In rural Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) has taken on mythical proportions. At every village square, there is talk of the ‘miraculous operation’ which gifts childless women with progeny. There are tales of women well in their 60s and 70s suddenly being blessed with twins and triplets, tales that have become part of village well folklore. In a society where a woman’s worth can depend on the children she bears, test tube babies are doing what ancient demigods did with their vardaans (boons): redefining life and its limits of possibility.
And it’s well within financial reach. All it takes is about Rs 1.5 lakh and enough cash to visit a small-town clinic in, say, Meerut or Hisar, which in a reverse trend of sorts have been attracting couples from big metros like Mumbai and Delhi (and even overseas), where IVF treatment costs as much as Rs 3–4 lakh (it’s $20,000–25,000 in the US).
Women older than 50 make up a surprising number of patients at clinics in Meerut and in Hisar. The clinics teem with the expectant faces of people who have mortgaged their farms and cattle in the hope of a child (son, in most cases). They haven’t yet given thought to the child’s future if they lose all their assets to fund the cause, though. Doctors insist that the procedure has only a 30–35 per cent success rate, but this deters nobody.
Open tracked down five couples who stretched their meagre resources to shed the social stigma of childlessness. Most feel that the arrival of a baby has transformed their lives, made it complete. Some, however, haven’t got quite the fairytale ending they were looking for.
-- Text by Avantika Bhuyan