Rajasthan Workshop 2 documentation
Collaborating NGO: Urmul.
Dates: 13 - 15 November, 1998.
Venue: Urmul, Rajasar,Rajasthan
Overall Participants: 17 dais,
3 Urmul health workers,
4 Matrika members
| Sessions During Workshop
| Day 1: 13.11.98
Use of Body Substances and Fluids for Medicinal Purposes (Discussions in Small Groups and Sharing in the Whole Group)
| Day 2: 14.11.98
|| Reeti-Rewaz related to Childbirth (Discussions in Small Groups)
Drawings on Reeti-Rewaz
Discussion on Pahar (Time, period) in relation to Childbirth
Role Play on Birthing Practices – Birth on Sand, Birth on Plastic Sheets
| Day 3: 15.11.98
|| Slide Show on Aurat Ki Shakti
Aurat Ki Shakti (Discussions in Small Groups)
Concluding meeting with the dais
| Post-Workshop Evaluation Meeting
|| 3 Urmul workers
4 Matrika team members
DAY 1 13.8.98
Participants include 17 dais, 3 Urmul health workers and 4 Matrika team members.
We started the session with songs. Thereafter, everyone introduced themselves and gave us the names of their villages.
Madhu: We were very happy with the workshop we conducted with you the last time. We really appreciate the information you shared with us. On our return, when we started reading through the notes we had made and began working on the report, we realised once again that you have a special skill that other people don’t have. When we talk with you here, we are not able to appreciate the full significance of all the things you tell us. When we look through, peacefully, at all the material you have given us during our discussion, we find so much more in it.
We feel that a lot of the information that was generated in the sessions is deeply rooted in your traditions. The doctors do not have this knowledge. It is you all, the dais, who have had a tradition of assisting in deliveries. Gradually, the doctors have been taking over this area of your practice. Janet began this research on the dais’ system of childbirth, in order to understand and validate your knowledge, your skills and practices.
Janet: When we came the last time, it was extremely hot. Then we sat and worked together. We are also working in four other places. We have seen one good thing emerge from our talks as well as discussions with others too, that you all have many practices in common. Hence, we can work with such valuable material we have received from you all.
The dais who were not present for the earlier workshop introduced themselves.
Teeja: My mother used to do dai work. I used to be with my mother when she assisted in japa s and listen to her experiences especially about the problems she faced when the anwal did not come out. When my brother got married I watched the japa of my sister-in-law. I held her paet and my mother told me not to hold her legs together. Just then the anwal came out. Very gradually, I learnt this work. Then I joined this organisation and I was given a month’s training to learn how to recognise and handle some difficult cases. When we cannot handle any complication we tell them to take the case to the hospital. We also learnt how to examine the growth of the baby in the mother’s paet. If there is a problem of the anwal not coming out (placenta retention) we learnt how to handle this. They also gave us a test after the training.
Nanu: I was16 years old and my mother was still having babies at that time. When my mother was going to have a baby she called me and asked me to hold her paet and the baby was born immediately. After that I started assisting in births. I was given training by the organisation. Earlier, we used to cut the naal with a knife. Now we don’t use a knife. We also learnt about medicines. A doctor from Udaipur had come and he asked me about the different medicines and what is given for different ailments. I told him and he thanked me. Earlier we used to do stanpaan (breastfeed) after two-three days but now we tell them to do it straight after the baby is born. If we have problems or complications in a delivery case and we feel we cannot handle it, we send the case to Lunkaransar.
Saraswati: We give black gur, ajwain and jaiphal when the labour pains begin. I have learnt all this from my mother. From the age of fifteen years, I have been assisting in childbirth cases. Not one of these cases has gone wrong.
Revati: I have learnt this work only after joining the organisation. Our village is very big where the dais are not very clean in their work. Now I tell them everything about cleanliness.
Badu: I don’t do japas but I have been doing the work of giving medicines for thirteen years. I only help out when there are complications. I also give immunization for the babies. When there are complications, people come to me. If the pregnant woman has any swelling or any other problems I do the work of referring them to the hospital.
Teeja: My Dadi and my mother used to do japa work. I have learnt the work from them. Until now, I have not had any serious complication in any japa .Now I am part of this organisation. I give warm milk and ajwain still. We don’t give much of lawang (cloves). We give ajwain and gur. There is no danger if you give this. Even ghee is given. If lawang is given, it makes the woman sweat and then if she is exposed to any breeze, it can cause problems. Or, sometimes, brahme ki goli is given. I have conducted ulta bacha deliveries. By working our hands on the paet, we are able to make the baby seedha. Now, we also give iron injections.
Sarbati: I first started working when Sanjayji asked me to. I would assist in childbirth, help in cutting the naal but I do not clean the clothes. Sometimes, the woman’s family is stubborn and we have to end up conducting the birth on the way itself.
Rukma: My mother used to assist in childbirth. Once, I assisted in a japa in a Rajput family, the baby came out okay but I didn’t know how to handle the removal of the anwal . I told them very clearly that I could not handle it. Then another woman took out the placenta. Later, that woman told my mother that I didn’t know how to take out the anwal . I also felt bad about it. Then my mother taught me how to remove the anwal . She also taught me how to manipulate an ulta bacha by doing maalish and make it seedha. I learnt how to assist in childbirth at the age of thirty. I have been involved in this organisation for the past thirteen years.
Madhu: We liked what you have told us. You have a lot of knowledge. In this workshop we want to move ahead from what we discussed in the previous workshop. We want to hear more about your experiences.
The participants broke into two groups to discuss the medicinal use of body substances and body fluids.
Discussion on Medicinal use of Body Substances and Fluids
dais: Badu, Bhagwan Kaur, Jhinkar, Pema, Guddi, Rukma, Sharbati, Paana and Teeja
Matrika: Shanti, Renuka and Janet
Renuka: Today we would like to talk about how body substances are used for medicinal purposes. Like, my mother used to tell us that if you get ulcers in the mouth, a little application of menstrual blood on them helps to heal them.
Guddi: After the baby is born, if a menstruating woman comes near the newborn, it will get sores all over the body. Also, if foos (hay) is used for burning the chullah near the baby, it will be affected with sores on his body. Then if we bathe the baby with it’s mother’s menstrual blood, it becomes all right.
Sharbati: A sensible woman will not go near a baby if she is menstruating. If such a woman goes near a baby, it can even cause the death of the baby.
Pema: For ten days after its birth, until the baby has been taken out, it is believed to be in danger. Once the name has been decided on, it is considered safe from any harm.
Bhagwan Kaur: If the baby is made to lick a little blood from the anwal , we believe that the baby will never get uparla (pneumonia).
Renuka: If the child is very weak, then how do you do anwal sootna (how to revive the baby)?
Rukma: If the baby does not breathe soon after birth, we thapthapao (gently pat) the baby. Such a baby is usually blue in colour. We give mouth-to-mouth respiration. If even that doesn’t help to revive the child, we work very hard to save the baby. We rack our brains as to what to do. We put the anwal in warm water and this usually brings life into the baby.
Shanti: How long do you wait to do all this treatment?
Rukma: Immediately, instantly.
Shanti: Can you relate an experience when you have put the anwal in warm water to revive a baby?
Rukma: In our village, in Vairagi’s place, a woman gave birth to twins. One was able to breathe soon after its birth but the other was not able to breathe. Then I put the anwal into warm water and the second baby also began to breathe. That baby survived.
Shanti: What was the colour of the baby?
Rukma: That baby was totally blue, the one that had not been able to breathe. The other one was quite dhola (fair).
Renuka: Will some of the others also relate your experiences?
Teeja: Immediately after the baby is born, if it doesn’t breathe, we thapthapate hain (pat it). By doing this, water comes out from the baby’s mouth and nose and the baby is able to breathe. When the baby is not breathing, its lips and feet become blue. So we try to give phoonk (blow into its mouth). This also helps the baby to breathe. If it is still not breathing, we clean its nose and ears and blow strongly into its mouth. This usually helps the baby to breathe.
One woman gave birth to her baby in the seventh month. I was called to assist in the delivery. When I touched her stomach, I felt it was very round. Anyway, after a while, the baby was born. It came out with a lot of force and was like a round lota shaped mass of flesh. It was covered in a jhilli (caul). It didn’t look like a baby. It looked like a lota . Her grandmother was sitting there. She said that whatever had to happen, had happened and asked me to go and throw the mass of flesh. She brought me a matki (earthenware pot) and asked me to put it in the matki and throw it. I said I didn’t want to throw it, and I wanted to tear the caul and see. She asked why I wanted to do that and dirty the place and dirty my hands. I said I didn’t mind as this was my regular work. I tore the caul and found a small little baby. It was red in colour. It’s anwal naal had dried up inside and so the baby hadn’t been able to grow very big. The ears and nose were properly developed. The caul was white in colour. Along with the caul some white water had also come out. I said this is a baby boy. I took him into my hands and breathed out forcefully into his mouth. The baby opened his mouth a little and I saw a little water come out. Slowly, he was able to breathe properly. After an hour or so, I cut the cord. I had some water boiled and cooled. I gave the baby water, drop by drop. Gradually, he got life into him. I wrapped it up well in some cloth. I didn’t bathe it. In some warm water, I wet some cloth and sponged the baby well. I cleaned his ears and nose. Now the baby has grown quite big. Come, I will take you to that baby. You can go and check how true my story is. Now the child says he is mine. When his Nana and Nani came for his naming ceremony with clothes as gifts, all those clothes were given to me. They said that I was the real mother because I had breathed life into him and revived him.
Renuka: We see that you did two things. You gave it your breath, that is hawa and you gave it water. These are the two things, which give life. The dai understands the body and what it needs.
Dai: If the baby is weak, sometimes the lungs are not able to function properly so it is not able to breathe. When we blow our breath into them, the walls of the lungs open and it is able to function.
Teeja: I neither had a blade nor any thread. I had just come to check on the stomach. It was the seventh month. I said this baby has come down and it will fall out this way. We should wet a cloth with warm water and wipe the baby. We should not bathe it. I have never received any training. All this I know from my dimaag (mind, brain). We should give the baby 250gm. water. This was providence telling me what to do. That baby survived because of this.
Shanti: You tell me what all does one have to do to bring life back into the baby? Where did you get this knowledge to breathe life into the baby and to give it water drop by drop?
Teeja: I can only say that providence helped me to do what I did. That if I blow my breath into the baby he will begin to breathe. And when I saw the baby move a little I felt I should give the baby a few drops of water. I kept giving it drops of water and kept blowing into the baby.
Sharbati: In the village they say that the doctor comes once and goes away. You are our Ram.
Renuka: We have also heard that the caul is a very lucky thing.
Rukma: A premature baby’s caul is blue and very thick. A healthy, full grown baby’s caul is white and very thin. In the hospital they refer to the caul as tind .
Renuka: Isn’t it also believed that the naal is very good for a woman who is unable to conceive? That if she is given a bit of the naal after grinding it, she will be able to have a baby. Tell us what you know about this.
Teeja: The older women say that the Dai hides the naal and brings it and gives some of it to a barren woman and she is then able to conceive. But this is not a good thing. If the Dai gets caught bringing the naal away quietly she will get a very bad name. And it is not really true that she is able to conceive after eating a bit of naal . You need to get a check up from the doctor in order to conceive. If the man and woman don’t have child bearing eggs then how will it help to eat anyone’s naal . I don’t think it is good to give someone else’s naal . You get a bad name and it is also a paap.
Shanti: Just like you give the baby for uparla . You keep the residual naal by drying it and use it for uparla .
Teeja: The baby is innocent. It will eat whatever is given to it. It will even eat mud or cow-dung. If we give naal after making it into a paste it will eat it but the jacha will not eat it. And I don’t believe that by giving a paste of naal it will protect it from getting pneumonia.
Renuka: In our last workshop a lot of women told us that they dry some of the naal and keep it and make a paste of it when it is to be given.
dais: Yes, we do keep it.
Teeja: Well, if a paste of naal is given, your eyes don’t get sore so people do keep it. But it is not given to other women. It cannot be given because there are 36 naadis and giving it is tantamount to committing a paap. Careful dais, do not give it.
Shanti: What all happens during the birthing process? From taking out the anwal , to the menstrual blood flow etc. Like she just told us of her experiences…if anyone had an eight month old baby and you had to do something. Tell us about it.
Paana: In one case, a baby was born at eight o’clock in the evening. She was in labour for two days before that. They came to me at 11o’clock at night. I was sleeping. When I went to her house, the woman was cold and sleeping. They had spread mitti under her. She had given birth to a girl and the baby was just lying there. I told them to separate the baby at least. I cut the naala and separated the baby girl and put teeka on her. I gave the woman warm milk and ghee to drink. Then I told them that the baby will be born around 12 or 1 o’clock. Then the woman started getting labour pains again. Then I held her paet (stomach) and moved the baby. Then I had her teeka put. I had three teekas put and then the baby was born. But the anwal didn’t come out. Then I wore gloves and put my hands in and manipulated the anwal to make it come out. This woman had had twin babies. The first one was born at eight o’clock and the second one was born around 1 o’clock.
Guddi: I have never heard of anyone giving a paste of naala to anyone. I have never given it to anyone. Among us we cannot give naala to anyone else because it is dangerous for the baby. After all naala is a seed. We keep the naala with us. We have kept the naala of many children who are now grown up.
Sharbati: My daughter had had a baby. We had buried the anwal but someone stole it. We even came to know who stole it. Now she has children and my daughter doesn’t have.
Renuka: What do you understand from all this?
dais: Nothing special. All this is true.
The dais began talking among themselves that nothing really happens if one eats anwal naal as this is all a matter of one’s luck.
Baadu: We do totka (superstitious remedies) that older people do. Like the Dadis and Nanis tell us that we must keep the babies cloth carefully. We must keep the anwal carefully. Because, if someone steals these things, it puts the baby is danger.
dais : But nobody gets any help from eating naala, though it does cause harm to others.
Baadu: My Chachi Saas has two daughters. It is five years since she had her daughter. There is a gaanth (knot) in her stomach. She is very thin and skinny. She is convinced that she will have a son. She does a lot of superstitious things. She will offer the lid of the thikri (water vessel) to the Gods. Sometimes she will mix seven different dhaans (rice grain). Sometimes, she will make a baby figure with aata and drop it in someone’s house but nothing happens to her. Nothing can be achieved with these superstitious practices.
Paana: There was a woman who had a baby in her stomach but it wouldn’t come out. It had been moving around in her stomach for many years. She was given a lot of ghee and milk. But that baby does not come out. It probably isn’t a baby at all. It must be gas.
Renuka: By giving anwal to the mother does it give her any benefit? Is there something like she will find her own body substance useful for herself?
Sharbati: We boil rangjhar (herb) in water and make the woman sit in it. This cleanses her shareer .
Renuka: In Delhi, we had met a Rajasthani Dai who told us that she is able to save babies born in the eighth month. The baby is kept above the mother, and we sootaten hain (to rub gently). Life is given to the baby by doing this. Can you tell us about your experiences of babies born in the eighth month?
Pema: My Nanad had a baby in the eighth month. She had just entered the eighth month. So actually the baby was really only seven months old. But such babies are called eight month old babies. It did not get baalsaadh (child’s first cry). I wiped the baby’s mouth. I didn’t bathe it. I just wiped it with cloth wet in warm water. Then I blew into it’s mouth with a lot of force. Then there was some slight movement in it. Then I gave her boiled and cooled water drop by drop. I didn’t cut the naala. It was still somewhat bluish in colour. It had not had its’ first cry yet. I kept it wrapped in cotton wool. I put the anwal in a vessel of warm water. Then I lifted the baby upwards in my hands and kept rubbing the naala. This made the baby cry and only then I cut the naala. Then I sprinkled some powder. I kept giving it water to drink drop by drop. She was kept wrapped in cotton wool for two months. Now that child is quite grown up.
dais: The naala of an eighth month old baby is quite thin and wet like a caul is. A full term baby’s naala is quite thick. Babies born in the seventh and eighth month do survive. The earlier japas were much simpler and easier. Then the women used to keep hot sand underneath. They used to have kaarha of milk and ajwain. We used to give a lot of hot things and the babies would be born with absolute ease. Now it is very difficult. The women don’t eat properly. Their japa will certainly be affected by what they eat. Earlier they used to eat bajre ki roti, moth, khichri etc. These days you don’t see food like that. That kind of food was very good. Now they eat kanak (wheat). Now they eat milled rice. Earlier they used to get up at three in the morning and grind the aata and eat that. That’s why they were strong. Now they eat bought aata and drink water from the taps. Earlier, they used to eat jowar, bajra and drink water from the well. These days one doesn’t get these things. That is why women have become so weak. Machine-milled aata is not good. Even the wheat has got fertilizers, which is why it is not as good as it used to be. The zameen (earth) as turned so the women have become weak. Now even the times have turned upside down. Kalyug (present times) has arrived. People tell a lot of lies and falsehoods. In those days, grown up girls used to play in the fields quite easily. Now, we are not able to send our girls when they even slightly grown up.
Renuka: Just as the earth has changed, the woman’s body has also undergone a change because a woman’s body is considered to be like the earth. So, her japa has also become difficult.
Rukma: Earlier, the woman used to go to the fields and used to simply have her baby there itself and bring the baby home in her jholi (cloth bag). Now, there are so many teekas given before the baby is born. Glucose drip is given. The baby doesn’t come out easily.
dais: What are you talking of teekas? They didn’t even have golis.
Pema: Now they put medicines in the dharti also. So, the crops are also spoilt. The earth has got spoilt. Earlier, we could grind ten kilos of wheat. We used to till the fields with our hands and get a good crop. And we used to eat that food. That is why we are so strong. Now, the earth has become weak, and women have also become weak. Earlier, the mitti used to be clean. In those days, we used to cut the naal with a kulhadi (axe). The mitti of those days had guna (good qualities) in it. Now, those gunas are not there. Petrol is lying all over. They plough the fields with tractors. This reduces the produce. Now they put insecticides, which affects the crops. They have less nutritional value. Then, we go and put these crops into machines and cook the food on stoves. Everything has been mechanised. The kana (properties) of the dharti has been burnt. Along with this, the woman has also become weak.
Shanti: If the dharti has become weak then the mitti that is spread under the woman, what has happened to that? What all gunas have been lost there?
Rukma: We take the same mitti that we used to take earlier. But now the mitti doesn’t have the taakat (strength) it had then. Now the earth has got germs and bacteria. It is just not the same. Earlier, the earth used to be cool.
Pema: Tractors have ruined the earth. The tractors keep digging into the earth and spoil it. The tractor keeps dripping oil and spoils the earth. People make houses and that also gets infested with termites.
Rukma: Earlier, the girls used to keep mitti during their menstruation. Then she got cancer. She was even expecting a baby. When she showed herself to the doctor she was told she had cancer. The doctor said he would save the baby but he would have to remove the uterus. That is why we don’t keep mitti during japas because germs get into the body.
Teeja: When the baby is born, her shareer is open and she is bleeding. Then we put mitti and her body gets sore. And the germs get into the uterus and it gets affected. Earlier also the shareer used to be open and it used to be cut but now people know. In those days nobody knew about tetanus. We used to heat the mitti and spread cloth over it and make the woman lie on it. Now the doctors and health workers tell us that mitti has germs in it. We didn’t know. Those days the woman used to get a lot of itching in her shareer . She also had a lot of white discharge. Now a days, we don’t spread mitti and so there is no white discharge and no itching.
dais: Kheevni, Saraswati, Rukma, Sayar, Mohini, Jamuna, and Teeja
Madhu: As I told you earlier, we would like you to tell us how you use our own body’s fluids and substances as medicines for healing the body. Like, drying and preserving the naal , licking the blood from the anwal , using this to treat people with pneumonia, reviving a new born baby that is not breathing, by giving heat to the anwal etc.
Rukma: If a woman is not able to conceive, we burn anwal that has been dried and preserved and give the ashes to her to eat. This can enable her to conceive.
Sayar: We also do the same. We dry the anwal , burn it, and give the ashes to her to eat. This helps her to conceive once but she usually has a miscarriage in the second or third month.
Rukma: The baby doesn’t grow fully. That is why we burn the chori (husk) of coconut and give her. This opens her kokh.
Sayar: We do all this totka all right but no one has been able to carry the baby to full term. Yes, we do dry the naal and preserve it carefully. When that baby is sick, if it has any cold or fever, we grind this dried naal and give it to the baby. This treatment gives relief to the baby.
Jamuna: We dry the naala and keep it carefully wrapped in cloth. These days there are lots of medicines available but we still keep the naala. Very often, when medicines don’t work, we give this and it seems to work.
Sayar: Earlier, we used to give this but in case it didn’t work, we used to go to the doctor. But, now we have started to rely more on the doctor’s medicines because it is convenient. Earlier, we used to give all this treatment ourselves. There were no other facilities available. Hospitals and doctors were all so far away those days. We relied on these totka only. Sometimes, they worked and sometimes they didn’t. For pneumonia, the anwal naal treatment is still quite effective.
Kheevni: If we heat cow’s urine and give to a baby, it will not get pneumonia.
Teeja: The sweat from the camel’s back is also collected by hand and given. Sometimes, we warm it slightly and give. This is also quite an effective way to treat pneumonia.
Kheevni: We also give country liquor to treat patients with pneumonia. This is also very effective for people suffering from whooping cough. We also give a female horse’s urine to treat whooping cough.
Rukma: If a baby is suffering from stomach ache, the mother licks the area around the baby’s navel and it gives relief to the baby.
Kheevni: But now we have reduced all these totka practices. Now we are able to get medicines. We are also scared that the patient may be getting ill due to some other reason but we will be blamed for it. They will say that the person has picked up some infection due to what we have given. We are afraid of all this. We continue doing all these practices on the quiet. We don’t tell anyone about it.
Madhu: Don’t you also give heat to the anwal naal to revive babies who are not breathing immediately after birth?
Nanu: If a baby doesn’t breathe, we pat it’s back gently. If it still doesn’t cry we blow its mouth. We pull the naal towards the baby, which makes the child begin to cry. Even the anwal has a pulse. By pulling the anwal towards the baby, the pulse moves from the anwal into the baby. Life goes into the baby. There is blood in the anwal , which goes towards the baby. The naal is tied from both sides.
The blood that flows in the anwal has the baby’s life in it. When the baby is born with difficulty, its breath goes towards the anwal . That is when we give baalsad.
If the baby is stillborn, the anwal is absolutely cold. When the anwal is blue, we give baalsad to such a baby.
Teeja: It is quite true that a baby who is born with difficulty or who is very weak, does not breathe easily. When the labour is very prolonged and the pains have been very slow in building up, the baby born usually has breathing problems. I slap the baby on the back. If it is summer, I sprinkle water in the mouth and put the anwal in a small vessel of hot water. This revives the baby. The baby begins to have life.
Kheevni: I keep a few burning coals in a mud pot and keep it on the anwal . This also is quite effective in bringing life into the baby. This is our way. That is why we don’t ever cut the naal first. They have told us so often in the training courses to cut the naal first. We listen to all the things they tell us in the training and accept them but we don’t accept cutting the cord first. The family members will never let us cut the cord. If something goes wrong, our reputation will be adversely affected. We go for the training so that it is useful to us, not to spoil our reputation.
Sayar: Before the anwal is expelled, we never cut the cord. By examining the cord, we are able to determine the health of the baby. We also examine the anwal thoroughly.
Sayar: We check if the anwal is intact, that nothing has been retained inside. And if the naal is okay, the baby will be strong.
Madhu: A dai in Delhi told me that the naal of a seven month old baby is very thin. A premature baby’s naal is very thin. We do soothna (rubbing) for such babies. We keep the baby above the mother. In this way, life from the mother flows into the baby. We keep rubbing the cord and it gradually becomes as thick as a ninth month baby’s cord. Do you all also believe in this?
Sayar: A premature baby’s naal is very thin and soft. A full term baby’s naal is very thick and strong.
Kheevni: When a baby is born in the ninth month, we keep it in cottonwool. We look after it very carefully for six months. We give it baalsad in the seventh month. We also give it milk to drink. But we keep it wrapped in cotton for at least one or two months.
Saraswati: I myself had my baby in the seventh month. We are banjaras (nomads). Earlier, we used to keep travelling from place to place. We used to settle down every two kilometres or so. All my children were born this way. When my son was born, we had settled down near a sand dune. My daughter was making rotis (Indian bread). My water bag had been leaking for about five days. I was very hungry and I was eating. Suddenly, my labour pains began. It was the seventh month. My daughter started crying. My husband went to the village to call the dai. By the time the Dai arrived, the baby was already born. While the Dai was approaching the house, she heard the baby’s cry and knew immediately from the sound of the baby’s cry, that it was a boy. The baby cried a lot at birth. I cut the cord myself and bathed the baby. Soon after that I began to feel very cold. My family members covered me with lots of sheets but I still kept shivering. I kept going towards the chullah (cooking stove). My husband kept asking if I am going to die. I said that I was going to die for sure. When the baby was being born, the sand was hot so I didn’t feel it. As soon as the pains had started, my daughter had heated the sand. We usually bring sand and keep in a mud pot. In the hot sand, I had not felt cold. But after the anwal naal was cut and I had bathed, I started shivering with cold. I just was not able to feel better. Then my husband gave me some opium to eat. I took that. That really had effect on me and I went to sleep and awoke only the next morning. My son was born in the seventh month but I didn’t wrap him in anything in particular. He survived on his own. He is tall and fair and is now twenty years old.
Jamuna: In the earlier days we used to keep moving around and continue doing our work and give birth to our babies as a routine matter. We would go to work in the fields and have our babies there itself. We would cut the naal with a knife that was at hand. We would wrap our ghagra (long skirt) around us and go home.
Teeja: In our village there were two women in one house. They were Devrani and Jethani. The Devrani was expecting a baby. She was in her seventh month. She had gone to work in the fields. She gave birth there itself. She cut her own cord. She wrapped her baby in cloth and came home and went to sleep. The baby was swaddled in a lot of sheets. In the evening, the Jethani asked the Devrani why she was still lying down. She said that she was lying down because she had had a baby. The baby was weak and crying very softly under all those sheets. After that they looked after the baby with great care.
Saraswati: In the earlier days we ate good food that gave us strength. So, we were able to have our babies without any problems.
Kheevni: In those days we used to eat til, moth and bajra. Now a days, we don’t get these things easily. We have milk, curds and rabri, which does give us a lot of energy. I have had five children. I used to eat oil and roti.
Saraswati: Those who could afford it, they used to have lots of ghee etc. I couldn’t afford it. I used to eat til oil, bajra and moth.
Rukma: Now where do we get all these things to eat. Earlier we used to get aata ground in the chakki (hand grinding wheel). Now we get aata milled in the machine. All the value from the grain is lost.
Sayar: Those days the japas were not difficult because people ate food of good value.
Kheevni: I recently assisted in japa , where the anwal was expelled first and the baby was finished. If the cord is around the neck, we are able to handle that with our hands. We are also able to handle paloti (up side down-breech) babies. I have done four japas recently. In two of the cases, the babies were still born but the other two cases were with paloti babies, which I was able to handle quite well. Both these babies are alive and well.
Sayar: In difficult japas, the baby dies after birth. It does not die before that.
Kheevni: This baby was dead in the paet itself, and it was a full term baby.
Mohini: This is just not possible. If a baby dies in the womb, there will be poison spreading in the mother’s body.
Jamuna: If the baby dies inside the womb, it can kill the mother too. The poison from the dead baby can finish the mother too.
Teeja: In some women, there is spotting of blood now and then. And if the baby is overdue, they have to get cleaned up inside.
Ramratni: A dead baby cannot remain inside. The poison from the dead baby will spread instantly.
Sayar: If the baby dies inside, how will it grow?
Kheevni: It will not grow but it will take its time.
Many dais: This is impossible.
Madhu: The poison does not spread instantly. Even the doctors wait for two-three days. I have seen in one case that a full term baby was dead in the mother’s womb. The machine that monitors the heartbeat had indicated that the baby had died. But the doctors waited for two-three days. The baby got delivered in the natural way. But it is true that if the baby dies in the womb, it cannot possibly stay there for nine months.
DAY 2 14.11.98
The morning began with the dais singing songs.
Song- Binjarian dheere dheere bol, bolo mari rah jasi
Madhu: Like we did yesterday, we will divide ourselves into two groups and discuss things. Today, we would like you to draw and show us your traditional drawings as part of your reeti-rewaz. The ritual drawings you do in the seventh and eighth month, the Chhati and Jalwa drawings like the sathiya etc. if you draw and show us, it will help us to understand the reeti-rewaz. There must be deeper meanings in all these drawings, which we would like to understand. All these together complete the work of jacha-bacha.
Every one was given chart paper, mehndi, geru colours.
Discussion and drawings on reeti rewaz
dais: Guddi, Jhinkar, Rukma, Paana Bai, Teeja Bai, Sharbati Bai, Pema, and Savitri
Matrika: Renuka and Shanti
Renuka: We would like to talk about the puja and drawings done during japa . Whatever reeti-rewaz you do after a baby is conceived, please illustrate it in the drawing.
This group further divided itself into groups of three and made drawings. After that they discussed it.
Guddi: This is a chanwari (ritual drawing). This is a sathiya (ritual drawing). This is a sun. This is Jacha doing puja. This is a peerha (low stool). She points to these drawings on the poster. In the seventh month, we keep the thikri. After the baby’s birth, we do dhok. (To bow and ask for blessing).
We put food in a thali and do puja to Bemata. Bemata stays with the jacha for five days.
Shanti: When do you put peerha?
Guddi: We put the peerha on the day Suraj puja is done which is done on the fifth, seventh and tenth day after the birth.
Renuka: Is this puja done in the maike or the sasural?
Dai: We do it wherever the baby has been born.
Guddi: The dai makes the chanwari. It is made in the courtyard of the place where the baby is born .We put kohl for the baby. We make a figure of Bemata with cow-dung towards the head of the jacha’s bed on the right side. We make an offering of malida or seera. We put mehndi on the little finger. The chanwari is made on the seventh day. Bemata puja is done on the fifth day. The first bath is on Chhati day. On this day, Bemata puja is done. The second bath is on chanwari puja day.
Shanti and Renuka: Has anyone seen Bemata?
Pema: Her hair is open, her tongue sticks out like Kali maa’s (Goddess). She looks like a very old woman.
Rukma: [She tells the story of Bemata] One girl said, “You are writing everyone’s fate, tell me my fate also.” Bemata answered, “ When you are very young, you will have a son and later on you will get married to him.”
A king and queen were strolling around. The king noticed a young girl at a sadhu’s place. The king asked if she was married. The sadhu said she was not. On hearing this, the king decided to sleep with her and she conceived and had a son. The young girl had the baby thrown away. Another king and queen were out on a walk and found the baby. They did not have a child so decided to keep the baby. They announced in the village that the queen had a son. This boy grew up and one day went to the forest to hunt. He met the same young girl who had given birth to him. He did not know that. He decided to marry her. One day after these two were married, the king decided to show the cloth his son was found in to his daughter-in-law. She realised that she had married her son. She went to Bemata and told her that she believed now that once she writes a person’s fate, it can never be changed.
Sharbati: On the naming ceremony day, the maika people bring yellow clothes, which she wears.
Rukma: We don’t wear yellow on Chhati day. On this day the gandagi (bad blood) is only half cleaned. The full gandagi (bad blood) only gets cleaned on the naming day. We don’t take the Jacha out on Chhati day because she will get hawa . The shareer is kacha. That’s how she gets a headache. Even her eyes should be protected from the hawa .
Sharbati: We don’t let the Jacha work for forty days because the shareer is considered kuchha. We take particular care about her food. She is given ajwain, ghee, gur.
Teeja: We keep thikri in the seventh month. We keep roli, moli, (red thread) kohl, mehndi, kanchli (blouse), gur, rice and ghee on this day.
Renuka: Why do you do this in the seventh month only?
Savitri: That is our reeti. In the earlier days, there were many natural abortions of children in the fifth or sixth month. Then an old woman said that puja to Bhairuji should be done to prevent these abortions. If the sixth month passed without any mishap, then in the seventh month, thikri would be taken out. Miscarriages could take place in the fourth, fifth or even sixth month. Once the pregnancy entered the seventh month the baby would grow to full term. An old woman said that she saw Bhairuji in her dream, who had asked her to do his puja on a moonlit night. In the lid of a mud pot, we had to keep seven tikkis of sindoor, seven tikkis of kohl, one ball of gur, rice, a four anna coin or one and a half rupees. Then we had to take this pot around the Jacha’s head seven times and then keep the pot under a khejri tree. It is believed that Bhairuji lives under the khejri tree. If this practice is followed, it is believed that the baby will be carried to full term.
Pema: The complete name for him is Malasi. He is Bhairuji. His story is very long. He wanders (makhte hain) around here.
Renuka: Does makhte hain mean, he kills the babies?
Savitri: Yes, he kills them, it is believed, if the baby is spontaneously aborted within the first six months. That is why we do puja to him. Every Sunday, we offer oil and gur to him.
Teeja explains her poster in great detail.
Teeja: The food offered during puja has been drawn. This is a kanchli. This is kept under the barh or beri or khejri tree. These are a lot of women who are going to sing songs. This is a peerha and this is a chanwari. This is Krishna Bhagwan. This is a dai and this is a Jacha wearing yellow clothes and sitting on a peerha .She is sitting there to do Suraj puja. This is a pundit.
Renuka: Is it only the pundit who conducts this puja? Do you all not do it?
Jhinkar: Yes we also do it.
Savitri: In the homes where the pundit does not go, the people do the puja themselves.
Jhinkar: The pundit believes in chua-choot (untouchability). He does not come into our homes. We do the puja. They just take out the name and we do the puja ourselves. We make the chanwari and sathiya ourselves.
Teeja: On the seventh day, when puja is done, the dai is given five rupees in a thali. It is the dai who does all the work. She sits in the puja too. She does all the cleaning up. On this day the first person to be fed is the dai. Only after she has eaten, do the others sit down to eat. She is given the best food available. Halwa, seera etc. is given. The dai is equal to a mother. She is definitely half a mother. She is given whatever good food is made in the house.
Renuka: The dai has a lot of responsibilities. After all she does all the work. She is given a lot of importance on this day.
Pema: Some dais eat there. Some other dais take the food home. This feeding of the dais is called kansa dena . The first thing that is taken out is the thali in which the dai is given kansa. The first ghoonti is given by the dai. Whether it is a Brahmin or a Bania, it is we who give the first ghoonti. We give ghoonti made out of gur. Earlier, we used to give mela but not any more.
Shanti: What is mela?
Teeja: The earlier women used to give ghoonti of mela. It was made of blood.
Savitri: As soon as the baby is born, the blood that comes following the birth was taken and a finger dipped in it and given to the baby to lick. This would prevent the baby from getting pneumonia.
Teeja: But now we don’t give.
Renuka: But now many people are saying that it is good to give this because it has medicinal value. Does the dai get any other puja done?
Jhinkar: The dai gets Jalwa puja, Kuan puja, Suraj puja and Chowk poorna, all these done.
Jalwa Puja -- On the same day, Kuan puja is also done. This is done after one and a half months.
The dai goes for this puja. There is a lot of celebration on this day. Everyone is fed. Seven friends get together and make ghugri (sweet dish made of grains) and do puja.
Suraj Puja -- On this day, the Jacha sees the sun for the first time after her baby’s birth. Milk is used for doing puja to the sun. She prays and thanks God for giving her a new life and for giving her a son. If a son is born, then a tani (canopy) is tied at the chowk (courtyard)
Sharbati: The dakaut has to be called for babies born around 12 o’clock.. It is she who does the puja. We don’t consider this time very auspicious. Usually, the baby is born at the right time. If the baby is born in the morning, it is considered auspicious. In the mornings every one does puja. Everyone is awake. The babies who are born at 12 o’clock are a big burden for their families because this is the time of bhoots. The baby also has khatra (danger).
Paana: The bark of a tree, oil, rice grain, clothes and all these things are given to the dakaut. Twenty one types of rice grain are given. She is also given money. We show the nakshatra to the dakaut. Then she tells us which nakshatra the baby has been born in. If the baby has been born in a kada (hard) nakshatra, the dakaut gets puja done. During the puja, he does not let anyone enter the place. If a dai goes in, all the problems of the baby will come on the dai. If the baby is born at 4 o’clock in the morning, it is considered auspicious. This time is believed to be good. The mornings are puja time. People get up and sing bhajans (devotional songs). After that, the people get busy with their various chores. This is why the mornings are a good time for births.
dais: Mohini, Revati, Nanu, Badu, Kheevni, Saraswati, Sayar, Bhagwan Kaur, Rukma Bai, and Jamuna
Madhu: We would like you to make drawings related to reeti-rewaz. During the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy, what all you do. Thereafter, on the birth of the baby, for the naming ceremony, for the Jalwa rituals etc. whatever you do, please draw these on the chart paper we are giving you. Please make groups of three and make these drawings.
Nanu: This is a thikri taken out in the seventh month. Colours, mehndi, kohl, kanchli, gur, money, grain, all these things are offered to Bhairuji. It is called taking out malasar ki thikri. Malasar is a place where Bhairuji lives. This thikri is taken out in the seventh month. It is to appeal to Bhairuji to keep the baby safe and protected during the seventh, eighth and ninth month. Bhairuji is considered to be very tough and so we have to pray to him to spare the baby. The pregnant woman’s hand has to touch this thikri and then the Saas takes the thikri to Malasar and keeps the thikri under the khejri tree. She also hangs an old blouse, which is known as kanchli on the khejri tree. Apart from this, we don’t do anything else.
Kheevni: We do Chhati puja to bid farewell to Bemata with a ritual ceremony. We believe that Bemata has been with the baby for nine months and now that the baby is born, she doesn’t have any more work with the baby and should therefore move on. So, we pray to her respectfully and ask her to go.
Sayar: The Jacha has her first bath on Chhati day. On this day she is only partly clean. It is her first bath after the baby so it is essential for her to wash. But she is given a wash indoors itself. The figure of Bemata is drawn near the bed of the Jacha. After she is bathed and dressed, she is made to do puja. She does puja and then goes back to her bed and rests. We believe that her body is still kacha. She should not get any hawa in her shareer or her eyes. Therefore, we do not let her come outside.
Jamuna: Before coming, Bemata often appears in a dream. If any old woman is seen, especially dressed in red clothes, it is considered to be Bemata. It is, therefore, believed that someone in the neighbourhood is going to have a baby. Then she stays for nine months and goes away after Chhati day.
Suraj Puja or Chanwari Puja
Sayar: On this day we consult a brahmin for the naming ceremony. The name is selected on this day. We pray to the Suraj (sun). The Jacha does not see the sun before this day. And until this day her body is considered unclean. Now, the Jacha herself does puja and thanks God that she has given birth to a new life. We pray to the Suraj whether it is a girl or a boy. We tie a tani in the name of the baby. Meanwhile, we also make roti with kacha aata . On the day of the Suraj puja, the Brahmin (priestly caste) makes the chanwari. He does the puja. We also give him dakshina (offerings). If the brahmin is not available for the puja, we get him to select the name and conduct the puja ourselves with ghee made from cow’s milk. We clean the aangan (courtyard) and decorate it for the puja. The dai does the puja. She is given a lot of importance on this day. She bathes and wears new clothes. She is the first one to be fed. She is given special food so that she is content. This ensures that the Jacha and baby are also content. Then the dai will not cast an evil eye on them. But some people don’t call the dai because the more days she works for them, the more money they will have to pay. They only call her up to the Jalwa puja day. On this day, they give her five rupees. This is called kansa dena. Some dais don’t like to eat there. They prefer to take the food home.
On Suraj puja day, the house gets cleaned. Some of the neighbours may also be called. Every body bathes and dresses up for the ceremony. On Jalwa puja day the feasting etc. takes place. Before Suraj puja day, the house is not considered clean.
Kheevni: We make sathiya on Jalwa puja day. After that we do kuan puja. The baby’s Bua makes sathiya outside the door of the room where birth has taken place. Sathiya is made with cow dung. This cow dung has to be fresh of that particular morning. On this sathiya roli, mehndi, sindoor,etc is made into a tikki. The Bua has to be a married woman. She has to make the sathiya and wear a nose ring and yellow clothes. The Jacha has to give naek to the Nanad. It can be in the form of a sari or a ring. On the Jalwa puja day, we tie neem leaves on the doors of the house. The sathiya puja is done around ten or eleven in the morning. After the puja, the whole family eats. Even the Jacha is bathed and given new clothes to wear. Her folks from her peehar also bring new clothes. After this occasion of kuan puja, the Jacha is considered clean enough to do the household chores. Her body is considered to have recovered sufficiently. This kuan puja is done on the 25th, 30th, 40th day. Until this day the Jacha is not considered fit enough to do any of the chores in the house. After the sathiya puja in the morning, at around four or five in the evening, shortly before sunset, the kuan puja is done. The Jacha wears new bangles of different colours. They are usually made of lac and are red and green in colour. The ghadas (water vessels) of the house are changed. The old vessels are removed. The other family people around also change their old water vessels and buy new ones. This is because they believe that there is sua/sutak in all the houses. For instance, if there are three brothers in a family and they all live separately, and one brother has a baby in his house. Then all the brothers will get new water vessels in their homes. On this day all the family members get together. Seven friends meet together. They celebrate ghughri with a lot of festivities and then do puja. If the family can afford to do so, they feed all the relatives. They sing songs. After this puja, the Jacha is fit enough to join in the chores of the house.
DAY 2 14.11. 1998
Madhu: The sessions on reeti-rewaz were very good. We learnt a lot of things from all of you. But a few things were not very clear to us. For instance, can only the pundit do the Chanwri puja or can the dai also do it?
Jamuna and a few other dais: In the homes where a pundit will not enter, it is the dai who conducts the puja. The pundit believes in chua-choot and will not come into our homes so then we do the puja ourselves. We just ask the pundit for the alphabet with which the name should begin and then we do the puja.
Madhu: In this session, we would like to talk a little more about pahar. In the previous workshop you had talked about time and the particular times when the baby usually arrives. You seem to have a special understanding of when the baby is likely to be born and when it is not likely to arrive. You also have an understanding of what is a good time for birth and what is not a good time. japa seems to be connected with this pahar. Then there is the old system of conducting the birth of the baby on mitti that is spread and now there is this new system of spreading a plastic sheet. So, we would like you to enact these two different ways of japas through a role play and discuss them.
Group 1: japa conducted by spreading reth/mitti (sand)
Discussion before the role- play.
Paana Bai and Rukma: In the earlier days, all the japas were conducted on reth. No one ever got any tetanus. Now, the times are new, and the problems and sicknesses are also new. Modern times have brought modern sickness.
Renuka: If we spread sand now?
Sharbati: Now we cannot spread sand because we get a terrible itching in the body.
Rukma: Yes there is a lot of scratching.
Shanti: What does Bemata look like?
Pema: Bemata is dark in her complexion. She wears old, tattered clothes of green colour.
Sharbati: If a woman has conceived and one month has gone by, the woman asks for Bemata.
Paana- pregnant woman
Bhagwan Kaur - neighbour woman
Rukma- neighbour woman
Sharbati: Oh, the bachadani’s mouth has not yet opened.
Pema: First, we strain the sand that has been stored earlier. Then we heat it. The sand that we need to use at this time has to be absolutely clean, white and fine. This kind of sand, we bring earlier and keep in the house. We fill the ghadas and keep. In the room where the japa will be conducted, we spread the heated sand where the portion below the Jacha’s waist will be placed. We spread a thin cloth over this sand.
The dai assists in the birth. Rukma is supporting the Jacha from the back. The dai turns the naala. Some of the women bring warm water. Somebody takes care of the new-born baby. Someone put the baby next to the Jacha. There is a woman on either side of the Jacha. Both the women put gentle pressure with their feet on the woman’s thighs.
Sharbati: This is done because during the birth, the woman’s hips become broad. That is why we gently put pressure on the hip bone.
Some people said that the same sand is taken and a pad made for the Jacha. Others said that this sand is dirty and therefore fresh sand is taken to make a pad.
dais: This sand causes a lot of itchiness. Even if you put the sand in cloth and use it, it will still touch the body and cause an itch. At this time the whole shareer is open and the sand goes in. This can cause a lot of harm. Though we do strain and heat the sand and there should be no germs left. But now that we don’t use any sand, we don’t have this scratching problem.
Understanding Samai (Time)
Renuka: When the baby is born, what is the hour?
Guddi: If the pains begin at 4a.m. then up to 11a.m. it is considered auspicious.
Dai: The sun is directly overhead at 12 noon. This is not considered auspicious. It is called kada waar. When the baby is taken out after forty days, the dakaut is called. He asks for sani tael and does the puja. The pundit takes out the raashi (zodiac sign), on the basis of the time of birth.
Paana: At whatever hour the baby is born, it is considered auspicious. Only the time of twelve in the afternoon or midnight is not considered very auspicious because it is a sunn (very still and unusually quiet) time.
Pema: These two hours of twelve noon or midnight are considered the time of bhooths, so the parents are wary of babies born at this hour.
Paana: A girl was born at twelve o’clock. We had puja done in which we gave one and a quarter kilo salt, bark from twenty one different trees, water from 21 different wells, one and a quarter kilo oil, one and a quarter kilo gur, one and a quarter kilo of twenty one varieties of grain and five hundred rupees. The dakaut did puja for twenty one days and took all these things with him. When the dakaut does puja, he sends the Dai out. He says if the Dai remains in the room during the puja, the burden of the parents will land on her shoulders.
Rukma: The first pahar is from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. The second pahar is from 11 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. The third pahar is from 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m and the last pahar is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Madhu: We would like to talk about the pahars during japas.
Sayar: There are eight pahars. Babies are not usually born in the night and between 12 and 2 in the afternoon.
Rukma: If the pains have begun in the day, then the baby will be born around 4 a.m. the next morning. If the baby is not born at 4 a.m., then the baby will arrive at 11 a.m.
The time of twelve o’clock is considered sunn (very still and quiet) time. Babies are not usually born at this hour. One woman had started her pains. I said her baby would be born at four in the evening. After this the next hour for births is nine in the evening. Babies are not born in between these hours.
Sayar: When it is time for the cows to go grazing, we believe that the babies are not born during this period. They are usually born when the cows return home around four in the evening.
Rukma: Some people count four hours in each pahar. Some count only three hours in each pahar. But I count four hours for each pahar.
Rukma: Even the pains are assessed according to pahars. Like, we say it will be another pahar before the baby will be born.
Madhu: Do you have any experience where you feel your assessment has been quite accurate?
Rukma: It has always happened this way with me. I just went for one japa . The pains had started in the morning. I said it would take at least two more pahars. Sure enough, the baby was born at four in the evening.
Madhu: In the last workshop, you had told us that you use the size of a rupee coin to assess the readiness of the bachadani ka munh - that the opening of it should be the size of a rupee coin and based on this you are able to tell which pahar the baby will be born.
Sayar: Yes, we do say that if the opening of the uterus has become the size of a rupee coin, it is time for the baby to arrive. If it is opened only as much as an eight anna coin, we say it will take one more pahar.
Discussion on Child Birth:
Mohini: I assist in japas in a room or in a jhopri (hut). I have even done it on the floor. As soon as the child is born, I take it into my hands. When the anwal gets fully expelled, only then I naal modte hain (knot, twist the cord). We bury it outside the house. The Jacha is not able to push properly if she lies in a macha (cot). She is not in a comfortable position in a macha. The birth is conducted on the floor and after the anwal is expelled, we shift her into the cot.
Sayar: If the woman wants to deliver her baby in a sitting position, we let her, otherwise we make them lie down and deliver the baby. Earlier, we used to spread sand for the woman to lie in, but now we use a plastic sheet.
Rukma: Some women deliver very easily. Some others have problems and then we need to think carefully and concentrate.
Teeja: Even I do the same as Rukma.
Jamuna: Even we used to spread sand for the japa . We used to get clean sand from the dhore (sand dunes) heat it and spread it. But we found that sand causes a lot of itching. Now the women refuse to lie on the sand and they prefer to spread the plastic sheet.
Mohini: Now the women say that their lives have improved. In the earlier days, they were just left to lie in the sand.
Teeja: Now, we all use only plastic sheets. We use sand only to give hot fomentation.
Nanu: We get the sand from very far away, from the sand dunes where it is clean.
Revati: We get this clean sand from the dunes and heat it and spread it. The woman was not allowed to bathe before. She didn’t wear clothes before Chhati in the earlier days nor did the baby. But now they both wear clothes and they don’t want to lie in the sand.
Nanu: The dai that I had, used to spread a thin cloth on the sand.
Saraswati: My children were all born on the sand in the courtyard of the house. They used to keep a lit angeethi (coal stove) towards the feet and it used to keep us warm and comfortable. It did cause a lot of scratching and sometimes the body used to get sore with the constant scratching.
Sayar: When we had just started using plastic sheets, the women didn’t like it because they could see a lot of blood on it. They used to get scared looking at so much blood. They also found it rather cold during the winter. In the summer, it was found to be uncomfortably hot too. But now they find it quite comfortable and they don’t have problems of scratching any more.
Kheevni: Earlier, they also didn’t like the idea of using something that has already been used for someone else. But now they don’t feel that way. In fact, now the people use the plastic sacks used for fertilisers and open it and convert into plastic sheets for themselves. We spread a cloth on the plastic sheet and so the blood doesn’t collect but gets soaked by the cloth. They all feel that their lives have improved a lot and they don’t have to suffer the terrible itching anymore.
Badu: As the plastic sheets were introduced very suddenly, the women didn’t like it. But now that we have tried to explain the advantages of using the plastic sheets and we also spread another cloth over it, the women don’t object any more.
Sayar: In our 465 area, we still need to explain and make people understand. Some listen and some don’t.
The pregnant woman is groaning with pain. The husband hurries out and calls the dai. The dai brings the plastic sheet along with her mamta kit (dai’s birth kit received in training contains blade, thread, soap and plastic gloves). She tells the Saas to boil some dry coconut in milk and give to the pregnant woman. She then makes a karha with lawang and makes the pregnant woman drink it. This increases the labour pains and the Jacha groans away in pain.
The Saas asks for the pots where sand has been stored.
Dai: Please don’t spread this sand. These days we have been taught not to use sand. There are germs in the sand. This could cause tetanus. It also causes a lot of itching. Even problems of white discharge can be caused by it.
Saas: I had all my children in the sand. I didn’t get any tetanus. Nothing happened to me. The heated sand gave me very good warmth and fomentation.
Neighbour: Bahen (a way of addressing another woman- it means sister), the sand did cause a lot of scratching. Why don’t you listen to what the dai is telling you.
When the baby is almost ready to come out, the dai lifts the Jacha a little and slips the plastic sheet covered with cloth under her. As soon has the baby comes out, the dai takes care of it. She cleans the baby and makes it lie next to the mother. Then she removes the plastic sheet and goes to throw the gandagi (bad blood). Thereafter, she washes the plastic sheet and cloth. Then she makes a pad with cloth and puts it for the Jacha.
This was a role-play on the new way of conducting a japa .
Badu: We are affected by the education given to us. By telling the women gradually about all the different illnesses, they are slowly listening to us. They used to use sand even during the monthly periods. The problem of white discharge is also because of this. The women have begun to understand.
Kheevni: We used to get the sand from the dunes during the rains. We used to heat the sand from before and make a pad with it. Then we would keep it under the woman’s anus. If people suffered from backache, we brought the sand from the base of the arandi tree. Now people believe in modern medicine. People don’t use domestic remedies anymore.
Kheevni: japa is very simple on plastic sheets. But we don’t like washing the plastic sheets. But since we have learnt this in our training, we do it. We don’t like doing japa in the sand. I don’t do it any more. We know that if a japa goes wrong under the supervision of a dai, she is held responsible. Not using sand has helped in keeping infections away.
Madhu: Now, we would like you to tell us a little more about pahar. In the last workshop, you had told us that baby’s first feed is given under the taaron ki chaaon (shade of the stars).
Saraswati: We check for a good time and then feed the baby. Even water is first given under the taaron ki chaaon. We are careful about the date and time when we feed the baby under the taaron ki chaaon. We wait for achha waar (good hour).
Kheevni: Now we feed the baby as soon as it is born as we have learnt that in our training.
Ramratni: In our village, the Nanad or Jethani comes and cleans the chhaati with silver metal before the baby is given any feed.
DAY 3: 15. 11. 98
This morning’s session began with songs. After that we showed some slides on Aurat ki Shakti (strength of a woman).
Madhu: We are showing you a few slides which will tell us about Aurat ki Shakti.
The dais are looking at the slides with interest.
The first four slides show us torsos of women where their yonis are clearly shown. The way the thighs are spread out are similar to the birth postures. These are pictures of clay and stone statues of the period between the third and tenth centuries.
Different dais responded differently to the slides. They were watching the slides with great enthusiasm and interest. We were only relating the place and period of the slides. The responses to the first four slides were as indicated further.
Kheevni: Here it shows that the shareer has not opened fully.
In this slide the yoni is quite big and seems swollen
Rukma: There seems to be swelling in the shareer .
Kheevni: There seems to be a complication in this picture. The baby seems to be aada. The birth has been possible through an operation.
Comments on other slides.
Saraswati: This woman’s passage is small.
Slide 5: The menstrual flow has been shown like an aparajita flower. This slide is from the 10th century.
Slide 6: Here, they are showing puja being done of the menstrual flow. This picture is from the 6th century.
The responses to these two slides were as follows.
Kheevni: We consider this dirty and there are people who do puja to it.
Saraswati: It is considered to be dirty but something does happen here.
Slide 7: These are ghade numa vessels. There are women’s breasts carved on two of the vessels. On one vessel, in between the woman’s breasts, there is a male organ (penis). There is also a tap through which water is taken out.
This slide is from the 3rd century and is from Kerala. These were used in the death rituals in the earlier days. Now these ceremonies are dying out. The breasts and the penis are considered to be symbols of life. These vessels indicate the relation between life and death.
Slide 8: This is a picture of garbhdhaaran (conception). This is a Rajasthani painting done on paper in the 18th century.
Slide 9: A statue of a pregnant woman. This statue is made of stone in Rajasthan in the 6th century.
This is some goddess. The stomach is enlarged. There is a glow of pride of pregnancy on her face.
Slides 10 –13: These are four pictures of four different kinds of birthing positions.
Slide 10: This is a picture of a wooden statue of the 18th century found in south India. It shows a woman giving birth in a standing position. Two women are supporting her shoulders on either side. The dai is receiving the baby from the front.
Slide 11: This picture shows a woman giving birth totally on her own without any support from anyone. Her face reflects a unique and invisible power. She is standing in a dance posture. The baby is also emerging in a dance posture with its hands folded. This is a wooden statue of the 18th century found in south India.
Slide 12: This is a picture of a statue made of bell metal in the 18th century. The woman is giving birth in a squatting position. The dai is supporting her from the front by spreading her legs along the woman’s thighs.
Slide 13: This is also a picture of a statue made of bell metal. Here too, she is giving birth in a squatting position. The dai and some women are assisting and supporting her during the birth.
The responses of the dais to the four slides described just now. The dais are very happy with the important role of the dai shown in these slides. They liked the support of the dais shown in these slides. They compare the dai to God who gives life. “We are the ones who give jeevan (life) .The pictures show the truth.” Kheevni remarks about the picture where the baby is emerging with its hands joined together, that there are babies who have their hands folded in their mother’s womb. The dais liked these four slides in particular.
Slide 14: The picture of a statue of a mother feeding the baby.
This is from the 18th century found in south India. It is made of kansa. The woman is standing with her baby in her arms. The breasts, particularly the nipples, are quite swollen and full like that of a nursing mother’s breasts. Her stomach is slightly big just like that of a new mother’s.
The response of the dais to these slides.
Kheevni: She has a baby in her paet (womb) and also in her arms.
Sayar: Some women have babies in quick succession. That is possible.
Saraswati: It is possible to have two babies in the space of one year. Like, if you haven’t started menstruating after one baby and you conceive again. In the next nine months, you can have the next baby.
Paana: Such babies are called bijli ke vansh ka (of the generation of electricity?) For such babies we put aak ka phool (a particular flower) around their necks.
Saraswati: My husband was born this way. He never goes out when it rains.
Madhu: Some of you who have had babies, do you have certain restrictions like abstaining from sleeping with your husband soon after the baby’s birth? Do you tell the Jacha’s this?
Jhinkar: Actually, we tell them not to sleep with their husbands for at least three months.
Teeja: We tell them not to sleep with their husbands for at least forty days.
Rukma: Even we tell them to abstain from sleeping with their husbands for at least forty days. Before forty days, the woman doesn’t even sit with her husband.
Sayar: We do Kuan and Jalwa puja after forty days for this reason. The woman is able to get adequate rest. Her shareer becomes all right. Until forty days are over, she stays in the birthing room itself. She does not come out at all and doesn’t go to her own room. If she starts going to her room, her husband will not leave her alone. This way, by keeping her in the birthing room, the woman’s shareer is protected.
Rukma: We also believe that the longer the new mother feeds the baby, the better it is for her because she usually will not conceive while she is feeding the baby. But sometimes, she does conceive. Usually, if she feeds the baby for one and a half years, the next baby will come after a space of about three years. But these days, some women feed for three months only.
Slide 15: Yashoda (Lord Krishna’s wife) breast feeding Krishna
This is a picture of a statue made with black stone in the 18th century. Yashoda is feeding Krishna. There is a unique glow and peace reflected on her face.
The dais liked the slides very much. They wanted to see more such slides. At their request, we showed eight more slides on births in different ways depicted through paintings on paper. There were pictures of the births of Krishna and Mahavir (Lord Shiva). There were a few pictures of births in royal homes where the dai is assisting in the births. The dais liked these pictures very much too.
Discussion on the Slide show in two groups
The groups were the same as the previous days.
Renuka: We showed you some slides just now. We would like you to talk about Aurat ki Shakti. Please speak freely about your responses to the slides you saw.
Rukma: The dai conducted the japa very well. Some women had some problems. Some had swellings. Some were in pain. All this was there in the pictures.
Renuka: Do you still have difficulties and problems like them?
dais: Yes, there are similar problems.
Renuka: Can you tell us what problems you face during japas? What do you do to cope with the problems? How do you handle such situations?
Rukma: There was one japa that I assisted in where the woman was very weak. She started bleeding profusely. This excessive bleeding usually takes place when the Jacha is weak. Seeing this heavy bleeding, I got anxious. Then I sent for the doctor. He gave an injection that stopped the bleeding. He also gave a glucose drip that gives energy to the woman. When there is swelling and there are problems, I take the Jacha to the doctor. He examines the Jacha and checks if she has a shortage of water or blood. When there were no doctors we just gave some medicines.
Pema: When my Bahu was due to have a baby, she had a lot of swelling. She had got jaundice in the seventh month. I gave her indigenous medicines. I made a potion of the leaves of one particular bush and gave her. I gave her a lot of sugar cane juice. I gave her gur ka pura in desi ghee. The jaundice became all right. I got a really healthy grandson. He was 3 kg. in weight. He is now 15 months old.
Rukma: Before the baby is born, if there is water discharge, we give coconut ground and boiled in milk. This prevents further leakage of water.
Jhinkar: I had no help during the birth of my third baby. I was staying with my mother. I started getting my labour pains. When I went to pass stool, my bag of waters burst. I came into the room and found there was no one in the house. I held my head and sat down on the floor and the baby came out. Even the anwal came out. I cut the anwal naalmyself. My little daughter brought me warm water. I bathed the baby son myself. He is now fourteen years old.
Pema: I was alone when I had my daughter. I used to live separately from my Saas. Even then, I sent for my Saas but she just kept saying one thing and another. In the meantime, my baby arrived. There was no one with me at that particular time. I spread the sand myself. I cut the naalmyself with a knife. The anwal had come out quite easily. I had both my daughters while I was totally alone. Today, they are 25 and 23 years old.
Bhagwan Kaur: I had just brought a bundle of grass from the fields. My labour pains started. I took two bricks and sat with the support of the wall. Within no time, my son was born.
Jhinkar: In the earlier days, there was shakti and sharam (embarrassment) Now a days there is no sharam and no shakti. As soon as the pains begin, they want to call this one and that one. The women start screaming. Earlier, they used to take bajra and chhach.
Pema: If you have methi laddoos, it facilitates the birth process.
Jhinkar: I tell the Jachas not to scream. I tell them that I was alone when my babies were born.
Sharbati Bai: When three days have elapsed after the birth of a baby, and another pregnant woman comes to this house, we make her put her feet over the ground where the anwal has been buried. We believe that by doing this, the baby will be protected for nine months in the mother’s womb and the birth will be easy. The buried anwal has the capacity to protect another unborn baby.
Jhinkar: If a pregnant woman looks at a dead body, then its shadow falls on the pregnant woman. Her baby gets affected. It becomes weak and frail. Therefore, we tie a katran from the coffin to keep the baby from coming to any harm.
Madhu: You liked the slides we showed you just now. These slides also showed the shakti the dais and women have. We would like to discuss this aurat ki shakti with all of you.
Teeja: dais have a lot of shakti. You cannot manage without us. We are able to detect a pregnancy in the first month itself.
Saraswati: By the second month I can feel the stomach and confirm a pregnancy. We feel the area below the navel [she demonstrates this] and are able to tell if the woman is pregnant. If the woman has conceived, you will feel a knot the size of a channa (a particular lentil). You can make this out quite easily.
Teeja: I can tell quite confidently if the woman is pregnant by just touching her. Actually, her face also indicates if she is pregnant. Her face is usually a little pale, her breasts are bigger, and her body itself shows her pregnancy.
Sayar: If the woman is pregnant, we don’t rub her stomach. If a pregnant woman falls sick, we don’t give her any medicines. We always show her to a doctor. If she has a fever, we give her hot things to drink which bring her relief.
Mohini: The woman herself has the power to give birth. This is very significant. We are there only to assist her.
Saraswati: Of course the woman has her own shakti. In the earlier days, she used to deliver her babies while working in the fields. She could deliver her baby and cut the cord herself with the sickle she had with her. Then she could walk home with the baby.
Revati: A lot of women have their babies alone in their own homes. Sometimes, the dais are not able to reach there in time and the babies are already born. Sometimes, even the women from the neighbouring homes are not around, especially if the baby arrives at night. The woman has her baby on her own then. The presence of the dai gives her a lot of support and courage for sure. But the strength is within the Jacha herself. The dai and the neighbourhood women are able to help with food etc. which gives the Jacha a lot of support. We give her courage and affection. We massage her hands and legs gently. Our shakti is the patient support and courage we give her. It is her own shakti which helps the Jacha go through the birth of her child.
Teeja: A weak woman sweats and loses a lot of her taakat (energy). If she becomes too hot, we give her cow’s milk and ghee, which makes her cool again. We feel the woman and check if she is hot. If she is, then we don’t give her ajwain, lawang etc. as this will enhance the heat in her body. We give her only milk and ghee as this will give her the energy she needs and also give a little lubrication within but keep her from getting any further heat as she is already quite hot.
Badu: We give milk and shakkar (brown sugar) during birth. During japa , we don’t give any medicines.
Revati: We don’t give lawang very often because that produces a lot of heat. Now we give iron for nine months. The earlier women used to eat gur and that automatically gave them the iron they needed. Now instead of eating gur, they eat iron tablets. If they keep eating gur throughout their pregnancy, it will be very good for them. If, during the pains, we boil gur in milk and give to the Jacha, the baby will be born immediately. The dai holds the legs and gives her energy to the Jacha. In the earlier days, the women used to use their own strength, so the dai didn’t need to give her energy. Now a days, the women leave their bodies very loose and limp. They don’t have much strength and are much weaker too. Though the women are far more comfortable as compared to the women of the earlier days, they don’t have much strength. This is because their food is not so good now.
Jamuna: We give ajwain ka karha. If the baby is born in its caul, we tear the caul and remove the baby. We examine the Jacha. If she is cool, then water will come out. But if she is hot, there will be blood. If there is bleeding before the birth of the baby, we immediately take her to a doctor.
Kheevni: The temperature of the body should be even and moderate. If it fluctuates a lot, there could be complications. Ajwain is given only if the body is cool. If there is heat in the body, we give sugar water, cool milk mixed with saunf and sugar so that her temperature stays moderate.
When the pains are mild, we don’t give anything. These are called false pains. If we give anything during this, it could create problems. Only when the bachadani ka munh is opened to the size of a rupee coin, do we give any hot foods.
If the opening of the passage is small and has not dilated fully, we take a little oil in our hands and very gently loosen the skin around the opening. We don’t put our hands into the shareer during the nine months of pregnancy. We don’t examine anything internally. Only during birth do we put our hands in.
If the baby is aada, we cannot make it seedha. The doctor has to help with such deliveries. The baby will remain in the position it is in. If it is slightly terha, we can make it seedha but an aada baby we cannot handle. We send them straight to the hospital. Also, if the mouth of the bachadani does not dilate adequately, we send the Jacha to the hospital. We don’t like to delay because it could prove fatal for the Jacha.
Sayar: In the case of one birth, the pukka dard had started and we discovered that the baby is aada. We took her to the hospital in a vehicle. We found that the baby’s fingers were caught in the intestines. That is why there was this complication. In another japa, the head was stuck and in the process of trying to get the baby out, the mother and baby, both died.
Nanu: If the woman is pregnant, she should not take any medicines without consulting the doctor. I once told a pregnant woman who was taking medicines without bothering to ask a doctor, to stop taking the medicines. I gave her ajwain. I am able to tell if a woman is pregnant in her second month, by looking at her face. Early in the morning we give ajwain, channa and other dry things to prevent nausea. The dai has to use her mind and body to assist in the birth of a baby. The woman, of course, has to use her entire strength.
Concluding Meeting With The dais
Madhu: We liked everything very much. We didn’t even realise how these three days went by. You have taught us so many things. We had learnt a lot of things in the last workshop too. The dais who had come for that workshop and are not here for this one, we remember them too. It has been really good to meet some new dais in this workshop. We have learnt so much more this time. We are thoroughly impressed at the vast amount of knowledge you have. How did you all like the workshop?
dais: We liked it. We did learn many things.
Madhu: Until now, we have been getting information and knowledge from you. At the next meeting, we will have sessions over two days. At that workshop, we will share all the significant things we have learnt from you. We will also share some important things that we have learnt from the dais of other places. Please feel free to ask us any questions you would like to. You can think of any doubts or clarifications and bring them up at the next workshop. We will make a report of this workshop. Meanwhile, if you have any points you want to discuss, please tell the health workers. They will write and tell us in advance. Then we can come prepared to respond to your requests. There will be no point in newer dais coming to this last workshop because they have not been present for the first two.
We have another question. The next year is our last and final one. We plan to have a dai mela where the health policy makers, those who are interested in dai’s work and other interested people will be coming. There will also be some dais. We will not be able to invite all of you so do forgive us.
It will be good if we can fix the dates for the next workshop.
The dates agreed upon are 25-26 February.
POST-WORKSHOP EVALUATION MEETING
There were only Satyanarayanji, Ramratni and Narsaram from Urmul who participated in this meeting. Kanta and Uma left along with the dais. Satyanarayanji had been involved in the planning and organisation of the previous workshop. He did not participate in the actual workshop process but he was very actively involved in the planning and organising of it. Hence he was a very important person for the workshop. He had gone to Udaipur for three years on a temporary basis two months earlier. He had gone to work with another organisation. We felt the need for his presence through the planning of this second workshop. There was a definite lack of leadership among the Urmul workers. While the workshop was in progress, he turned up as a surprise to everyone. His unexpected return was the first point discussed briefly at this meeting.
Satyanarayanji: I had gone to work with this organisation which is dealing with mother and child health. This is Dr.Keerti Iyengar’s organisation. They are trying to train intermediary people between nurses and doctors who can operate technical equipment at different centres that they plan to open. They also have another plan where expectant fathers will be included in the health education programme.
But this is a very backward area. They still talk of dakan etc. So this resulted in my decision to return here. The local people there consider women as dakans. They harass them. There was an incident where a man was beating his first wife after declaring to the people that she was a dakan. I intervened and registered an FIR at the police station. These were powerful people. They got after me and they started harassing me. Then I realised that the organisation would be affected adversely on my account. Hence, I decided to return here.
Madhu: We would like to begin the evaluation of the workshop now. You tell us how you found the sessions. We would also like to thank Ramratni who managed everything quite well. We didn’t feel the lack of anything.
I just have a couple of points that I’d like to mention. There is a lack of communication through letters from your side. For instance, you advanced the dates for the previous workshop and you didn’t even send us any information. This upset our other programmes and commitments considerably. We found this quite inconvenient. We would really appreciate it if you kept in touch with us.
Satyanarayanji: This happened mainly because I left this place soon after the last workshop. Thereafter, Malliramji looked after things here. He didn’t understand the requirements here. This will not happen again. We will be in regular touch with you from now on.
Madhu: There were very few Urmul workers this time. We are not very happy with this as we needed their support for the workshop process. It caused a lot of problems in communicating with the dais as we are not familiar with the local language. Your workers were needed to help out in interpreting. You had seen in the previous workshop how much we depended on your workers to help us out in this area. We brought Shanti along this time even though she doesn’t work on a regular basis with our team. She works with Jagori but we requested her to come with us as she knows the Rajasthani language. If she hadn’t come, it would have been very difficult to carry on with the workshop. We had no idea that there will be so few of you participating this time.
Narsaram: This certainly has been a lapse on our part. We thought it is a training programme for the dais. That is why we didn’t arrange for more Urmul workers to be present. This will definitely not happen again.
Madhu: We had also asked for the dais to come a day earlier. Even that didn’t work out. So, that part of the day was not utilised. This aspect also needs to be taken care of. The rest of the programme was fine. The new dais who participated were experienced ones and we were able to get a lot of information from them.
Ramratni: The differences in opinion among the dais were mainly because some of the dais are old and experienced compared to some of the younger ones. Kheevni thinks she knows a lot and Sayar is sure she knows more than the others. That is why there were a few arguments. Kheevni has been with our organisation for almost ten years and feels that she has the right to speak with more authority. Sayar knows she has worked only for about two years but felt she knows a lot and should be allowed to express herself.
Renuka: But it is good that she wants to speak and has things to tell us.
Satyanarayanji: The older dais throw their weight around.
Renuka: Teeja was telling us that she works so hard and when the sanstha (organisation) people go for check-up visits, the people in the village complain. For instance, when they ask whether iron tablets were given, they will say that they don’t remember. If one of them has fought with us, they will say they were not given. Then, the sanstha people cut our money.
Satyanarayanji: No, that is not wholly true. For many reasons we had to introduce this system of checking.
Ramratni: Quite often, the dais do try to deceive the workers and sometimes the dais themselves tell us quite honestly what they have done and what they haven’t been able to do. For instance, Nanu Bai told us quite frankly that she hadn’t given iron tablets and that her money should be deducted.
Madhu: During our last visit, you had mentioned that you wanted to make a training module. What are your thoughts on that subject? Because we are considering the proposal quite seriously and would like to start working towards that if you need our assistance.
Satyanarayanji: First we need to see what we have already taught the dais and what we still need to teach them.
Madhu: You also need to see how relevant your old module is, because it seems to me that not all of it is relevant. For instance, your teaching them to cut the naal first is not really acceptable to them.
Satyanarayanji: We want to work out what an ideal dai should be like. What are the qualities and skills she needs to have. We need to work out who we can accept as the ideal dai as different organisations have different concepts of the ideal dai. What the village folk consider ideal and what we consider ideal could have many gaps.
Madhu: While giving the dais training, we also need to consider what the locally available resources are. So that she can easily put her training into practice. The dais are quite capable and confident. So, even while we give them training, we need to be very sensitive.
Satyanarayanji: I also feel that we keep pursuing them to come for training. There should also be an interest from their side to learn new things. There is no point in imposing any training on them if they don’t have a desire to learn.
Narsaram: We sometimes need to create an interest and desire in them. Like, they still want to spread sand. Now, we need to explain why sand should not be used. We have to arouse their interest in learning and understanding what we teach them. That is our responsibility.
We have worked out and decided on certain policies. You could also help us in some of that. We will give you a copy of that paper. You’ll get an idea of the goal we are working towards in order to help the dais. You can also give us your suggestions to help us achieve the goals we have set.
Satyanarayanji: You can help us with the goal we have set regarding the attempt to reduce maternal deaths. You can help with information on that problem so that the dais can be better informed in coping with those complications.
Madhu: This is a separate area of research. Like, what Ramratni was relating during the workshop, of the three maternal deaths, it was quite unnerving. The reasons for these deaths are not easy to determine. It is not a very simple matter. As Ramratni was telling us about a case, ten days after the baby’s birth, the mother got an aithan (knot, twist) inside her body and she died. You have come to the conclusion that it was tetanus. But we know that death from tetanus occurs within six days after the baby’s birth. So, such matters have to be researched very thoroughly and in great detail before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the probable cause of death.
Satynarayanji: If the woman has died on her own, then it is very difficult to make enquiries from the people in her home.
Renuka: That you will have to do. You will need to find out what symptoms were noticed, what her condition was, what sort of nourishment she was able to get, check for other possible illnesses. There could be so many different causes for her death. It is connected with her entire life. In Bihar, we did a case study on one maternal death. We made a very in-depth study to find out the possible causes. It is essential to make a detailed enquiry to determine the cause of such deaths.
Narsaram: We try to do that. Immediately after the death we have mentioned, we conducted a health camp. Eighty women participated in that camp.
Satyanarayanji: The dais are not able to understand the cause of deaths. If the mother dies 3-4 days after the birth, the dais say that they had handled the birth 3-4 days earlier. They don’t realise that it takes that many days for an infection to spread. We are considering all these situations. In 1997, we took a census of all the pregnant women of our area. We are seriously keen on working towards achieving our goal. Let us hope you can also help us to fulfil our goal.
They read out their policy paper and with this the meeting was concluded.