A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi is an emotional saga revolving around two women, who despite being from the opposite ends of the world and social hierarchy, become the factor that brings about the change which alters the other’s life’s direction. Priyasha and Asha are the two women protagonists of this story whose one decision put them on an unlikely path together.
Being a surrogate was never on Asha’s list of things she wanted to do in the future, but if she didn’t, her son wouldn’t have a future. So, enrolling herself at the Happy Mothers Clinic seemed the best choice to earn some money and ensure that her super-smart son gets into a super school for such students. On the other hand, despite trying for years, Priya is unable to carry her pregnancy to term. After 3 miscarriages and multiple failed IVF treatments, surrogacy is her only option. So, she ends up contacting Happy Mothers Clinic as a final resort.
From the clinic starts Asha and Priya’s journey into the world of motherhood. For Asha, who has 2 kids of her own, this surrogate pregnancy exposes her to feelings she never knew she had. For Priya, it becomes her life’s center point. What begins in a laboratory soon finds it’s footing in Asha’s womb and Priya’s heart.
I was never a motherly figure to anybody, unlike my sister. She loved kids when we were kids ourselves. Needless to say, she was the one to whom most of our cousins turned to (she and I are the eldest, in that order, and the rest follow) The change began when my niece was born, those little fingers, that squishy body, and tiny yawns, she took my heart away. I knew I wanted children of mine one day. And soon enough, we were expecting. Our joy knew no bounds and I couldn’t wait to feel my baby inside me. But before I could even get my feet on the ground, we lost it. No heartbeat. The one who had almost made my heart stop when I knew it was inside me had no heartbeat of itself. Devastated was an understatement. For days I lay in bed, clutching my empty womb and bleeding, crying when my husband wasn’t anywhere near me to spare him of the emotional torture of seeing me broken. It was the single most difficult task to pick myself up, to accept that my life wasn’t over and I had to move on in order to find that happiness again that made me realize the value of human life and the connection to one’s offspring. Days went by, and when things were normal again, life gave us another set of little pink lines. Positive for the second time. This time, there was no joy but subdued happiness and a lingering fear. I wasn’t ready to lose a baby again. Not physically, not emotionally. It had just been 3 months since the last time. So, the next 3 months were critical. After crossing the barrier of the first trimester, our tensions subsided a little only to scare us a month later in the form of complete bed rest. I remember how much I used to worry, talk to the baby, and wait for her answering kicks to feel calm again. On days when she didn’t answer, I would ask my husband to give Reiki to her and talk to her in case she was angry with me. Although he understood my situation, it drove him mad listening to my unending baby talks. Well, the months dragged in the last trimester before I heard my girl’s first cry. And that was the first and only time when I was happy listening to her cry. It was 7 and a half months ago. Today, when I look back at the year gone by, I am sure it was one of the best that I’ve had, and in no way, I’ll ever want to trade it. But what if I hadn’t been blessed? What if after that first time there had been no second chance? Would my life have been the same? Absolutely not.
Infertility has become more common than we care to admit. In fact, I know a few couples who are dealing with it and trust me, it’s not at all easy. While a lot of healthy people are suffering because of this, it’s usually the women who are blamed. No kids mean the woman is barren (a term which I consider derogatory) With the scientific advancements that have put the man on the moon and maybe will put him on Mars as well soon, it’s no wonder that the joy of parenthood is not beyond reach for such couples/singles. One of the ways to this joy is surrogacy, and this book deals with it extensively. People might say stuff like “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen on its own”, or maybe that the woman doesn’t deserve a baby. I don’t believe all this nonsense. To top it all, new age saviors shouting over-population just pisses me off even more. I remember discussing a similar topic on an online reading group, the plotline of Dan Brown’s Inferno. The right to have or not have babies. I was dealing with my loss during those days, and this post by a fellow reader made me really agitated. The whole post saw hundreds of comments and the thing that I found common in them was that only those who were unmarried/young (say less than 25 years of age)/already had children were the ones siding with infertility as a means to control the population. And in my 28 years of existence, I’ve seen more people change colors faster than a chameleon. Those who said they’ll never marry were sending out invitations before year-end. Those who never wanted to have babies are pregnant. The hypocrisy doesn’t end here, it runs deeper than it shows. When a celebrity wants to increase their progeny even after having teenage children and uses a surrogate, it’s a matter of joy. When a normal couple wants to do the same, tongues start wagging. Not deserving. *Cough* Overpopulation. *Cough*
For surrogacy to establish, there must be 2 parties. In this story, those 2 parties are Asha and Priya. The story, even though told in the third person, captures the emotions of these women beautifully. In spite of the plot being simple and predictable, the author’s hold on the human emotions is so strong that one doesn’t want to let go. Asha’s emotions, ranging from doubt, contempt, rage, sad, happy, elation, and whatnot are explored deeply. Her feelings while carrying someone else’s baby in her womb, the dilemma of being emotionally attached to it or not, it was all so real. I could start feeling her frustrations while reading. Not only her, I felt Priya’s emotions too when I sided with her. I could understand her crazed attitude towards her unborn baby, her constant state of stress, all felt eerily similar. Not just the emotions, relationships as well play a critical role in keeping the reader engaged. The sensitive relationship between Asha and Priya and their respective relationships with their spouses and other family members becomes the secondary plotline. The whole thing was like a pandora’s box, and the myriad emotions fell out of it. The best thing about this story is the author’s ability to balance both sides. Asha, coming from a lower class, and Priya, an upper-middle-class woman, put their respective happiness at stake. For Priya, the birth of her baby is important, and for Asha, the future of her son. Their thoughts about each other, their views of each other’s world is very expressive. The stark contrast between their entire being doesn’t stop them from having a mutually beneficial relationship. For baby, and for money. Having said so, I don’t think it to be anybody’s matter to voice their opinion in such personal matters of someone else. One fact that struck me hard is that people can go to any extremes for money, whether they like it or not. I cannot even imagine giving up my relationships for someone let alone a baby I’ve nourished inside me once it is born. It takes a resolve greater than anything else to do this act. Poverty does this to people, I now know. There are cases on the other side too when the surrogates don’t get emotionally messed up, but I refuse to believe that any woman could be so detached until I meet one of them.
To all the women who ache for a baby but aren’t able to beget one, my heart goes out to you. And to all those who have never considered how blessed they are that they have children, it is time to think again.
P.S. My review isn’t meant to hurt anybody’s sentiments. These are my views, I don’t sham any method/person/thinking apart from those who sham others.