An impassioned and compassionate report on the condition of modern Indian women. Bumiller, a Washington Post journalist, accompanied her newsman husband when he was assigned to a four-year stint (1984-1988) in India. There, she devoted herself to learning about the lives of Indian women of all classes--interviewing movie stars, intellectuals, career women, politicians, idle middle-class matrons, midwives, bureaucrats, journalists, doctors, countrywomen, the rich and the poor. She also observed birth-control clinics and sterilization procedures, and mothers who had murdered their infant daughters. All measures to control the population problem have failed, she found, for lack of underlying social justice for women. Neither a strong feminist movement, nor the guarantee of constitutional rights, nor the oldest and possibly most costly population control measures in the world have improved the condition of the 90% of Indian women who lead lives of chatteldom and deprivation. The traditional emphasis on the duty to produce male offspring--embodied in the customary blessing (and curse) that is the title of this book--has defied all progress and, Bumiller feels, is the central impediment of resolving many of India's persistent problems: ""The country's three biggest challenges--maintaining democracy, secularism and national unity--cannot be accomplished without justice, including justice for women."" However, she views the wide-spread practice of infanticide for females not as ""a heinous crime,"" but ""as the last resort of impoverished, uneducated women driven to do what they thought was best for themselves and their families."" Full of facts and figures, vivid pictures of places and people, and moving personal responses to them all. A rich and disturbing portrait of India nearly half a century after independence.