Mumbai's first test-tube baby ties the knot at 25

Twenty-five years after her birth was hailed as a medical marvel, the city’s first test-tube baby is set to begin a new life after her wedding yesterday

Decked up in a glittering red and golden saree, Harsha Chawda looked like any other anxious newly-wedded woman. Little did the wedding guests present know that the bride is actually an important milestone in the field of medical science. Born on August 6, 1986, Harsha is Mumbai’s first test-tube baby. On May 14, Harsha crossed a milestone of her own, as she got married to Divyapal Shah, a financial advisor from Matunga, in a traditional Jain ceremony attended by 200 guests at Achalgach Jain Hall.

From milestone to milestone: Harsha Chawda’s birth was regarded as an important milestone in the field of medical science, and yesterday, she crossed a milestone of her own, as she got married to her boyfriend of three years. Pics/Rane Ashish
From milestone to milestone: Harsha Chawda’s birth was regarded as an important milestone in the field of medical science, and yesterday, she crossed a milestone of her own, as she got married to her boyfriend of three years. Pics/Rane Ashish

‘Happiest moment’
“This is the happiest moment of my life; it is all I could ask for,” said the emotional bride, for whom the wedding has opened a new, positive chapter of life far from the days of struggle she had gone through after he father passed away in 2003.

Also Read: Who's India's first test tube baby?

Devastated by her father’s demise, Harsha also had to bear the burden of being the family’s sole breadwinner. Fate dealt her another blow when she fell severely ill in 2011, too ill to continue with her job as a clerk at a private company. Once she got better, the commerce graduate struggled to find another job and got no assistance from the government, despite the fact that her birth had been hailed a medical marvel.

Harsha Chawda

It was only in 2012 that her fortunes turned for the better: not only did she find a new job, it was there that she met her best friend Pratiksha, who would go on to introduce her to her soulmate, Divyapal. The couple clicked almost instantly, and two months ago, Harsha — originally a Kathiawadi Gujarati — accepted Jainism as her religion and cemented the path to their wedding.

Also Read: Test-tube baby pioneer Robert Edwards dies aged 87

“I am really very happy. Divyapal’s family is warm and loving; it’s going to be a wonderful journey,” said Harsha, barely managing to fight back her tears.

Harsha Chawda

Feature: It's babies day out

And what does her husband think of her legacy as the city’s special child? “I was shocked to witness the magic of medical science standing in front of me, in flesh and blood. Such things are commonplace in these times, but the fact that this happened in 1986 is almost unreal. However, I have always treated her special, not because of the history behind her birth, but because she’s a great person,” said Divyapal.

Mother's memories

In 1986, IVF was new science in the country. After her birth at KEM Hospital under an efficient team headed by IVF specialist Dr Indira Hinduja, Harsha was regarded as a medical marvel. For her mother, Mani, she is just her daughter, a gift from science. “We were all anxious, but my family supported the idea. When Harsha was born, it felt unreal. Science gifted us our first child,” said Mani.

Proud mom: Harsha’s mother, Mani Chawda, was happy on her daughter’s big day, and recalled another special day 25 years ago, when science gifted her her first child.
Proud mom: Harsha’s mother, Mani Chawda, was happy on her daughter’s big day, and recalled another special day 25 years ago, when science gifted her her first child.

Jul 25, 1978
Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first successful test-tube baby, was born in Great Britain

Oct 3, 1978
India’s first test-tube baby Kanupriya Agarwal aka Durga was born in Kolkata.

Tragedy of India’s first test-tube baby doctor
>> The country's first successful in-vitro fertilization to produce ‘Durga’ alias Kanupriya Agarwal was performed by Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay in 1978. Durga's birth was mired in controversies with the West Bengal government even denouncing Mukhopadhyay's claim that he had created history in India.
Facing social ostracisation and insult from the Marxist government and refusal of the Government of India to allow him to attend international conferences, the physician committed suicide on June 19, 1981.
>> In 1986, he was “officially” regarded as being the first doctor to perform in-vitro fertilization in India.
>> His life and death inspired the movie Ek Doctor ki Maut, starring Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi.
- Agencies

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