Publisher: HarperCollins India (July 15, 2014)
Review by Ananya S Guha
The Book ” Baby Makers ” is a conscience stricken book which talks about surrogacy in entirety, including ethical issues. The book anatomizes surrogacy laws in different countries, in Asia, USA and UK. It speaks of commercial surrogacy and highlights aspects such as ‘ surrogacy tourism ‘ which is a booming and lucrative industry in India. The book unleashes a narrative power to tell stories of individuals who come to India from the USA, Japan and Germany in search of surrogate ‘ mothers ‘, couples who do not have children but are desperately seeking joys of motherhood, or fatherhood. This is the inner pathos of this explosive book.
Elsewhere in India couples go to different locations such as Bangalore in search of ‘‘baby makers”. But who are they. In India they are the down trodden who just need to improve their pecuniary conditions and have a decent living. This is the tragedy, but it is also the reality- a vicious cycle engendered by poverty, and family encumbrances. But who are the ‘ money makers ‘? Are they not the doctors and the posh hospitals? Indian laws allow commercial surrogacy, but are ambivalent regarding laws about the children, which country they belong to, their passport and visas etc, making the whole issue complex and ambiguous. More often than not foreigners who come to India chasing dreams are not aware of all the laws. All they know is that commercial surrogacy in India is relatively cheap as compared to that in the US. However in countries such as the UK commercial surrogacy is not permitted.
The ethical issue that the book raises is: who is the mother- the surrogate or the intending? Cannot the surrogate mother also experience the delight of motherhood? Does she not have a right to it? Examples are cited as to how hollow a surrogate mother can feel, once she hands over the child to the intending mother. Ethical issues are associated with medical questions. The sperm is the man’s, but the eggs or the womb is that of another woman. Who is the ‘ mother ‘?
This further complicates ethical issues. Social and economic conditions in India compel people like Bina to go to Mumbai in search of better jobs and surrogacy! Bina after earning some lakhs is able to buy a tiny flat in Mumbai, irrespective of the fact that her husband simply sits idle.
The book covers all the technicalities of surrogacy, fertility, insemination and subsequent delivery of the child. It covers issues such as the immediate need for breast feeding. For a couple from Chennai who live in London, the disapproval of their parents/ in laws become insufferable. Out of sheer desperation they go to surrogacy and get twins. Finally of course they spill the beans.
In The US in the nineteen eighties a mother who took the help of a surrogate mother, suddenly did a volte- face, questioning the right to motherhood, making it a national issue and ruckus.
The underlying pathos of this very well written book is ‘ why ‘, why do people come to surrogacy, whether the facilitating mother, or the intended mother? The former does it for pecuniary reasons, the latter because she wants to be a mother. It is an issue involving women. As usual women have to bear the brunt of suffering. This is the larger irony or tragedy that the book charts out.
Cathy and her husband come to India from the USA in search of a surrogate mother. In the US it is too expensive, they are middle class. They overcome ‘ culture shock ‘ and live in Hyderabad for a considerable period of time. But Cathy is always admonished by fear- what if?
Gita Aravamudan, the noted journalist, asks many questions- those related to surrogacy laws, those related to medical laws, the ethical issue (who is the mother?) and those related to sheer monetary exploitation by doctors. It is a book full of pathos and if I may call it- ‘ tragedy ‘. The tragedy lies in a poverty stricken India, it lies in the presence of unscrupulous middle men and women.
This is India. This is a must read book.
You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Makers-Gita-Aravamudan/dp/9351362930
– Ananya S Guha works at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as a Senior Academic. His poems in English have been published in International / National Journals and e zines. He also writes for newspapers, does book reviews and writes on matters related to education. His recent works appeared in the Harper Collins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen. He also writes book reviews, articles for newspapers and articles on education, distance education and vocational education.