri Government Hospital, sharing the same doctor and ward, Aysha for the seventh time and Bilkis for the first. "If you also deliver along with your daughter, who is there to look after her?" asks Dr A. Ramadevi, gynaecologist, who attended to both mother and daughter. Aysha shrugs and says: "Everything will proceed according to custom." It is customary that Aysha and Bilkis breastfeed the babies in turn. Don't they feel embarrassed? Bilkis looks down. "Initially I was. Not any more. I have been seeing it all my...


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