Soneeya walks into the well-appointed office of Upkaar Surrogacy Welfare Trust in South Delhi with an air of confidence. It's evident that she is familiar with her surroundings. Before the interview, representatives of the NGO insists that she cover her face with a dupatta, which takes Soneeya by surprise.
"Am I a criminal now?"she asks.
This is what Soneeya, a surrogate mother who is being paid for her services, has to say about the new bill:
When I first heard about surrogacy from a Didi in my locality, I thought it was a joke. How can you carry someone else’s egg in your womb for nine months? And even if there is some way to do that, which sane person would take that decision? You have to understand that in the slums of Okhla, where I live, pregnancy is not always good news. It means another mouth to feed in a family of six-seven members.
But the Didi, who I don’t want to name, had been a surrogate mother once. She was reaping the benefits of that. She has a hefty bank balance and has repaired her house. Her house has a concrete roof now. Our roof is made of tin and in summers, our two-room house becomes a furnace. I envied her then. I decided I too wanted a concrete roof for my house then.
I have not completed my primary education. My husband is an illiterate. He is a putai (whitewashing) mistri and doesn't have a job half the year. My in-laws live with us and I have two children, Sheela (7) and Gopal (5). By the time this opportunity came to me, I had forgotten how to dream. I couldn't foresee a future for my kids, all I cared for was the next meal.
I spoke to my husband about being a surrogate mother. The first thing he said was that he didn't want anyone else to touch me. I was worried about that too. But the doctors explained the process to him and I don't know if he understood what it was all about. All he cared about was some other man touching me.
Then, there was the important task of telling my in-laws and extended family about the surrogacy. I was apprehensive about people knowing, I didn't want to be ostracised. Poverty probably makes people more open to things. My in-laws were happy that I was doing something to help their son.
You will never know what 4 lakhs (the amount paid to a surrogate mother for her troubles) means to a woman who can’t afford to buy new clothes for her children in Diwali. I want a good future for my daughter, I want her to be educated. I don’t want her to end up like me.
I am in my third month of pregnancy now and I feel healthier than ever. During my previous two pregnancies, I would yearn to eat chocolates. Since my husband couldn't afford chocolates, he would get me lozenges. The couple whose child I am carrying meet me once a month in the clinic. They bring loads of chocolates for me, they also give me an assortment of nuts, chips and other goodies. Sheela and Gopal eagerly look forward to these visits.
They rush to me when I return home with those packets. I feel happy when I see them smile.
Will I be sad to give the baby away? I don't know. I know it's living in me but I also know that it's not mine. I know it has a different destiny.
People are saying that we are being exploited. That the government will ban this thing. I only know one thing, I needed the money and I am getting it. It as a decision I made.
If the government feels we are underpaid, they should ensure that we get more money. Why ban this? People are saying that this should be stopped and people should start adopting babies. I want to ask them If they will adopt my kids and give them a better future?