Was shooting with a good crew last afternoon. Sky TV is planning an important series on 'The Great Cities of the World'. Mumbai features as one of them along with Moscow,Rome, London, New York... please note : not a single city in China! The presenter is a distinguished diplomat ( former ambassador to America), and he was back in Mumbai after 25 long years. The other Mumbaikars interviewed are Adi Godrej,Shah Rukh Khan, Nita Ambani, Nirav Modi ( so far ). The idea is for Christopher ( the presenter) to see a city through the eyes of people who live and work there, and in a way, define the city.I was flattered to be included. So far, it has been a happy experience for the team. On their wish list? Raj Thackeray! Let's see if that interview takes place. If it does, I hope Raj sticks to Marathi.
This appeared in The Week
Aamir-Kiran show the way….
It’s amazing how Aamir Khan gets it right over and over again. Not just with his career in which he reigns as India’s number one actor ( other Khans come and go, playing yo-yo with the top slot). But off-screen as well. Aamir’s reel and real life have fused seamlessly, especially after his second marriage to the cerebral and immensely likeable Kiran Rao. Their recent joint announcement about the arrival of a baby boy was greeted with uniform joy across the country. Not just because they were blessed by their first child ( Aamir is the father of three kids, two from an earlier marriage, and one with a British journalist), but the fact that this one was carried by a surrogate mother. And the proud biological parents (Aamir-Kiran) had zero hang -ups about going public with the information. Bravo! By doing that, they automatically diffused any speculation, besides sending out a strong message to our conservative society that surrogacy is a perfectly acceptable option for childless couples in the 21st century. In one stroke, Aamir and Kiran established their own credentials as progressive, modern people willing to go the extra mile to have a child of their own. Surrogacy remains a comparatively new field in India. And yet, there are thousands of childless couples longing to become parents. Due to ignorance, embarrassment and fear (“What will people say?”), most don’t take advantage of the dramatic breakthroughs that facilitate having ones own baby, thanks to IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). As Dr. Firuza Parikh, Director of Reproduction and Genetics at a reputed Mumbai Hospital explained, “Kiran had a uterine factor which caused her difficulty in conceiving. Hence we recommended IVF surrogacy to her.” Aamir’s detailed press release expanded this information further by reminding fans that Kiran’s earlier miscarriage had left both of them distraught and disappointed. He wrote,“ This baby is very dear to us because he was born after a long wait and some difficulty due to medical reasons.” When was the last time you heard such straight talk from a superstar?
Surrogacy is a complex issue with several ramifications, including legal ones. Potential parents are required to understand the long term implications of the decision before they participate in this programme. For example, apart from privacy issues, there is the financial obligation that is at the core of the arrangement. What happens if the couple divorces before the baby is born, or dies in an accident? Is the surrogate mother left holding a baby that is technically not her own? Since surrogacy depends on a contract between the parties involved, it is not as easy as merely ‘hiring a womb’. There are clauses in place that aim to protect the baby’s interests, along with the surrogate mother’s. While in India, such contracts are recognized via ‘national guidelines’ drawn by the ICMR, there are no stipulations for the violations of the contract. Most times, it is a woman from an underprivileged background who agrees to carry someone else’s baby for a generous fee. This is where the terrain gets tricky. There have been reported cases of poverty-stricken women agreeing to ‘host’ babies of foreigners who are citizens of countries which insist on far greater scrutiny before giving the green signal for surrogacy.
Despite these reservations, it is commendable that Aamir and Kiran have chosen to share their experience with fans. To call Aamir’s child a ‘poster boy’ for surrogacy (as some doctors have done), is to trivialize the issue and ‘sell’ surrogacy across the board. When we talk of ‘greater social acceptance’ of the procedure, it is important to qualify that remark some more. Like adoption, surrogacy too, requires a great deal of deep thought combined with a life long commitment to the innocent baby a couple brings home. The IVF procedure has provided untold happiness to countless childless couples who were at a dead end. Aamir and Kiran are responsible, informed and financially secure parents. Other couples are not as fortunate. What Aamir and Kiran have achieved is to break through age old taboos about fertility and a woman’s right to go ahead and take advantage of what science has to offer. In a country steeped in superstition, Aamir and Kiran have displayed admirable boldness that must be acknowledged. Aamir has thanked the Almighty and said they were “humbled by the greatness of God, the miracle of science….” To that, it’s worth adding the gratitude of innumerable despairing couples who may now explore the possibilities open to them to bring their own little bundles of joy home.This is star power at its positive best. Here’s wishing the proud parents and their little boy all the happiness in the world.