This is a continuation from last week’s post. Be sure to read part one first.
KD: You said you had three hundred rupees a month from the Women’s Association, was that enough to pay for food and rent?
A: My apartment was four hundred rupees a month. It was very small, probably the cheapest apartment. I met another woman who’d been dumped by her husband while pregnant, she used to be in a bad situation, pretty much like mine, but she was lucky to meet a Western husband. Her Western husband helped her and later the two of them got married. Her first husband had left her for another woman. She helped me get the apartment and most of the food I ate was from her.
Once I had an apartment I went to a Tibetan government office to ask for help getting a job.
KD: Was there any kind of shelter for women?
A: No, there was nowhere to stay, but I got the three hundred rupees a month from the Women’s Association. That was nice.
I went to the office to ask for information because I needed help and had nowhere to go. They checked over my background then told me the only job available at the time was picking trash. I was seven months pregnant, when I picked the trash I made sure to cover my mouth to protect the baby from anything I was breathing. I did that job until the baby was born. The office paid the hospital fees for the baby’s birth, otherwise I didn’t have any money to pay. The office also sent a nurse to help after the baby was born, and my friend with the Western husband helped too. My body was too weak after the baby was born to produce milk for breastfeeding. It was so expensive to buy formula. The Tibetan office also let me borrow some kitchen supplies, some things they let me keep.
The baby was born at nine in the morning and stayed in the machine until after five o’clock at night. I woke up around five and didn’t see the baby, I looked around and was so afraid the baby died. I didn’t know anything, I hadn’t even seen the baby yet. I started to cry and yelled, “Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?” A nurse came over to tell me it was okay, the baby was in the machine.
KD: Did you get a C-section?
A: The baby was born normally but I didn’t know what was going on. When the nurse told me the baby was in the machine I was worried, I thought the baby must be very unhealthy. I cried so much, the doctor and nurse tried to tell me not to worry the baby would be fine. I’d never heard of a baby being put in a machine before, I was worried in would have disabilities for it’s whole life, maybe it wouldn’t be able to walk, eat, or take care of itself. I was so sad and cried and cried. Late that night, the nurse brought the baby to me. The baby had hair everywhere and was so skinny and tiny. Only skin covered the bones.
For three days, the doctor fed the baby through tubes. There was no pee, the doctor was worried about that and checked all kinds of things. Eventually the baby slowly started to pee. He was so quiet, he didn’t cry at all at first. After some time, the baby cried a little during the night, during the day he slept. I was at the hospital for a week. The nurse showed me how to feed the baby but there was no milk in my breasts. The nurse tried to squeeze my breasts, she told me to calm down because my body couldn’t produce milk if I was too stressed. She said to be happy, my mind and body were connected, it was hard for my body to make milk.
The baby was very unhealthy, he needed a lot of medical attention and I didn’t have milk coming. I had to buy formula, it was so expensive. I also had to pay rent and spend all kinds of money, it was hard to take care of him. People told me I should take him to TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village). I went to the school to tell them I was having a hard time taking care of my son and gave an application. I tried many times until they eventually accepted him.
They took him when he was six months old. The day the daycare took my son I cried all that night when I got home, I was ashamed I couldn’t even take care of my own kid who was only six months. It was great they took him but I couldn’t believe I couldn’t do it, especially because he was unhealthy and needed extra attention. Early the next morning I went to the school to see my son. It was still dark on the way. There were a lot of taxis, the taxiwallahs must have slept in their taxis, I could hear them talking. I waited for the sun to rise before going. [implying she was worried about rape]
I started to walk to the school in the morning everyday to be with my son and went home at night. After a few days, a woman working at the daycare mentioned that everyone else who brought kids there went off, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t go out to make money too. She asked why I wanted to leave my son there if I wanted to come take care of him everyday. I told her it was because he wasn’t healthy, it was hard to leave him, I had to leave him there only because I had no money of my own to take care of him. I said I didn’t have a choice about having him there, but I couldn’t think about getting a job and being away from him.
I asked the office to let me stay at the school until my son got healthier, I offered to do anything they needed to help with other kids too. I asked to stay and for a little food, it would have been too much to ask for money. A woman at the office said usually people left the kids there and went back to Tibet or did their own stuff, it was sweet I wanted to stay and take care of my son so it was okay. I was so happy I started to do prostrations. The office woman said I didn’t need to do prostrations, it was good I wanted to take care of my son. She said in this situation she thought it was okay to give approval without asking superiors, and anyway, it looked like I wasn’t going to come and waste time.
I was so happy I didn’t have to go back to my apartment. I could stay at the school, eat there, and see my baby all the time. There was a mattress for my son to sleep on, at night I slowly went over to pick up my son and hold him in my arms. Even at that age, it seemed like the baby knew, he looked so comfortable in my arms. In the morning I slowly put him back in his bed. I did that everyday for two years. At two years, he could eat by himself, but his feet weren’t straight and his walking wasn’t stable. I think his feet were damaged when I was beat while pregnant. A woman from the daycare asked a Western women to come and do therapy for my son. The woman did therapy with his feet everyday for four or five months. After a few months, his feet slowly got better, his walking got much better. Over time, he got healthier than he used to be. I started thinking that he was getting better and could eat by himself, it was time for me to get a job to make some money. He needed clothes and shoes and a treat once in awhile. I went back to McLeod Ganj to find a job and found work at another restaurant.
If a woman can’t find a good husband, life is very difficult. After what happened, I couldn’t trust any man. Even though we’ve been separate a long time, I still can’t trust any man. It’s kind of nice having no husband. Nobody makes my life difficult. Some people say not all husbands are bad, not everyone is the same. I don’t know if every man is bad, I only know I had a very bad experience. It was almost enough to make me crazy. If a woman doesn’t have a good husband of course her life isn’t good, and the kids can’t have a good life either. People say that it makes kids unhealthy if the mother is unhappy during pregnancy. Now my son’s teachers tell me he can’t focus at school, he’s not like the other kids.
KD: Before you told me you used to sell momos? When was that?
A: That was after I worked at the restaurant. I worked at lots of restaurants, eventually I got a problem with my kidney. It hurt a lot. I went to see a doctor, after examining me he said I only had one kidney, and asked if I’d ever had surgery in Tibet. I told him no, I never had any kind of surgery. “Then what happened to your kidney?,” he asked, “Did anything hit you in that area?” Although I’d had pain there for a long time, I ignored it because I was more focused on my son’s problems. I ignored it, but it got worse and worse. The doctor thought maybe I’d fallen off something or been in a crash. I never fell off anything, but my husband used to beat me a lot in that area. After that I slowly started to get the pain, it must have been from that. I can’t think of anything else that might have caused it. The doctor said that sounded right, if someone hits the kidney in the same place too much it can burst.
It was hard to work in restaurants with my kidney pain, and people said it wasn’t good for my kidney for me to have my hand in cold water a lot. Other people told me that if I sold momos in the street I could make money that way too. It was hard, I went to a lot of places and got kicked out a lot. I found a place to stay but I still got pushed around from one place to another in that area. I sold momos, making about forty or fifty rupees in my hand at the end of the day. I didn’t exactly know how much I making, it was enough. I was happy to be able to stand on my own feet.
At first it was really difficult, I didn’t know how to use the little burners used in India. Sometimes people I knew saw me, I was embarrassed to be selling momos in the street. It looked very poor, I was sad and embarrassed for people to see me. I had a big hat I pulled it down over my face. Sometimes people I knew a little went around to avoid talking to me. That made me sad. I didn’t steal or cheat anyone, I shouldn’t have been embarrassed. If you’re hungry what are you supposed to do? At times I cried when the burners didn’t work. If a woman doesn’t get a good husband, her whole life is difficult.
KD: Did you still get money every month from the Women’s Association?
A: No, not after my son started TCV. I told them my son was at TCV and thanked them.
KD: Did you find a new boyfriend eventually?
A: People asked but I couldn’t trust them. I was worried about being cheated again. I always didn’t trust men. I’d see girls and boys together, and it looked like they were happy, but I couldn’t believe it. Maybe they went out like that even though they weren’t really happy together.
KD: You told me before that you saw somebody beat his wife…
A: One time I was coming home from selling momos, it was difficult for only one person to make momos because there’s always so much to get at the end of the day, sometimes I needed veggies or flour from the market to make the momos for the next day. One day I was so tired coming home but I needed to get flour to make momos for the next day. I laid down thinking for awhile about how complicated my life was, in my neighborhood other people appeared to be a lot more successful, they had nice places to stay and nice clothes, everybody else around there had a better life than mine. I needed the flour but I was too tired to go. If I didn’t go get the flour I’d have no momos the next day, if I had no momos I’d make no money, so I decided I better go, I had a kid to take care of.
I left Amdo village to go buy flour in the market. On the way back, I took a break for a little while. Just in front of me was a house, all the windows were open, I could see that inside someone was beating his wife. He grabbed her hair and he kicked and punched her on the floor, he was very seriously beating her. The kicks were pretty bad. Meanwhile, someone else was in there watching tv. He was completely ignoring what was happening, he didn’t even try to tell the other man to stop beating her, he kept on watching the tv. Watching all this happen made me very angry and frustrated, a man was beating a woman and someone was just sitting there watching tv. I was angry and scared. I got up to leave. Usually carrying the flour home from the market was very heavy, this time I couldn’t feel it at all, it felt like I got home so quickly. Usually I didn’t eat lunch and came home hungry, this time I didn’t feel hungry at all. I tried to eat something, but it was hard to get it down. I wasn’t tired anymore, I didn’t want to go to bed. I don’t know what time it was, it was very dark. I stayed up to chop the veggies for the next day. I was up all night, I was anxious for my dough to rise so I’d have something to do. I tried to sleep and couldn’t, my eyes stayed wide open and my back started to hurt. I made the momos very early in the morning, it was still dark when I finished. Finally the sun came up and I went out to sell momos near the temple. I began to calm down after chatting with other people for awhile.
This is the end for now, hopefully more of the story will come out in the future.