As we were preparing to leave Appalagraharam, a young tailor named Jaya came over to Nirmala’s home to meet me. She had not been at home the other day when we went to visit the other tailors in the village. She had stitched the bags with multiple compartments that we would market as carry-all totes, or the equivalent of diaper bags though with a name that does not suggest the use of diapers. Maybe Baby Totes. She had also stitched the new model nursing kurta, with a V-shaped front and snaps.
Among our new tailors, she was stitching the most neatly. So I looked even more closely at her work, to generate a checklist so that we would have a flawless product that people could order directly from the village and receive by post, without my serving as an intermediary.
As I examined the seams and snaps, she and Nirmala started talking quietly. After a few minutes Nirmala told me, “ఆవడికి చాల రోజులు నించి ఇక్కడ నొప్పి ఉంది” (she has been having pain here), pointing to the chest area.She had been prescribed some medicines and she was not sure if those had aggravated the pain. Reluctant to step in to territory out of my league, I kept my thoughts to myself. She added, ఇక్కడ కొంత మందికి గర్భ సంచి తీయిన్చేస్తున్నారు (several people are having their womb removed).
What? I looked up from the sewing. Why? I asked. “డాక్టర్ తీసేమన్నారు” (Doctor’s orders.) But for what did you go to see the doctor? I asked. “White …” she started saying. “White discharge?” I asked, alarmed. Not that white discharge is alarming. It can often be harmless, and can also be controlled with home care. There may be cases that require medical intervention but hysterectomy? How can the two be related? That was what was alarming. I quickly added that white discharge can also be a normal thing, not necessarily indicating anything serious.
The long and short of it is that women who are having abdominal or chest pain and/or white discharge seem to enter a path that puts them at risk of being ordered hysterectomies. Was I hearing right? There must be more to this. But just then we had to finish inspecting the stitching. Seams were straight, fitting was good. I pointed out a couple of misplaced snaps, my mind preoccupied with what I had just heard. I told the tailor that if she maintained good quality we could get orders from other places. She assured me that her quality would never fall. And with that I rose to gather our bags and pack our food for the train journey ahead. Before I was done she handed over the kurta, with snaps adjusted to the correct place for a neat closure. Impressed with her can-do spirit, I felt more confident about our ability to supply nursing kurtas, one of our signature products.
I wished I could be of more help regarding the gynecological issues but I did not want to say things without reliable information. Of course anything would probably be better than what they were getting. Worrying was making things worse, and doctors were taking advantage of their fear. I suggested walking or yoga for easing the back and front pain. I said that people who sit for long stretches, be it at a sewing machine, stove or computer, need to make sure that we have good posture and we also need to stretch our legs and backs.
I have had white discharge myself, it lasted for a few days and subsided. I took vitamin C and garlic at the time – out of the same worry and need to take some action – but perhaps it would have gone away anyway. But what is the deal, is there any kind of home care that one could suggest to these women so that they aren’t so afraid of white discharge?