Monday 26 March 2012

Maternal deaths drop, but progress is slow

With one woman dying every 90 seconds in childbirth, attaining zero maternal mortality looks like a distant dream. 

Hawa, a 21-year-old woman, had been in labour for three days before she was finally referred to the hospital in Jowhar, 18 kilometres from her village, in Somalia. She was examined by medical staff and diagnosed with obstructed labour and foetal distress.

Much time was wasted in getting the consent of her relatives, and doctors performed a caesarean and a distressed baby boy was delivered, needing resuscitation. Fortunately, Hawa and her baby survived the entire ordeal, according to a report - Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis - released by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors without Borders, on March 9.

Binta, 16, was brought to Jahun General Hospital in Nigeria after trying to deliver for two days at home. Her labour was obstructed, but doctors were able to do a vacuum delivery and Binta safely gave birth to her first child. "I was so tired from being in labour for so long that I couldn’t push anymore. If I had not been able to come to the hospital, I would have suffered and the end result would have been death for both me and my baby," Binta told MSF.

These are two instances of the ordeals women experience, particularly in developing countries, where they face the threat of maternal deaths which experts consider "preventable". Read more...

Wednesday 21 March 2012

When the child custody dispute haunts divorced couples (Part II)

Losing the identity
Leela had lost her identity the day she entered that family. Her in-laws had given her a different name and told her that it was a lucky name for her! When she told me about how she was called by Lalitha, a new, different name, I couldn't stop laughing at her. Leela had not just been called by a new name, but she had lost her own identity, the name her parents had given her was completely gone, she was identified by her new name and called by it by not only her new family, but also by her new relatives!

Leela’s pain knew no limits, but she couldn't even share them with her husband, as he would never trust her. He was a loyal son, but not a loyal husband. Sanjay would even beat or kill her if his parents asked him to do... He had no mind or heart of his own, his brain worked according to his parents and he danced to their tunes, he was a mere puppet in his parents' hands.

Leela couldn't stop herself from telling her pain to her mother and brother when one day her mother-in-law gave her the food kept for dog. She openly told her to adjust, as she cannot cook food! Yes, Leela was made to eat the stale food which was kept in the fridge for a day or two. That day, she was made to realise her position in that family... She felt the need to find a job for herself.

Wondering why she didn't go for work? Leela was denied to practice at home and was merely treated as a servant and the fact became obvious when her unmarried, younger brother-in-law, Rakesh (name changed) once told his mother that he would unleash the dog if any patients come in search of treatment to their house!

Her mother-in-law who had not even passed her high school had a different attitude. She couldn't digest the fact that her daughters-in-law were well educated and could earn very well, in fact better than her own sons... Even though she was expecting, Leela didn't think twice to find a job, as it was suffocating to stay the whole day, doing the service of her in-laws and the unmarried brother-in-law Rakesh.

Leela went to her parents' house when she was five months pregnant and fortunately, they gave her jewels for the pre-baby shower ceremony. Maybe her in-laws expected that she would give them back after the function. But by that time, Leela had realised how greedy they were and could do anything for gold and money.
She had even come to know that her in-laws had kept the jewels of one of their relatives' daughter-in-law, who was a young widow, in their custody. They had not even allowed that young widow to remarry. She was made to spend her life with her two small children with her in-laws! My friend's in-laws even hated the idea of giving back the jewels of that widow too...

Dowry in the name of tradition
After Leela went for the delivery, her in-laws continued asking her and her parents to return her jewels and they cited tradition and custom that the girl should give all her things to her husband and in-laws. When she refused to give, her in-laws and Sanjay abused her, using all the wrong words, in front of the hospital staff and she was made to cry for hours immediately after the delivery. The fact that she had a caesarean and needed rest didn’t get the importance in front of the gold jewels she owned.

Slowly, the gap between the husband and the wife increased, thanks to her in-laws. Even while Leela was staying with them, they didn’t allow her to speak with Sanjay over the phone, all she could speak to him was just checking how he was and informing him that she was fine! Her mother-in-law kept a constant watch on what my friend talked to her husband and never allowed her to have any lengthy conversations with him.

Given the time period she spent with her husband, Leela hardly got any time for understanding him. Within three months of her wedding, she was pregnant and her husband was living away from her. When they met, only his hands spoke on her body and never his mouth!

Later, Leela was told that Prerana had purposefully not gone to see her and the newborn. Her in-laws never told her that Prerana was in the hospital because of them... But the fact was they had not even informed Prerana about the delivery!

Moreover, Leela was told that Prerana purposefully didn’t come for the ‘choroonu’ ceremony -- the first rice giving ceremony of a child -- held at Guruvayur, when in fact, her father-in-law openly told her and Vikram not to attend it… All this was just to create a riff between the two women and unfortunately, Leela didn’t understand it at all. After the birth of her son Ravi, slowly the torture also increased. For every small issue, they created ruckus.

New life, new pain
After three months when Leela returned to her in-laws’ house, within a week’s time, she was sent to join her husband in Bangalore. Her joy knew no limits, thinking about the life lying ahead of her. Husband, she and a son, what more could have she expected for a happily ever after life. But it didn’t take too many days to realize that all that was mere dream, a daydream, a castle she had built in the wind.

Once Leela reached Bangalore, her life was literally trapped inside four walls. All her day was spent in looking after the child, cooking, washing the clothes, cleaning the house. She became a mere parrot in the cage, a dumb, speechlees parrot, a wingless parrot. She waited for her husband to come back from work and by the time he returned it used to be 8 pm and she forgot how the outer world looked like.

Slowly, Sanjay started drinking and beating her. She bore the abuse silently, as she was the mother of a kid now and not alone. When the physical torture increased, she made up her mind and informed her parents. Her parents came and took her and the child back with them. Sanjay didn’t feel repentful by his action, when asked, his parents supported his action.

His mother said: “To control her, he beats her, what’s wrong in that?” Leela’s parents were shocked to know the fact that how uncultured people they were. Her husband completely cut off the contacts with her and stopped calling her. He didn’t even bother to enquire how the little kid was.
When things lead to divorce
Maybe life would have gone like that had Sanjay, his father and his uncle came asking her to return the chain and clothes given to the kid on the 28th day ceremony. Among Malayalis, 28th day from the birth of a newborn, the naming ceremony is conducted. During this ceremony, it is the custom for a guy’s parents to give a chain and clothes to the child. Leela’s husband went with his family to get back that chain which was given to her son on the 28th day.

After they asked her to return the chain, Leela realized the fact that they do not want to continue the relationship and decided to file for divorce. What could hurt a mother more than such an incident?

To add salt to the wounds, they even demanded Leela to return the toys and clothes presented to the kid by their relatives, and even friends! They fought the case in the court and by mutual agreement, got the divorce. Surprising and shocking off all these was Prerana didn’t even know that there was a divorce! She and her parents are kept in dark about the whole incident. And I will write about Prerana and her suffering at the hands of Sanjay and Vikaram’s parents in another post, keep watching.  

Leela got her freedom from her torturers and later felt that she did a mistake by not filing a criminal case against her husband and in-laws. Had she filed a dowry harassment case against them, they would have been behind the bars for minimum 15 years. She accepted a paltry sum of Rs 5 lakh and signed the divorce papers. She didn’t bother about the money aspect, as she had got the permanent custody of her child.

Sanjay and his parents had agreed for the permanent custody and had mutually agreed to meet the kid once in a week. While taking back the managalsutra on the day of the divorce, Sanjay’s mother had taken a goldsmith along with her to check if the chain and the thali were genuine! She wanted to confirm if the thaali was genuine and said in front of the lawyers that she had bought the thaali and the chain from Malabar Gold Jewellers.
Single mother, new responsibility
Now, she is single mother, happily living with her parents and working in a reputed hospital. But that happiness couldn’t remain for more months after the divorce. She came to know that Sanjay’s parents were searching a bride for him, for the second marriage. And now, earlier this month, Sanjay has filed a case against Leela seeking interim custody of the child.

And funnily, he has stated in the case that he’s very rich and is well settled in Bangalore. He thinks that Bangalore is the best city for the child’s education and his parents are ready to move to Bangalore to look after the child. Not just that, he also has said that his second brother is well settled abroad and the last brother is a well settled techie!

Funny to know how does the economic status of his brothers make Sanjay a rich man, a well settled man. A person who can’t even look after himself with his meager salary, now wants the custody of his child. Not because he loves the child, but he can’t see Leela to move on, he can’t digest the fact that a single mother can bring up a child without his support.  

I don’t understand why Sanjay or his parents are not understanding that a mother can look after her child, no matter how difficult situation and circumstances she faces. Maybe they will never understand that they are getting the curses and tears of two mothers, one Leela’s and the other Leela’s mother’s.

How can Sanjay and his parents ever live happily, peacefully? Will not the guilt haunt them to their death? Will not the tears and curses of a suffering woman bother them? Maybe not, as the greed for wealth is so much that nothing bothers them, nothing stops them.

All I wish now is at least Vikarm realizes that who’s fake and who’s true and who would risk it all for him. After seeing Leela, now nothing surprises me, no people surprise me. I wish sooner or the later he sees the original face of his brothers and parents and live a happily ever after life with Prerana.  
Why not a rebel, a feminist?
It will not be surprising if another rebel, another feminist takes birth in Leela or Prerana. I would love to see a rebel, a feminist in them, who oppose oppression, who help other women to come out of oppression, for they have seen all it, they have suffered all it and they know how to tackle situations and help women come out of it and build a new life, with lots and lots of hopes and fresh dreams.

Now, don’t start thinking why am I talking about feminism all of a sudden. When people brand women as feminists and rebels, why don’t they just stop and think why did they become one? Why not put in the shoes of those “feminists” and see for themselves? Feel for themselves?

Not everybody wants to be branded and separated from the common group. How can anybody who has experienced what Leela or Prerana have gone through in their life to be normal? Why can’t and why shouldn’t be feminists?

Here, I’m using the term feminists in a broader perspective, because I can’t forget the fact that Leela’s mother-in-law was also a woman and she feels empowered controlling and suppressing her daughters-in-law. So a feminist here I mean, one who opposes the oppression, questions the male authority, and sometimes female authority as required, and establishes her own mark in the society, in the family, in the life.

Most of the women, often end up becoming feminists after the wedding. Reason? Ever thought of even thinking the reason behind it? Just merely calling them rebels or feminists will not help you get the answer. Many dream of a happily married ever after ending of the novel or story or film they have come across in their adulthood, weave so many dreams, imagine life would be like that, like this. They think sapnon ka rajkumar will come and life will be a bed of roses. And it takes a while to realize that it was a castle in the wind and very soon, all the dreams shatter.
When sacrifices, compromises go in vain
The umpteen number of compromises and scarifices go in vain. The more and more we, women compromise, the more and more we start getting hurt. And sometimes, it so happens that the family members, including the rajkumar of our life, fail to understand our emotions. Every time, we try to please them and keep saying “sorry” in the hope that we may have hurt them by any chance. They fail to understand that when we say sorry to them, it's not meant that we are wrong and they are right. It is all about the importance we give to a relationship more than our ego and this simple fact goes unnoticed!

Why do men, and their parents, refuse to allow the women to choose how to live? Allow them to make changes instead of giving excuses. Why not motivate them in all efforts instead of manipulating things? Make them feel useful instead of giving them the insecure feeling of being used? Help them to excel in life, not compete with other members in the family. Allow them to choose their self-esteem and put a stop when they self-pity. More importantly, realize that they have all the freedom to listen to their inner voice and not to your random opinions and advices.
If the man and the family members of the man realize a simple fact that family isn't always blood and it's the people in your life who want you in theirs, the one who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what, a woman can live a happily ever after life, she need not become a rebel, a feminist who will want to raise her voice, who demands her voice to be heard, who wants to question the authority and atrocity of in-laws. Utopia? Then, checking women from becoming rebels and feminists after their weddings is also a distant dream.

We women are strong because we are weak, we are beautiful because we know our flaws, we are lovers because we are fighters, we are fearless because we have been afraid, we are wise because we have been foolish... and we can laugh because we have known sadness. At the end of the day, people shouldn’t forget that after everything, still we try to put a bold face. We always tell ourselves, we may not be there yet, but one day or the other, we will get there, no matter what it takes, we will get there. For, we often refuse to let the trivial things of today weigh down our tomorrow!

At the end, let me make things clear, it is not that I'm against Malayalis or their customs and traditions, what I'm against is just their greed and lust for gold. It is not just Malayalis who are taking dowry and it is not just Malayalis who torture brides and daughters-in-law for dowry. There are many other friends who are not Malayalis and yet have gone through the ordeal. Since Leela is a Malayali, I have just given the instances of a few other friends who have been harassed by Malayali in-laws. Definitely it's not something which is meant to show Malayalis in a poor light and I'll shortly come up with stories of other friends, who have suffered because of this ugly dowry system, in the next posts. And yes, it will need more time for me to come up with other posts on those issues...   

Tuesday 20 March 2012

When the child custody dispute haunts divorced couples (Part I)

This came as a great shocking news. I couldn’t control my anger or feeling when I came to know that one of my friends’ former husband has filed a case against her for the custody of her child. Yes, my friend Leela (name changed to protect the identity) was tortured by her husband Sanjay (name changed to protect the identity) and in-laws for dowry and she had no other go, but to get a divorce from him. Let me give some background about Leela who underwent all the pain…

She is a doctor and was married to Sanjay, the first son of a family. Before the wedding, she and her family were told a lie that Sanjay was earning handsome, a five digit salary, while he was earning only three digit salary. The Sanjay’s family even hid the fact from Leela’s family that the second son was already engaged and they told about it only after the wedding cards were printed, only 15 days before the marriage.

Before the marriage they refused to take any dowry, but the avarice for the newly married bride's jewels started coming up soon after the wedding. Leela was treated like a servant, made to wash everybody's clothes, clean the dishes, clean the house.

Didn't I mention that her husband's younger brother Vikram (name changed) was engaged earlier? Yes, their wedding took place in a week's time. Sanjay’s mother was very smart, rather call cunning, that she made it sure to use the same divide and rule policy between the two newly married girls – Leela and her sister-in-law Prerana (name changed).

Divide and rule
She compared and contrasted between them and lauded and criticised each girl in front of the other, making both the girls to feel jealous, bad and envious about the other. And the girls never understood their in-laws' tactics, till one fine day. While that realisation came for Leela within two years, it took nearly four- and- a- half years to realise for Prerana.

Ok, leave that. Let me come to the main point of how she was harassed and tortured for dowry. Soon after the wedding, Leela’s in- laws took all her jewels, let me tell you not 10 or 20 grams, nearly 500 grams, yes half kilogram, to their custody.

Did I mention that god knows from where and how this custom among Malayalis developed, they demand minimum one kilogram of gold from the bride's parents during the wedding. I have so many Malayali friends who have given all their jewels to their in-laws and have lost them. Let me tell you a few of them.

Saakshi’s story
One of my friends Saakshi (name changed), a Kannadiga, who was married to a Malayali brahmin lost all her jewels to her mother-in-law. Saakshi is the younger daughter and since she had lost her mother, all her mother's jewels were given to my friend during her wedding.

Saakshi trusted her mother-in-law and handed over all her jewels before leaving for Bangalore. Whenever she used to attend the functions in Kerala, she was given one or two pieces to wear and she was denied access to her own jewellery. Later, Saakshi was speechless and nearly heart-broken when she found all her jewels on her sister-in-law, the new bride.

Saakshi was consoled by her mother-in-law that she would get back them after the wedding and they never returned! Saakshi’s sister-in-law took all the jewels of my friend and constant fights happened between her and her husband, but in vain. Till now, she has not got back any of her jewels.

Kala’s sufferings
Then there is Kala (name changed), another friend, also a Kannadiga, married to a Nair. Since we had warned her in the beginning itself, Kala took care of her jewels and didn't lose any of them to her in-laws. But I know how she was continuously harassed for the jewels for more than four years of her wedding, to the extent that her in-laws even put a pressure on their son to divorce her! 
Unable to bear the pressure, Kala's husband made her to give the five sarees which were given by his parents to her during the wedding. Surprisingly, they didn't take her mangalsutra! Maybe they would have, had she given it back ;)
When in-laws pledge even managalsutra
When it comes to taking away the managalsutra I should mention another incident. There is this journo friend, Tara (name changed), who is a Kannadiga and is married to a Malayali guy settled abroad. One day while chatting, Tara told me: "These b@$$&# Mallus can kill anybody and everybody for gold."

I couldn't control my laugh at her humour while we were discussing about a serious issue like dowry harassment. Then I realised that it was like a comic relief in the Greek tragedies, Shakespearean tragedies, or call whichever tragedies. Tara wanted to make the scene lighter when there was a hot discussion on a hot topic!

Being the lone daughter, her parents her given lots of gold for her wedding, as her in-laws asked no dowry, but asked them to put lot of gold according to Malayali tradition and do a grand wedding. Hmm I remember it was very grand enough and later I came to know that they had spent over Rs 15 lakh for the wedding, that too imagine, four years ago!

 Then they even gave Rs 10 lakh for her visa so that she could join her husband abroad. And before going abroad, Tara’s in-laws took all her jewels, including mangalsutra. Even she didn't listen to her parents who advised her not to give all her jewels to her in-laws, but the newly married girl was so blind in the love of her husband that she blindly trusted his parents and gave them everything silently.

After one year, when Tara returned home for a vacation, she came across an ugly truth. Her father-in-law had lost pledged her mangalsutra to play betting and lost it! And angered by it, when Tara asked her mother-in-law to return her jewels, she refused to give the locker keys.

Continuous fights with her husband for another year, at last got her the locker keys, but she didn't get all her jewels, as some were misused by her in-laws. And when enquired, they said all that she had kept were only that many and they don't know anything about them!

Deepika’s love
Another friend who is a journo, Deepika (name changed) dated a Malayali guy for two years and he just disappeared from her life all because his mother threatened to end her life if he married a Kannadiga. The issue was not that she was not a Malayali, but she would not get kilos and kilos of gold with her.

Deepika didn’t even realize that the guy was greedy like any other Malayali even when used to ask that he like Hyundai Accent and he would like to have it as his wedding gift. He had invited my friend to his elder sister’s wedding, not just to show his family, but also to make her aware that how Malayali weddings are conducted and how brides should wear kilos and kilos of gold from head to toe!

It’s a different matter that Deepika realized the fact that he left her because she would not take so much of gold with her for the wedding, through one of their common friends.

Seetha’s catches
It will be unjust if I don’t mention about Deepika’s boyfriend’s elder sister Seetha, who was fortunately or unfortunately my roommate when I went to Bangalore for the first time. She literally tried to search a guy for herself who was not a Malayali. She flirted with a Kannadiga from Mysore, who was literally in love with her, but later she dumped him after realizing that he was not from a well-to do family.

In between she kept in contact with one of her old boyfriends, who was also her classmates and was hurt by him long back. She tried like anything to convince him to marry her and he was too smart to fall into her trap. Then, she moved on to a North Indian guy. She flirted with him for about a month or two and confessed her love to him and he openly told on her face that he would marry the girl whom his parents agree and they were already looking for one!

And surprisingly, Seetha had even told me a lie that she was the younger daughter, while in fact she was the elder one! Then she had no other go but to accept a proposal accepted by her parents. Though not interested, she married a techie from her own caste, from her own state, but settled in Bangalore.

Later, she opposed the wedding of Deepika to her brother for the sheer reason that Deepika was not a Malayali and would not bring lots of gold along with her. But her greed didn’t allow to settle peacefully with her husband also. She kept on dreaming of settling in London, as most of her relatives were settled there.

Plus, later I came to know another bitter truth that her past haunted her and her husband came to know about all those things and decided to divorce her. Then, it didn’t take many days to get her another guy and she was remarried and settled in London. Don’t know how she is now and what she’s doing.
Seetha often used to tell me that Malayali girls love to marry outsiders, because they don’t wish to burden their parents, whereas Malayali boys will never wish to marry an outsider, because they do not want to lose the huge dowry she gets with her!

Loyal son, not loyal husband
Okie, let me come back to the original story, what I was telling from the beginning. When Leela was given an old saree to wear the very second day of her wedding, she was in full tears, at the plight of her life in the new family. And unfortunately, she was not even allowed to live with her husband, as Sanjay worked in Bangalore. She was made to live with her in- laws and wait for her hubby, who used to visit her once a month for two days!

Being a doctor, I wondered why did Leela even agree to stay back and waste her educational qualification, but it was the decision of her in- laws and Sanjay had no say in it. He was a Sravanakumara, Rama in following the words of his parents, his blind love towards his parents was so strong that he never felt like taking the side of his wife. If his parents said that the child was not his, he was even ready to believe that!

Leela never realised that her husband was creating trouble in the family life of his brother Vikram also. Even after the wedding, he didn't stop borrowing money from Vikram, what else could have he done, he and his parents had told a lie that Sanjay was earning very well and was leading a luxurious life in Bangalore!

Had she found a friend in her sister-in-law
Then, one fine day, after three months of their wedding, Leela came to Bangalore to be with Sanjay for two days. She even visited Vikram's place and was happy to know that they are happily living away from her in-laws.

She couldn't say much to her sister-in-law about the pain or torture she was undergoing back home. All she could say was: "You are very lucky to live with your husband. It is very difficult to live away from my husband, but I can't help it."

Prerana tried to know the reason and Leela changed the topic, for she thought it was not wise on her part to discuss her personal life. I wish she had opened up there and then itself, maybe the amount of pain she underwent after that would have been reduced, if not completely checked.

Leela could have found a friend, who would have stood up to her, who would have given her a shoulder to cry, but the ego came in between in such a way that she didn't even try to open up or search a friend. Or maybe the poison her in-laws had filled in her head and mind was overwhelming to give space for any other thoughts, space to look out for a friend in her own sister-in- law.

Leela forgot the fact that Prerana too had come from an outside family and she too was trying to adjust to Vikram's family. Or maybe she thought her sister-in-laws was more happier, as it was a love marriage! Leela didn't know the fact that her in-laws had not agreed for the wedding for two years and it was only after they threatened that they would go for a registered marriage, that her in-laws agreed for the marriage.

Sadly, Leela had not even known another truth that even though it was a love marriage, her in-laws were torturing Prerana also for dowry! Even though she had a clue that something was not alright between her in-laws and Prerana even before the wedding, she didn’t give much thought into it. She had seen how her mother-in-law had not bought any sarees for Prerana and Vikram had to fight with his mom to buy new sarees for his would-be wife.

After continuous fights, his mother had agreed to buy sarees and bought them just two days before the wedding! Leela didn’t even know another truth that her sister-in-law was discriminated when it came to the jewels given by her mother-in-law, a custom among Malayalis. Yes, they give a bangle and a chain along with a saree for the bride during the wedding.

When smiles hide the pain
Leela never realised that even her sister-in-law had fights, her own problems with the family and her in-laws and all was not well. She didn't even understand that all was not well even after coming to know that Prerana had suffered a miscarriage and she was not even told by her in-laws about that!
And every time, Prerana tried to keep an eternal smile on her face and tried to behave normal, usual. And Leela failed, often failed, or maybe never even made any attempt to see that Prerana’s smiles hid her deepest secrets, deepest pain, her eyes never showed to her or the world that they have cried the most tears and her heart has felt the most pain. And people, including her relatives and friends, went by her smiles and thought she is living a romantic, happily ever after life!

Then Leela went to the office of her husband where she found her man flirting with his female colleagues. When she retorted, Sanjay dubbed her as a villager and told her that it was a part of socialising and she would never understand it. Even though she felt very odd about his behaviour, she took it the right spirit and forgot all about it. How can she keep all that in her mind and ruin her own happiness? She had gone all the way from Kerala to Bangalore just to be with him and spend some quality time with him?

After returning home, Leela’s mother-in-law was curious to know how her second daughter-in-law was, was she quick in cooking, doing household work, blah blah blah. When she came to know that Prerana was good in cooking and household works, she couldn't digest it. She used to criticize her in front of Leela.

And after a few days, Leela came to know that she was expecting and knew no limits for the happiness and joy. But in between, whenever there were functions and weddings, she was denied to wear her own jewels, she was literally at the mercy of her in-laws. (To be continued...)

Monday 19 March 2012

Maternal deaths drop, but progress is slow

With one woman dying every 90 seconds in childbirth, attaining zero maternal mortality looks like a distant dream.

Hawa, a 21-year-old woman, had been in labour for three days before she was finally referred to the hospital in Jowhar, 18 kilometres from her village, in Somalia. She was examined by medical staff and diagnosed with obstructed labour and foetal distress.

Much time was wasted in getting the consent of her relatives, and doctors performed a caesarean and a distressed baby boy was delivered, needing resuscitation. Fortunately, Hawa and her baby survived the entire ordeal, according to a report - Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis - released by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors without Borders, on March 9.

Binta, 16, was brought to Jahun General Hospital in Nigeria after trying to deliver for two days at home. Her labour was obstructed, but doctors were able to do a vacuum delivery and Binta safely gave birth to her first child. "I was so tired from being in labour for so long that I couldn’t push anymore. If I had not been able to come to the hospital, I would have suffered and the end result would have been death for both me and my baby," Binta told MSF.

These are two instances of the ordeals women experience, particularly in developing countries, where they face the threat of maternal deaths which experts consider "preventable".

"About 15 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide will experience a life-threatening complication," Catrin Schulte-Hillen, a midwife who leads MSF's Sexual and Reproductive Health International Working Group - the organisation which provides emergency obstetric care in approximately 30 countries, including Somalia and Nigeria - told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Why do these text-holes annoy us?

Do you know what I really miss in Doha? Travelling in bus and falling asleep. When I was in Bangalore, I travelled in bus every weekend. During those journeys, often I used to wake up from my nap to a loud talk. I used to open my eyes and see a woman or a man in the next seat conversing loudly on her or his cellphone. They used to be so busy with their conversation, to put it politely, without bothering what other travellers would think about it.

During one such journeys, I had come across a woman who was loudly abusing the person on the other side and passengers were enjoying her conversation. What I could make it out from her shouts was that she had given credit to a person for interest and the man was not prompt enough to pay the interest. Unfortunately (even for us, as we had to hear her abusive language), the person had picked her call and she was literally screaming at him to pay the interest soon. She told him that she herself would go to his house to collect the money and warned him sternly to face the consequences if he fails to pay the interest.
It was not the first time that conversations over mobile phones had irritated me. It might not be just me, even others might have also been irritated like me. I wonder why and how people disturb others in public places, thanks to their cellphones.

When I told about this to one of my friends, he said that the urban slang dictionary has come up with a term called ‘text-hole’ for such people. A text-hole refers to a person who’s on his/her cellphone at inappropriate places.
It really irritates me when people use their cellphones during meetings which unnecessarily get prolonged. I get annoyed seeing people talking loudly on their mobile phones even in hospitals. And nothing could be more annoying when a person attends cellphone in the cinema hall.

I had seen some of my colleagues taking their cellphones even to washroom and talking there. What’s there so much to talk in the public creating so much nuisance? To the extent of taking the conversation even to the restroom?!
Still I remember the days, when I was dating my hubby. He used to take me out for lunch or dinner and half the time, he used to be on his cellphone. He used to continuously get calls regarding shoots and I was worried about the situation. He had to promise me that his calls would not disturb us after the wedding and literally, it didn’t work. He used to get calls even at 2.30-3 am. So he had to make up his mind and take a break from his job within 3-4 months of our marriage.

And another fun is to see how people walking on the road talk using earphones or Bluetooth and looks as if they are talking to themselves. The scene is no different in Doha and I see many using their phone even while driving. A lot of men and women keep themselves busy texting and sometimes talking over their mobile phones while driving and it is surprising how they reach their destinations safely!
Whenever I see anybody disturbing people in public, I feel like screaming, but can’t do it. Hope, one day they understand and stop annoying others, I know that would be a daydream!
Why do these text

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Paris Hilton Syndrome

When I heard about this Paris Hilton Syndrome, I thought it’s about her fashion statement. Partially, yes. It’s not just about her fashion statement, it’s about her Chihuahua which has made people to call Paris Hilton Syndrome! I heard that people in the US are looking out for Chihuahuas, fashionable Chihuahuas to say the least.
Paris Hilton with her Chihuahua
The small trendy dog with pointed ears and oversized eyes is taking up space to a degree never seen before. Stars own them and people are going crazy to own them as well.

Celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff and Mickey Rourke are often seen in public sporting Chihuahuas. Actress Reese Witherspoon’s character in Naturally Blond also had a Chihuahua called Bruiser. These people have helped turn the breed into a fashionable accessory.
Britney Spears with her Chihuahua
I wonder, if people really care for those tiny animals. They might think that Chihuahuas are small and can fit into a handbag that they would have a cool companion. But they should also think that having a dog means giving it a lot of care and training or that the breed is susceptible to sickness and costs a lot of money to keep healthy. They might not feel the pinch of having such breeds till they get high veterinary costs which can ruin the fun of having them at home.
Hilary Duff with her Chihuahua
Small and foreign breeds such as Chihuahua always require good veterinary attention. They are more prone to some genetic anomalies like epilepsy and seizure disorders.
Mickey Rourke with his Chihuahua
Dogs though are true companions of humans, need different diet pattern. Over-feeding them, especially a tiny dog like Chihuahua can be very dangerous. It can shorten the life span as well as lead to diabetes. They should be carefully handled, as not many veterinarians are familiar with Chihuahuas and any injuries and disease may not be properly diagnosed.
Reese Witherspoon with Chihuahua
I feel Chihuahuas can be more prone to eye infections or eye injury due to their large, round, protruding eyes and their relatively low ground clearance. People should take care and see to it that children do not poke the eyes.

I always love dogs and have them around. It’s been my dream that my children should also grow around them. But I make sure that I don’t blindly imitate any celeb to have a dog. I keep in my mind my needs and necessities before owning one. People should think if they have enough space, time and not the least good financial condition to support dogs if they get any foreign breeds.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Easy to remove ex-flame from life, but what about tattoos?

I always wonder what will these celebs do when they split from their partners? Wait, I’m not talking without any reason. The point is these days getting tattoos of boyfriends and girlfriends has become a great trend. They undergo painful moments to show the world that they love their partners truly by getting their names or initials in the form of permanent tattoos. If they split, won’t the tattoos haunt them? Will they go under knife again to remove them? How problematic can tattoos become in one’s career is what I wonder.
Amrita Arora with her tattoo
I used to see floral tattoos on my grandmother’s and my maternal aunts’ hands. They even had small dot tattoos on their forehead, as in Hinduism it is believed that it enhances spiritual well-being and is one of the chakras on the body. They thought it not only warded off evil, but also enhanced their beauty. Then I have seen some tribal women with tattoos and they are so elaborate and intricate that I wonder the amount of time and patience it might have taken for the artist and the amount of pain it caused for the person.
Ajay Devgan with his tattoo
After coming to Doha, I have seen most of my friends, who are westerners, donning tattoos. And I have heard that there is no prohibition against tattoo within the Catholic Church if the tattoo is not an image that is sacrilegious, blasphemous or obscene. And so far, I have not come across any Muslim friend with tattoos, as they are forbidden in Sunni Islam.
Akshay Kumar with his tattoo
And even Judaism forbids tattoos. Since it was a common practice for ancient pagan worshipers to tattoo themselves with religious iconography and names of gods, Judaism prohibited tattoos entirely in order to disassociate from other religions.
Sanjay Dutt with his tattoos
Ok, coming back to the point, I have come across reports wherein celebs, including former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm and Angelina Jolie, regretting for having tattoos. For Chisholm it is being caught by fans. She often gets spotted when she tries to relax incognito. The singer has 11 tattoos all over her body, including a large black cross on her left arm and a linked chain on her right.
Former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm
Tattoo of beloved’s name can be a proud thing to sport and ever wonder how tattoos cause problem? When celebs go out in incognito, people recognize them by their tattoos. If they land up in a plum role which requires them not to sport any tattoos, they have to use heavy make-up to disguise them every time they face the camera. For instance, recently, Deepika Padukone was asked to cover up her Ranbir tattoo on her nape by director Ashutosh Gowariker. The director would have not made a fuss if he was not shooting a period film, which had a backdrop of pre-Independence era. Playing the role of a freedom fighter in the story based on the Chittagong Uprising, Padukone was supposed to tie her hair in a bun which exposed her tattoo, which is usually covered by hair.
 Angelina Jolie inked her first tattoo at a very young age. Her first tattoo was a Japanese kanji for the word "Death" and was inscribed on her left back shoulder. It served as a reminder to her to live life to the fullest. She has since covered it up with an ancient Khmer script when she adopted her son, Maddox.
Angelina Jolie with 'death' tattoo
The Blue Tongue Dragon is the first dragon tattoo Angelina inked on her body which she got while intoxicated in Amsterdam. She regretted doing it and has since covered it with a black Latin Cross tattoo. Next to the Latin Cross is a phrase in Latin: "Quod me nutrit me destruit", which means, "What nourishes me, destroys me." 
Angelina with tattoos
Then, she has a tattoo on inner left arm, a quotation from Tennessee Williams: "A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages". She had this tattoo done in the presence of her mother, Marcheline Bertrand.
At Angelina's lower back, she has three tattoos: a tribal, a blue window and a tribal dragon. The 'tribal' design was done at the same period when she did the Kanji "Death" tattoo. It is unclear as to the meaning of the 'tribal' tattoo, other than the possibility of it being an 'in' design when she had it inked. At the centre of her lower back is a 'tribal dragon' but now is partially covered by the Bengal Tiger tattoo.
'Know your rights' tattoo on Angelina
The 'window tattoo' refers to her once held view on life: "Wherever I am, I find myself looking out of the window, wishing I was somewhere else." The window has since been covered up by the tail of the Bengal Tiger. She had the window covered because she no longer subscribed to that view and she felt that she is "where she wants to be right now".
Bengal tiger tattoo on Angelina
Besides the Khmer script tattoo, the other prominent tattoo on Angelina's back is the Bengal Tiger tattoo. The tattoo spreads 30 cm long and 20 cm wide and was commissioned to commemorate her Cambodian citizenship. According to a report, it took Sompong Kanphai, the tattoo artist, two hours to complete the design which was done in Bangkok in 2004. While tattooing, the tattoo artist chanted ancient Buddhist hymn to bless the tattoo.
Geo-coordinate tattoo on Angelina
On her left shoulder blade, Angelina has a tattoo done based on a Buddhist Pali prayer written in Khmer script, the language of Cambodia where her son Maddox was born. This tattoo was also done by Sompong Kanphai in a hotel in Pathum Thani, Thailand. She had the tattoo done to 'spiritually' blessed her and Maddox; and to protect them from bad luck and the translation of it is:
May your enemies run far away from you
If you acquire riches, may they remain yours always
Your beauty will be that of Apsara
Wherever you may go, many will attend, serve and protect you, surrounding you on all sides
Billy Bob tattoo
A gothic letter tattoo "Know Your Rights" is between Angelina’s shoulder blades and the phrase is taken from the title of a song of her favorite band "Clash".

Inside her right forearm is an Arabic script tattoo which means "Strength of Will". However some say it means "Determination". But whatever it means, Angelina's interpretation of the tattoo was revealed by her in an interview in a US television whilst promoting her film "Wanted". The Arabic tattoo is a cover up of the abstract tattoo she had together with her former husband Billy Bob Thornton.

On Angelina's inside left wrist is a rune style tattoo of the letter 'H'. According to sources, it is to remind her of her brother, James Haven, whereas some say it is to signify her former boyfriend Timothy Hutton. Knowing her disposition to laser off any reminders of her past relationships, the former meaning is more plausible. On her left arm, Angelina had "Billy Bob" and a Black Dragon inked when she was with Billy Bob Thornton. When she divorced from him she removed "Billy Bob" by laser. After the removal of it, in an interview, she said: "I'll never be stupid enough to have a man's name tattooed on me again."

When she started a family, she had the Black Dragon removed as well and in its place are geo-coordinate tattoos (expressed in the degrees, minutes, seconds notation) of where her children were born :
N 11º 33' 0" E 104º 51' 00"
N 9º 2' 0" E 38º 45' 0"
S 22º 40' 26" E 14º 31' 40"
N 10° 46' 0" E 106º 41' 40"
N 43º 41' 21" E 07º 14' 28" 

N 11º 33' 0" E 104º 51' 00" - pinpoint a spot near a pond somewhere near an airport in the Cambodian capital of Phomn Penh where, purportedly, Maddox, was born. N 9º 2' 0" E 38º 45' 0" - is the coordinate of a house in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where her daughter Zahara was born. S 22º 40' 26" E 14º 31' 40" - is the coordinate in Swakopmund (Namibian beach resort) where Angelina gave birth to her biological daughter with Brad Pitt, Shiloh in 2006. N 10° 46' 0" E 106º 41' 40" - refers to the coordinate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where her adopted son Pax Thien was born. The two new tattoos which both read N 43º 41' 21" E 07º 14' 28", were added later showing the birth locations of the hospital in the French city of Nice where her twins, Knox and Vivienne, were born in July.

Finally, Angelina inked an intimate heart shape tattoo on her inner thigh for Brad Pitt. In an interview with MTV, when asked about the tattoo, Angelina confessed: "Um, it's for Brad".

Then there is Megan Fox who has Old English text on her right scapula reading: "We will all laugh at gilded butterflies." This is a reference, not a complete quote, from Act V, Scene III of Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear.
Megan Fox's 'We will all laugh...' tattoo
Megan is obviously a fan of stringing words together with her own personal meaning. Like the large Old English text on her left rib cage: “There once was a little girl who never knew love until a boy broke her HEART”.
'There once was a little girl...' tattoo on Megan
Megan is an obvious fan of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe and she has a popular image of Marilyn tattooed on her inner right forearm. On the inner aspect of her lower leg above her right ankle, she has a crescent moon overlapping a five pointed star. It is the one visibly coloured tattoo that she has. Megan had a long term on again off again relationship with actor Brian Austin Green that lasted six years before she married him in the summer of 2010. She has a script tattoo of his first name between her pubic bone and right hip.
On the inside of Megan's left wrist is a tribal tattoo of two waves entwined like a yin and yang symbol. This tattoo has a bit of colour, but looks like black ink from a distance. On the back of her neck just below the hairline Megan has a black ink tattoo of the Chinese symbol of strength in calligraphy. It's a simple tattoo with a strong meaning.
Marilyn Monroe tattoo on Megan
Leave that point, everybody knows that tattoos, like diamonds, last forever. When a person is a celeb and relationships don’t have a long shelf life, why should they risk with them? I sometimes feel that it is their valid proof of stupidity.
Esha Deol with tattoo
Rakhi Sawant with tattoo
John Abraham with tattoo
Kanagana Ranaut with her tattoo
Khushboo with her tatoo
Mamatha Mohandas with tattoo
Namitha with tattoo
Raveena Tandon with tattoos
Simran with her tattoo
Shruthi Hassan with tattoo
Trisha with her tattoos
What will they do with their tattoos when they end relationship with the person? I think what if they, celebs endorsing some beauty creams, come up with some creams which can erase tattoos also? ;)

Celebs can have one more easy choice. If they can’t erase the tattoos of their ex-flames, will they find another person with the same initials? ;)