Ever since people have figured out how to control birth, the debate around the rights and wrongs have raged. Is abortion equal to murder? Shouldn’t a woman be the one to decide what happens in and to her body? And now, for reasons that don’t need elaboration, the fairness and unfairness of surrogacy get added to that debate.
A Mr Khan, reportedly the latest on the surrogacy train, quite rightly says he doesn’t want to talk about it as it’s personal. Truly, how can anyone tell anyone that they should not want to see the curve of their own cheek, their habitual physical mannerism, the shape of their smile magically reproduced in another being. Or as a newspaper article recently put it “People go in for surrogacy when they want to have their genes in a child.”
The mainstream discussion about surrogacy seems to respect this human desire strongly.
Movie stars may well be the most egotistical of people — not only do they mirror the world and our deepest desires in their beings but their image is reproduced billionfold, on a daily basis. Perhaps in some way, this is a complex symbolism of wanting your genes to fill the world.
It’s a curiosity, this need, when we live in times where we actively try to subvert what is handed down to us genetically. We would like to reshape our bodies constantly through extreme diets, rigorous work out regimens and of course every kind of cosmetic surgery. This is no longer the domain of movie stars either. We would like to push our children beyond and away from the natural tendencies of their intelligence. It’s an odd love hate relationship with the genes, where we would like to see them transmitted through another and simultaneously wipe out all that we see as the defects nature gave us, which, too, are our genes. Maybe this love-hate relationship is just another law of survival. Obviously people love their children — helplessly and wonderfully — but this self-perpetuating opting for medical means seems a love affair with yourself too I guess.
It is also presented in public conversation as an “alternative to adoption” because sometimes “people may have reservations on the background of a child.”
A number of reasons are given for adoption being a noble choice — that it will make the life of a child better. I am not sure adopting parents thing like that, because it is very obvious when there’s a child around it makes you a better person. All kinds of places of love are thrown open in your heart before a child places you never knew you had, which may or may not have something to do with genetics.
In that sense adoption is an affirmation of yourself in quite a different way, or an affirmation of quite a different part of ourselves let’s say.It’s a fundamental self-belief in your ability to love someone who is not like you. There are other such relationships in the world — like friendship, like romantic love, like comradeship — that are acts of choice and confidence, which say that love for another will help you find all the things you need, which nature may or may not have given you, to make these relationships with their several unknown factors, work.
Perhaps I sound excessive but it seems a great affirmation of life — and a certain acceptance of death too — because our time on earth is all we have — and nothing can actually immortalise us, not even genes (well, maybe cryogenics).
I assume we would like to hand forward such things to our children also, no?
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.