Wednesday 14 November 2012


Just at this moment, people are gathering in different places to mark the heartbreak of the passing of Savita Halappanavar. For Diwali, the festival of lights, Savita had choreographed her annual dance for the festivities in Galway. Being seventeen weeks pregnant, she had not intended to dance herself, but she would have worn a sari, lined her eyes in kohl and tapped a foot energetically to the beat. I am not attending a vigil or a protest, but I went for a walk today, writing a letter to Savita as I walked.
Dear Savita,
There are no divas lit in the village where I live. Diwali is not openly celebrated here. I remember making the clay pots when I was a child, decorating each one uniquely, and then, once lit, being lost in the glow. I walk past the river and the birds croon mournfully; I take care with each step because the golden leaves are heavy with wet. They are taupe and ochre, muted, when I return home. I stand looking down over the bridge, making the most of my eyes, even in the half light. I listen to the music of the troubled river and remember my Indian classical dance teacher calling me "Cutlet!" It was her nickname for her favourite student, and also the one who needed her sympathy the most - the worst dancer. You never quite knew which you were. It was in the tone. It's funny... the things we remember from our first lives, our first homes.

A few days ago, November 10 was declared Global Day of Action for our younger sister Malala and the 32 million girls who are denied education. Some are hoping Malala will be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Every day of my life, I give thanks for the determination of my grandfathers and great-grandfather, who fought for the women in my family to be educated. I am proud of this inheritance, but I never take it for granted. This freedom to write, to think, to express myself, is a gift. I am fiercely grateful to be an educated, literate, free thinking woman. I imagine you must have felt this way too?
Two months ago, a consortium of Irish doctors declared abortion medically unnecessary: "We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women." You pointed out you were neither Irish nor Catholic and yet the law allowed a dying heartbeat to take precedence over your own. I cannot bear to think of your last days. Know only that many hearts are beating for you tonight, and listening for the song of your life.

From one of your many new friends, Shaista.

Images: from
Pencil Jammers artist Bharatanatyam


  1. A very beautiful post. And be certain that there are many women here in Ireland feeling very sad and ashamed for what happened to Savita in our country. She will never be forgotten here.

  2. So heartwrenching and horrible. May her passing open a window of light, a costly sacrificial prayer for change.

  3. Tonight the women and men of Ireland are grieving for Savita. It is my prayer that her death will spark the change needed to ensure that no more beautiful women die because of our outdated laws. May she rest in peace.

  4. I feel nothing but shame at being Irish, for the cowardice of our politicians in thrall to a hypocritical religion that has no place dictating the law of the land.

    I am so sorry that this beautiful lady and her husband were so negligently and callously treated by Irish doctors. They and the Catholic Church have her blood on their hands.

  5. Shaista, your beautiful heart always finds the perfect words to say. What a tragic happening. I am glad you made the connection to Malala. I join you in listening for the song of her life.

  6. thank you for this tribute

    Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

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  7. Go in peace dear friend...peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  8. I grieve for Savita. Your article is soul touching. Yes it was a "murder" by the doctors who could have saved the heartbeat. I hope there will be justice, after all they say ireland is still the first world.

  9. I is not only tragic but a travesty
    of how patriarchy still dominates the dictum of law throughout the world.

    I'm sadden not only for the unnecessary loss of aa beating heart in Savista but her family, her country still ruled by ignorant selfishness but also for the lack of action, cowardness, by men in power.

    Gracias mi amiga for exposing this travesty and for rclling the spirit of Savista

  10. Your writing is so beautiful, the story so sad.............