Hard Choices

By Santosh Kalwar

The puppies’ mother accepted the baby girl, who was left in an alley unknown to anyone. The puppies all saw the baby girl and licked and jumped atop her. When it rained, the mother dog provided shelter for her and the rest of her pups. Then night fell, and the Nepalese streets were beset by dangers.

The alley was ripe with evils in the form of thugs and perverts. The mother dog knew that she had to guard her puppies. The men weren’t interested in the dogs, though. They were only interested in the tiny girl being protected by them. They wanted to hurt the girl. They enjoyed such distractions. However, the mother dog saw the girl as her own and growled at the men, baring her teeth. They got scared and ran away as the mother dog curled against the child, keeping her safe and warm until morning.

In a lowland region in southern Nepal, a girl child was a very different proposition for the human mother. She had not wanted to know the sex of the child. When she gave birth and the doctors told her that it was a girl, the entire room fell silent. There would have been celebration and adornment if it had been a boy. A hard decision would need to be made for the newborn girl that rested in her arms.

The mother wasn’t from a rich family and having a girl was forbidden. It was considered a curse on the family. Going home with the daughter would have caused an intense strain. Her husband would have deemed her a curse for giving him a daughter instead of a son and possibly leaving her for another woman that would give him a son. That didn’t include the intense financial strains to raise a girl in such a patriarchal ambience.

The mother looked down at the newborn daughter and knew that she would be living a harsh life no matter what. If she kept the girl, she could be left without money or resources to care for her. But as it was her daughter, she contemplated fighting for her. A girl in Nepal wasn’t only a curse to her husband’s family and her family. They would berate her and possibly disown her, leaving her with no husband and no family in her life.

First, this girl would not grow up with an education, for money would not be spent on educating a woman as she was seen to add no value to family coffers. On the contrary, the family would have to pay a large sum for her dowry. So not only would her daughter be subjected to illiteracy, but she also wouldn’t be able to marry a man who could care for her.

She left the hospital with the girl still in her arms tightly and was trying to make up her mind. When she came across an alleyway, she saw a mother dog taking care of all her puppies. This made the woman smile and cry. This mother didn’t need to think of the hard choices like she did. She knew she had to protect her puppies from harm, and the rest would work itself out, whether the puppy was a boy or a girl.

She felt lost staring at the dog protecting her babies. She looked at her own baby. She silently cried as she approached the alley and started to lower the baby to the ground. She didn’t want to leave her newborn baby. But, she felt left without a choice. She didn’t leave the newborn because she herself thought it was a curse for her and her family. She felt the baby would be unfortunate for being part of a family that couldn’t give her what she needed. She took off, walked fast, fearing that she would change her mind and turn around to grab the baby.

She lied and told her husband that a boy had died during childbirth.

Back in the alley, as the sun was rose, the baby was wailing, and the mother dog didn’t know what to do. She wouldn’t latch on like the other puppies and knew she couldn’t take care of her still, though she had compassion like a mother and tried to calm the baby down the best she could. Even her puppies didn’t jump and play rough, knowing that the human child needed a gentler touch. Finally, the noise from the crying baby drew the attention of a woman, who approached the child. The mother dog was weary and started to growl at the strange woman.

The woman only smiled and gently picking up the baby. The baby stopped crying. This woman didn’t know the baby or the dogs but saw what the mother dog was trying to do, though it belonged to a different species.

This woman had money and knew she could pay to educate the newborn and give her a decent life.

Santosh Kalwar’s new non-fiction, “Why Nepal Fails”, is forthcoming. His recent works have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Vine Leaves Press, 50-Word Stories, and Molecule. For more info, please visit: