Everything was going as planned, in as much as functional anarchy can go off without a hitch. If I hadn’t taken the turban-clad men’s corpse and the canvas bag carrying the deadly snake to a medical outpost, I would have been on time… On time to drive a young woman in labor to a proper clinic.
But babies don’t wait, so there was no more time. I had never seen a baby being born, let alone asked to help deliver one! Standing in the middle of the Rajasthani Desert amongst a handful of women I had come to photograph and report on, I had no choice. We had already tried to get the young woman into the Jeep but the driver refused because he was worried the expectant mother was going to give birth in his Jeep. Quite frankly, so was I.
So I did what people do when they don’t have a clue about what to do. I fretted. I tried to jog my 1970’s television clogged memory for baby delivering advice I might have picked up over the years. I remembered one thing: boil water. There was none -we were in a desert after all-. Nothing left then, but to do what what women like us have been doing since the beginning of time.
We waited. And waited some more. We whispered when the young woman grew uncomfortable, agonizing ourselves at the sound of her suffering. I paced the dunes, occasionally and discreetly took a few snaps to pass time. Two of the older women clearly had the situation under control. Thank all the Hindu Gods for this because I didn’t have a single clue.
My regal driver stood waiting for instructions.
The sun rose.
A small fire was stoked.
A small pot was procured; my flask -containing the only water around- was emptied into it.
The contractions were getting closer.
Within minutes, little Miss Amba, named after the Goddess Durga, made her way into this world.
We carried the mother and child to the jeep, piled in all together and drove non-stop to the clinic. Days later, I sat in the shade of a hut, drinking chai with the young parents, and all I can think of is how crazy life is and how amazing crazy can be.