When The Truth Is Spoken

I missed the first episode of Satyamev Jayate yesterday and was disconsolate because I could not find any repeat telecast in the television listings I had been poring over early this morning. I cheered up when I saw IHM’s post on the episode sitting in my inbox–and jumped with joy when I found the Youtube link to the episode in the very first line! Thanks  for the link, IHM!

About the episode–wow. It struck me that this was the first , and definitely very well-made and fairly comprehensive, documentary on the subject of female foeticide that I had ever seen on television.

The subject of sex-selective abortions is, after all, like the proverbial elephant in the room as far as television is concerned–they are loathe to talk much about it. Our news channels are too busy following the latest antics of our very colourful politicians and our entertainment channels are too busy minting money with their reality/talent shows and saas-bahu dramas. So all we get to see is an occasional discussion/news-item spanning all of five minutes, and ill-made ads such as this one which are apt to do more harm than good.

Which is why it was so heartening to finally see something on television that deals with the issue at some length and does some plain-speaking. The show featured some amazing mothers who showed extraordinary courage in insisting on giving birth to /raising their daughters in the face of intense pressure from their marital families to abort.

Host Aamir Khan’s eyes welled up many times listening to their horror stories. I cried at many points too–good thing I was watching alone.

One of these women was Dr. Mitu khurana, whose name I was familiar with thanks to the blogosphere. Her story blasted to bits the widely prevalent myth that it is only the poor and the uneducated who go in for sex-selective abortions or that it is a village/small town phenomenon.  Here was a doctor married to another doctor–an orthopaedic surgeon –based in the country’s capital. Her father-in-law was a retired professor of history at Delhi University. Her mother-in-law was vice-principal at a government school in Rohtak. One of her sisters-in-law has a Ph’D. in Mathematics. And this family, by all accounts very academically inclined and very well off, tried every trick in the book and out of it to prevent Khurana from bearing to term her twin-daughters.

A very intriguing nugget of information was given by a senior doctor in a Delhi hospital, who explained how the foundations of this catastrophe were laid in the seventies, when, in their zeal to bring down the population, a government-funded research team of doctors theorized that people might want to have less children if they can be assisted in having at least one male child — by finding out the sex of the baby by amniocentesis(ultrsonography had not yet arrived on the scene) and advising the parents to abort babies of the unwanted sex.

This was actually given a go-ahead and was implemented in quite a few government hospitals before activists got wind of it and raised a hue and cry, forcing the government to backtrack. But the cat was out of the bag–many people had come to know that such a thing was possible and that had created a demand for sex-selection techniques. The doctors who had participated in the government’s initiative started doing it privately after the government developed cold feet.

Amniocentesis was an invasive and risky–not to mention  expensive –procedure which meant that only a tiny section of the population could choose to avail of it.The floodgates were literally opened with the advent of ultrasonography–non-invasive, risk-free and cheap.

At one point Aamir displayed to the audience a map which showed how the problem manifested itself initially in isolated pockets in the north with peninsular India being almost untouched, but spread on rapidly throughout the country in the ensuing decades, so that now ‘vitually all of Mother India is awash with the blood of her daughters.‘ Truer words were never spoken.

Not all is lost, though. A flicker of hope comes from Nawashaher in Punjab. Just ten years back, the sex-ratio in this district had dipped below 800. A deputy commisioner took up the issue in earnest, launching a massive information campaign, strategizing with the help of no less than seventy-five organisations, working at the grass-roots, drawing action plans, plugging loop-holes. The results were there for all to see when the Census reports came out in 2011–1000 girls per 1000 boys in this district. What a remarkable turnaround, and that too in a region which bears the ignominy of having the worst sex-ratio in the country!

I have to say I have now become a card-carrying member of the Aamir Khan fan-club. Some months ago I did a post in which I bemoaned the fact that celebrities don’t lend a voice to the cause of female foeticide. Well, at least Aamir has done his bit.

I loved the Urdu couplet Aamir started the show with–

 Sirf hungama khada karna mera maqsad nahin                                                                       Meri koshish hai ki yeh soorat badalni chahiye.

(I don’t just want to raise a hue and cry. What I really want is to bring about a change)

Amen to that.

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25 Responses to When The Truth Is Spoken

  1. Nicely summed up.
    I already watched this program twice.
    Reading your post was like watching a third time.
    I normally don’t watch TV except for crucial Ipl matches.
    But this is one program I am going to follow

  2. Fem says:

    Thanks for the summary. I was wondering how to make it possible for my friend to watch the show, as she does not know Hindi. You have pretty much summed it up in one post. 😀

    I was pretty horrified when I watched it too. Like you, I was also familiar with Mitu Khurana, but the one who really scared me was that cannibal chap’s wife. How can anyone do that?!

    • Actually I liked the show so much, I wanted to commit the details to memory and what better way to do that than to write about it ! 😀

      They should really have English subtitles in the show for it to have maximum impact.

      The cannibal chap must have had serious psychopathic tendencies and I suspect his wife would have come to harm sooner or later regardless of the sex of her children–just that her bearing daughters ‘provoked’ him and probably brought it on earlier. It was terrifying for sure.

      • Fem says:

        Agree about the English subtitles. I suppose since much of the problem is in the Hindi belt, there would be no need. I had some trouble understanding the Haryana chap, though. But otherwise, I think it will be dubbed in other languages.

  3. R's Mom says:

    Am yet to watch it rey..will do it on Saturday..glad that IHM was kind enough to provide the link 🙂

    Appa loved it and actually called me up to discuss only to realise I didnt watch it..baadmein he got upset..for the first time in my life my dad is upset that I didnt watch a TV show 🙂 this has been the jadoo of SMJ 🙂

  4. Deeps says:

    Loved the Urdu couplet! Amen to that indeed.
    I am a long-standing member of the Aamir Khan fan club too :). Hats off to him for choosing to do this! I hope this show is able to make that much needed difference to the entire thought-process of our people!

    Loved your post scribblehappy, as always 🙂

    • Thank you Deeps 🙂

      //Hats off to him for choosing to do this!//

      Absolutely!! His detractors have been saying that he doesn’t really mean what he’s saying, he is putting on an act and doing it only for money. Quite apart from the fact that even the most committed activists should not have to work without being paid for it, what these naysayers don’t realize is that he has chosen to do THIS for money instead of, say, dancing at weddings for money. Surely there’s a difference!

      • gardenerat60 says:

        And it is not easy to do such shows, one has to make sure everything is politically correct, without treading on hurts, and insults.
        Definitely not like dancing at wedding or being part of silly reality shows.

  5. Ashwathy says:

    Got the link from IHM’s post like you did…. now let me watch it 🙂
    Heard so much about it already!

  6. techie2mom says:

    Hubby & i watched it together on youtube, i went to kitchen for some time and missed the cannibal guy’s part & came back and asked hubby to show me that again. he suggested not to watch it. when i insisted he said, i can’t watch it again and left the room.
    i cried at every story…even after that i continued to cry thinking about the situation and the trauma of the mothers who have to face this every time they are pregnant.
    i cried thinking about Zini & her safety in such a scary scenario.

    • The story of the cannibal’s wife was very disturbing and the hardest to watch. I think I too would avoid watching that part again if I were to see the show once more.
      I cried too. It really was tough, seeing the ugly face of reality up close like this. The most shocking was the footage of those (female )doctors who were so casually telling the sting people how to dispose of the dead foetuses, smiling all the while.

  7. gardenerat60 says:

    Loved the write up. I am already a card carrying member , so welcome to the club.
    In case interested, drop in to see my twitter account “vetrimagal”.

    • Thank you,gardenerat60 and welcome here.
      I am not much into Twitter but I checked out your blog and quite liked it. I have a terrace garden too and you can now expect me to bug you with my queries frequently 🙂

  8. Jas says:

    I watched the show and have to say you have put forth every detail to sum it up… It was very hard hitting and sometimes I think does it take an Aamir Khan to look into the reality that is everywhere but I and many others like me choose to ignore?

    • Welcome here, Jas 🙂

      True, the reality is out there for all to see but is so horrendous that most times people simply choose to look the other way, which contributes to the conspiracy of silence which surrounds the issue. Aamir Khan deserves kudos for at least getting people to discuss the issue and raising awareness.

  9. Deeps says:

    Hey, you saw y’day’s episode? Another very serious yet not-so-oft-discussed issue raised- CSA. An eye-opener again!

    • I did, Deeps! An eye-opener indeed!
      Loved the concept of that workshop with kids. How simply it said everything and how effectively !. Made my daughter watch it too..

  10. Scribby says:

    I’ve been following this show since day one and agree to your words about it.

    I’ve long been Aamir’s fan for his acting skills and now this bit has added to it,in fact to the fanfare worldwide, I’m sure!

    • Apart from fans, the show has also won him a good number of enemies. Challenging the status-quo is always fraught with possibilities of a backlash from those who benefit by the status-quo. The vicious campaign launched against Aamir Khan by groups of doctors on facebook is a case in point 😦

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