Tarquin Hall, author of “The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken,” in NYT:
I was lying stark naked on a hard wooden slab with two men slathering my limbs in sticky, pungent oil. Without warning, one of them tried to give me an enema using a rubber hose. My cry of “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” was met with a mumbled apology. The masseur meant no harm. But for me, a naturally reserved — some would say squeamish — Brit brought up to believe that nudity is something they do on the Continent, this was pure humiliation.
“Everything is all right, Mr. Haaall?”came a woman’s voice from outside the cubicle. It belonged to the Ayurvedic doctor responsible for the “therapy” I was undergoing.
“I’m hating every minute of this!” I replied.
“How you’ll ever get pregnant with such thinking?” she admonished. “Consider your darling wife. She is suffering too much. You must relax — have some faith.”
This was Day 3 of a monthlong program to help my wife, Anu, and me conceive a child. We’d been married 10 years and trying to have a baby for 5. More:
Anindita Ghose in Mint Lounge:
In 1997, as T.C. Anand Kumar browsed through the diary of Subhash Mukherjee, he realized that the title he bore—creator of India’s first test-tube baby—belonged to someone else.
Dr Kumar, a reproductive biologist, was known for having created India’s first test-tube baby. His collaboration with gynaecologist Indira Hinduja had resulted in the widely publicized birth of Harsha Chawda in Mumbai on 6 August 1986. But going through Dr Mukherjee’s handwritten notes years later, Dr Kumar concluded that Dr Mukherjee had preceded him by eight years: India’s first test-tube baby, Kanupriya Agarwal alias Durga, was born on 3 October 1978 in Kolkata. Since the feat had received almost no acknowledgement from India’s scientific community, Dr Kumar had been unaware of it.
When the media was celebrating Dr Kumar’s supposed breakthrough in 1986, Dr Mukherjee wasn’t around to reiterate his claims. Frustrated by the way the Marxist West Bengal government had neglected his research, and harassed by the strong gynaecologists’ lobby that saw his work as a threat, he had committed suicide in 1981.
Dr Mukherjee’s story is that of a genius. He pioneered in vitro fertilization (IVF) in India with the aid of some general apparatus and a refrigerator in his Kolkata apartment. More:
Diya Bannerjee in The Times of India:
He is a major in sociology, swears by his Barthes and Durkheim, and likes to ride his dad’s old 350cc bike. Away from the cafeteria of his Delhi University campus and in a quiet corner of an infertility clinic in south Delhi, he is also ‘donor number 456′. So when he freezes his sperm in a vial that’s kept at minus 1960 degrees C and gets paid for it, he doesn’t think he’s doing it for extra pocket money. An increasing number of students are donating sperm for cash. It takes care of their coffee-date, cigarettes and that pair of jeans they have been eyeing for long.
“We prefer students coming in for (sperm) donations,” says Dilip Patil, managing director of Mumbai-based sperm bank Cryos International India. “In return, we pay them adequately for their generosity.” Patil adds that while many may want to sign up for the job because it pays well — one sample fetches almost Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 — the donor should ideally also express a desire to help childless couples. “It should be an altruistic effort and not a money-making gimmick.”
In India, where sperm banks are mushrooming at a frenetic pace, the donor community is hardly growing. Morals and ethics are the two stumbling blocks that doctors have to contend with. Senior IVF consultant and fertility specialist Sushma Sinha of Apollo hospital, New Delhi, says, “The student community is young and able, so naturally they are the best donors.” More:
It took 17 years for India’s most famous investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala to become a father, and it beat anything that all his thousands of crores could buy. Manju Sara Rajan in Open:
Most women accept discomfort as an essential part of the pregnancy ritual, but it takes altogether something else to survive what Rekha Jhunjhunwala went through. In 2003, 39-year-old Rekha, wife of India’s most famous investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, finally became pregnant for the first time. But by the final trimester in early 2004, her baby was in serious trouble: it was sliding down the birth canal far too fast. Too late to surgically keep the baby in, too early to bring it out, Rekha’s doctor gave her a single prescription: be confined to bed till delivery date. “I didn’t bathe for three months,” she says. “It was difficult to do anything, my legs were elevated all the time, and because I was always lying down, after some time I did everything on my side, even eating. But I was determined.” Nishtha was born on 30 June 2004. Her brothers, twins Aryaman and Aryavir, were born at 12.29 am and 12.30 am on 2 March 2009. It took the millionaire couple 22 years of marriage to complete their family.
The latest Forbes India rich list counts 49-year-old Jhunjhunwala as the 58th richest man in the country, with a fortune of $915 million (Rs 4,209 crore). “I have far less than people think, far more than I need. My wealth fluctuates by 5 per cent every week,” he says. But even an amateur guesstimate of listed and unlisted investments, private equity interests and cash holdings safely puts the former chartered accountant’s net worth at over a billion dollars. “Whatever is known publicly is underestimated,” says a source close to him. More:
India is rapidly becoming the world’s baby factory. It’s one of the few countries in the world which authorises payment for surrogacy. For €10,000, you can receive fertility treatment, IVF and have the resulting embryos impregnated in a surrogate mother. Nine months later, you return and collect your new baby. On the surface, it seems to be a win-win scenario. Infertile couples get to have a baby while impoverished women receive enough money to pay for their own children’s schooling or buy a small house. But with so many ethical issues at play, can surrogacy really be treated like any other business? Channel4 follows one couple as they travel to India to have a baby.
Click here to watch the full 52-minute video.
[Image: JAVA Films]
In this community of 2,000 families there are 250 sets of twins. Indian doctor trying to unravel mystery thinks the answer may be in the water. Jeremy Laurance in the Independent:
It is the village of the doppelganger. Turn a corner in Kodinhi in rural Kerala, one of India’s greenest and richest states, and if you have seen one child you will probably run into its double soon after. In this community of 2,000 families there are 250 sets of twins. In 2008 alone, of the 300 families who had children, 15 pairs were born, a rate at least six times higher than the average for the country. India has one of the lowest twinning rates in the world, but Kodinhi is close to the top of the global twinning league.
Krishnan Sribiju, a doctor at the Tirurangadi Taluk hospital, just outside the village, said the number of twins born was increasing year by year. In the past five years, up to 60 pairs had been born, and the 250 pairs who had been registered understated the true total. The high number of children with indistinguishable features makes life difficult for teachers. Abhi, 16, standing beside his brother, said: “I comb my hair to the right and he combs his hair to the left. I also have a mark on my neck. Apart from these differences there is nothing else.”
Dr Sribiju, a dermatologist and public health specialist who has been studying the high twinning rate for nine years, said the cause remained a mystery. In a telephone interview yesterday, he said: “We are working on a hypothesis that it is something in nature, or in the water or the sand. We do not think it is something in the food because they don’t have something particular that they eat. There are thousands of heavy metals that could be in the water and affecting the people but it takes a long time to work out. It is very difficult.” More:
[Updated August 14]
Even as baby Manji Yamada’s grandmother moved the Supreme Court of India to , an Indian child welfare group said it had petitioned a court for custody of the baby. Clearly, it’s going to be one long, legal battle before this baby finds a home.
In November 2007, Japanese couple, Ikufumi and Yuki Yamada travelled to India to sign a surrogacy agreement with Priti Patel, a married woman who lives in Anand, Gujarat. But the couple divorced shortly before their daughter was born on August 5. And the wife no longer wants the child, while the birth mother has returned to her own family.
The baby, Manji Yamada is now in a Jaipur hospital where she is being looked after by her grandmother. Under Indian law, surrogacy is legal but a single man cannot adopt a girl child. As things stand, lawyer Indira Jaising is representing the father and child, trying to unite the two. But right now, there are hurdles in even getting her birth certificate issued from the municipal authorities in Anand. Read the full story in The Telegraph here.
And for more on surrogacy practices in India read the DNA story here.
Previously on AW:
Foreign couples seek Indian surrogate mothers
Who owns these nine months?
The ads are brazen: ‘healthy young women – superovulated exclusively for you!’. The fees are half those of UK clinics (‘flights and hotel included!’). And the industry is unregulated, leaving doctors free of legal and ethical constraints. No wonder more and more Europeans are going to India for fertility treatment. Raekha Prasad reports in The Guardian:
Ekatrina Aleksandrova, 42, flew to India for fertility treatment
At the end of last year, Ekaterina Aleksandrova boarded a plane in London and flew to Mumbai. It wasn’t her first trip there – she is a management consultant and often goes abroad on business. But this time she went to have five embryos implanted in her womb. A couple of days later she flew back to Europe. While on business in Hong Kong in January, she discovered she was pregnant with just one embryo.
For Aleksandrova, 42, this was the culmination of a six-year struggle to become a mother. She divorced at 29, and hadn’t been in a serious relationship since she was 34. “I always wanted to have a child but the men kept saying, ‘Why don’t we travel?’” she says. “It wasn’t that I was obsessed with my career, I just couldn’t get men to be a father.”
First, she tried to adopt in Germany, where she holds citizenship, but that didn’t work out. Then, in 2004, she moved to the UK to take advantage of this country’s more liberal attitude to single women who need IVF. She spent £18,000 in less than three years, trying and failing to conceive at a private Harley Street clinic. When she finally conceived in India, Aleksandrova was in a state of “shock and disbelief”.