A story of sisterhood, loss and willingness.
In the early July of 2017, Madhavi* was admitted into the hospital to deliver her seventh child. She wished and prayed for it to be a male child this time, at last. She and her husband had already six daughters. Married at the age of 18, Padmini completed 12th standard and cleared the preliminary nursing course, while her husband Krishna* was a well-educated man, worked as a journalist in a local Telugu Newspaper. The journey they started together swung in between hope and disappointment. The circumstances and the society around them, including their families and their own beliefs, demanded they have a male child, an heir. Girls are often considered liabilities and need to be protected, while boys are considered providers and protectors of the families. After having six girls, the pressure grew from all sides, from the in-laws of Madhavi, especially to giving birth to a male child.
As they wished for a boy, fate had another plan. While Madhavi was admitted into the hospital for the delivery, her husband suddenly fell sick, which turned out to be a Kidney failure and was admitted into the same hospital.
With a lot of uncertainty around and only hope on fate to count on, she gave birth to the seventh child. For their despair, it was a girl this time too.
Fearing that this could happen, Madhavi’s father arranged for the girl’s adoption, days before the delivery, with the consent of mother and father. But the sisters did not want it to happen. As discussions about the adoption went forward in the maternal ward of the Government General Hospital, they protested, requested and pleaded with the parents to keep the baby. “They formed a human chain around the baby, not letting to give her for adoption. They wanted the sister to be with them” says, Sreenu*, father of Madhavi.
A few days after the delivery, Madhavi returned home with the seventh daughter to her In-Laws, only to see the disappointment in everyone.
The situation of Krishna in the hospital worsened, and giving up hopes of recovery, he returned home to be with the family. While the monsoon brought hope and happiness into the people’s lives across the state, it blew the light left in Madhavi’s life, as the dark night took the life away from Krishna, leaving the family in despair, just 9 days after the birth of the 7th child.
The death of her husband, breadwinner of the family, pushed Madhavi and her seven children into the cycle of poverty. Her struggle with anaemia and physical weakness did not let her go out for work, and the in-laws did not want to take responsibility for the seven girls and sent her away.
With nowhere to go, and no money to support herself and her children, Madhavi went back to her father’s place and started to live there. “I have nothing. All I am left with are seven children and the expenditure for their food and education,” says Madhavi.
Currently, Madhavi and her seven children survive on the pension of her 70-year-old father. She recognises that the way forward for a better future is to give children a good education and ensure that they stand on their own feet independently. With strong hope, she expresses: “Only way out of this is the education of the children, if they can study well and get good jobs that would help them in future, I want them to show that girls are not any less than boys, they are not liabilities.”
20-year-old Ruthvikha*, the eldest of the seven children, recently enrolled into BA LLB, to pursue Law. She and her sisters are committed to studying well, “I need to study and succeed, for myself and also for the survival of my family. I have six sisters, the youngest is four years old, and education is the only way for us,” says Ruthvikha.
As the family struggled between hope and despair for survival, Rural Development Trust supported them with the education and expenses of four girls and continues to give nutrition support to the family. To help Madhavi create income for the survival and sustenance of the family, RDT provided her with a tailoring machine. As RDT continues to support the family in their struggles, Madhavi and her children hope for a better future away and out of despair.
To know more about how RDT is helping children in vulnerable situation CLICK HERE
Text and photos by Ernest Abhishek Paul
*The names in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.