Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The doctor

Story #1 – Dr. Shobha Kale

I met Dr. Kale years ago when I had a case of Delhi belly right in Mumbai. I still remember her placing her hand on my stomach and diagnosing what I had right away. She left an indelible impression on my mind, as I was back to my kicking self within a few days.

My paths crossed with her this time in Mumbai, as I was seeking advice for the baby in Jodhpur whom I mentioned in my previous post. As she spoke about the resources I could contact, I realized that I could not miss the opportunity to interview her. As a woman in her 70s, still running her practice, I knew I would hear an incredible story about her childhood, and that is exactly what happened!

Born to a family of 4 girls and 2 boys, Dr. Kale grew up in a household where girls were given the opportunity to study, but boys were still the “kings of the household”. Water for the boys? Let the girls get it! Land inheritance? Boys first. But, Dr. Kale along with her sisters woke up every morning, completed their domestic chores, and then went to school. The family did not have a doctor, a huge prestige for any family in any community in India; so Dr. Kale was asked to pursue the profession. “Listening to our parents is how we were brought up”, she said to me.

Now in her 70s, she still believes that parents must guide their children, but she also speaks about families that do not support their daughters and daughters-in-law. Eat after the husband; do not talk to any men, except for the husband; do not work after marriage; why invest in a girl when she will get married eventually anyway. I even learned of stories where, if a husband is not happy with his wife, he leaves her even if she has children, and marries another woman.

As I listened to her story and the stories of many other families, I began to feel impassioned about the rights of women. These are not stories that are told, yet these are stories that exist in every family, regardless of class and level of education. And in some cases, through domestic abuse. It is a sad state of affairs when any life is not given the importance it deserves. 

I ask her what can be done; that I cannot sit passively while women around the world suffer in silence. She replies “This is how it is; it is difficult to change the system”. But, as we continue talking, her words imply that change is possible.

She is a prime example of possibility, just like many other families in India, including my own. In fact, she has also provided logistical and practical advice to many young women and men about how they could overcome their obstacles. What is special about her is that her nuanced advice is offered in the context of family dynamics, in a way that seeks to bring harmony in the household but also empower each family member wherever possible. Because of mothers like her who suffered in silence, daughters are now being provided every opportunity despite the naysayer in the family, the community, and the world.

I dedicate this story to our Doctors, our true intellectuals, and the elders of India; those who seek to amplify the good and always see the potential in every life!

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