A life lost in vain

News in general, seems quite sad, but some days, it is absolutely heart breaking. To read about Savita Halappanavar’s death just because doctors in Ireland refused to perform an abortion on a foetus which had already miscarried was just heart breaking.

The sad fact that the woman’s right to life was totally ignored in the belief that the foetus had a right to life. Never mind that she had already miscarried and that the baby had no chance of survival. Makes one wonder about the laws that totally ignore the mother and the conditions that surround the request for an abortion. Makes one wonder how anybody can consider such laws fair. Especially, since Irish women have been campaigning for years to get rid of the archaic laws that control their reproductive freedom. I remember a case of a young girl, who had been pregnant as a result of rape, and had been prevented from travelling to the United Kingdom for an abortion. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that it had been a while ago. I remember wondering how cruel can the laws be that they were ready to force that girl(a young teenager, if I remember correctly) to go through a pregnancy, which she had been forced into. Today, its so much worse. A young woman had to die – for no reason at all. Can anything justify her death? A woman, who was neither Irish nor Catholic, became a victim of the laws of the religion and the country.

Just another proof, I suppose, of how religion and it’s interpretations can lead, to lives being taken, unnecessarily. All the more proof that personal choice needs to be above religious guidelines or dictats. It never fails to amaze me that pro-choice and abortions are still election issues and debated issues in countries like the US. Why is it such a difficult thing to let the people involved decide whether they want to terminate the pregnancy or not. Health issues or not, why should religion or laws decide whether someone should or not terminate a pregnancy.

All I can say, I guess, that hopefully her death would not in vain. Hopefully, an incident like this would shake up the Irish govt and people in other countries as well, who, in their pro-life propoganda, completely forget about the mothers they might end up killing. Hopefully, one day, women will be in control of their reproductive choices and their own lives.

Riot by Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor’s books, I have always loved. His writing never failed to appeal to me. The topics he chooses, are so relevant and his take, so sensible, so balanced, at least in my opinion. Riot was the only book of his that seemed to evade me since years. It had been recommended to me by loads of friends, I had been waiting to get hold of it. So the moment I found it at Landmark, I grabbed it.

Set during the turbulent times when the Babari Masjid was brought down, the book explores the ways in which emotions, politics, religious fanaticism change and end lives. Priscilla Hart, a young American woman is killed in a riot in a small Indian town called Zalilgarh. She was a volunteer with a non-governmental organisation working to increase the birth control awareness of the region. She gets killed during a riot. Her parents come down to India to find answers and take back what they can, of their daughter. Unknown to most of them, Priscilla has another story, she and the District Magistrate, Lakshman, were having an affair – one with no real future, though Priscilla wanted one. As the story progresses, more than one person seems to have a reason to get rid of Priscilla. Who killed Priscilla? Was she an innocent victim of the rage of the rioters? Was she just at the wrong place, at the wrong time? Read it to find out.

The story is told through journal entries, interviews with journalists, Priscilla’s letters, with all the characters having a means of expression. All the threads of the story running simultaneously. The story is much more than about Priscilla’s death. It is also a tale of the situation in India at that point in time. The fragmentation of society, the different lives, the different beliefs that make India, and the frustrations that built up, and what happens when people try to tap into religious sentiments to gain a few votes. The book also touches upon the politics and the nature of democracy in India, of how politicians use the excuse of popular sentiment to look the other way, and ignore injustice.

A wonderful book, a wonderful read, one that makes you think. Tharoor’s wonderful descriptions, his use of words makes his books such a pleasure to read. All the characters come alive, one can understand why Lakshman felt so lonely, Priscilla’s motivation, Gurinder’s(Lakshman’s IPS friend) story evokes so many strong emotions, each character has his or her own story, and despite that, the books moves at a very fast pace, keeping all the threads in hand. If you enjoy these types of books, ones where political history is interwoven with a story, I would recommend it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.