6 January 2015

Its all about family or is it? Part II

Vikas and Rukmini exchanged confused glances. Was this a medical emergency? Before they marshaled their thoughts into words Lakshmi stirred. They helped her sit up and unfortunately their seating configuration was like that of a candid interview, Vikas and Rukmini on one sofa, while Lakshmi was on the single seater. Lakshmi winced, and began.

Her family was angry with her. Their anger had to with a choice that Lakshmi had made.  Although Lakshmi was the sole breadwinner, everyone felt rightful of her income, an attitude that she accepted willingly, having seen nothing different. Vikas had encouraged her to study, but she wasn't inclined to reading and writing. But during their time together she had picked up English and learned the tasks of a housekeeper. Her earnings kept her family of six running - her parents, brother, his wife and their two children. When Vikas had questioned the growing number of family members she was expected to support, she just shrugged. Lakshmi felt that as long that they didn't interfere in her life, she didn't care. Her income was valuable enough that no one at home reproached her or even talked about her marriage, because losing her meant wedding expenditure and loss of livelihood! It amazed Vikas how selflessly Lakshmi lived her life, and how she never acknowledged or thought much about it.

A month ago, a distantly related cousin visited them from Saudi. He was a driver there, but had managed to work for a big Sheikh and make good money. On his last visit to India five years ago, he had married a young girl from their village and that was the last they heard from him. This visit was unusual; he came bearing lots of gifts and spoke exceedingly nicely to all her family. They were treated to lavish outings and restaurant food. A few days after this, when she reached home after work, she found only her brother, the cousin and his wife in the living room. She sensed that she walked into a delicate conversation. As she moved to go to the kitchen, her brother asked her to join them. 

The conversation was about how children complete a family. The cousin's wife then started sobbing about how no matter how wealthy they were, they would always feel incomplete till they had their own child, but her womb would not allow it. The doctors had declared that if she were to try to birth a child, either she or the child would survive. Would Lakshmi consent to lend them her womb, to incubate and bear their child? Lakshmi had blurted that nothing would make her sleep with her cousin. She was angry and had stormed out of the conversation. It was her brother who had consoled her and asked her to return - some new thing that the doctors do would mean that she didn't have to sleep with the cousin. The baby would be conceived outside her body, then they would do an operation and put the child into her body. It would then grow in her for the next nine months.

"Is this possible, Sir?" she asked in her narration. Vikas nodded and told her the English word for it: surrogacy.

For the last few days, going home had become hell. Her brother would be waiting for her and would repeat again and again, how much money she would make by agreeing to do this. But Lakshmi was not convinced. Her concerns were many: Who would marry her knowing she had borne another man's child? How could she carry her child in her womb and give it up? Why should she give up her well-paying jobs and stay confined at home? Finally, it was an operation, what if things went wrong and she can't have children ever? She even asked why it was that she was chosen - the cousin had seen how strong she was and wanted someone in the family to bear the child. But Lakshmi disagreed with this reasoning, she felt that the cousin considered her family poor enough to want to do anything to make more money. It was her brother who had been persuaded. In one of their conversations she asked her brother why his wife couldn't bear the child and he had slapped her, saying that as a married woman his wife could not undertake this. It all fell on her.

This morning she had packed her belongings and slipped out early. She didn't want to stay at home anymore. Her family wanted her to make another person's family, but as her choice revealed, ironically, she had no family of her own.

Note: a non-bar story, written in an hurry. Wish I had more time to polish the nuances of surrogacy from the emotional perspective of the birthing mother.

2 comments:

  1. Coerced into surrogacy? I'm aghast...

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  2. Hi Shoots: I've been thinking about surrogacy and what it means for the person who carries the baby. I can see the transactional nature of this arrangement - a human incubator for sale - but since pregnancy is much like a tumour, plus all those hormones coursing through you, how do these women detach from the thing they are incubating? And besides, I couldn't think how else to end this. I was going to do something on mental health, but it was ruining my mental health, so that's that.

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