Veeraswamy Krishnaraj  Feb 3, 2018

A village woman delivered babies in the village of Sundari. Her name was Sundariammal. She was the midwife of the high and the mighty and the destitute. She belonged to Vaishya community and was accepted by the high and the low. She even visited neighboring villages offering her services.

 Everyone from the high caste to the low caste liked her, because she was the midwife for many of the youngsters and youths in the village.

Some of the high caste members objected to her service to the Dalits and tribal women. She did not confront the objectors and thought the resistance will weaken and die down in course of time. To help matters, there was no pregnancy in the high-caste community for a year.

The families paid in cash, grains and whatever thy could afford. There was never a demand for payment. She kept a written record of deliveries she attended to, for official record keeping.

Her children were delivered in her village by a midwife.

Her husband was a carpenter by trade. He cut the trees and built tables, chairs… for the people. The houses were mostly brick or mud. The need for a wooden house frame was rare.

They made a good living and were highly regarded and respected.

They wanted to visit her parents’ place with the children. They had a parakeet, able to talk a few words that the family could easily understand.  They took the parakeet with them.

Her parents’ place was a day’s journey through a forest with lions, tigers…The travelers built a brick enclosure with 6-foot wall with steel-gated staggered entrance and lookout ports all around the building on the jungle route so they could rest, relax, sleep or seek shelter from the predators. All around the wall, the travelers installed steel ladders four feet off the ground, so they can escape from a wild animal. They had spikes pointing down from the first rung. There were no bears or monkeys in the jungle.

A lake was nearby. Animals came there for water.

Sundariammal and her family travelled along the forest and went inside the corral for rest and relaxation. They must have been there for 20 minutes and heard a grunt. The father looked out and saw a lioness in the throes of delivery in a cave nearby. They waited and the delivery did not progress further.

Sundariammal told her husband and her children she would attend to the delivery. No way, said the husband. The children were against it. The midwife sent the parakeet to survey and come back. It flew to the cave and sat on the head of the lioness. The lioness did not mind but was grunting.

The bird came back and said, “good.” The midwife gauged the distance as 30 feet. She went 10 feet and stopped. The lioness was still. The same at 20 feet. She went near the lioness. No threat from the lioness.

She went behind the lioness and pulled out three cubs. The lioness stopped grunting. She left the lioness and returned to the safety of the corral. From a distance she saw the lioness gnawing at the umbilical cords.

As the sun reached 2 O clock position, they departed the corral and went on their way. Sundariammal cleaned her hands in the lake, resumed the journey and reached their destination by sundown. 

She related her story to the villagers and the children, who were wonderstruck by her adventure. They stayed in the village for a few weeks.

They were back on the forest path on their return journey and very much wished to see the cubs and their mother. Quarter way down the path, they heard a grunt. They were nowhere near the corral. Fear struck them. The three cubs greeted them. The lioness was not too far behind. The cubs could see with their eyes at three weeks of age and came to them with no fear. The mother lioness was very sedate and came near the midwife, while the rest of the family was far away.  The lioness licked Sundariammal on her feet. Yes, she knew her smell and feel.

The children emboldened by lack of aggression, and friendliness came near the cubs and picked them up. The lioness showed no aggression. The father told his wife and children, they better get home before dark.

The lioness spit something out of the mouth. They did not know what it was. The bird swooped down and picked it up by the beak and delivered it to the midwife. She cleaned it and found it was a precious stone. That was her fees and gift for her services.

They bid goodbye and left for home.

This was the big story in her village. The story spread to other villages. She became a celebrity and was christened ‘Lion Cub Deliverer.’