This is a documentary that I happened to see the other day. It is a story narrated by an Afghani daughter – Sedika Mojadidi about her father Dr. Qudrat Mojadidi who is a gynaecologist. The family migrated to America in early seventies and the father kept coming back to Kabul in an attempt to serve the mothers of his motherland. The film takes you to the maternity ward of two hospitals in Afghanistan. 85 minutes of varying emotions flashed across the screen and some of them I took back home with me.
A woman 7 months into her pregnancy is suddenly brought to a provincial hospital (rural to be specific). An ultrasound diagnoses the presence of 2 heads. She delivers one baby who happens to be a purpling lumpy mass of flesh. The second baby comes out soon and is as big as your palm and wrist combined. Dr. Mojadidi says: “I have done all that I could to provide support to the baby.” The mother says: “I am not worried. She’ll live or she won’t.” The baby dies, it’s a bluish green dead body and a small mouth, like a fish, parted as though trying to breathe. The mother, for all her braveness, breaks down and cries.
A pregnant mother comes in an unconscious state. She has what you call eclampsia (fits) a potential fatality during pregnancy. There are wounds on her neck. Dr. Mojadidi sits on one of those long desks kept for waiting patients, leaning against the wall, with a resigned, tired look on his face. He says: “you can’t imagine how hard it is to try and battle these cultural problems.” The pregnant woman has been ‘exorcised’ by the mulla in an attempt to cure the ‘fits’ by beating her repeatedly with a stick on her neck, shoulders and legs.
On a lighter vein is this scene where they are leaving for Kabul. The bags are packed and Sedika tells her dad to not carry the heavy luggage down the stairs. She goes back inside the house to see him do just that and scolds him to no avail.
The movie ends with Dr. Mojadidi coming back to Kabul and working with an Ngo as a medical doctor.
Some more quotes from Dr. Mojadidi:
“Every class I go, they are so thirsty for just one word of wisdom.” – referring to his interaction with trainee doctors.
“All my dreams are in that house because I grew up there.” – referring to a flat land where once his home stood. It was demolished by Russians.
“You are the light of the future. My time is over.” – In a speech to students of a school where he is invited as a chief guest.
Every woman reserves the right to have a dignified pregnancy and childbirth experience. And for all your information, this is not happening for most women. Be it Afganistan, Africa or India. The situation is the same, the reasons are the same. There are cultural obstacles and there are systemic obstacles and there are the self-generated obstacles too. No one person is to blame because everyone shares the blame. The basic set-up required for care of the newborn is actually cost-effective and easy to be adopted in every kind of hospital setting. The reason why it does not work is because if there is the infrastructure, there are no human resources to, fucking, man the infrastructure. And well the list is endless. I can rant on and on.
You know, women face stigma because unfortunately they have the enabling reproductive system from which the product of procreation emanates. A multiple pregnancy and other factors lead to something called obstetric fistula. It is a condition where the woman constantly urinates. She is wet, raw, odorous. She is out-casted and she can’t conceive. There is a cure but she can neither afford it nor access it.
If she can’t bear children she is labeled barren, infertile and beaten up.
If she bears girl children, she is beaten up.
Hmmnn…think about it, people.
Dr. Mojadidi carrying luggage brings to mind a Universal Father Syndrome. Be it an Afghani dad or a Tam Brahm Dad. They are all the same. No matter how old they are they want to lift the heaviest luggage. Tcha!!!
PS: There were some ethical lines that were crossed by the filmmaker. In our quest to expose the reality (which is a commendable action) we tend to forget that the victims are also human beings who have their own dignities.