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Punjab Workshop Documentation

This workshop in Fatehgarh District, Punjab posed special problems for the Matrika team, as none of us were fluent in Punjabi (unlike all the other areas where we held workshops where at least one team member spoke the local language.) The whole workshop was conducted in village Punjabi therefore the team needed assistance from VHAP for documentation and facilitation. Also our collaborating NGO, the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, does not function like the other NGOs that we had worked with. The others had health workers working at the grassroots field level and who know the dais and the language. Therefore we had to rely on professional women, removed from the field level, Dr. Tulika, a gynaecologist and Veena, a lawyer, who spoke Punjabi and helped us in workshop facilitation.

During the pre-workshop orientation Matrika's documentation procedure was explained to Manisha and Reena of VHAP. However after the workshop we realised that the written documents were incomplete. This was because our workshop process was very new for them and so was the documentation procedure. Thus we had to rely mainly on the audio- tapes recorded during workshop to supplement written notes. For this we received help from Manjeet who knows Punjabi and works in Jagori a Delhi NGO. We learnt from Manjeet that the facilitators at times were unable to translate correctly what Matrika members were asking.

For some songs Renuka also took help from her Punjabi neighbours, elderly women from Amritsar. They also knew some of the songs, which they used to sing during marriages. Interestingly they did not want to discuss these songs in the house as they were shy to talk about these subjects in their husband’s or son's presence. These songs were speaking of women’s perspectives on lovemaking and childbirth. Even during marriages men are not during ladies sangeet (songs). So they came outside of the house and very happily shared with Renuka on these topics, helping her with translation.
Since the documentation was primarily transcribed from audio tapes some of the names of the dais are not noted in this transcript.

This workshop was held in the Fategarh Sahib Gurdwara and the Matrika team stayed here during the nights whereas the VHAP team went back to Chandigarh. Everyone (dais, VHAP members and Matrika members) took meals at the langar (communal eating place of the Gurdwara ). All of us went during break times to pay obeisance at the Gurdwara . Some dais used to come early in the morning and have holy bath at the sarovar (pond in the Gurdwara )

Our stay in the Gurdwara was possible because of the friendly relations between VHAP head, Manmohan Sharma and members of the Gurudwara management committee--Lal Mistri a local politician of the Mazhabi Sikh, Jaswant Singh Taan and Karnail Singh who were members of Gurdwara management committee. These gentlemen inaugurated the workshop and talked about the importance of dais work. This was a good opportunity for them as they could indirectly campaign for the coming elections, which were upcoming.

Collaborating NGO: Voluntary Health Association of Punjab (VHAP), Chandigarh.
Dates: 22,23,24,25,26 Jan. 1998.
Venue: Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib, Fategarh District, Punjab
Overall Participation:
25 dais (from Shaheed Garh, Nandpur Kalaur, Ferozpur

Badela, Mehmatpur, Fatehpur jat ta, Rajendragarh
Kusumbarhi, Nagawan, Railo, Fatehpur Raiya
Harpal Hadi, Kala Majri, Mera, Sajat Pur
Bhangwa, Gopalo Kotla, Kheri, Pumour
5 VHAP members
4 Matrika members

Pre-Workshop Preparatory Meeting:
22-1-98 & 23-1-98: 5 VHAP members
4 Matrika members

Sessions during Workshop:
Day 1--24-1-98: Introductions,
Role Play (small groups)
Day 2 -- 25-1-98: Birth Atlas,
Songs (small groups)
Reeti-Rewaz (small groups)
Food (small groups)
Day 3--26-1-98: Identifying complications and how these are handled,
Body Mapping,
Planning for future

Afternoon Session

Participants include 5 VHAP team members and 4 Matrika team members.
From VHAP:
Manmohan Sharma         (Chandigarh)
Reena             (Chandigarh)
Manisha         (Chandigarh)
Tulika             (Chandigarh)
Veena             (Chandigarh)

From Matrika:
Janet           (Delhi)
Priya             (Delhi)
Renuka         (Delhi)
Kishwar       (Chandigarh)



Janet: Matrika's methodology is to focus on dais' strengths. What do they know and what are the traditions of learning through which the Dai knows her work? The aim is to value her work. We want to look at her strength, skills and how she handles birth and understands female body processes.
Tulika: I am a gynaecologist. When we went to the village to meet dais and talked to them they thought that we were from the government, so they talked about their training. They were afraid to talk about their traditional knowledge. The focus of this Matrika project is on their traditional skills and their experience.

In our last meeting at Khera, organised by VHAP, I noticed that dais have to use their hands and mind to deal with complicated cases, as they do not have referral time. There is no regular antenatal check-up so one cannot say that there would be a cephallo pelvic disproportion or there will be a case of obstructed labour. There was a Dai who had 40 years experience and she talked about such cases. However, dais can handle breech and twin deliveries.

Janet: Tulika uses medical terms likewise dais will be using different words and different language and idioms. We are trying to go between these different words and roles.

Kishwar: I am working for Matrika for the first time. I am interested in reeti rewaz and the psyche of a woman during birth. Some women have post partum depression, and some feel good. I want to know what cause these differing reactions.

Veena: I am in the legal profession but, besides going to the courts, I also work with women and hold workshops and literacy camps on the rights of women and reservations for women in Panchayats. I can share with these women the things that I will be learning from this workshop.

Priya: I have come from the USA. I came to India in September and studied Public Health in Pune for 3 months. There I was exposed to various ongoing projects focusing on women’s health, family planning and antenatal programs. I have just joined Matrika. This project is a much more sensitive project. I was frustrated in Pune because most of the work that I was exposed to was very invasive. Primary focus was on throwing out tradition and bringing in new and modern methods.

Renuka: I attended Matrika's workshop in Gomia and Delhi and learnt many things from the dais. Now I am here in Punjab to learn from dais of Punjab.

Reena: I work for VHAP and I am interested to know about dais' way of working.

Manisha: I work for VHAP. I like working for women and I write stories, which focus on women’s problems.

Janet: I am in India for the past 20 years. I got frustrated with teaching natural childbirth classes, when women couldn’t have the births they wanted and got involved in this topic. I used to help couples and women have babies without medication and surgery. But doctors would not help them or allow them to do what I suggested so I felt it is wrong to keep up that work. I started doing research ten years ago to see how natural childbirth works according to local traditions. Then I learnt about dais’ handling of birth. I thought about this project and got the funds to carry out this work. My perception is that knowledge of woman's body does not exist only in sophisticated knowledge of bio-medical doctors.

dais’ knowledge is with the woman and it is not a textual tradition and it is with low caste, outcaste women. This project aims to show that this kind of holistic knowledge is relevant to today and is passed from Saas to Bahu and mother to daughter.

Manmohan (the head of VHAP) shared some his observations about dais in Punjab with the group.
dais are from the Chamar jat i (Ravidas) which occupies lowest position among the lower caste groups. These days even women from upper caste are doing Dai work and are becoming affluent but dais of lower caste are losing their traditional work, which is also their means of livelihood and are becoming poorer.

These days traditional dais are misusing their knowledge and skills for sex determination and abortion. Also Ayurveda has come out with something that is given in the early weeks of pregnancy for having male child. Also it is a problem that dais live in fear that their work may be banned by law as medical professionals think that they are quacks.

Games/Activities Through various activities Matrika’s workshop methods were expressed. These were to be tried out in the workshop, they are also ice-breakers. We tried out these games with the group.

  1. Name Game- was to get familiar with the names of the participants. We go around the circle with each participant telling her own name and the names of other persons who have called out their names before her.
  2. Mirror Game-one person makes body movements and the group imitates her.
  3. Voice Game- a woman makes a noise or shouts some words and the group imitates her voice.
  4. Active listening-the listener feeds back to the speaker what she has understood of her communication.

DAY 2- -23.1.98
Morning Session

Discussion on Documentation

Renuka, Veena and Manisha discussed documentation of the workshop. Decided it was important to leave space while documenting so that gaps can be filled in later.

Using ‘buddy system’ by working with another person in the group who would help fill the gaps, which the recorder had not gotten. After every session half an hour should be given for documentors to fill in the gaps by discussing it with their partner.


We decided to begin with the name game and then introduce Matrika verbally. We could then do a role play using a narrator to explain the scenes in Punjabi. The following role play was decided upon and practiced.

Birth Scene: woman in labour pain. Her mother tries to console her and then calls a Dai who handles the birth

Workshop Scene: This Dai and others like her are called by Matrika to attend their workshop. In the workshop dais talk about their work. Matrika documents and reanalyses their work.

Dissemination Scene: Matrika shares this knowledge with dais of other regions and with other organisations, and people: projects and advocates dais work.

Janet: The Gurdwara is considered a sacred place but women are considered dirty and polluted when they menstruate or after childbirth. Mazhabi Sikh women belong to the polluted caste. They do Dai work which is considered dirty (as they work with their hands and touch body fluid, blood and excreta) thus they are in a state of permanent pollution. The knowledge of body is with women from lower caste. But they are separated and their work is not appreciated in part because they are considered polluted. This may influence their ability to speak in the Gurdwara . [A fear, which proved unfounded]

Afternoon Session


We discussed the various themes that we would focus on during the Workshop: Birth Atlas; Rituals; Body Mapping; maalish; Songs

Birth Atlas will be translated in Punjabi. Generating words in Punjabi that are used by dais for women’s body parts. These words are often used as gaalis (abuses). Try and understand their ways of explaining the body process physiologically. For example they use ruka hua khoon for the blood, which comes out after delivery. Matrika is interested to know how they determine how open is the cervix. A good doctor or a Dai through external signs can say how far that woman is into labour. But doctors and some midwives at times do too much of internal examination. At times even families can put a pressure on midwife to get the baby out fast. Overuse of hand can lead to swelling and infection.

Doctors thought that placenta was a barrier to many things and drugs and dais have sensitivity to the permeability of body and placenta. In this regard dais may come up with stories or narratives like the Abhimanyu story [In Mahabharata, Arjuna explains to his pregnant wife about Chakravyuha (a type of military manoeuvre). As he was finishing the story his wife fell asleep and missed the last bit where Arjun was explaining how one could get out Chakravyuha. Later Abhimanyu the warrior (their son—who was in the womb listening to the story, learning the manoeuvre, but not the ending because his mother had fallen asleep) has to go and fight with the enemies. However, Abhimanyu gets trapped in the Chakravyuha since he only knew to enter and fight but did not know how to come out]. This story shows how the foetus was considered sensate and learning, even in the mother’s body—a fact, which is only now being acknowledged by the latest scientific research.

Rituals help in taking away the fear. The mother needs support and Dai guides her through this transitional phase. Matrika is interested in these rituals.

DAY 1 - - 24.1.98
Morning Session

Participants include 25 dais, 1 nurse, 4 Matrika team members and 5 VHAP team members.

Name Place
Pyar Kaur Shaheed Garh
Sarjeet Kaur Nandpur Kalaur
Darshan Kaur Ferozpur
Satwant Kaur Badela
Kako Nandpur Kalaur
Garj Kaur Mehmatpur
Surinder Kaur Fatehpur jat ta
Amarjeet Kaur Nandpur Kalaur
Satya Rajendragarh
Surjeet Kaur Kusumbarhi
Charan Kaur Nagawan
Gurmail Kaur Railo
Mahindra Kaur Nandpur Kalaur
Rachan Kaur  
Kako Fatehpur Raiya
Gurudev Kaur Harpal Hadi
Kartar Kaur Kala Majri
Pyar Kaur Mera
Harbans Kaur Sajat Pur
Swaran Kaur Bhangwa
Balwant Kaur Gopalo Kotla
Kako Kheri
Sharifan Pumour
Gurdayal Kaur Bibipur
Vidya Nandpur Kalaur
Sister Lilian Sadhugarh
Janet Matrika
Renuka Matrika
Priya Matrika
Kishwar Matrika
Manmohan Sharma VHAP
Veena VHAP
Tulika VHAP
Reena VHAP
Manisha VHAP

Manmohan: This meeting has been called to develop a relationship with dais and to also make way for dais. There is a demand by the medical professionals of Punjab that Dai work should be banned therefore we have organised this workshop to know about your work and skill and tell others about it. We will start this meeting with introduction. For the past 3-4 years I have been working in Punjab on health related matters.

Sister Lilian: I have been working in the dawa-khana(dispensary) for the past 16 years.
Renuka: I am working with Matrika.

Darshan Kaur: I have been doing Dai work for the past 15 years.

Priya: My parents are from Punjab but now we live in USA I am working for Matrika.

Pyar Kaur: I do Dai work in my village.

Sarjeet Kaur: I do Dai work.

Darshan Kaur: I have been doing Dai work for the past 15 years.

Satwant Kaur: I am a jat Sikh. I was poor and took up Dai work for economic reasons. I was encouraged to take up this work by a health worker and an ANM. They told me to get formal training and I also worked with a doctor. Now, people refer to me as a nurse.

Kako: I have been doing this work for the past 20 years. I knew this work but I also did 6 months training.

Garj Kaur: I have been doing this work for the past 20 years. I did training from village Bhunway. In fact I started Dai work only after getting training. I was also helped in my work by Dr. Dhillon.
Surinder Kaur: My Saas was a Dai I learnt from her and also did 6 months training from Nagawan. I have experience of 10 years.

Amarjeet Kaur: My husband lost his eyesight and I had very small children. I had to take care of all of them. I took up this work for economic reasons. I did Dai training course from Bassi.

Satya: I have been doing this work for the past 22 years. I learnt this work from my Tai . When I was young I used to go with her. I also learnt from my relatives who work in Rajindergarh hospital in Patiala I got the kit from Nandpur Kalaur. I visit 3 villages and at times get 2 cases in a day.

Surjeet Kaur: I took Dai work because of economic reasons. My husband left me with two very small children. People of my village helped me in taking up this work. I did training from Ghurway and have been doing Dai work for the past 22 years.

Charan Kaur: My Masi was a Dai . I used to go with her and at the age of seven along with my Masi I would massage pregnant women. I got the desire to do this work after I had my first child, a girl. It's been 15 years now.

Gurmail Kaur: My Saas used to do this work and I learnt from her. I did a course after my mother-in law's death. I have been doing Dai work for the past 15 years.

Mahindra Kaur: For 6 months I worked in a hospital as Dai to get a certificate, which is like having a ration card. It is a mere formality
[Many dais said that doing a training course is just a formality.]

Rachan Kaur: I learnt it from my Dadi and did training in Patiala. I have been doing Dai work for the past 30 years. Some kids who were born through my assistance have now grown old.

Kako: My Saas used to do Dai work, I learnt from her. Now she is very old. I have been doing Dai work for the past 15 years.

Gurudev Kaur: My Saas used to do Dai work. She would encourage me to do this work. Initially I refused but then took it up as it is our family's traditional occupation. My Saas ki Saas used to do it too. I also took 6 months training from Harwa. I have been doing Dai work for the past 21 years.

[dais said that in 50% cases Bahus take up their Saas’s traditional occupation. It is like a reserved post. It is our right and duty to encourage our Bahus.]

Satwant Kaur: My Bahu is educated and takes interest in this work. She goes with me.

Kartar Kaur: I learnt from my Saas then I did 6 months course and stayed with a nurse. I have been doing Dai work for the past 20 years. My Nu (Bahu) is also interested but I do not take her with me.

Pyar Kaur: In my village there was nobody and we used to call Dai from other villages. Therefore, the village Panchayat asked me to do Dai training. I have been doing Dai work for the past 23 years. I am the only Dai in my village and I go to 3-4 villages.

Harbans Kaur: I learnt this work from my Saas and have been doing this for the past 22 years. I go to two villages and my Nu (daughter-in-law) is also learning this work.

Janet: Did anyone learn from their mother or from mother's family?
[They all laugh. Maybe they are shy to talk about woman as sexual beings with their mothers]

Charan Kaur: I learnt it from my Masi who is also my husband’s Tai , she is related to me from my mother’s side and from my husband’s side (mother’s sister married husband’s uncle).

Swaran Kaur: I took Dai work, as I somehow liked it (shauk). I used to work with dais of neighbouring villages. The Panchayat also asked the dais to teach me Dai work. I delivered 8 children without any formal training and then did a course in Ghurway. I have been doing Dai work for the past 22 years. I am the only Dai in my village and I go to 2 villages.

Balwant Kaur: My Dadi used to do Dai work. She used to take me along. I did training from Kalaur and also learnt it from a nurse named Kartar Kaur. I have been doing Dai work for the past 20 years and I go to 3 villages.

Kako: My Tai did this work. I used to go with her daughter who is also a Dai . People in the Panchayat told her to teach me Dai work. I have been doing this work for the past 20 years.

Sharifa: I learnt it in my village and have been doing it for the past 18 years.

Gurdayal Kaur: My mother used to do Dai work and then I did training from Ghurway. I have been doing it for the past 35 years.

Vidya: I did training course from Kalaur and have been doing Dai work for the past 20 years.

Janet: I used to take natural child birth classes and now I am with Matrika.

Reena: I work for VHAP.

Manisha: I work for VHAP.

Veena: I am a lawyer and take up cases on women's issues.

Tulika: I am a gynaecologist and a consultant for VHAP.

Kishwar: I work for women who have psychological problems and are generally called pagal (mad) by society. I have come to this workshop to learn about your work.

Janet: Birth is a natural process and we have come here to learn from you about your knowledge and skill. Some things that we know we would share with you. The Government is considering passing a law which would make Dai work illegal. So we want you to share your work so that we can talk and raise our voice in Delhi and VHAP can take it up in Chandigarh. Our organisation is called Matrika and we did similar workshops in Delhi and Bihar and will do the same in Rajasthan. I want to thank you all for being here.
[This workshop was possible because of the help given by Lal Mistri who is a writer and a local politician of the Mazhabi Sikh, Jaswant Singh Taan and Karnail Singh who were members of Gurdwara management committee. They inaugurated the workshop and talked about the importance of dais work. This was a good opportunity for them as they could indirectly campaign for the coming elections which was due in few months.]

Lal Mistri: These days, people are attracted towards allopathic medicines because of which dais knowledge and skill is being neglected. We are also having problems with allopathic medicines and it is affecting our health. We are moving away from traditional methods. In earlier days people did not go to hospitals and birth was managed by dais as they know their job.

Karnail Singh: This camp for dais is praiseworthy. It will give new direction to dais. Almost 90% of people go to hospitals for birth therefore experienced dais are left with no work.

Lal Mistri: It is important to know about dais' knowledge and skills and also learn about their problems.

Jaswant Singh Taan: This is the first time that a camp for dais has been organised. We pray to Mata Gujari for its success. dais are very sincere and do not discriminate between rich or poor. In spite of their poor economic status they do their work without any greed. Poor people cannot afford hospital fee, which is very high. Many women die during delivery because at times they do not find an experienced Dai or they cannot afford to go to a hospital. Therefore this camp will be very useful.

Karnail Singh: dais go and help in delivery even at midnight. dais face lot of problems and we would like to help them.

Jaswant Singh Taan: For girl child Rs. 4,500/- will be fixed deposited for 19 years This will amount to Rs. 80,000/-in 19 years and Rs. 500/- will be given to the mother for food.

Satwant Kaur: Nursing Homes tell us that if we can get cases for them then they would give us Rs. 2,000/-as commission and they charge between 8 to 10 thousand rupees.

Lal Mistri: A Dai knows the problems of a pregnant woman and she is referred as Bibi (term used to address respected older women).

Jaswant Singh Taan: I am against abortions and ultrasound and we should stop its misuse.

Role Play By Matrika and VHAP members

Scene 1


Woman is in labour and her mother calls a Dai . Dai through love, affection and care delivers the baby.

Matrika is holding a workshop therefore they invite the Dai to share her knowledge with other dais and also with Matrika.

Scene 2

A Matrika Workshop

Discussion on traditional birth practices. Matrika members documenting, recording and taking photographs

Scene 3

Matrika advocating dais work

Sharing local knowledge with dais of other regions- Bihar, Delhi and Rajasthan.
Sharing it with other people and policymakers
[dais react with enthusiasm. They say that they do deliveries like this. Role play helped in opening them and they could enter in a discussion freely. They saw that we knew about their work and by enacting it we were appreciating it also. They recognised that this was very different from the usual training programme.]

Janet: dais help in giving shakti/takat, (energy) to women. What kind of food is given during labour?

Charan Kaur: Ghee, dry fruits and milk is given. Sevian (vermicelli with milk) and maalishis done.

Rachan Kaur: Kamar ghut-de haan (massage her lower back). We give love and care to her. We put Ghee in warm milk and give her to drink.

Janet: What happens with hot milk or with hot food?

dais: It produces garmaish (heat) and it hastens delivery. The bacche dani da muh(mouth of the uterus) opens. In the past, a pregnant woman used to do a lot of work. She used to grind flour. She ate good food, drank milk and Ghee. Therefore they had less problems. Today women go to doctors who ask them to do no work so they rest all the time. Therefore they have babies by operation.

Janet: We will do role play and discuss in groups about what a woman needs during labour.
[Workshop participants divided into three groups for discussion]

Role Play of a Woman’s needs during Labour and how they can be met

Role Play of birth by dais - a pregnant woman is getting pains and she tells her mother that she cannot bear it anymore. Mother gives her milk but she vomits it out. Then she calls a Dai . She makes the woman squat, massages her back and then birth takes place.

Group I on Birth Rituals

Renuka: Is there any Reeti-Rewaz related to birth?

Dai : Some people say that make the woman touch jaggery, grain or money and then give it away. Some people keep grain and garlic near the bed. Different people have different beliefs. Some also put leaves of neem or mango. Sometimes we ask the woman to open the tala (locks) or cupboards that she may have locked during her pregnancy.

Satwant Kaur: We should not give injections at this time as the bacche dani (uterus) may come out. One should massage her back. If the pains are unbearable than the woman should be made to lie down and then she can push and the baby will be delivered.

Once the anwal is out, we cut the naal or narwa (umbilical cord) and clean baby's mouth. If the anwal is not coming out then we make the woman cough. After the anwal is delivered we press woman's stomach so that the dirty blood comes out. Then we clean the bloodsTai ns by giving her a warm water sponge. We ask her to lie out in the sun or light a fire in the room as this helps to keep her warm.

dais: If the cervix is not opening than we give boiled ajwain water. This makes her pains become stronger and hastens delivery.

dais: We believe in Sacchey Badshah (term used for addressing God). Some go and pay obeisance and offer jaggery and money in the Gurdwara . We also have faith in Khwaja Ali (Muslim pir). We pray to all Bhagwans so that they save us from all problems. We feel responsible for the mother and the baby. everything is done by nature but we feel that it is our duty that everything is done properly so we pray for it.

Kako: In one case, the woman went to a hospital for her check-up and was told that she would have twins. I was called for delivery. I was told that she has twins, I took out the first two babies but I saw that her stomach still looked very big as if something was standing inside, there was a third baby. It came out in a bag, so I broke the bag but unfortunately the baby was dead. I had lot of problems but people of my village praised my work as I could at least save the two babies who were boys and the mother. But when I told the nurses in the hospital they would not believe me and rebuked me saying that we always come up with stories

Dai : My mother-in-law was a Dai and she handled the birth of my own twins. After I had the first baby, a girl, I was cold and got no contractions, the bacche dani (uterus) had come so low that its mouth could not open. Then my Saas called for her Nanad from the other village. She came and just lifted my lower back and the baby was immediately delivered.

Darshan Kaur: I handled a puttha, chutharya par (breech , buttocks comes first) delivery and this was the first time that I was handling this type of a case. The nurse had told me that in breech deliveries, the buttocks comes out first followed by legs and that I should hold the baby's legs and press them towards the mother's stomach very gently because the baby's head may get stuck. I did this and the head came out immediately.

Kako: My sister taught me to handle the situation in which the baby’s head gets stuck. You can put two fingers in the woman's latrin naal jane (passage for stool, rectum) and gently push the head of the baby upwards, the head comes out. Some dais just put their thumb. You can clean your hands properly before putting in or just cover your fingers with cloth.

Darshan Kaur: I ask my patient if she is feeling any pressure in her rectum. If she says yes, then I give pressure by putting my 2 fingers in her rectum and then head is visible. You can also see that her rectum looks swollen, this also means the baby is getting stuck.

Kako: When a woman starts getting contraction, we ghutana/dabana (massage) her back. We give her hot tea or milk to sip. When her contractions gets very strong than we make her squat on the bricks. This position helps put pressure downwards. By massaging we support her. We also try to soothe her family members.

Satya: We look up to Bhagwan for help. In about 2-3 hours the baby starts coming out. We give her moral support and also tell her to be brave and that all will be well.

Renuka: Mazhabi >Sikhs have been doing Dai work since ages - it is their traditional occupation so did your mother also do Dai work?

Satya: No, I learnt it from my Tai . In the beginning I was only allowed to massage and they used to give me food and clothes in return. Then gradually I learnt more then in Patiala I got a chance to know some nurses and I did 3 months training in midwifery.

Renuka: Do your children like your work?

Dai : Yes, they say why should we interfere in your work.

Dai : Yes, they say it is all right. In fact at night my son accompanies me.

Dai : When we get 200/- rupees they are happy so naturally if they are happy then it means that they like our work.

Dai : My daughter-in-law and my son and every one in the family feel very nice that people call me from other villages to handle deliveries

Satwant Kaur: People feel bad when they get daughters and with these machines, which detect the sex, many pregnancies are getting terminated. I can tell you in another 20 years Zamindars will have to buy girls from Bihar. The way things are going they will have to get girls outside.

Group II

Dai : When we see that the bacche dani da muhhas opened but the baby is not coming out then to hasten the process we give mannakka and saugi (currants and raisins) to chew or boil it in milk and give her to drink. This makes the body warm as it generates garmaish (heat) and hastens the delivery or we put Ghee and chhuara (dried dates) in the milk, this too produces heat and helps in delivery.

Dai : Sometimes if bacche dani da muhdoes not open then we take her to the doctor/hospital.
Janet: But earlier when there were no hospitals nearby or you could not take the woman there then what did the Dai do?

Dai : Sometimes those women suffered from pains for 2-3 days. They kept doing their work- grinding and kneading the flour and cleaning and cooking food.

Dai : They had few problems as they had healthier diet and their bodies were stronger

Dai : These days women do not do much physical work so their bodies are not well geared for deliveries therefore they face more problems.

Dai : Even daily routine work like sitting and sweeping the floor or sitting on their haunches to wash utensils were useful exercises and it helped the body during delivery.

Janet: You mean sitting on the feet is in itself an exercise?

Dai : Yes, if you do not use your body it stops responding to its needs and becomes stiff. These days when young women go to doctors for checks they are told not to exert or do strenuous work and are asked to take lot of rest. If a woman does her daily chores during pregnancy her body stays active and flexible.

Janet: Do you sometimes have to give incision also?

Dai : Yes, sometimes we have to, then we use new blades and keep a good quality thread to tie the naal .

Janet: But may be most of the time you do not have to cut?

Dai : In fact in such situations we send them to hospitals as we do not want to take any chances as we have limited means.

Janet: You help by using your hands only?

Dai : When we see that the head is nearly out but some help is needed then we try and make place with our fingers.

Veena: You were mentioning that women who are active find deliveries easier?

Dai : Yes, because their bodies stay active turdi firdi (moves around) but sometimes the woman is weak and undernourished and they actually cannot keep up with their work. We tell them to eat fresh vegetables, curd, milk, lentils and desi Ghee.

Dai : I took a woman to the hospital. Nurses were very angry. So I asked them why they were angry because when they come for survey in our village then we (dais) help them to meet people but when we come here they treat us so badly. Besides they do not even pay us for doing their work and I said that they have to handle this case.

Veena: Why did you take her to the hospital?

Dai : She needed Chhota operation (episiotomy), as the bacche dani da muhwas not opening.
Janet: Why did the hospital say no?

Dai : They said that this woman does not have a card and has not come for check-up earlier so they did not want her now. I told them she is a labourer and that they keep moving from one place to another and now that she needs help then they have to help her. Besides if they register us as members of Stri Sehat Sabha (Women’s Health Committee), then we have the right to bring cases.

Janet: Where is this hospital?

Dai : In Mohali phase VI.

Janet: Does somebody else want to share an experience?

Dai : When the pain is mild it is difficult to say how long the delivery will take. So within that time we sterilise the scissors, gauze, cotton and whatever that we have to use.

Dai : In 8th month, at times one gets kachhe dard (false pain). This may happen if the couple has an intercourse. This should be avoided as in this month the baby is changing its position. Therefore there was this tradition when woman used to go and stay with her mother after 5th month. This was a way of avoiding physical relationship.

Dai : We also have to be sure that the pains are not kaccha but genuine, as kachhe dard can lead to unnecessary panic in the family and can upset the pregnant woman.

Veena; There is a customs in Rajasthan that the woman cuts aata (flour) with a coin to hasten delivery.

Dai : These customs differ from place to place. Some make the woman touch money or grains and keep it away. If all goes well and mother and baby do well then this is given away as offering.

Dai : We ask her to open the tala(locks), we open her hair and bangles. This is like saying that she has not locked anything, so Sachhey Badshah (term used for addressing God) open her tala also.

Dai : The bhatre (migrant group who live by begging) have a custom - where all the family members gather before the woman who is to give birth and the husband breaks the coconut and circulates it around his wife and then throws it.

Janet: This is important, touching of aata or money or coconut and throwing it away. All this is because something good is going to happen. And that is the birth of the baby. The baby and mother are to be protected therefore all this is to ward off evil spirits.

Group III

Dai : During labour woman is given heat- producing foods like dates boiled in milk, her body is kept warm by massaging her legs and back. She needs lot of support and sometimes we dais go on working without even drinking water, as we do not have time for it. We are constantly at the side of the woman till the baby is born.

Dai : We prevent the woman from screaming as this leads to loss of inner energy. Child -bearing is a very difficult process but men do not attach much importance to it. When a boy is born father is given all the credit for it but the woman is neglected.

Dai : Before attending the delivery we first pay obeisance in the threshold of the house. If the pains are not strong or the birth is taking lot of time then we take some chana (grams) and ask the woman to touch it. This is then given away. This is to ward off evil spirits.

After the delivery hing (asafoetida) is put in cloth and tied to the cot. Match sticks, water and a sickle is kept under the bed. All this is done to protect mother and child from any fearful thoughts or feelings. They do not leave the new mother alone for the next 5 days. She is given regular massage and special massage is done on the stomach. Kajal (kohl) is put in the baby's eyes and silver band is tied around the waist for boys.

After delivery we watch the colour of the blood that comes out if it is dark red then we know all is well. Once the woman starts feeding the baby the uterus shrinks to its normal size on its own. Sometimes we have to give special massage, we have to apply pressure on the stomach to place the uterus back in position.

After 13 days the woman can enter and cook in the kitchen. The family celebrates on the 13th day when all the relatives are invited and food and sweet is served for everyone.

DAY 2 25.1.98
Morning Session

General Session

dais: This workshop is like doing Bhagwan's work so we will come for the next workshop also. We thank VHAP for organising this workshop.

Charan Kaur: We should have a fixed regular income as we do not have regular income. To support ourselves we keep dangar (animals) and for them also we have to get dana-chawa l (fodder).
People who call us home are also very poor. We cannot ask them to give us more money. Sometimes they give us Rs.100-150 or give us clothes.

There is a hospital near my house. Sometimes they call me. I assist the doctor but I do not handle the case independently. If there is a complication during birth than I call a doctor. Doctors take lot of money--Rs 700-800/. They have fixed fees, they are not concerned whether the family can afford it or not. These private doctors,cham le lende hain (pull out your skin).

Janet: The Dai values her work and serves everybody and it is very valuable to the society.
Pyar Kaur: To have a child is important even for a millionaire. This work is precious because that part of the body, which is covered all the time is unveiled to bring in life to this world.

Dai : I am proud of this work. The Dai is the medium through which new life comes in this world. People celebrate and rejoice and I am part of this happiness. There are various ways to earn a living and God provides for everyone but he chose a Dai as his mediator to bring forth life. Karda te Rab hein par hath mere han (doer is God (Rab), but hands are mine).

Darshan Kaur: A woman talks to us about things that she does not share with her mother or Saas.

Janet: Does this also mean improving communication with the family?

Dai : We give her emotional and physical support. Man te tan (heart and body) sanjha kar liya- we help bring about an integration between her body and her heart. She listens to me and even her family listens to me. The birth of a child is also Dai ’s means of getting to know the family members. Like a farmer by growing the crops feeds so many people, a Dai helps in the birth of the baby who is a source of joy to so many.

Janet: Nature brings forth fruits and vegetables for human beings similarly women bring forth life.
Dai : From a dark room (womb) it comes out in light. Women perform such a big role. When the child opens its eyes it sees the mother first and then sees others.

Surjeet Kaur: When the child comes into this world its fists are closed but as the child grows it opens its fists.

Darshan Kaur: After hanging upside down for nine months, the baby wants to come out and promises to be good and prays to Sat Guru (term used to address God) to let it out. But once it is out it forgets everything and says ‘I am everything-Sat Guru nu bhula denda hein’ (forgets God) and says ‘You are nobody’ and only ‘I’ becomes important.

Janet: This is also individuality as before this the baby was with the mother and after birth the baby has a separate identity.

Dai : The baby was not separate from Sat Guru (term used to address God).

Janet: What do you do if the child does not cry after birth?

Darshan Kaur: After birth we hold the baby up side down and slap its back so that the baby vomits out all the dirty water.

Kako: It is not necessary to do this. If the baby is doing fine than we clean the baby's mouth with cotton or cloth and put him next to the mother. By this mother and child feel secure and warm. Au (placenta) has life so if the baby is weak than we milk the naal towards the baby and then cut it. This gives strength and life to the baby as the blood flows into the baby. After this we bury the anwal.

Phulwant Kaur: We should hold all babies upside down.

Surjeet Kaur: We put a thin chunni (scarf) on our mouth and give mouth to mouth resuscitation. If this does not work then we put the anwal (placenta) on hot tava (pan) and if there is life in the child then it cries.

Phulwant Kaur: First the eyes should be cleaned with cotton and then we hold all babies upside down and slap the back so that the baby spits out the dirty water.

Dai : One child did not cry after birth so I first put the anwal on tava and then put it in boiling water but it still did not respond, the child was born dead.

Janet: This knowledge is only with dais. Doctors do not use placenta for resuscitation. All over India dais have this knowledge. Doctors have other means but this way of using the placenta is essential in places where there are no doctors.

Gurmail Kaur: Last night I conducted a delivery. This woman had her first two children by forceps but the third baby that I handled was born in a normal way. It was a boy child.

Birth Atlas

Janet explained it in English, Tulika translated in Punjabi
Janet: These are diagrams of the uterus showing how it expands and then shrinks. At first the uterus is small, gradually as the baby grows the uterus also grows.

It is a diagram of a woman lying on her back. She has three openings--vagina, urethra and rectum. Bones protect the baby in the womb.

A diagram of conception.

A diagram of two and half month foetus.

A diagram of three and half month foetus.

A diagram showing, babies receive nourishment through umbilical naal like the plant receives nourishment through its roots.

Surjit Kaur: naal (umbilical cord) is of two colours red is for food and blue one is for excreta.
A diagram of seven month foetus.

dais: This is a perfect position, head is down and buttock is up.

A diagram of nine month foetus.

Dai : Bag of water is called pani di thaili or suthak and mouth of uterus is called bacche dani da muh.

The diagram shows that there is contraction and the mouth opens and the baby moves down.

Dai : This is right, the pressure of bag of water helps make the mouth open.

Janet: The head is moving through the mouth of uterus and this is the most painful time.

Mahinder Kaur: On pakka dard the mouth of the uterus opens. It does not open in kachha dard. This is how we decide that the delivery is near. At this stage we can only comfort her by saying that now it will not take much time though it may take half an hour or more. The uterus is pushed back and the baby is coming out.

Dai : She should push now.

Satwant Kaur: There is no need to push, the baby comes out on its own.

Mahinder Kaur: I ask her to hold the sides of the charpai (cot) and ask her to push downwards.

Renuka: An 80 year old traditional Rajasthani Dai named Dhapo told us that she does not cut the naal , she asks the woman to cut it herself. She says that naal has life therefore cutting it is a sin. A woman can do it since she gives life to that child

Satwant Kaur: It is my job to cut the naal . But I do not cut naal of children who are related to me because they are my own blood. I assist in the delivery but ask somebody else to cut the naal .

Kako: The naal is like my root so how can I cut my own root?

Mahinder Kaur: Migrants from Bihar and U.P do not let us use blades. They sharpen cana (kind of grass) and give it. They also put liquor in the bath water of the woman.

Dai : Maybe this is used as an antiseptic.

Janet: At this stage doctor gets very anxious as they cannot monitor the heart- beat and are therefore in a hurry to take the baby out. They do episiotomy.

Dai : Chhota (small) operation.

Janet: Baby also comes down by gravity

Kako: We support and let the child come out on its own. When we see the head coming then we make her sit and once the head is out we make her lie down.

Janet: If the umbilical naal is around the neck then what do you do?

Kako: During birth we put our fingers and loosen the naal as the head is emerging.

Dai : We massage the head of the baby and set the bones. At this time the bones are soft and flexible.

Janet: The head is elongated because of the hormones. It makes the bones of the woman and baby flexible.

Dai : This is because the head is exposed to hawa [air, but in Ayurveda, kinds of movement in the body].

Dai : If the birth takes a long time then the head becomes long as it is exposed to hawa .
Satwant Kaur: If mother's bones are tight, head becomes long.

Janet: In the beginning the Tai lbone is curved but later it straightens because of the hormones and similar hormones shape the head out.

Janet: Sometimes the babies come out facing sideways and sometimes facing down, do you have a term for it?

Dai : If it is facing upwards than it is a girl and if it faces down it is a boy. There is no term for them we just hold the baby.

Janet: Once the baby is out doctors cut the cord.

Dai : We cut it after the anwal (placenta) is out. If the anwal is reTai ned then we massage her stomach and also make her cough. Usually the anwal comes out.

Darshan Kaur: We wait for an hour for anwal to be out, otherwise we cut the naal . ReTai ned placenta can spread poison in the body. Agar anwal charh jaye te zehar charh janda hai (if the placenta goes up than it spreads poison- spreading infection throughout mother's body).

Janet: Did they teach you something different in the training?

Dai : No, they taught us the same thing and asked us to wait for one or one and half hours. Usually it comes out within half an hour.

Phulwant Kaur: I was called once by a family because the baby was delivered but anwal was reTai ned. But I saw that the baccha dani had come out, so I slowly put it back and at that moment the anwal came out.

Dai : The position of baccha dani was not proper therefore the anwal was stuck and came out the moment it was placed properly.

Dai : Maybe she pushed it hard when the head was visible and therefore baccha dani came out.
Janet: A diagram showing shrinking of the uterus.

Janet: What makes the uterus shrink?

Satwant Kaur: It expands when there is a baby and similarly it shrinks when it comes out. It is a natural process. We also massage the stomach.

Kako: Blood and water is pressurising the baccha dani to expand, massaging helps the uterus to shrink.

Janet: Breast- feeding make hormones which help to shrink the uterus.

Dai : Some women get milk and some do not get milk.

Kako: If she has stitches then she starts feeding after a week but otherwise she starts feeding by second or third day. However one only has milk by third day.

Mahinder Kaur: In training I was told that a woman can start feeding after two hours.
Some dais: They do this because the child feels secure but milk only comes by second day.

Afternoon Session

Participants broke up into small groups—with the first working on songs sung at the time of birth; the second on birth rituals; the third on food.


Darshan Kaur: We sing this song [the song above] on the 13th day. After the baby is born we observe tehrawa (13th day) the day when the mother and the child are introduced to the people. We also call this Chauke (kitchen) Charhna (enter), the woman dresses up like a bride and comes out with her baby and matha tekti hai (bows her head and offers prayers). Various kinds of food and sweet rice are served for the guests. This is done on the 11th or 13th day and in some places on the 21st day. After birth, she is confined to her room till Chauka (she can enter the kitchen after this) is celebrated. During these days she is never left alone. A rakhi (guard) always accompanies her. This is to protect her from evil spirits. In the absence of a grown up boy to guard her, a small boy of 2-3 years is asked to stay with her. On Chauka day she bathes and steps out of the room, taking the support of her husband or her son's or nephew's shoulder. This day she wears the shoes of a male member of the family. The mother and baby come out to receive every ones’ blessings. It is essential to serve sweet rice. Guests bring grain, flour, lentils, rice and clothes. The Dai is given clothes, food and grain. After this the Dai only comes if she is called.

If it is a male child, then the celebration is on bigger scale or if the girl is born after a long wait then also the merry making is done on a large scale. Similarly Lohri (13th Jan) is celebrated in a big way by the family with a new born baby.

In Sikh families they do Paanch vani da paath (five prayers recitation) put patisa (sweets) and stir Amrit (holy water) in lohe ka bata (bowl made of iron) with the Khanda (a sacred symbol of Sikhs, a double edged sword).This Amrit is first given to mother and baby and then given to all who are present.

Hindu families fetch Ganga Jal (holy water of river Ganga) from the panditji and this is sprinkled all over the house to ward off evil spirits. Both Hindus and Sikhs believe a lot in cleansing with water, it keeps evil spirits away.

Dai : After 40 days the mother is allowed to go near the tap or well or any water source. She dresses up like a bride, wears new clothes, and new bangles. She goes and matha teko (bows her head) to the well then she goes to Khwaja pir. After this she can use the well.

Renuka : Here we see that water is considered as important as the pir. Why do you think this it is so?

Dai : We all believe that water has shakti (power) and it is life giving.

Kishwar: So water plays an important role, the baby is in the water bag, there is cleansing with water and also avoidance of the well for 40 days--water is life giving.

Dai : Yes, even in our Vani (scriptures) Guru Nanak says "Pehla pani jiyo hai, jith harya sab koy" (water is the first living substance which makes things green and alive)

Kishwar: You notice that the well is like a uterus and the bowl in which you make Amrit is also like a uterus and the Amrit or Ganga jal is water, so water plays an important role in this life giving process.

Dai : The body of the woman is like Dharti Ma (mother earth), which has water in it. Earth takes the seed, gives it form and shape and brings it forth into this world. Similarly woman also gives babies. However, till chauka is celebrated Dai comes every day to the house to wash woman's dirty clothes, change her clothes and to do maalish.

Group II

Rituals And Customs (Reeti-Rewaz )

Tulika: We will talk about the different Reeti-Rewaz .

Janet: We were talking about placenta, it is life giving to the baby. So tell us what do you do with the placenta?

dais: Once the baby comes out and the anwal is taking time to come we wrap the baby in a clean cloth so that hawa na lage (the baby is not exposed to the wind) and then wait for the anwal to be delivered, then we cut the naal . We bury the anwal.

Janet: Is there a special place to bury it or do you bury it anywhere?

Dai : We bury it anywhere near by where there is kachi zamin (non cemented land). Sometimes in the courtyard or where we keep the cattle. We do not just throw it away.

Janet: Why do you not throw it?

Dai : It can be zaharila (poisonous) and harmful if animals eat it.

Janet: We have heard that sometimes a woman who cannot have babies is made to eat this to be able to have children. Is it true?

Dai : Not the placenta but yes, the umbilical naal , we grind a part of the naal of the new born baby mix it in water/milk and give it to the woman.

Dai : Once a woman asked me to give it but I told her that I do not want to do this sin. It is also believed that the jail inmates eat this. It helps them to be out of the jail early.

Janet: In a way it is believed to be releasing-- for the baby to be released from the womb or for the prisoners to get freed!

Dai : Aul is zaharila (poisonous), if it does not come out then upar charh janda hai (goes up) and the woman can die. In one instance, the anwal broke and the baby swallowed it and died. It is poisonous and therefore we bury it (perhaps she is referring to placenta-previa or premature separation of placenta from the uterus wall).

Janet: Tell us something about who buries the placenta?

Dai : Aul is buried by a Dai . Sometimes we also bury rice, sweets, turmeric and money with along with it, and pray that Dhartimaa tu saada e sab gand sambhal lay (Mother Earth, you take care of this dirty stuff). On the 13th day the mother is allowed to use the kitchen. This is called Chauka Charhana. Everybody sings and rejoices. There is a celebration. Some celebrate this on the seventh or the eleventh day. On this day the mother bathes and dresses, halwa (sweet) and different types of food is prepared, friends and relatives are invited.
After 40 days the mother and baby go to the well. They take sweetened rice and cow dung cakes and light an oil lamp. Then they go to pay respect (maatha-tekna) to the Khwaja pir. Dai also goes with them. But she accompanies the family only if a son is born. The whole family sings while going to the Khwaja pir. They carry an earthen lamp, cow-dung cakes and rice. Sometimes we make this cow-dung cake in the shape of a baby and tie a piece of cloth around it. They give some money, Rs.11 or Rs.21 to the Dai .

Dai : We also pray to Bemata, It also means Bahu (daughter-in-law). We thank Bemata for blessing us with a baby.

Janet: You are relating Bahu who has married your son and who bears a child, to Bemata who gives the baby. So you give thanks to both of them.

Dai : Bemata comes in our dreams and tells us the day when the child will be born. Sometimes she can foretell whether it will be a boy or a girl. She is supreme.

Janet: Does Bemata also write your destiny?

Dai : Yes, she writes our destiny, takes account of our good and bad deeds. She gives form to the baby, makes its hands and feet and organs. So we pay respect to her and pray for the well-being of everyone.

Dai : She is our mother. We also pray to Dharti Ma (Mother Earth). She is supreme, sabse badi mata. She gives us everything. We are born of mitti (earth), and return to earth. So our life begins and ends with earth.

Janet: So, from somewhere that we do not know about, she brings us into this material world.

Dai : Yes, from nothing she brings forth life, all sorts of life, good and bad people, and finally takes it back into her.

Janet: So similarly like earth, woman also brings life, she gives birth to a girl or boy. Man and woman are both born of her.

Dai : The man does not undergo the pain of birth.

Janet: Yes, she bears the joy and pain also, of bringing life into this world--the happiness of having a baby.

Dai : Even if the man does not take part in the birth process, without him there cannot be the bringing of new life.

Janet: Does Bemata have a male partner?

Dai : First of all Bemata created a man out of loha (iron) but she felt that this man can neither die nor can it take birth and therefore could not enter the life-cycle. Then she made a form out of raakh (ashes) and this is how the cycle of birth and death takes place.

Dai : Earlier the earth was inhabited by rakshasas (demons) who kept on destroying humans. Then human gods like Vishnu, Mahesh came. They tried to finish the demons, but were not successful. Then came the Devis- Kali Ma, Saraswati who eliminated the rakshasas .

Group III

Food Practices

Priya: What kind of diet do you suggest for a pregnant woman?

Dai : Lots of green vegetables, milk, fruits, lentils, Ghee (clarified butter) and oranges.

Priya: Are these foods considered as hot or cold and does it have a similar effect on the body?

Dai : We avoid foods that is garam (heat producing). We suggest healthy nutritious food during pregnancy. Only at the time of delivery we give heat producing food. In the early months she usually has nausea then we suggest oranges and juices.

Dai : We also suggest milk, curd and Ghee so that the woman and her baby get strong and healthy.
Priya: Do you also increase the intake of food that is quantity of food?

Dai : No, she eats as much as she can digest easily. We tell her to improve the quality of food that she eats.

Priya: If she has problems digesting her food?

Dai : We ask her to take fresh lemon juice, curd or tea made with ginger - all this help in digesting.

Priya: Suppose she keeps throwing up and cannot reTai n any food then what do you suggest?

Dai : Then we take her to the hospital. There they give her some medicine or injections. Actually this sickness is usually for the first few months. By the fifth month, no such feeling is there then the baby also starts drawing on the food so the mother’s intake also becomes better.

Priya: Do you also suggest some special household work that can be of use during delivery?

Dai : Yes, we tell them to do all the usual household work, the more active she is the better is her delivery. We ask her to squat and do her work, this posture is especially very helpful.

Dai : Sometimes women are weak and complain of pain then we do tell them to rest but by the seventh month we suggest that they should start working so that their bodies are active and agile. We also tell them to improve their diet, eat Ghee and start sweeping the floor or mopping on squatting position. Then by the ninth month we suggest that she should take hot food like hot milk with Ghee.

Dai : If she does not work then we say vele baithe nu jayada bimari (one will get ill if one sits idle). Besides if she rests then the baby will become heavier. Then the birth becomes more difficult and painful. Her body stays active if she keeps busy in her routine work.

Veena: Till seventh month you give her cool food but in the ninth month you ask her to have heat producing food. What is the reason?

Dai : Hot foods helps in the opening of the bacha dani and thus makes the delivery easier.

Dai : Cold food helps in keeping the bacha dani firm and helps to hold the baby. Sometimes hot food can soften the uterus and this may lead to miscarriage in the third or fourth month. So to keep her pregnancy smooth she should take vegetables, juices, lentils and in the last month she should have hot food.

Priya: What all would you call hot food?

Dai : Milk with dhakha (currants) milk with Ghee, milk with tea leaves in it, murraba (fruits and vegetables preserved in syrup). She should not take too much Ghee but as much as her system allows as it may lead to nausea, indigestion or make her feel sick.

Priya: Do these food help in increasing the blood count?

Dai : Yes, if she eats well then there is more blood formation.

Dai : Sometimes women are very poor and cannot afford to improve their diet so there is less nutrition and this affects the water bag, which in turn affects the baby. This makes the delivery very difficult and painful. Sometimes we ask her to get injections to improve her health.

Priya: Do you massage before delivery?

Dai : Yes, we do gentle massage. Sometimes through massage we can tell if the water bag is large enough or if it has enough fluid in it.

Dai : If they eat meat and eggs then it is good. We ask her to take Sevian (vermicelli sweet with or without milk, and with dry fruits) this makes delivery easy. We depend a lot on these natural foods and not on injections.

Veena: If a woman looks pale and weak what special food you suggest?

Dai : We give munnaka, dakha, kishmish (dry fruits). This helps in increasing the blood count. These can be boiled in milk and given.

Veena: Now that she is in labour then do you give any special food?

Dai : It is the same milk with dry fruits, we prepare it and keep. We also boil dates and jaggery and keep it and keep putting this in her mouth. This hastens the process as it intensifies the pains and also helps to open the mouth of the uterus.

Dai : After cleaning the mother and the baby we gently press the mother's body (ghutana) give her a glass of hot milk, chawani (a mixture of gur and ajwain) this is very soothing for the body which has gone through the whole process of birth.

Dai : First two days only chawani is given, twice a day with milk and dry fruits. On the third day we give some halwa (a paste made out of flour, sugar and Ghee). Some give khichri (a thin mixture of rice and lentils and little Ghee). Mostly by fifth or sixth day she can have normal food. She can have black gram’s tari (soup) with her roti, this is supposed to be very nourishing

Dai : On 13th day there is Chauka Charhna celebration, the day when she is allowed in the kitchen. They make panjiri , a powdery stuff made out of flour, sugar and Ghee. First flour is lightly roasted in Ghee. Then it is taken off the fire and 32 ingredients are added into it: raisins, magaz (seeds of watermelon) almonds, cashew, gondh, ajwain, supari, kamarkas, haraj, makhane, kali mirch (pepper) coconut and other things. This, the woman takes for 30 days. It is important to build extra strength for both mother and the baby who is having breast milk. It is hot food and it helps in cleaning out the dirty blood.

Veena: Do you give her water after delivery?

Dai : We tell her to take less water otherwise her stomach bloats and for 40 days she should be given lukewarm water.

Veena: Any special instructions for bathing?

Dai : Yes, we always give her a nice massage before her bath and this is done for at least 40 days. Some families do not allow her to rest for 40 days then she starts her work after 13 days. If there is no woman to take care of the family then she is back to work on the second day. This is not good.

Dai : I have seen some women eating mud after their delivery

Veena: Why do they eat mud?

Dai : This urge may be because of lack of blood. Then we ask her to have curd and fruits.

Dai : These days we hear of babies having piliya (yellowish, jaundice) after birth. This reflects on the weak constitution of the mother. If she takes proper food then baby will be healthy and will not catch any infections.

Dai : We tell them not to eat mud as this can harm her blood circulation, bones and her health. Instead they can have roasted black gram or lentils, popcorns or groundnuts. But sometimes the urge to have mud is so strong that they hide and eat it.

Evening Session
Interview of 2 dais: Harbans Kaur & Swaran Kaur

Two dais stayed overnight with us in the Gurdwara . Both were widows and were living with their sons. The sons allowed them to stay out for the night as their wives were there to take care of the household. Moreover, they said that since their husbands were no longer alive they did not need anybody's permission. For them it was a great opportunity to be at Fatehgarh Gurdwara and have food served at the langar (community kitchen). Both dais were MazhabiSikhs.

They were both friends but hardly got any opportunity to meet each other. This was also a chance for them to be together. They were laug hing and talking to each other and were very friendly with us. We interviewed them together.

Harbans Kaur [In this interview, perhaps unconsciously counter balancing the workshop focus on birth, we talk about death.]

Harbans Kaur: I have five sons. They work on daily wages. They look after other people's animals, clean them and feed them. In return for our service, we get food, clothes, grains but no money. We are low caste people (Chamars), and are referred to as Balmikis. We work for fixed homes (jajmans). Our grandfathers also worked in these houses. At times we are called by Nai (barbers) or Brahmins (priestly caste), to do domestic work. The high caste Zamindars (landowners) do not allow us to enter their homes and kitchens. We cannot eat from their utensils.

Janet: Do they give money or special gifts on festivals?

Harbans Kaur: No money is given. They give us clothes, grains and food. On Lohri (festival) they give us clothes and fruits.

Janet: In case of financial need does zamindar give money?

Harbans Kaur: He gives money on 10% interest. Even if somebody is on their death bed he will not lend without interest.

There is a festival called Chakkarian, when we go to the houses that we work for and wish and bless them and in return they give us food and clothes.

Janet: Where did you learn Dai work?

Harbans Kaur: From my Bua, who did Daiwork. I used to go with her. I learnt Dai work in my Sasural and I was about 35. Then I got a chance to do a course in my village, Gauran. My first child was born in 1947 during the Partition. I was 22.

Janet: What was Partition like for you?

Harbans Kaur: There were riots, killing, violence everywhere, we hid where we could. It was in this chaos that I had my first baby. There was panic every where. Hindus were killing Muslims in Roza Sharif (a dargah next to Fatehgarh Saheb) and Muslims were killing Hindus in Lahore.

Janet: How did Hindus kill Muslims in Roza Sharif? Did Hindus and Sikhs kill together?

Harbans Kaur: Yes, actually this was the reaction to the killing of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.

Janet: It must have been very difficult for women of all communities Hindu, Sikh or Muslim. History only talks about the hardships that men faced. Would you tell us the difficulties that women faced?

Harbans Kaur: Nobody was concerned about the other person. Everyone was busy saving themselves. No one cared about their sisters or mothers. Only the mothers were trying to save their children, hiding them in fields or where ever they could. The wells were full of women's dead bodies. They killed themselves because of the fear of rape or assault. Nobody was safe--even the army personnel got injured and killed. It was very frightening

Janet: In 1984 when anti-Sikh riots took place, about 5,000 people were killed. They say the majority of them were Dalits, MazhabiSikh.

Harbans Kaur: I have not heard much about 1984 anti-Sikh riots as there is not much discussion in the village but I know when she (Indira Gandhi) came back from her tour, the enemies were already waiting for her. They shot her, she screamed but could not be saved. These men were from the low caste because they were the ones who got tempted by the money paid to them and once you accept the money, you have to do the job.

Janet: When people die do you believe they become spirits, especially when they have unnatural death?

Harbans Kaur: We do not believe in bhoot-pret (spirits) but people in villages do believe and go about getting village remedies like jhar-phook (getting a shaman to do magical rites).

Janet: It is said that when a pregnant woman dies she becomes an evil spirit

Harbans Kaur: Yes it can trouble people. It can enter inside living people and it can enter in different people at its will. Once I was a victim of a bad spirit and I had to go to a pir (a Muslim religious person who cures these cases) then it got into my sister-in law's body. Then this spirit killed its own four children.

Janet: Did you personally know this woman?

Harbans Kaur: Yes, she was my neighbor.

Janet: Is there any special means by which you can prevent the churail(female evil spirit)?
Harbans Kaur: Yes, we put nails around her place of cremation. The pir also reads out the Kalam (prayers from the Quran) and stops the spirit from becoming evil.

Janet: You also throw mustard seeds while taking her dead body.

Harbans Kaur: Mustard seeds hurt the eyes so we believe that it will make it difficult for her to see anything.

Janet: You say that her hands and feet are ulta (turned in). Have you seen anyone in real life like this?

Harbans Kaur: No, we have only heard of these things never seen anyone in reality. We call the turned legs Putpair (one with reversed legs or legs backward). We have seen things like putting nails around the cremation place to ward off spirits.

Janet: This neighbor who died, did her husband remarry?

Harbans Kaur: No, he did not, because he was scared, especially after the death of his four children.

Janet: When a woman dies due to poison or violence or suicide do they become evil spirits?

Harbans Kaur: Yes, they do.

Janet: When low caste young people die are they cremated or buried facing down, the belief that then they will not come back as evil spirits?

Harbans Kaur: No, we do not do this. It is done amongst Muslims. They first put earthen vessels, then the dead body facing down, salt and then it is covered with mud.

The migrants just let the dead body float in the streams saying that it will be eaten by fishes and turtles but we cremate the dead.

Swaran Kaur

Swaran Kaur: I have 2 daughters, 2 sons and 3 grandsons. One son is not married. Nobody in my family has taken Daiwork neither my daughters nor daughters-in law.

The first child that I helped deliver is a policeman now. He lives in the neighborhood and touches my feet whenever he sees me and calls me Bibi respectfully. We are all from the labour class and do not get any money. We are given only food and clothes and 10 rupees for the birth of a male child. Actually the work of a Dai involves lot of work: cleaning, washing dirty clothes, staying up long hours with the woman and attending to her. The younger generation is not ready to put up with this sort of work. They find it messy and smelly. My daughter-in-law finds it dirty and does not want to take it up.

Janet: Why do you call the blood after childbirth ganda khoon (dirty blood)?

Swaran Kaur: Because it is collected over nine months in the body. It is dark coloured, smelly and clotted. It comes out first and then the fresh clean blood comes out.

Janet: But it brings new life so the blood should not be called dirty.

Swaran Kaur: With the baby comes out water and some blood, then the placenta comes out followed by clotted blood and then the clean red blood comes out.

Renuka: In Bihar the dais called these clots Gangi-Jamuni. They said that once the clots are out the body gets cleansed and the woman feels good.

Swaran Kaur: Yes, this should come out or else it can harm her body.

Janet: So, what do you do to take it out completely?

Swaran Kaur: Usually it comes out on its own with the anwal. With a little massage and pressure, we assist the mother to take it out completely, and when the colour of the blood becomes clear like the monthly cycle we believe that it is clean.

Janet: How many births have you attended?

Swaran Kaur: Must be between fifty and sixty. I go to two villages-Bhangwa and Manjari.
Janet: Do you go to Zamindars ’ houses?

Swaran Kaur: Yes, whoever calls us we go. Sometimes, also to the very poor living by the roadside. We do not take anything from them. This is our way, doing service, we do it free.

Janet: Do you guide young girls if they have questions regarding menses?

Swaran Kaur: No, these days girls do not consult dais. They talk to their sisters or Bhabhi, but not mothers. They usually turn to people of their own age. The sister-in-law drops hints to the mother, like, they say, now our girl has become healthy and grown up and has started washing clothes "kapre dhon lag gai hai". There is no direct communication between mother and daughter on this matter. Then the mother becomes careful and keeps a watch over her daughter. The daughter is not allowed to go out alone, she is always accompanied by her Bhabhi or someone. She does not have the freedom of childhood.

Janet: This is the way of broadening relationships between women, besides the mother there are other support figures like sisters-in law and aunts.

Swaran Kaur: We try to build a closer relationship with our daughters-in-law as daughters will go away but we have to live with our sons and their wives.

Janet: During periods girls were not allowed to enter the kitchen or were supposed to keep their heads covered?

dais: It used to be so but not anymore.

Janet: In Bihar dais told us that the days till the Chhati (or Chauka Charhana, as you say in Punjab) is considered like being in narak and both the woman and the Daiwent through it together so on Chhati they both dressed up like brides. Do you follow this custom?

dais: No, not really. The Dai helps her by cleaning her clothes and by massaging her.

Janet: In hospitals there is no close interaction between the mother and the hospital staff but here the Dai and the mother become very close, they share pain and happiness together. Does a Dai get the same attention from the family also?

dais: She only gets food and clothes but no money is given.

dais: We try not to let people from our villages go to the doctors. We give lot of attention and care so they rely on us and do not panic and go to the doctors.

DAY 3 26.1.98
Morning Session

Group I - Complications

Renuka: Sometimes after birth there is uncontrolled excessive bleeding, and it doesn't stop.

dais: This happens when the uterus does not close. Sometimes when they put too much pressure, then there is a possibility of having excessive bleeding. But these are rare cases. She should be given teeka (injection) for it.

Balwant Kaur: When she has her first baby, the mother's body is stronger, younger and more healthy, so the deliveries are generally not complicated. Bleeding usually happens after the third child because she has less energy and less blood in her body. Sometimes we also call the doctor if we cannot handle it. We do not put mother's life at risk.

Kartar Kaur: in case of slight bleeding we make the foot side of the bed higher, remove the pillows. This also lessens the bleeding. We make her lie down, raise her legs by putting four-five bricks under her feet and remove the pillow from her head.

Dai : During the fag end of the bleeding, we gently massage the stomach, so that if there are any clots left, they also flow out.

Renuka: Do you do something if the labour is taking long because the cervix is not opening?

dais: We warm up Ghee or coconut oil and then with cotton apply it very slowly on the sharir (vagina). This softens it. We do not do this many times as becomes jahar (poisonous—cause infection). It swells if we apply it with unclean hands or if we apply it many times.

If, after labour, the woman faces problems in passing urine or she has swelling then we put Dettol in warm water and wash her sharir (vagina) with cotton. We do this very gently. We also make her squat on the brick and ask her to wash her vagina with warm water. We also do this for her.

Surjeet Kaur: These days there are too many diseases .In olden days, dais used to rub their hands with ashes and then cut the naal but these days we have to wash our hands so many times. In earlier days, when the mother or the baby developed cold or cough, we made karha (concentrated herb tea) and gave it to them to drink. Now we depend so much on injections for all types of infections.

Kako: Everything has changed. These days they use fertilisers in the fields, spray the fields and this has a very bad effect on health, especially on women's health. With this the rats, snakes and all kinds of insects die so it has an affect on grains and this in turn affects our body and the baby also.
Surjeet Kaur: Before, people used cow dung as manure and therefore we used to get pure grains.
Satya: For cough we used to give honey or ajwain for the child. These days, injections are given the moment a woman gets pregnant and is asked to take rest. Sometimes, if the mother is weak, we also suggest bed rest. She stops doing heavy physical work. I used to grind 20 kg of wheat on my own even during pregnancy. But times have changed. People are not so strong now.
Surjeet Kaur: When I was pregnant then I used to knit Charpoy (cot) with ropes, grind flour and lentils up till the time of delivery.

Kako: Even in this old age I can walk for 40 miles but my daughter-in-law cannot walk this much. These days, people consume tea and that has made them too weak. In our time, people used to have black grams and lassi (drink made out of curd and water). People used to carry chanaand gur (black gram and jaggery) to fields and eat.

Dai : Now they get tired of the routine cooking and cleaning; any extra work and they start grumbling.

dais: Some women are weak because they are anaemic and this can also lead to death.

Renuka: Is it because of a different diet?

Kartar Kaur: Sometime it is because of a different lifestyle. Nobody wants to work hard. Also, the diet has changed. We did not eat much, but whatever we had was pure and good. We would be doing our work and having roasted gram or wheat. Women should have green vegetables and soaked grams.

Renuka: How do you make out that she has shortage of blood?

Satya: Her hands look pale, she feels dizzy, her arms ache, her legs feel weak and she has problems in moving around.

Renuka: What do you do for swelling?

Kako: In this situation woman does not feel like working and she feels like lying down all the time.
Sharifan: You have swelling if you have sugar problem.

Satya: A woman gets swelling if she is weak. She vomits during labour. The child takes whatever nourishment it requires but it is the woman who suffers so we suggest that she should consume green vegetables and soaked gram.

Kako: If she has swollen feet, then we massage her feet. This helps in the circulation of blood. We ask her to improve her diet. We tell her to sleep with her feet raised. We also pray to God and ask for help in our work and not to bring disgrace to our work. When we start our work we first take the name of Sachhey Badshah (term used to address God), asking him for protection and only breathe a sigh of relief after the birth.

Kartar Kaur: We do not eat anything till the birth of the baby, we do not even have tea. We feel relaxed only after we see that the mother and child are fine. It is only then that we feel like bathing, changing and eating.

Renuka: Many women get a shock after the birth of a girl child. Can this lead to problems?
Kako: We do not tell the woman about the sex of the child because the shock may cause the anwal (placenta) to get sucked up into the body and this may cause death. We try to remain calm and also keep the woman calm. We wait for the anwal to come out, cut the naal and then tell her. This may happen even in excitement or if the woman is too happy over the birth of a boy child. We do not even tell the members of the family about it. It is only after cutting the naal and after attending to the mother and child that we inform everyone.

Dai : In one situation, a woman had a fourth girl child. And she was very upset. I told her not to worry as otherwise I would take her baby and bring her up. This gave her a lot of support and strength. This role too, is played by the Dai .

Renuka: A Dai has an added responsibility of managing the woman and also her family.
Veena: What do you do if there is a miscarriage?

Kako: If the patient is weak, overworked and starts bleeding then she aborts and we cannot do anything about it.

Dai : Sometimes due to some tension or pressure, there is spotting. Then we give her dry food. She is not given Ghee or milk and she is asked to have light food only. We give her light tea. We also tell her to take bed rest and sleep with her feet raised.

Renuka: Tell us something about the birth positions?

Balwant Kaur: For first baby we ask a woman to squat.

Kako: For third and fourth baby we ask her to lie down during birth though the pain is as much as the first baby if not less.

Kako: To set the uterus a Dai presses the woman's perineum with her heels. The uterus tries to come out because it is looking for the baby that it was carrying so we have to press it. Before this we press her stomach so that all the dirty blood comes out. First the dark coloured blood, ganda khoon , comes out then it becomes clean red. This means all the clots and dirty blood has come out. We take all this and bury it. This makes her feel good otherwise she gets pain in her stomach.

Renuka: Why are you so particular about taking out this ganda khoon and clots? Is it harmful for her?

Kako: Yes, if the clots are reTai ned then it can lead to the death of the woman or she may go insane. A woman complains that there is a gola, some round thing that’s moving around and she feels uneasy. She howls and cries. So we press her stomach and the dirty blood comes out.

Dai : If we feel that all the dirty blood is not out then we gently massage the stomach down ward with warm oil. Then whatever is left comes out.

Renuka: In Bihar they call these clots Gangi Jamuni and say that after it is out women feels good and light.

Veena: How do you massage the stomach after delivery?

Dai : We wait for the placenta to come out and then after 15-20 minutes do circular massage on the stomach. This relaxes and softens the stomach and helps clear the clots.

Gurmail Kaur: If the placenta is reTai ned then one should massage the woman's stomach with ajwain mixed in mustard oil. This warms up the stomach and after 20-30 minutes the placenta comes out.

Kartar Kaur: If the placenta is reTai ned then we roll the naal in our index finger and very slowly twist it and pull it out.

Sharifan: With our other hand we also press her stomach.

Balwant Kaur: After delivery I go home, bathe, change my clothes and then go for the next delivery. If the death of a baby takes place, than we first clean the place, wash and clean the mother and also change and wash ourselves. It is considered a bad omen to work again without bathing and cleaning. This is called suthak. [Although suthak is described here as relating to the death of a child, it actually perTai ns to all births, the pollution or untouchability of mother and Dai . Perhaps its mention here has to do with the possibility of death at the time of birth.]

Dai : People fear that death would follow and it may happen in their house too. Parchhain na lag jaye (shadow of death may fall on them).

Renuka: In case of some complication do you call a doctor for help?

Dai : I have never called a doctor. I give injections myself. To hasten delivery I give injection, if pains become less and are at long intervals.

Dai : We have a doctor in our village and he tells us what injection to give. He is better equipped. He has a fridge and keeps these injections. We get it from him whenever the need arises.
Renuka: Where did you learn to give injections?

Dai : We were taught in our training but we do not know the name of these injections. However, it is a rare situation and most of the deliveries are normal and then we do not have to use Angrezi (literally, English--western) medicine.

Group II - Body Mapping

Janet: We will draw an outline of the woman's body and we will talk about the different parts of the body, what they are called and how we think about them.

dais: For vagina sharir, the passage through where baby comes out is called fudi, and laura for penis. These words are also used as gaali (abuses). When men are angry, then they use these words.

Janet: Why do you think it is so? In every language, be it Hindi, English or Punjabi they are used as abuses.

dais: When they want to show anger at their wives and want to humiliate them then they use these words.

Janet: What about inside the body? What is it like inside? Can some one draw it?

Dai : This is the bacha dani, uterus and these are the 2 nadua, tubes from where sperms travel to the uterus and start the process of reproduction.

Janet: Tell us what can pass through the skin and enter the body? What kinds of things? Is the body porous?

Dai : Lot of infections occur through the chamri (skin) like rashes, skin starts itching, there is redness, fever also.

Pyar Kaur: Sometimes they get measles or Mata. Sometimes they are large boils or are small which looks like grains.

Janet: How do they get this infection Mata, how does it go in the body?

Harbans Kaur: This is God's doing. We do not know. We do Matha Tekna (pay respects to God) and then pray for the protection of the woman and the baby.

Janet: But once Mata has come then what do you do?

Dai : Then we make gulgule and go to the temple of Sheetala Mata and pray for well being.
Janet: Is there a special name for the Mata?

Dai : Yes, we say khasra for measles and Mata is called Bari Mata for large boils and small grainy ones are called Basanti Mata .

Janet: Moon has 28 days cycle and so does our menstruation cycle. Do moon rays enter our body?

Vidya: Those who conceive during the bright moon days have a boy child. If it is the fifth or seventh day of the waxing moon then it is a boy child and those who conceive during the waning moon tend to have daughters.

Janet: It means that the moon has an effect on the sex of the child.

Dai : If conceived during the growing moon period than definitely it is a boy

Janet: Does moon have an effect on our health in any other way?

Dai : No, not that we know of.

The dais spoke for 10 minutes about the moon’s effect on the conception of the boy child. Janet tried to steer the conversation away from this topic because it reflected the obsession with having a boy, but without any success. She then intervened, one of the few times in the entire Matrika process where we came out squarely against the position of the group of dais.

Janet: I feel that you have lot of knowledge about all these things and it is sad that this knowledge is only used in getting a male child. If your traditional knowledge on this subject of the cycles of the moon is used only in this way then we will not discuss it further. Are you not concerned with the welfare of girls and women? I guess not because we women ourselves are obsessed with the boy child. We cannot blame only men because women are equally responsible.

Dai : We should stop the functioning of these machines (ultrasound). People have been using it to detect the sex of the child and abort it if it is a female child. [The dais make the connection between the overwhelming desire for a male child and what they, in their hearts, know to be a wrong practice. They acknowledge this amongst themselves but the documentor did not capture this conversation]

Janet: Do you feel that there is any particular time of the year when more babies are born?

Dai : In Magh, January, the maximum number of babies are born and that too many girl children.

Janet: Do bhoot-pret (spirits) enter the body through the skin like they say the Mata pox or measles comes through the skin?

Harbans Kaur: No, spirits do not effect through the skin but we do believe in boiling some water with dry fruits and give this to drink so that total infection comes out.

Tulika: Like we do jagran, (ecstatic singing by staying awake) all night for Devi Mata and believe that the Devi manifests itself in some woman.

Dai : If someone dies and the Aatma (soul) is restless, not at peace, then it keeps roaming around (bhatakta hai) bothering people and tries to strangle somebody or the other.

Janet: Because the spirit cannot forget the people it lived with and keeps remembering them so maybe it returns in the form of bhooth-pret or churail?

Dai : Yes, sometimes it tries to snatch the baby.

Janet: Do you take extra care of such things during the birth of the baby?

Mohinder Kaur: Yes, to keep evil spirits away we keep garlic, onions and grains of wheat near the bed. When the baby is born we keep dati (sickle), locks and water near the bed.

Janet: Do you light a fire like you keep grains and things?

Dai : If it is winter season we also keep koyle ki angithi (charcoal brazier) to keep the baby and the mother warm and also put ajwain seeds this works like a disinfectant and keeps the insects away.

Janet: Tell us your experiences with other things, which offer protection during birth.

Dai : We keep a black thread with us, and a taaveez (amulet), which we tie around the babies arm to ward off bad spirits.

Dai : Sometimes green or black thread with beads is tied around the babies waist.

Dai : We don’t use beads, we soak black gram and run the thread through it like a mala (necklace) and put it around the baby’s waist.

Dai : Especially green coloured thread is tied around the waist.

Tulika: We have seen that sometimes people put some grains in a pot and keep it near the entrance. Whoever comes to see the baby is supposed to touch the grain and only then enter the house.

Dai : It is to ward off bad spirits and is a kind of protection for the child.

Group III - maalish

Kishwar: This knowledge on maalishis very important and you have been doing this for years.

Dai : If you remove your clothes we can do maalishfor you.

Priya: We will do a role play of maalish.

dais: We take Ghee or sarson ka tel (mustard oil) and massage legs, knee and feet. We massage in the upward direction, from the feet to the thighs. This helps in the circulation of the blood. After massage one should wait for at least two hours and then have a bath. We also rub hands and legs with a copper utensil. After the baby is born then we massage the head because head can catch cold. We take slightly warm oil to massage the head and body.

Kishwar: You massage the head everyday?

Dai : Yes, we massage her for 40 days, sometimes we heat badam roghan (almonds) in the oil and massage her head with this oil.

Dai : We also do fomentation of the vagina (takor sek). In warm water we put some Dettol, if we don’t have Dettol, then we use ajwain water (boil ajwain in water). With cotton or clean cloth we give fomentation and also put gentle pressure to settle the uterus

Priya: What do you do during pregnancy, any special massage before the baby comes out?

Dai : No, there is nothing. We only massage after the baby is born that too from the second day of delivery.

Priya: What about backache, do you do massage for that?

Dai : Massage for backache is also after delivery or during labour when she complains that her back is paining then we press her back to comfort her. During labour we also press and rub the inner side of her thighs, this is also very comforting. We do not use oil at this time.

Dai : If at the time of delivery the baby moves, we position it by massaging.. If the baby is in a low position in the womb then with the help of special massage we can push it up otherwise the baby is delivered before time.

Dai : Sometimes the woman says that she is having pain at a particular place, it usually happens if the baby moves to a breech position. Then we give her massage.

Dai : We move our hands in the upward direction. This helps in the circulation of the blood. Both sweat, one who is doing and one who is getting it done. You should wait for at least two hours for the body to cool and then bathe.

Kishwar: So you start from the feet?

Dai : Yes, with a copper bowl we rub the sole and palms and it becomes warm. This is not done for pregnant women but is done in general massage.

Dai : If a pregnant woman complains of backache or says that she has pains in the rectum than she is made to sit on a gilas (glass with wide bottom is used), placed upside down. This helps to push the baby back into place.

Priya: These are pressure points, which help to push the uterus.

Dai : If a baby of 6-12 months does not take milk and is vomiting, then we take ash mix it with Ghee or oil and massage the back of the neck, chest and ankles.

Dai : For curing loose motions they smear dry powder of pomegranate skin on the palate.

Dai : If the baby is in terha (breech ) position than at times with massage it can be moved. For this we use Ghee. Back massage is very essential in breech cases.

Dai : After the baby is born we bathe the baby with special warm water, which is prepared by boiling methi (fenugreek) in it. ajwain seeds are burnt in the room where mother and child stay. The smoke is considered a disinfectant. If baby develops an upset stomach then saunf (fennel seeds) are boiled in water and few spoons of this water is given to the baby.

If the mother feels uneasy these days it is said that it is caused by high blood pressure but earlier we used to say that there is hawa in the upper portion of the body. Due to this uneasiness the mother would sometimes hit the Dai but we understood that she is feeling uneasy.

Dai : Babies should not be kept on the lap too often as this hampers growth. Milk is very essential but it is not given immediately after the birth but after a day or so.

Dai : If a girl is born then we do not tell the woman immediately since she might feel upset and harm herself but even at the birth of a son we do not inform her as too much of excitement may also be harmful. We gently press the new mother’s hands and feet. The gentle pressure on the whole body is very comforting. It is also good for the joints as the bones get weak after pregnancy. The stomach massage is done anticlockwise.

Kishwar: Do you feel that after delivery the woman's behaviour becomes erratic? Sometimes she is very happy and sometimes very sad.

Dai : In villages they say upari hawa lag gayi hai (effect of evil spirits—or literally upward wind is affecting her). This kind of explanation is given by illiterate people. But in reality this is the effect of blood pressure, high or low. She cries, tears her clothes and hits people around her. Sometimes her hands and legs twist, face becomes red and she gets very aggressive. She complains of head ache, sinking feeling and has swollen legs.

Dai : Sometimes, the baby develops piliya (jaundice) or the baby is born blue-then people say it is due to upari kasar ho gayi hai (kasar-lack). This means lack of blood, nutrition or attention. If there is deficiency of blood or the baby and the mother's blood group is different then it may cause the baby to be born blue.

Kishwar: What do you do if the baby is blue?

Dai : We clean and wash the baby and put it beside the mother. The baby becomes all right in about 10 minutes.

Dai : Sometimes we have to take the baby to the hospital. On one occasion, we took a baby who was given injections every day. Each injection was for Rs.200.

Kishwar: Do you have any home remedy?

Dai : If the baby gets jaundice, we keep giving water mixed with salt and sugar. If the baby is weak, then we put it out in the sun. Even the doctors in the hospital say that the sun is good for the babies.

Dai : In doing so, the pores of the skin open and make the baby very active.

Kishwar: Do you feel that women are moving away from breast feeding?

Dai : Yes, but only women who go out to work. Actually, when the mother starts feeding the baby, the bond of love is formed between mother and child.

Kishwar: When a woman starts crying or feels uneasy, is there any special maalish?

Dai : We give her some warm milk, and gently press her body.

Dai : One of my patients, in a fit of anger, once bit me and I slapped her! Another patient kicked me right on my chest and for two days, I could not get up; some pull my hair. To such women who are uncontrollable, I am forced to give a tight slap.

Kishwar: Is there no role of maalishin this condition?

Dai : No.

Kishwar: She may be pulling your hair or hitting you because of unbearable pain while having a baby?

Dai : No, this is because of high blood pressure and she is doing this because she is restless and agitated. If she has a sinking feeling, then we give her some lukewarm milk with some tea leaves in it. Sometimes with worry and anxiety, she starts bleeding too much and at that time, we have to give her Calmpose injections.

Kishwar: How does maalishhelp?

Dai : The body becomes light and relieves fatigue. Without massage, she does not become active. It helps to firm up the muscles.

Afternoon Session

Planning For The Future

This session was attended by dais, VHAP and Matrika participants

Manmohan Sharma: We would like you to think carefully and then give your opinions and suggestions regarding this workshop. Would you like some changes?

Dai : We appreciate this effort of reaching out to us and sharing our experiences. We feel that you have asked a lot about us and our work but did not tell us much about your work and knowledge. Sometimes when we go to the hospital nurses treat us very shabbily. When we take a complicated case then they say that we spoil the case and then bring it to the hospital. They do not appreciate the fact that we dais also handle quite a few cases ourselves.

Dai : We are not paid any money for our work. We feel that people like you should speak and represent us. We should be given a fixed amount of money. Since there is no money given by the government even for the small expenses incurred by us like for the kit.

Dai : If we are better equipped and respected by society then naturally the village folk will come to us for deliveries and not go out.

Dai : We would like some sort of training in our profession; some of us have done courses and got kits also but no certificates. Sometimes this is a hindrance.

Dai : We get no financial aid only get paid in kind for our services. We are therefore dependent on family members for our work.

Dai : We are very happy with our work but we get no support from the government.
Manmohan Sharma: As for your suggestion for training we need to organise groups of 25-30 people at least. If you give us names and addresses we can plan for training programs. We can then request the state to issue I-cards to the dais, pay them a regular stipend of approximately 500 rupees per month for service to society. We all need to work together to promote this Dai work.

Dai : We like this exchange of ideas and interaction between us. We want to know did you like our work?

Janet: Yes, we are doing research on the work of dais all over the country and want to present this to the government and tell them what invaluable work they are doing to the society.

Dai : Sometimes a full term baby dies during childbirth. How do we handle such cases?

Dr Tulika: We suggest that they go for check-ups for at least three times during pregnancy. First, when they miss their periods, then in the end of three months. If need be, they should take injections in the fourth and fifth month. Prevent them from getting any infection. In case of high fever no such medicines should be given as it may harm the baby.

Dai : We also ask the woman to get her blood pressure checked. Some suffer from sugar problem, so we have to be careful about it. Dehydration can also affect the baby, suk janda hai (the baby also gets dehydrated)

Dr Tulika: Sometimes if there is too much fluid then too the baby is affected. It may not have proper growth. This can also lead to death or premature birth.

Dai : If the pregnancy is full term and the pains do not start then what does one do?

Dr Tulika: If the water bag is intact and the baby’s movement is fine then wait for few days.

Group I - Women’s Songs

Marriage Songs

[The following songs are more like couplets or aphorisms—short and to the point rather than lengthy and discursive. They are sung at the women’s festivities at the time of marriage and reflect the social, cultural and familial realities of village Punjab.]

[The girl, who is now grown and ready for marriage, is compared to a radish, which is ready for breaking. Her parents fold their hands in obeisance to those better off, since they are poor. Reflects the practice of young men marrying down social hierarchies and women marrying up.]

The radish is long and long are its leaves
Poor people give their daughters [in marriage] and yet their hands are tied.

[The frivolity and freedom of childhood will be exchanged for the convention of purdah, face covering and living on the ‘points of the needle’ a poetic reference to both sexual intercourse and the pains of adjusting to life in the husband’s house.]

Girls laugh while you can, play while you can
Laughter and games, all will be left behind
When some stranger, a jat , will come, and take you away

Do not marry me off to these salesmen, father
They will make me take long ghungat (cover the face)
And make me live on the points of the needle

I am tender (brought up like a flower) so do not break me
I will break on my own
He is standing on the vat (earthen edge of the pond) shouting for me
O my! See the way he twirls his moustache when he sees me

Twelve years I went to work
This son of a farmer does not let me live in peace

Parito (name) your eyes are so big
Look at these men they keep women
But are scared to have daughters

Sometimes the pauna (towel) is green and sometimes it is yellow
My father's son -in-law is a handsome fellow

The singing minstrels wear glass earrings
And in the glass pieces I see your face
Wherever I look, I see only your face

Birth Songs

This song speaks to the value given to the birth of a son and the drinking involved in celebration of that event

Elder sister-in-law and younger sister-in-law gave birth to sons,
In your house a girl was born.
So now sardar, now you drink less.

You stupid keep producing girls
Whereas in every house boys are being born

Devraniyan (younger brother's wife) and jethaniyan (elder brother's wife) had girls
In your house a son was born
Now it is time for drinking, sardar
So have some drinks, sardar

Congratulations, congratulations to grandmother
To your near dear ones, to your rich father
Who gave you your name
Congratulations, congratulations

Congratulations mama (woman's brother)
To your family, to your clan
To you and to your father

Circulate the purse (batua vaar) around the child and throw your purse, sardar
If a son is born, sardar
Drink till the bar is dry, empty
Every body drank half a bottle
My husband drank from the bowl
We drank so much that we all got drunk

This song is sung in the voice of the new mother speaking to her husband, who responds to everything she says with “Yes, my dear.” It tells her experience of each month of pregnancy—and also her imaginings of death and her husband taking another wife.

Oh, this is the first month
Get me two lemons oh, father of Guridita.
Yes my dear.

It is my second month
Yes my dear.
My heart is sinking.
Yes my dear.

Oh, father of Guridita.
Yes my dear.
It is the third month.
Yes my dear.
Get me some grapes.
Yes my dear.

It is the forth month.
Yes my dear.
Oh, father of Guridita.
Yes my dear.

It is the fifth month -- Yes my dear
It is the sixth month -- Yes my dear
It is the seventh month -- Yes my dear
It is the eighth month -- Yes my dear

It is the ninth month.
Yes my dear
Call some village vaid.
Yes my dear.
Call some Dai .
Yes my dear.

Oh, I am dying.
Yes my dear.
Oh, father of Gurudita.
Yes my dear.
I am sick of this.
Yes my dear.

Oh, father of Guridita.
Yes my dear.
May be when I die…
Yes my dear.
You will get my saut (second wife)
Yes my dear.

Oh, my children are small.
Yes my dear.
Oh, who will take care of you all?
Yes my dear.
Oh, my house and farm.
Yes my dear.

Oh, my saut will take over.
Yes my dear.
Oh, my bullocks and cows.
Yes my dear.
Oh, my saut will take over.
Yes my dear.
I am sick of your ‘yes my dear’.
Yes my dear.

In this song her husband comes to take her from her mother’s house. The tension between mother’s home and married home is depicted—her natal family members are disparaged when she complains about his car.

She: He is coming to fetch me today.
Tell him to sit on the cot.
My friends are coming to see him.
He will walk ahead and I will come strolling behind him.
He: Sit in the motorcar, my dear.
She: Oh, it shakes a lot.
He: You talk too much, you will get a slap from me.
She: I will go home and tell my mother.
He: What can your mother do?
She: I will go home and tell my father.
He: What can your father do?
Just use foul words for mother.
She: I will go home and tell my brother.
He: What can your brother do?
Utter a few more foul words for sister.


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