In a face to face chat with NIBEDITA SEN, 42 years-old Abhishek Paul who owns be a publishing house openly spoke about his choice to stay single and opt for surrogacy.
“When I was 32, I lost my 8 months pregnant wife and buried my unborn child. Like a mother carries her child in her womb, a father carries a child in his mind. The double loss ruptured my dreams and left me unaided,” Abhishek bereaved
In 2013, Abhishek had experienced fatherhood closely. He knew how exciting it was to feel the first kick of the child. The stem cell kit that they’d ordered, was delivered at their doors. The family was prepped up for a baby shower.
“We publish school books for children. Unfortunately, we never had kids in our own family to read our books. We’d accepted that destiny had different plans,” Abhishek mourned.
Lamenting over the past, he opened up his anguish which spoke way more than a mere story of the birth of twins. It was the journey of keeping the ‘feeling of fatherhood’ burning inside him.
“The tragedy was not the death but the blame I had been stamped with after it. A week after the death of my wife, I was taken to custody without any evidence. I was going through a storm,” he grieved.
Violence in another form
Despite his wife’s death at in-law’s house, section 498A was filed against him with a false allegation stating that he had poisoned her. This was very carefully planned and filed after one week of her death. Even though the post mortem report mentioned, ‘No poison has been detected in the viscera.’
“My wife left her last breath in my arms. It was in her father’s flat, my in-law’s house. Our five years marital life have never been through any rough time,” Abhishek murmured.
He added, “I was startled when my mother was put to Jail. At home, my father went through nervous breakdown. My sister had to escape and move like a vagabond. It tormented me but I kept silent. I waited and let time decide.”
It has been seven years but still Abhishek needs to visit the police station to prove his innocence and presence in the state. The punishment does not end here. Since 2014, a man who is accused of poisoning his wife is not easily let away by society. He was punished daily for the sin he never committed.
“I could never actively involve myself in any social event thereafter. The people sitting inside the Durga Puja pandals looked at me with questions all over their facial expressions. My character was judged in several ways. I could not even speak to my childhood friends. All I came across were a bunch of curious people who ogled at my past,” he said spitting out his sense of defeat.
Facing gut-wrenching questions of the society
Even a man has to face scoffs and hissings when they decide to choose the road less taken. There are too many awkward questions thrown at a man who chooses surrogacy over a second marriage. A single father walks over the questions of his sexuality, potency as well as fidelity. He too was mocked at with the lame interrogations like
1. Are you a gay?
2. Don’t you get erection?
3. Is your sperm count low?
4. Why can’t you marry a girl if you aren’t impotent?
5. Will you be able to take care of the child along with a full-time job?
6. …and so on
“Even if I was confident, these questions thrown at me made me panic. I had to keep myself fit and healthy to get the IVF results perfect. At times, I went through medications too. I had to take injections to keep the sperm count at check. Even after every little care, my first attempt of IVF failed,” he said.
Before deciding to opt for surrogacy Abhishek had to counsel himself first and prepare all the answers to face those awkward questions which were ridiculously placed by the society. He also wants to prepare his twins to proudly face the same.
“I will teach them to address every other woman on earth as their mother irrespective of age, caste and creed. At a certain age, I will disclose to them about their journey from heaven to my life so that they can face the world bravely and need not shy away from the situation,” Abhishek antagonized.
Surrogacy should be made legal with protection from exploitation
Fatherhood shouldn’t be limited solely to those who are partnered. Surrogacy makes it possible for single fathers to become parents to their own bundles of joy.
“My wife will always be in my memories. She can never be replaced. What I can do is to keep those promises which we made to each other, to be happy in sickness and health. Today when she is no more, but I am living and with the scientific upgradation, if I can produce my own child, why should I not go for it?” Abhishek put it simply.
We’re often told that surrogacy is inherently bad because it commodifies reproduction. But, women are perfectly capable of understanding and consenting to pregnancy in all its forms. Indeed, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body should include the right to make her own decisions about surrogacy. The natural flipside of the right to choose to end a pregnancy is the right to choose to carry a baby to term.
“I wanted to give birth without having introduced another lady in my life. So, I opted for in vitro fertilization (IVF). And that’s OKAY,” he said.
Abhishek was up for multifaceted challenges that came along his way. “I spoke to the surrogate mother and her husband too. I felt hopeful,” he said.
“The first attempt of IVF failed but the second gave me hope. At 11 weeks I came to know that I was going to become a dad of twins. My twins are born premature. I was dying to see them but nationwide lockdown held me away for a month. The feeling of becoming a father was fulfilling. It made me complete.” Abhishek smiled.