Millennium Post

Farewell to a fighter


As the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, takes charge, I have to request him to take charge of at least one family of this country. This particular mother and her family, had to sell off their four month old baby, for a mere Rs 62! Being the president of the country its assumed he will look after our collective welfare and well being. Let him start off by adopting the family of Shannu Khatoon of Bihar’s Madanpur village in the Araria district of northeastern Bihar. In fact, last week when she was finally traced with her two other children [one of the twins and one older child], even hardened cops were said to be taken aback seeing her plight. She and her children had not eaten for days and had been roaming around in search of food, whilst her physically challenged husband, Mohammad Shaheed, was found sitting helplessly.

And though the district administration is said to have taken this family under their care, one wonders for how long? After all, the hue and cry will soon die down. Also, poverty and disease is widespread and rampant in north-eastern Bihar. Probably that’s why you have parents selling off their children for a price which wouldn’t even fetch you a kilo of potatoes or tomatoes or even fodder!

I haven’t recovered from this shocker and I feel that, for the sake of humanity, Shannu Khatoon’s sold baby – sold to a Nepalese couple – be got back from Nepal or wherever they are traced. The baby should be re-united with the family and immediately, that is, before this Nepalese couple also embarks on a selling spree.

Let the new president of India who comes from the State of West Bengal – home of Mother Teresa – come forward and set an example. Let him adopt the entire family of Shannu Khatoon, and with that, reunite her with her sold baby. Let him shift this family to one of the outhouses of Rashtrapati Bhavan, so they can re-start their lives, living in the safe confines of the sprawling estate. Let Mukherjee set this trend of reaching out and adopting human beings who are in severe need of compassion and anchorage.

With the news trickling in of the marriage of Congressman R K Dhavan at 74, it seems to be the take off of another of those healthy trends. It is a first marriage for him, though a re-marriage for his spouse, who is in her late fifties. And all those who have interacted with him, comment that he blushes and looks happy and content whilst narrating details of how he decided to go ahead and take the plunge, muttering and murmuring ‘better late than never’.

If I’m not mistaken, though, the couple tied the knot some months ago but kept it under wraps all these months. Probably too busy settling down. Dhavan has sure gone up on the graph of those who possess the  guts and that courage to announce their love. I think its great if one can find a compatible companion at any given stage or age. For, though you could be blessed with a dozen children or grandchildren, they can not fulfill the companion slot.

In fact, I know of only few couples in India who did not let age or any of their high positions come in the way as an intruding hurdle. One can spontaneously think of Lord Meghnad Desai and his writer wife, Kishwar. It is a second marriage for both. Though they married a few years ago, when Kishwar was almost fifty and he was around seventy, the going seems great. Another of those in the who’s who list, who listened to his heart and married rather late in life is Arun Singh – former minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet. And the best aspect of this marriage is that neither he, nor his second spouse, indulged in any publicity gimmicks but gently packed their bags and moved far away from New Delhi, towards Kausani, to live happily after.

But such daring couples are rare on the Indian scene. Most Indian men end up as sissies and silly cowards, with pretences intact.

A wife at home and a mistress or two tucked in a backyard. And to compound the scenario, the poor mistress is called a ‘good friend’!

And with the passing away of Captain Lakshmi Sahgal we have lost a truly remarkable woman. A close associate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, she was one of those who opted to live far  from the media glare. The spotlight was on her around the summer of 2002, when she was the Left’s candidate for the president of India.

I had interviewed her around this time. Though she was almost 87 years old, her grace and personality as well as her views left an impact. What impressed was the fact that this trained medical doctor  and gynaecologist was treating patients in Kanpur, where she had settled down, free of cost. This was when she was well past retirement age and the stage of working.

She was reaching out till the very end to those who needed medical assistance and support. So why no Bharat Ratna for her? She was a crusader in the real sense of the term.

Humra Quraishi is a columnist and author.
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