Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hidden Costs of Births in India

It has almost been 2 weeks since Asha joined us. Overall, it has been great! She is generally a very polite, relaxed kid. She seems to have a similar temperament to Shane...but only time will tell. She's starting to sleep for longer periods which will hopefully allow us to catch up on sleep.

But within hours of her delivery, I began to spend lots of money due to Indian culture and tradition. It was fun and I wanted to document this for posterity.

At most hospitals in India, the staff (nurses, cleaning staff, security guards, etc.) ask for tips -- either blatently or subtily. However, our hospital, has trained their staff not to ask for tips. We decided to give a large gift (about 10% of the overall bill) to their employees' benevolence fund. And I did give the valet parking attendent Rs. 10 ($0.25).

The next day I bought about 11 kg. (24 lbs!!) of candy to distribute to colleagues, neighbors, friends, local businesses, etc. This cost about $100. But in terms of income for the average Indian, it was a full month's salary. And it almost broke some bones since I carried it home on my motorcycle in two bags hanging from my wrists. It also took a lot of time. I personally handed the sweets (they're milk-based candy with nuts/fruit mixed in) to at least 140 people over the next three days. Another 40 people received sweets via some helpers.

And, besides showing a picture of the baby, everyone wanted to know: the weight (they don't care about length! and the avg weight here is 2.6kg...Asha was 3.7kg) and if it was a "normal" delivery (i.e. not a c-section, which many doctors push ladies to have; it takes less time and costs a third more than natural delivery). Then, when I shared that we've already "fixed a name", some were shocked since babies usually don't get a name for a couple of weeks. That gives the family time to consults the stars (or Christians will pray) and make a group decision. We're a little strange and different...but people were thrilled to hear we chose an Indian name!

(originally posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 as "Hidden Costs of Births in India" at