L.O.V.E.ing Delhi. Day 2.
I knew I was going to experience contrasts, but nothing could have prepared me for the extent of it. One moment I was sipping a sophisticated turmeric-based virgin cocktail in the most beautiful retro-chic cafe/bar/library, the next I was standing in the mud, sharing the street with a motorbike, a tractor, a cow (the cow licking the leftovers of some seemingly delicious food in a corner store), street children and stray dogs (have a look at our Instagram page to see more pictures and videos of this trip). And this is peanuts as compared to the differences between the lives of the women I shared my time with.
During the day I have been chatting with a 60-year old woman about how in her world women are born unwanted (if they are born at all: females abortion is still a reality in India, although it's decreasing), spend their childhood as temporary, second-class family members (hence not worth of any investment), receive "postnatal support" (could you call it that??) by in-laws that more often than not don't value them. Whether in the native or the husband's family, women are always the last ones to receive food (well after the 40-minutes within preparation that Ayurvedic customs prescribes for nutritiousness) and the first one to receive the blame for what goes wrong.
The husband is there only to take the credit (so it totally looks like I need to discard my first-day impression of involved fathers). The mother-in-law is there to make decisions, to lead the household. So as a woman, you become someone the day your son gets a job and that happens when the boy is around 24 years old. If you are lucky, you have a few years before the boy gets married and you end up having to carry the burden of a whole new family. That's your time to enjoy your son's job, receiving Shari and jewellery as compensation for all your hard work.
Our questions about people's happiness, wellbeing and relationships were met with answers centred around nutrition, tradition and physically-enforced discipline. During our long chat, our host's daughter-in-law silently and smilingly looked after us, serving water, tea and delicious snacks - home-made with flax-seed ("rich in Omega-3"), rice flower and onion seeds ("cause they are good for lactation!").
Fast forward 2 hours and I am sitting in a chic restaurant with four Indian and three English women with sparkling careers in world-leading neuroscience research and mental health intervention.
I hear from Gauri Divan about how Sangath was born in Goa in 1996 to provide mental health care to children, but its members soon realised that there was more to mental health than caring for the child suffering from an illness. It was about supporting the whole family and the whole community, it was about raising awareness about mental health (not illness) and about making diagnosis and treatment available in a timely and inexpensive way. This is how they pioneered a model derived from HIV-intervention in the field of mental health: by empowering non-specialists community members to detect developmental atypicalities and to administer intervention, a larger portion of the population could be reached in an effective and inexpensive way (have a look at Vikram Patel (founder of Sangath and Professor of Global Health at Harvard University)'s intervention at the recent Global Mental Health Summit in London from 1h38min.).
Then I hear from Paciencia Cardozo about how challenging intervention in schools can be when the system is so fragmented and often abused. I find out that a whopping 110% of children (yes, more than all of them!) are enrolled in a primary school in India. This begins to make sense when you realise that schools receive funding according to how many pupils they have...
The evening goes on pleasantly, and I am blown over by the amazing work of all these women. There is no doubt that, unlike the ladies I met in the morning, they do get credit for their work, they do enjoy a night out while the rest of the family takes care of their children, they do travel around the world much more than I'll ever dream of doing.
This all I learn while enjoying a delicious selection of fish curries and sipping my fresh pomegranate tonic.
So, there really is not one Delhi. And even less is there one India. How amazingly privileged am I to experience at least a few of the facets of this incredible country! But most importantly, how will BabyBrains interact with all of this? Well, with L.O.V.E. of course!