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Tales and tea leaves from my daughter’s home town

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on :2015-07-28
The middle-aged woman squats on the floor of her filthy dismal shack on the toxic fringes of Shanghai, and talks without embarrassment about how many abortions she’s had.

Her firstborn was a son, and every baby she conceived after that was aborted. The alternative was a fine of $10,000 or more for each birth under China’s one-child policy: far too much for a simple peasant like her. She is just glad she did not bear any girls before hitting the jackpot with a son.

The woman’s story is wholly unremarkable in every way, except for one: she comes from the home town of my eldest adopted daughter. And she could so easily have been her mother.

During my seven years in Shanghai, I have met scores of women (and some men) from the home towns of my two daughters. They have been maids and hairdressers, avocado sellers and masseurs, pedicurists and trashpickers. The guy who cuts my hair is from my younger child’s home town; the one who kneads my muscles is from the older girl’s birthplace.

For years, I have grilled them about what conditions were like back home when my kids were born, at around the end of the last century. I am not sure they realise just how priceless their insider information is to me. No one knows why my children’s birth parents did not keep them, and my kids could not be more bored by the question, but migrants from their home towns can at least help me make something in the way of an educated guess. (Maybe my kids will eventually even be interested in the topic). Was it common, or rare, to abandon girls at around the time they were born — just because they were female? Would they be likely to have had siblings? Sisters or brothers or both? Might they have been conceived out of wedlock? Yes, it is all tea leaves. But tea leaves are better than no leaves.

“The peak period for abandoning babies in my home town was 1989 to 1999,” says the woman, not knowing that my daughter was born exactly at the end of that period. Her face is broad and brown and open, her mouth of perfect teeth noticeable even in the slight gloom of the pair of rooms where she lives with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and toddler grandson. The husband, also from my daughter’s home town, squats beside her, using a magnet to sift scrap metal into piles of washers, nuts and bolts. Their 16-month-old grandson pees on the floor at one point, through his traditional split trousers (no one seems to notice).

“Most of the abandoned babies were girls whose parents wanted to have a boy, but wanted to avoid the huge punishment for having more than one kid,” she says. She does not mention it but I know already that, if the first child is a girl, rural parents like her are allowed to have another to give them a second shot at a prized boy. But those who bear a boy the first time cannot; that’s why some call it the “1.5 child” policy

So what, hypothetically speaking, might have been their family circumstances? (We have come to interview the family on an entirely different topic, but I take my tea leaves whenever I can get them). “Abandoned children usually have an elder sister and a younger brother,” she says. The theory that has always made sense to me, given the ruling that many rural families can legally bear one girl and one boy in rural areas — so only girls born after that are abandoned.

“Young women who get pregnant before marriage would also discard their children, usually within a few days after birth, because after that the mother would get attached and not want to give her child away,” the lady says matter of factly. “The usual way to dump a kid was to, one, give it away to a childless couple or, two, put it on the roadside where there are people passing by.” My kids’ birth parents chose option two.