The Secluded Crib

The twins had a bunch of clothes that they’d outgrown, and I wanted to give them away (the clothes, not the twins – do I have to clarify that?). I phoned around to various NGOs (that means charitable organizations), starting with the Red Cross. Guess what? Nobody wants old clothes. Not even if they are in decent condition. And these clothes are ok-ish. My kids would still be wearing them if they hadn’t grown out of them.

I would have thought that we, in India, surely have enough people who live in conditions of such abject poverty that used clothes in good condition given away free would not be spurned. If we don’t, if our poor people are well-clothed enough to be able to turn up their noses at cast-off clothing, it would be a good thing. It would indicate, surely, that all our people are well fed – because only after they had spent whatever they could on getting sufficient food, would they spend on new clothes and only then would they spurn used clothes. Or only after all the charitable organizations had ensured that the people they looked after had enough to eat, would they spend money buying them new clothes. Surely? Or do we have well-dressed people in this country who are poor and starving? One meal a day, but wearing new clothes, not rags?

What about victims of natural disasters who have lost everything? Those who were not particularly well-off to begin with, who had no bank accounts? Do they also not need or want somebody else’s clothes? Not even for their children, who are hardly likely to fuss, or even know the difference? Or do they have good clothes for their children already? Are there so many people and organizations sponsoring new clothes for the needy that old clothes are really just not needed?

Or, what I think is more likely, are these NGOs not even reaching the really needy people? Are they providing for the haves, not for the have-nots? I’ve seen slum kids in the cities dressed in rags. Haven’t you? Ok, let’s not talk about beggar kids – we know it’s a racket and they’re made to dress in rags, and who’d want to give money to well-dressed kids. But slum kids are those who have parents, families, food, perhaps, but not clothes – at least, not much. At any rate, what they do wear falls far short of the kind of stuff I’m looking to give away. Does nobody want to take the clothes that more fortunate kids have outgrown and pass them on to these unfortunate kids?

I don’t really understand it.

But, after some phoning around, I did find an orphanage willing – not overly eager, mind you, but willing, almost as though they were doing me a favour – to take the clothes. So off I went to deliver them.

As I was leaving, I noticed a small, secluded crib hanging near the gate. It had a built-on roof. There was a bell attached to the roof. Suddenly, I realized that it was there for parents – mothers mostly, I suppose – to put their “unwanted” babies and disappear.

The realization gave me goosebumps.

Whether it is ever really used like that any more, or whether it’s largely symbolic, I don’t know. But the fact remains that mothers do leave their babies, it happens all the time. I can’t bring myself to believe that they throw them in the gutter in a completely callous manner. Surely they tuck them up carefully, whisper goodbye, pray that their child will survive, somehow, maybe even flourish. I thought of someone leaving her child in the crib, ringing the bell, scurrying out before anyone saw her, hiding, watching, crying. Oh, very Hindi-film-ish, but suddenly it just touched a raw nerve in me.

Our girls were left like that. Not in a crib at an orphanage, they were left at the hospital where they were born. That’s just as bad, or worse. I’ve known this since we got them, but it suddenly became too real to me. I found myself crying as I walked away from there.

It’s stupid, of course. I, of all people, should be happy there are mothers who leave their children. That’s how childless people like us get ours. But I look at my girls with their cheeky smiles and their bright eyes and I think of them left there, symbolically in that secluded crib… and I have no words for what I feel.

9 Responses to The Secluded Crib

  1. Amit Mukherjee says:

    It is sad that parents have to give away a part of themselves, most often to escape social ostracism. If only our society accepted the fact that marriage is not a necessary precursor having a child, maybe that crib with the bell would not be needed. At least the crib gives some assurance to the abandoning mother that her child will find a loving and accepting home. Maybe this feeling eases her suffering, just a bit.

  2. Supriya says:

    It is possible that because we are well fed, well clothed and have most of our needs taken care of, we have the luxury to feel for the babies left in someone else’s care. Maybe the moms who have to resort to such a step are over their head in problems and this is just one more. Maybe they are relieved to let go of their burden. Do they even have the capacity to feel any more sad or depressed – I think they must be just numbed out.
    As for the kids – if they get adopted before they know what they are about, they are so so much better off without people who don’t want them – even if they are their biological parents.
    Having said that, I can understand your feeling when confronted by such a stark evidence that all is not well with the world.

  3. poupee97 says:

    Supriya: I don’t see it the same way… but the way I felt I think has more to do with my being part of the sorry story of the secluded crib – being the person who picked up the child from the crib, figuratively speaking. I don’t think I’d have thought or felt much about it if we hadn’t adopted our daughters. It’s the thought of them being left there, their specific mother doing the leaving, that strikes home. I think.

  4. cherokeebydesign says:

    Thats what the crib was there for…..what a sad, sad world we live in, when Parents just leave a baby/child in ant place they feel may or may not be safe.
    I hope that for people like that, that God has a special place in Hell, just waiting for them.

    Just last week a friend of mine let his dog outside brfore going to bed that night. The dog started barking and barking….(not like the dog at all)
    When Tommy went outside to investigate, he found a new-born baby wrapped in a very thin blanket under a bush, crying. He called the Police and EMT, they guessed the baby was just a few hours old….no diaper, no clothes, just a very thin blanket.
    It has started to rain a little and the baby was starting to get kinda cold.

    Kinda strange….Tommy and his wife were to leave the day before for a week long trip, but had to change their travel plans at the last minute.

    Nobody seems to know where the baby came from, no note, no nothing.

    The hospital says the baby is going great and that they have not found any problems whit the child as of yet.

    I still say it takes a sick-mind to hurt a little child or an old person.


  5. poupee97 says:

    Raven & others: I tend to be more sympathetic to the people who do this. I’ve said before too, that I don’t think it can be an easy decision or action for anybody. And we don’t know the circumstances that a person might be in. Amit thinks of unwed mothers, but it might not be only that. It might be rape, or even incest. It might be being deserted by your husband, or your husband dying. It might be poverty. It might be having five children already. It might be not knowing about, or being able to enforce birth control. It might be about being 15. Or 13. It might be finding out too late to abort. It might be prostitution. And of course, in India, it might be the “tragedy” of having daughters instead of sons, and in-laws who would sooner kill the girl child than raise her.

    It might be anything and we can’t be sure how we, or people we know and respect, would act in such circumstances. We can’t know how that person feels – sad, indifferent, numb, angry, resentful, justified, unsure, depressed… Probably different people feel different things and the same person might even feel conflicting things. Certainly everyone must feel something, even if that something is numbness. I don’t think it can be easy for anyone to shrug off their baby – who knows, they might already be in their own private hell for doing it.

    Perhaps for me personally, after wanting to have kids for so long, not being able to have kids, and finally adopting my two girls whom I can’t imagine having to be parted from in such a way, the whole thing is about a mother being put in such a position that her only option is to give up her child. From my perspective, rather than seeing the woman as heartless and cruel, I can only see her as a victim of her circumstances. And the child – who might, after all, end up in a good home with loving parents – is a victim too. Because for all that she might have a good family, she will always have to deal with the mystery and the tragedy of her birth.

  6. Sadia says:

    My baby sister’s biological mother was a Bangladeshi village girl of 15 when she gave birth. She had been taken advantage of (not raped, but more “we’re married now because I said so but don’t tell anyone”) and gave up her child because she knew she was too young and too poor to care for her. Her parents had sent her to the city to hide her pregnancy so that she would still be marriageable. Shortly afterward, she returned to the orphanage, begging for her child back, but she had signed away her rights.

    Her horrible, painful loss was our family’s gain. Thinking of her always brings tears to my eyes. The baby she gave up got married this year, and has chosen to live with her husband in Bangladesh instead of in the UK where she’s spent her last 9 years.

  7. doug H says:

    The abandoned baby syndrome is very sad, indeed. But i think you summed it up well in your last comment.

    Meanwhile, I too cannot understand why Red Cross or somebody would refuse used clothing.

    Chicago is dotted with many, many stores that accept used clothing and other items. They then sell the items, and use the profits for various charitable activities. Why India wouldn’t have the same set-up is beyond me.

  8. Siri says:


    In wholehearted agreement with you about this. One can never know the reasons that may have caused someone to ‘abandon’ their baby. All else aside, it happens and we can never know or judge others for their reasons.

  9. Prakash says:

    It is very sad to think that there are so many kids out there who do not know any other world apart from orphanage. I do wish we can do more for them.
    I am sure any mother will feel very very disheartened to leave their child in the crib – the circumstances are overpowering than the natural bond. I do not know how I will react if I see a crib like that.

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