Last year when Kanu Sangod was pregnant, she expected her 16th child to be a boy, but she had a daughter. This year too, 34-year-old Kanu is pregnant, and she and her husband Ramsinh Sangod are again hoping for a second son to “look after” their 13 surviving daughters.
While Ramsinh, a 35-year-old farmer from Jharibhujhi village in Gujarat’s Dahod district, has an unbending desire to have two sons, Kanu complied with her husband’s wish as “there is no other alternative”. The strain from her previous pregnancies is visible on her physically weak body. “For my husband, it is a matter of importance that we have two sons as our social customs require brothers to fulfill many responsibilities for sisters. My only son will be unable to bear the load of 13 sisters. We had wished for a son in the last pregnancy, but God gave us another daughter,” says Kanu, who is six months pregnant. The couple’s only son, Vijay, was born in 2013, and they had their youngest daughter Dingli in August last year.
Kanu confesses that her body is now unable to bear the stress of pregnancies. “I feel very weak, but what option do I have. My husband decides about the family. I am married to him since many years and have no one else in this world except my children and husband.
Whatever makes him happy, I will do that,” she says.
When Kanu was expecting her 16th child last year, she had told The Indian Express: “My body is very weak and I know it. When I could not bear a son in the first seven pregnancies, my husband threatened me, saying he would bring another woman home. I am an orphan and I did not want to be deserted, so I agreed.”
Ramsinh is illiterate and marginalised — the family often goes without food.
Two of their eldest daughters — Sevanta, 18, and Neeru, 16, married in March last year. In fact, Neeru is also expecting her first child along with her mother’s 17th.
Ransinh’s and Kanu’s third born Saranga, 15, is the eldest unmarried daughter in the family and she has difficulty in hearing. She, however, helps manage her four youngest siblings – Hasina, 6, Baigan, 4, Vijay, 2, and 8-months-old Dingli.
Four daughters — Payal, 9, Moni, 8, Hasina and Baigan — attend the primary school in the village, about a kilometer from their home.
The others — Hansa, 13, Joshna, 12 and Ranjan, 10, — look after their three cows, while another daughter works outside the village.
Two daughters, Kali and Ovanti, did not survive.
Jharibhuji village has around 100 homes and many families there have up to nine children. But, the villagers identify Ramsinh and Kanu as the couple that yearn for sons, and now that both Neeru and Kanu pregnant, the family has become a topic of discussion.
Ramsinh says he has never heard of family planning and there is no question of giving up till they have a second son. “I am doing this for the benefit of my children. I am thinking about my son, who will be unable to bear the load of so many sisters. He need a helping hand.
Two sons can manage a big family when my wife and I are gone,” he says.
Asked if he is prepared to have yet another daughter, an agitated Ramsinh says, “We both are young and we will keep trying for sons who will stand together for the family.”
Kanu, who has never been to a gynecologist, says she is not worried about the labour pain, but of the thought of having another daughter.
“I am only praying that we get a son this time so that we can stop having more children. I have been cursed as my first born was a daughter. We believe that if a daughter is born first, the family goes through a lot of trouble in begetting sons, who can look after the family,” she says.