Thursday, August 30, 2012

Daughter of the Soul Goes Home

The results are out. Rashmita and Susanta Mallick are the parents of Baby Atmaja.

After a drama that panned out for four-and-a-half months, the High Court of Orissa has finally revealed that Rashmita and Susanta are not the biological parents of the boy, based on the DNA report submitted by genetic scientists at the Hyderabad-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory. The report, resorting to typical legalese, stated that Rashmita Mallick could not be excluded as the biological mother of the girl child, while she could be definitely excluded as the biological mother of the other male child.

For those who came in late, Baby Atmaja had been lying unclaimed at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Orissa where her mother gave birth to her on March 30, 2012. Her parents had refused to accept her, alleging that the hospital had goofed up and swapped their baby with another couple who had the same surname. They added that another baby, a boy, born around the same time, was in fact theirs. (You can read more about that episode in my post HERE.)

The court’s verdict was accepted amid resounding cheers by the hospital. It had cleared them of the accusations that Susanta and Rashmita Mallick had hurled at them. But the joy was overpowered by sadness at the thought of parting. For more than four months, they had looked after the baby girl and they had learned to love her with a love that only those who have been slaves to a baby will know.

Scouring the Internet for some news of Atmaja, I caught a few stray sites that had reported the news of the resolution of the case. I also caught these videos from Orissa TV. The details were lost on me as I don’t understand Oriya. But the moving images helped. Then a friend of a close friend very kindly obliged with a translation and helped me fill the blanks in my understanding. If you understand Oriya (and even if you don’t), you must view the videos, HERE and HERE.

The hospital authorities had completed all the formalities for handing over the baby. But the task of bidding goodbye to the little one proved to be much too big to handle.

I was touched by the sight of the nurses, the doctors and even the ayahs of the Neonatalogy and Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at the hospital, as they all sought one last chance to hug and kiss the child that they had so unconditionally made their own for the last four-and-a-half months. Despite knowing that this moment would come, despite being prepared for it, most of the nurses, doctors and ayahs were in tears.

Apparently all the 20 nurses in the department, along with the students and doctors, including those whose who weren’t on duty then, had been present since the morning so as not to miss the chance to say goodbye to Atmaja. They even made it a point to pack and send with her the dresses, toys and other items that they had bought out of their own salaries for her.

The child had thrived well under the love and care that they had lavished upon her. The high court had directed them to look after the child, pending a resolution of the case. But most of them went beyond the call of duty, laughing with her, feeding and cleaning her and buying her toys. They came to work a few minutes before their shifts began so they could spend time with her. They even went to the extent of naming the child, Atmaja, and observed the proper rituals 21 days after her birth. In turn, little Atmaja responded to their affection, as only a child can. She rewarded their attempts to do the right thing with coos and gurgles. She smiled and laughed and blossomed in their care. She became their world.

And then the results of the DNA test arrived, bearing tidings that they had been both longing for and fearing. Baby Atmaja was handed over to the mother who had rejected her at birth. The father was still in Dubai where he worked.

And so it was that Baby Atmaja received her first kiss from her mother a full 134 days after she was born. Rashmita, the mother, hugged the child close to her chest as though she would rather die than be parted from her child. She said, “I am now sure that this baby is mine and I am extremely happy accepting her.” She also expressed her gratitude towards those who took care of her baby. In response to a reporter’s question, she added, “My husband has spoken to me after the High Court verdict came and he has also expressed his willingness to accept the baby.”

Call me biased, but I was unmoved by their noble and generous willingness to accept the baby after the High Court left them no other option. For the sake of the baby, I hope that the choked voice in which the mother spoke to the reporters, the look of anguish that she bore about her and the tight stranglehold of a clutch in which she held the child are not elements of an elaborate act put up for the benefit of the Court authorities, the hospital staff, the dignitaries present and the media representatives.

The reporter accompanied Atmaja home, and gave us a glimpse of the welcome that was accorded to her. A pooja were organized, along with the rituals that are conducted to welcome a newborn home. The child's forehead was adorned with the traditional teeka to ward off the evil eye. She was also renamed Jyoti.

That saddened me. Was this an attempt to erase the memory of the last 4½ months? Were they right in hiding the truth from her? How will she feel when she grows up and finds out?

One sour note was sounded by Rashmita’s mother-in-law Lata, who, unconvinced by the indecisive nature of the DNA report, likened the experience of accepting Atmaja into the family to adoption. Earlier she had claimed that she had seen Rashmita give birth to a baby boy in the labour room.

There is a Nigerian Igbo proverb, "Ora na azu nwa," which translates into “It takes a village to raise a child.” In Atmaja’s case, it was the nurses, doctors and ayahs who gave her the nurturing that her parents refused at a critical period in her life.

If Rashmita Mallick is indeed grateful to the staff at the hospital, she must show her gratitude by sharing that story with her daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I read the first two paragraphs and then left. Is this story inspired by the recent drama of Tiwari?



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