Baby’s Day Out

Welcome to the age of the pundit-approved caesarean birth, says Aastha Atray Banan

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri

PHYSIOTHERAPIST Swati Kumar, 30, was adamant that her baby be born before 10.30 in the morning on April 22, 2010. The usually easygoing mother-to-be adopted this firm stance on her punditji’s insistence. “He told me if my son was born at this time, he’d do really well in life and be a happy-go-lucky character,” she smiles. “My son is lucky to be a muhurat baby.”
Swati is one of the increasing numbers of parents who are consulting their pundits for auspicious timings and dates to give birth to their C-section babies — the “muhurat babies”. Parents believe that a child born at the blessed time and date will be fair, most often male, and someone who will look after them in their old age. Though it may seem ironic that many of us cling to religious diktats even as ‘modern’ India blazes ahead, doctors and patients alike defend the practice, saying it promotes parents’ happiness.
Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, consultant gynaecologist at Mumbai’s Jaslok and Lilawati hospitals, says, “I did find it extremely amusing in the beginning, but if it adds to the mother’s happiness, what’s the harm? In a C-section, it’s possible to choose a date, so let them fulfill their wish. Sometimes I feel they want me to check my watch before cutting the cord as well!”
But Pai does moan about the pressure that she faces to arrange schedules that will please everyone. She also says that almost 90 percent of all C-section babies in India are born based on a muhurat. “Parents,” she says, “will move heaven and earth” to make sure their baby is delivered at the designated time.
It’s not just stubborn parents Pai has to deal with. Sometimes, the couple’s well-wishers also join in the muhurat baby brigade. “One couple had been given a strange time of 3.30 am, and I said ‘No.’ They actually found people I had connections with and made them call me! I had bureaucrats calling me up as well urging me to give in,” she laughs.
But is there any danger in waiting for a date and a time for the baby to be born? “Absolutely not. We give the patients a week to choose a date from, which is ideal for the mother to give birth. Even though it’s not medically dangerous, it can be very stressful,” says Pai, recounting a high-tension yet hilarious incident. “A high-profile, extremely wealthy couple decided on a specific date and time. I booked the operation theatre with buffer time of an hour before and after the operation, so that there was no crisis. But as luck would have it, the doctor before us had a complication and took much longer than she was supposed to. The couple went ballistic and started breathing down my neck. We finally went in with only 20 minutes to spare of the muhurat, and I delivered in the last three minutes!” she says.
With all the trouble people are going through to bring the sanctified muhurat baby into the world, we do hope they live up to all the hype.