Nanhi and Roshi
"There is someone I want to visit," says Mahadwi, as we walk through the village of Varvarra.
We duck through the low, narrow doorway of a mud house and walk through the main room, into the couryard. A three-year-old girl is runs a daring victory circuit around me and runs back to cling to her mother's leg.
"Adina, this is Nanhi and her daughter Roshi."
She translates for Nanhi and they embrace. We sit on the string bed. Nanhi settles on the floor and Roshi runs to bring us a bowl of namkeen (savoury nut snacks). As the two women catch up, I play a bit of peek-a-boo with the child who has dark khol lining her eyes.
"Nanhi had nine abortions before she had Roshi."
Mahadwi puts her pudgy hand on my knee. "You know how it is? They get married at nine and arrive at their husband's at 14-15. Her husband claims that she came to him pregnant with another man's child. He was going to send her back to live with her family.
"But she is related to a famous dacoit, Dadua, who threatened her husband's life should he send her back home. So her husband agreed to keep her but made it known everywhere that he would never have her child.
"He made her abort the first and all eight subsequent pregnancies. When she was pregnant for the tenth time, Vanangana was doing a water supply project in the village and we came to know of her situation. We had an intervention with her husband, eventually convincing him to allow her to keep this child."
Why didn't he change his mind earlier? I ask.
"He was convinced that he would lose status in the village for breaking his vow. That people would stop inviting him to weddings and melas. Of course, that did happen at first, but people got over it. And of course Nanhi was thrilled. Roshi means light, but she calls her Vanangana's child. She is pregnant again, but she is bleeding a bit, and is worried that she will lose the child."
Nanhi returns with a plate of rice and a palak made of choli tree leaves, a specialty of the season. Buttery, smokey chapattis are piled on the plate. We dig in. I should not eat village food. Screw that. It is delicious.
"Could you ask her why she covers her face with her sari? She is beautiful and we are all women here."
Mahadwi cackles and translates.
Nanhi shyly pulls her sari off her head and smiles. If the pregancy is healthy, says Mahadwi, Nanhi hopes her next child will be a son.