Wrapped in a shawl turned grey from grime, the three-month-old baby girl was brought to meet this correspondent near the Taimur Nagar police post. “How do you like her,” the girl’s maternal aunt, Rahima, asked. “I know she is too skinny, so she looks horrible. But one month of proper food, and she will turn healthy. Look, her features are so sharp.”
Rahima had made contact hoping to sell the baby, one of the twins born to a younger sister who suffers from a psychiatric condition. The girl’s twin, she says, has already been sold for Rs. 50,000 to a childless Muslim couple in Dwarka early this month. Rahima says she “gave the money to the mother for her medication.”
“You tell me,” Rahima asks,“what should I have done with this baby?” “Her mother is ill, and sometimes runs down the road stripping off her clothes. She already has two children aged 10 and eight who live in Kolkata with our old parents. Her husband, an unemployed alcoholic, abandoned her soon after hearing that her wife had given birth to twin baby girls.”
Rahima says the twins were born “utterly malnourished, with big eyes and hanging skin.” “I picked them and asked their mother what she wanted to do with them. She said, ‘sell them, throw them, I don’t care.’”
She doesn’t act as if she has something to hide: the child is brought in broad daylight, with a group of slum residents in attendance. There is even an advocate, she says, who can deal with legal issues.
Rahima lives in one of the slum neighbourhoods of Taimur Nagar, located on a massive garbage dump, home in the main to domestic servants who make a living in nearby Zakir Nagar, Batla House and Jamia Nagar.
“Every second month,” Rahima says, “I find one or the other new born child thrown on the rubbish heap or locked inside jhuggi houses without food and water. I can’t see them abandoned and crying. So, I pick them up, buy milk for them, feed them and after they turn a little healthy, give them to known and prosperous Muslim families. I even call the police from the nearby station, go to Patiala Court and get drawn up kagaz pattar [agreement papers between child’s parents and the new family]”.
On Monday afternoon, Dukhi [the sad one], as the little girl had been named, was given away to a childless Muslim couple who live in the same vicinity. Rahima says the baby’s new mother had married five years ago and was facing hard time from her relatives for being “infertile.”
“I gave away the baby and didn’t take even a single penny from her new parents for they are as poor as I am. I spent a month with her. I am feeling very miserable.”
She has a new prospect in hand already. “There is another child one can buy, but five months from now. Her mother, who lives in the same slum, is having a tough time as her husband has abandoned her. She has asked me to find new parents for her.”