I got a text and a tweet while at a tea room celebrating a friend’s birthday. And then immediately had to tell everyone at the table, and then text everyone I know, and then write an emergency blog post so you could all share in the joy. But now I am home, and I can scour all my favorite internet sources and see what I can find out!
Surrogacy first. Surrogacy feels like it just got to be more of a regular thing in American culture, right? And in America, it is regulated state by state and situations vary greatly. In some states, it is just a handshake agreement. This can cause all kinds of problems, with a surrogate who is left with the choice or terminating the pregnancy or raising the baby themselves if things don’t work out, or with parents who lose their potential child because the surrogate can’t bear to part with them. There are horror stories of fathers who end up paying child support to a surrogate for a baby they were planning to raise themselves, or surrogates left to take responsibility for getting through the pregnancy on their own and then arranging a different adoption that they can feel comfortable with. However, these are extreme examples. In most cases (and states), there are procedures, an interview process, legal documents, it’s all worked out in advance with every possibility accounted for.
Of course, the comment comes up “why didn’t you just adopt?” For Karan in particular, and for plenty of single or same-sex couples in America, this is a question so stupid as to be insulting. They can’t adopt, because the legal climate is constantly changing, especially for queer parents, and adoption might be difficult or impossible depending on where they are. And even if adoption is possible, there is always the fear that the laws could change and you could lose your child. A biological child is much safer.
In India, just adopting as a single parent is super super hard. Heck, adopting as a married couple is hard! I’m not an Indian law expert by any means, but I know this because of Sushmita Sen. She wanted to be a mother right away, while she was young. And she also wanted a career, and she didn’t want to get married. So she adopted Renee at age 25, after months of court cases and appeals to prove her ability and right to be a mother. Can you imagine the dirt and abuse that Karan would have to go through if he tried to adopt?
(Sush and her two girls. She adopted again a few years back)
Surrogacy itself is getting more and more regulated as well. I can see two sides to the argument. On the one hand, there is the fear of wealthy parents preying on Indian surrogates. Which I can absolutely believe, the West has shown a definite ability to view Indian bodies as expendable, purchasable, and created for their use. And the record of certain upper-class and wealthy people in India also doesn’t seem that great. And there is the continuing “save the female fetus” concern that plays a part as well, if the scan shows a female fetus, will the parents try to break the agreement? Will they keep hiring different surrogates and trying again?
And surrogacy also brings with it the slight possibility of other concerns. Why exactly did they not want to adopt? In America, the coded language is “I wanted a baby who looked like me”. Which often means “I wanted a white baby.” I know a ton of adoptive parents and adopted children, by the way, and none of them look anything like each other but one glance will tell you that they are clearly a family. I also know that the adoption process wasn’t that complicated for these families, they registered as foster parents, were interviewed, had their houses looked over, a year later they got a baby, and several months after that all the paperwork was done and they went from foster parents to adoptive parents. But that is in one particular state in America, that tells me nothing about the adoption process anywhere else in the country, or in any other country.
Sometimes I have heard Indian people or Indian heritage people use the phrase “but you don’t know where it came from” or “you don’t know anything about the family” when they are talking about adopted babies. And I assume that is the equivalent of the “I want a baby who looked like me” in code America, but instead of being about race, it is about caste. Or religion. Or caste and religion.
So, I can see why it might be a legitimate concern for the authorities, that unregulated surrogacy could lead to abuse. And I have another concern that I don’t think they are addressing, that the whole push for surrogacy or to have children in generally might be something socially created. I’m not talking about any couple in particular, but it seems like in India there is such a firm idea of “You grow up, you get married, you have a baby” with no pause between any of these steps. Married as soon as you get your first job, baby as soon as you get married. And if something stops that baby from coming, maybe sometimes part of the misery of it is because everyone in your life is expecting the baby to be there immediately and scrutinizing your every move, along with your internal sadness as a couple.
But on the other hand, it also feels a little bit like this regulation is coming from old-fashioned people who are afraid of things they don’t understand. There are couples like Shahrukh and Gauri or Aamir and Kiran who want to have children and can’t and surrogacy gives them an option. And adoption might be tough for them. I don’t know adoption laws in India, or if they vary state to state, or any of that. Sushmita Sen makes me think it might be a bit more complicated than just going to an orphanage and picking one out, the way the movies show it.
(Little Azad has such delicate little features.)
And these old-fashioned people are trying to pass a law, not aimed at protecting the surrogate mothers necessarily, but at controlling anyone who wants to have a baby in a different way. The Health Minister introduced a bill making it illegal to pay a surrogate, and for a non-Indian couple to use a surrogate in India. Okay, a bit extreme, but maybe I can see the reasoning behind these provisions in a concern for the exploitation of poor Indian women who might be pressured into surrogacy. And then the bill also forbids surrogacy for singles. And that does not sound so great. In fact, it sounds a little bit like it is aimed exactly at people like Sushmita who want to be a parent but not a spouse. And people like Karan, who the Indian government won’t let become a spouse.
Especially considering the timing. Back in June, Tusshar Kapoor happily announced that he had just become a father by surrogate. And this bill was introduced shortly thereafter. Tusshar Kapoor isn’t the biggest name in the world, but his family is pretty famous, so it made headlines. And as an unmarried 40-something man, there were already rumors about him possibly being gay. And then the government starts the process to ban any more gay men from parenthood.
(That’s Tusshar on the left, the baby in the middle, and I don’t know who the other guy is. Tusshar’s boyfriend?)
Karan’s babies were born a few weeks back. Which, if my calendar makes sense, means that it was almost immediately after Tusshar’s announcement that Karan decided to take the plunge. Or else just a few weeks before. I wonder if it was because he saw how much Tusshar’s family and the film fraternity in general had embraced that baby? Or if it was because he saw the legal writing on the wall and knew that he had to move fast?
I also wonder how carefully the public face of this announcement was planned? Not like the immediate announcement, which wasn’t an announcement at all, it was just formal news of the registration of birth. But he had 9 months to work on this. At what point did he decide to include so much discussion in his autobiography of why he wants and children and thinks he would be a good father? At what point did he start to drop comments in interviews about being lonely and wanting a family? Or was it not planned at all? Is it just that this was on Karan’s mind all along and he was naturally working out his debates in the public eye through his writings and interviews?
Right now his moves are obvious, to stay inside his house and get the little babies settle in at home while their father and grandmother do the important job of going “ooga-booga-boo” over the cribs. And when he is ready, he can figure out if he wants the first photo to be released over twitter or through a magazine spread. And maybe write a full formal announcement so he can avoid any other questions.
Until that formal announcement or interview or however he wants to do it comes out, all we are left with is speculation. Biggest story I am seeing reported now: The names are Yash for his father, and Rihoo for his mother (a re-arrangement of her name “Hiroo”). But I don’t know if I even believe that.
Now, my big questions: Who knew what when? Has Shahrukh been quiet on twitter for the past few days because he doesn’t have a film to promote or because he’s been hanging out in Karan’s nursery? What about Varun and Alia? Were they hanging out with Karan during Badrinath promotions and looking at ultrasound pictures? And Aditya Chopra? Kareena Kapoor, dubbed by Karan himself as India’s biggest gossip? How about Amitabh? Well, probably not Amitabh, seeing as he was the one to spill the news about Aaradha.
Speaking of Aaradha, my favorite part of the speculation: future potential marriage partners! Karan has a boy and a girl, so any partner is covered! My first choice: Adira and baby (maybe) Yash get married, merge Dharma Productions and Yash Raj, and bring together the greatest genetic pool of creative and business film talent that the world has ever seen! And then baby (maybe) Roohi marries AbRam! Finally merging Karan and Shahrukh and Gauri into one fabulous family.
(Can you imagine how cute it would be to put this photo on the wedding announcements 20 years from now when Karan becomes AbRam’s father-in-law?)
Here’s one thing I think we can agree is not speculation at all: these babies will be loved and spoiled and adored by their father and grandmother and a whole film industry of “uncles” and “aunties”. And they will be very very very very very very very well dressed.
UPDATE: That official statement is now out!