NOTES FROM THE FIELD
Feb. 15th, 2013
Swollen-bellied Poonam Kanwar is rushed to Umaid Jenana hospital, hours before she delivers a girl both she and Chain Singh refuse to claim as theirs. Mine is the boy, the pale one, the one on the bed adjacent to Poonam. Look at his curly hair, glossy and black like mine, noir eyes, long lashes like my wife’s, he says. When no one listens, Chain Singh lurks in darkness, takes a stab, swaps the girl with the boy, the boy he persists is his.
Threats from both sides drag the case in courts of law.
March 19th, 2013
Two swollen-bellied women are rushed to Umaid hospital, the eponymous facility named after the erstwhile warrior King of Jodhpur. A girl and a boy are born precisely at 1 a.m. 36 minutes and 20 seconds. The woman next to who lays the girl refuses to feed her. The nurses, the sweepers congratulated me: Badhayi ho, chora hua hai! You, greedy liars, she yells. Mine is the boy in the nursery. Liars. She sobs.
The two families stage protests outside, battling over the boy each says is theirs.
December 5th, 2013
A swollen-bellied woman is rushed to Umaid Jenana Hospital on Mahatma Gandhi road in Jodhpur. It’s her fourth time here in eight years. Three girls and finally a son. No more visits are scheduled. No jalebis this time. It’s laddu time, laddus soaked in ghee, sugar syrup. Hundred rupee bills are distributed to the entire hospital staff. Doctors, nurses, sweepers, compounders, the tea stall boy, the medical shop guy, no one is left out, as if they all had a hand in sculpting the boy.
Jenana: Urdu for women
Badhayi ho, chora hua hai!: Congratulations, a boy is born!
Jalebi: a flat, round sweetmeat, symbolizing the birth of a girl; a tradition in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Laddu: a round, rich sweetmeat, the size of a cricket ball, symbolizing the birth of a boy; also a tradition in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Born and raised in India, Manisha Sharma is a poet and a fiction writer interested in interdisciplinary collaboration on feminist social issues. These poems are part of a larger project on female feticide in India, where over 7 million girls have been wiped off of India in a period of ten years. Manisha holds a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech. An AWP poetry mentee for Spring 2016, her writing has recently appeared in TAB, The Journal of Poetry and Poetics, Saturday Evening Series, New Asian Writing, and The Bombay Review. She was selected to attend the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and is a contributing editor to The Aerogram, an online South Asian magazine based out of San Francisco. She has completed a residency at the Vermont Studio Center in November and teaches English at the New River Community College in Virginia. More about her work is at her website here: http://www.genderedarrangements.com/