Kishwar talks of surrogacy, IVF in new book

New Delhi: Celebrities like Aamir Khan and Nicole Kidman going in for surrogacy has helped spread the word about the option and make people aware of it, says author Kishwar Desai, whose new book deals with the issue of assisted reproduction.

Desai dealt with female foeticide and infanticide in India in her award-winning "Witness the Night", the first of the Simran Singh trilogy. Her second book "Origins of Love" is about surrogacy and IVF and how topical the issue is both in India and abroad.

According to Desai, methods like surrogacy "serves a particular need" for those women, and men, who are unable to have their own children – and are very keen to have offspring with whom they have a physical connection.

She, however, has a word of caution. "Ultimately the surrogate is hired and paid a price – for carrying and delivering the child. The cash involved makes it into a business transaction – but a very strange one in which a body part (the womb) is temporarily `rented` out."

She feels there should be a watchdog whenever the lending or donation of a body part is involved. "In assisted reproduction – a woman actually `lends` out her womb, sometimes at great physical risk. There is no guarantee that the implantation will be successful or that the hormonal medication given to the women will not hurt her health."

"Even in the harvesting of donor eggs, certain risks are always involved – but when money is at stake risks are often undermined – and only the positive aspects are played up," Desai, whose "Witness the Night" won the Costa First Novel Award 2010, told PTI.

And celebrities going in for surrogacy helps spread the word and people become more aware of it as an option. Desai had recently signed a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. The deal also includes UK and Commonwealth rights for "Witness the Night", which S&S UK will be reissuing in June. Besides "Origins of Love", the third book will come out next June.

The common factor in the three books is the single female protagonist Simran Singh, a social worker who gets involved in sorting out the problems of the world. And in each one she examines contemporary issues, through the lens of a crime which has taken place and for which she has been specially called in.

The third book is set in Goa and Simran "takes on a big social issue and also examines the crime that lies at the heart of it", says Desai. In "Origins of Love", Simran is asked to investigate the case of a newly born child, Amelia, whose British parents have died in a tragic but mysterious accident in Rajasthan.Amelia`s "birth" mother is a surrogate who has also disappeared and Simran decides to find out why no one seems to want the orphan.

She discovers the world of surrogacy, a multi-million dollar international business, with its own rules and regulations, often dangerously shrouded in secrecy, with doctors, surrogates and lawyers all concerned only with giving the commissioning parents what they want, a child.

Simran`s search for Amelia`s family takes her to London where she unravels the very uncomfortable truth. As she finds out the dark reality about the growing number of surrogates in India, she also learns why they may never forget the experience of carrying a child they cannot keep, and why some of the children may never even be born.