Hi from Mumbai. Been here for a couple of days, and tomorrow I go to Bangalore for a few days.
Mumbai is not too unpleasant at this time of the year weather wise. Spent last evening in Colaba meeting with a friend. Best way to get there from my office in Lower Parel is to take a local train and then a cab from Churchgate station to Regal theatre.
Local trains going south in the evenings are not crowded. The compartment I entered had a couple of dozen people. A woman entered the train carrying an infant on her hips. She was also visibly pregnant. She was begging. Accompanying her was a girl I guessed was about three years old. The girl went from person to person begging. She would go down on her hands and knees and try to touch the shoes of the passengers. She was wearing a full-length dress which once must have been very pretty but now was in tatters.
The guy sitting opposite me tucked his feet below the seat and looked out the window. The little girl crawled further under the seat and then gave up. She turned to look up at me. Her grimy face reflected the beauty that comes from the pure innocence of being a child. Her hair was tied in an untidy bunch on her head. She scratched her head as she pleaded with her eyes and extended a hand to me. I dug into my pocket and gave her a two-rupee coin. She turned away wordlessly and in a few minutes was gone with the pregnant woman with the infant at the next stop. Total take in this carriage was Rs 2.
One of my friends has a three-year old daughter. She is a delight to her parents. The father simply adores her. Seeing the daughter father bond, I feel envious of my friend. She is lucky. She is wanted and loved and is cared for. Life is a random draw. “Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to an endless night.”
The girl on the local train is not one of the “missing girls” some agonize over. Selective abortion and female feticide is for some a crying shame. Day before yesterday’s The Times of India lamented on the front page the female to male ratios: 933 females to 1,000 males in the 2001 census; Delhi—only 821; Punjab—876; Haryana—861. The child on the train is here and there are no government officials crying themselves hoarse about her rights. No, they are only concerned about the rights of unborn babies. Those who are born can fend for themselves in the local trains.
I sometimes wonder why. Why are they so eager that people have more children? Don’t they get it that the decision to not have a girl child is a rational response to an intolerable situation? And to avoid the problem of “missing girl children” you have to change the situation, not just make it illegal to abort female fetuses?
I have a theory. Human labor supply in India is immense. This keeps the price of labor low. The fecundity of the poor helps the rich. Because if it didn’t, the rich are powerful enough to have figured out how to stop the poor from reproducing so rapidly. It also seems to me one of the contributing factors why Mother Teresa is held in high regard around the world. She was helping out the rich have access to cheap labor. Someone has to fill up the slums of Mumbai for the rich to have low cost labor. The poor oblige.