Shruti Azam (30), Mother
At 8.10 am, the Tis Hazari advocate gave birth to her first baby, a girl. Seven hours later, inside the ward of Lok Nayak Hospital, Azam had barely recovered from the delivery, but couldn’t help but wonder what to name her daughter. “It could be Riana or Abeesha… I can’t decide, what do you think?” she said.
As the baby lay in her grandmother’s lap, Azam said: “I am a Hindu woman married to a Muslim man. When I tell people this, they are shocked; some shame me for having ‘abandoned’ my religion. I don’t want my child to be shamed for this….”
A resident of Seelampur, Azam married her advocate husband in 2016. “Our families were very respectful of our relationship… I want my child to get such luck in life. She should never be ashamed of her name,” she said.
Azam also hopes for a world of “equal opportunities” for her daughter: “When I wanted to pursue law, many people said it’s a profession only for men… I want her to pursue what she wants.”
Priyanka Singh (19), Maternal Aunt
Priyanka Singh’s eyes were locked on the swinging doors of the labour room at Safdarjung Hospital, as she nervously awaited news of her sister’s delivery.
At 1.33 pm, the Class XII student was told that Sita (29) had just delivered her second child, a boy. “Jeeja, badhaai…ladka hua hai,” she called to tell Sita’s husband.
“I want my nephew to finish school, get a Bachelor’s degree, and then a Master’s degree. I just want him to be the most educated person in our family,” said Priyanka, bursting with joy.
Youngest of four sisters, she is the only one who has reached Class XII.
“By the time my sister was my age, she was married off. There were financial troubles at home as my father was the only working member. Sita didi only studied till Class VIII. I want a different future for the next generation,” said Priyanka, as she was whisked away to see the baby boy.
Husna (20), Mother
Inside a bustling ward at Lok Nayak Hospital, in a hushed tone, Husna hoped for two miracles for her baby girl, born on the intervening night of December 30 and 31. “One, I don’t want her to get married at such an early age like me, so she can study. This I can control, I believe.”
In January 2018, Husna got married at 19 and was promptly asked to drop all plans of finishing her law degree. “My husband discouraged me from studying further after I got pregnant. There are new responsibilities now, I understand. I hope our daughter doesn’t face this,” she said.
Husna and her husband, a recovery agent, have tentatively named their daughter Tehreem.
The second miracle for Tehreem, she said, would be “if I never have to say ‘bach ke rehna, mahaul kharaab hai’. I’ve grown up hearing these warnings — sometimes because I am a woman, sometimes because I am Muslim. This miracle, however, is not in my hands alone, it’s in yours too.”
Preeti Bhati (29), Paternal Aunt
As Sanjana (29) blissfully slept next to her daughter inside the AIIMS ward, her family of 10 celebrated the arrival of a New Year’s Eve baby in the waiting room. A blanket, a box of sweets, gifts, and a bag full of diapers and boots occupied three chairs. Next to these sat the baby’s paternal aunt.
“My brother Harish and sister-in-law Sanjana got married seven years ago. It’s only now that they’ve had their first child. Complications the kaafi aur pressure bhi… but now, all’s well,” said Preeti Bhati.
While the baby’s mother is a housewife, the father runs a construction material business and was on his way to the hospital. “The women in our family don’t work or have careers. I have done MSc, but my husband won’t let me work. I have made peace with it. Likewise, Sanjana too is educated but she doesn’t work. I don’t want that for my niece. Times are changing, I want her to work and get the exposure that we didn’t,” said Preeti.