This winter was proving to be the hardest winter of her life. All Meera could do now was wait. Wait for the embryo she was supposed to carry which would take more than a month, and then it was all luck. It will take another ten days to confirm if she got pregnant. And if all went well, they would bring her Sia to her then. It meant at least 40 more days. She closed her eyes and murmured, ‘Just a little more time Doll. Hang in there. Just a little more patience, Mumma will come to get you.’
Meera was put on meds and injections from the next day, hormones and chemicals her body needed, to prepare itself for the pregnancy. They were making her body receptive for the transplant. Meera was told that commercial surrogacy was illegal in India now, and thus all the paperwork clearly states that this was all altruistic surrogacy and no money was involved. She laughed at the irony. But Mr Mehta very clearly told her few things, ‘You will relinquish the baby to us and have no legal rights over it. You will never even try to visit the baby. And you won’t get any more money after this.’
She wanted to tell him; she did not want their child, she had one of her own but kept quiet. The day finally came when the procedure was carried out, and she was implanted with the embryo. Now it was a matter of few days that it was confirmed she’s pregnant. She knew she was, even before the reports came positive. Mother’s instinct was starting to kick in.
The Mehtas were ecstatic. The first thing the Mehtas did was to distribute sweets in the whole hospital, and the next was to bring a small briefcase of money to the hospital. He gave a hefty bundle to Dr Nair, and Dr Nair gave a part of it to Sushma. Sushma’s greed made her look uglier than she was.
She was leaving with the money when she turned towards Meera. Meera could tell there was no remorse in her.
“Thank me Meera, for bringing you here. Giving you this golden opportunity and changing your life for better.” Sushma said with brazen audacity.
Meera smiled, “Thank You, Didi. You truly are my guardian angel. May you too get lucky enough to lose everything else and end here like me.” Meera said with cold sweetness. Sushma huffed and left without another word. Meera thought she heard the words ‘Ungrateful’ and ‘Selfish‘.
The Mehtas then gave her the money that was her share. They thanked Meera over and over for her kindness. But she didn’t touch the money; she had only one thing to say, “I want my Sia, Now!”. The Mehtas decided it was only fair enough now to bring her girl to her. She was giving them their child; they must give her the daughter for whom she’s doing it all.
That evening Mr Mehta drove down to Trinity Orphanage. He had located the place a week ago. He pulled into the driveway and felt queasy to see the empty grounds and dark windows of the small building. He went to the door that said ‘Administration’ but it was locked. He went around the building to the church adjacent to it; two labourers were hauling benches out of place.
Mr Mehta stopped one of them and enquired, “Where are you taking this stuff?” He was perplexed.
“The tenants’ lease was over. The owner asked us to vacate the place.” One of the two labourers roared his voice echoing in the empty building.
“By tenants, you mean the Orphanage people?”, he asked, and the labourer nodded.
“Where did they all go?” He asked, desperation creeping up his spine.
The labourer stopped his work; he was getting vexed by the questions. He came closer to Mr Mehta, “Sir, we are movers. We don’t know who’s the owner and who was the tenant. All we know is that it was an Orphanage next to this church, and they all have left. If you want more info, call our office and ask them about the owners who might have info on tenants.” He said with finality and went back to his work.
Mr Mehta was less concerned about a labourer dismissing him and more concerned about the consequences. What will happen when he tells Meera about this. She wouldn’t stay back to carry out the pregnancy if she knew he had lost traces of her daughter.
“When was this place vacated?” Me Mehta asked.
This time the other one replied, “three days ago, and outside is our truck, it has our company name and number, you can take it down.” He said carrying two benches outside.
Mr Mehta took down the number to the movers and went back to his car.
“Just three days ago.” He signed to himself, cursing his luck. He knew the address of this place, Meera gave it to him long back, but he chose not to come till he had his good news. Feeling fretful he drove back to the hospital.
Meera was waiting anxiously; she saw Mr Mehta approach and her eyes were searching around his feet, to see Sia wobbling with him. But her face fell and lost its pallor when she saw the man was alone. Her eyes instantly brimmed with tears and betrayal.
“Where’s Sia?” She yelled.
Mr Mehta had prepared his defence. He needed to buy time. “Calm down Meera; it’s not good for you.” He said patronising.
She blinked the tears out of her eyes and spat back, “To hell with goodness!!! Where’s my daughter?” She demanded.
Mr Mehta faltered, “I…went looking for her. But because of extreme cold wave this year, they have shifted the kids to a warmer city, and I don’t know where yet but…” he added before she could talk, “but…I wouldn’t wait for them to return, I would keep looking. You have to gimme some time.” He told earnestly, and Meera sobered up. So Sia was okay, she was in a warmer place.
Her patience was running out, and she warned, “if I don’t get my child, you won’t get yours either.”
Her warning shook Mr Mehta; it would be devastating if she decided to go to the police or even worse, harm their baby. He gave strict instructions to the hospital staff to make sure Meera isn’t leaving hospital premises and is watched 24\7.
That evening he dialled the number he had got from the movers, but no one picked, he realised it was a three day weekend. He phoned three days later, and a tired, dragged voice came over the call.
“Hello. Bags & Baggages, Move It, Move It, Move it!. What can we do for you?” Came the practised query following the advertisement.
“Hello there, I need some help. A few days ago you moved the furniture from Trinity Orphanage, can you tell me where they are relocated.” He said in one go “Please…” he added at the end, wasn’t he taught that a ‘Please could open closed doors for you’ back in school.
“That stuff was all sold for resale. It wasn’t moved out. We dumped it at a used furniture shop.” The man at the other end informed.
“By any chance do you have the contact number of the tenants or the owners of that place?” Mr Mehta was losing hope by the minute, “please”, he said once again. He wasn’t used to being humble usually, but parenthood was already teaching him humility.
The voice on the other end went silent, “let me check records” he said, and after five long minutes, he came back on the line. “We don’t have any information except that the owners live in the US and the tenants went to a city far enough where this furniture could not be hauled. And before you ask further, I have no contact number of either.” With these words, the call was hung up.
Mr Mehta felt a severe headache coming. He didn’t know what to do next.
He avoided Meera for the next week. She didn’t have any cellphone, and she was not allowed to leave her room to make calls. Radha was the one who took the heat of her anger.
“Ask Mr Mehta to come and meet me.” Meera shrieked at Radha for the umpteenth time. Radha had made calls to Mr Mehta and each time he told her to calm her down for few more days. But today Meera had denied taking any supplements of medicines. This could have consequences.
Mr Mehta came to the hospital and was confronted by a furious Meera. “When are you getting me, my daughter? You think you can keep me here, locked up while you just let her rot somewhere?” Meera’s eyes were burning. Her BP had been running dangerously high, and it worried the intended father.
“See Meera; she is completely safe where she is. They are taking good care of her. I have personally spoken to them, and they say they will be back by April end. We have to wait till then because even if I go to take Sia, they won’t give her to me. I am a nobody. Let them be back; I will take you to bring Sia with you. I promise.” Mr Mehta said buying time; he knew the first few months were important, once she entered the second trimester, she won’t be able to terminate the pregnancy as it would be a threat to her own life too and she wanted to live, for Sia.
Meera went through regular blood tests and scannings to see if the baby was growing fine while she waited with bated breath for Sia’s return. It was finally nearing the end of April, and she was waiting for Mr Mehta to go and bring Sia. He said he would go the very next day; she could hardly contain her tears.
Mr Mehta had planned it out; he would vanish for the next five months. He had paid the hospital a hefty amount to make sure Meera was taken care of, and she delivers a healthy baby. He wanted people to think it his wife was pregnant and that meant he needs to disappear from the city till he gets the news of the baby’s birth. He was on his way to Delhi from Manali with his wife. It was raining heavily, and his tyres were skidding on the wet hairpin turns of the mountain. It was a sharp turn, and his windshield went blind with water from rain. He was driving on sheer guesswork and experience of these roads when he saw headlights blaring his eyes, and he turned his wheel but the lights collided with him and all went dark.
Meera didn’t know what to do now. She was standing outside the hospital with a small bag in her hand. As soon as the hospital people got the news of the demise of both Mrs and Mr Mehta in a car accident they threw Meera out, calling her a liability. She was an asset one day ago. They kept her share of the money and dragged her out while she cried and screamed for help. She didn’t know where to go. She threatened to go to the police and they told her that if they went to jail, she would go with them, she was no less criminal.
She had lost everything now. Her daughter, the money, her body, and her job. The Job? Suddenly she remembered she was asked to come back on work in March. She forgot all about her past life in these few months. She was carrying a baby she could not risk terminating. The only place that would give her shelter now was her old employers. She climbed the bud to Kullu and made it to her employers home, where she spend some good time with Sia in servant quarters. The mere sight of the wooden mansion made her cry.
She went in and was greeted with sarcastic and hurtful comments from her old Madam. She was furious that she was not back there when she told her to be there on March 1st. Meera apologised and cried and begged and got her old job back. It was not out of mercy but because they had not been able to find a replacement yet and she was thankful for that. They enquired about Sia, and she lied that Sia was with her Aunt Sushma in Manali. It suited them fine; no Sia meant less hassle.
Two days later Meera felt weak and fatigued. She did all the housework single-handedly with no medicines or supplements anymore. And on the third day, she was washing the Verandah, and Hrishi asked about Sia. The thought of Sia wrenched her heart from her chest, will she ever get her girl back,? Will she ever see her again?
Meera was so overwhelmed with emotional, physical and mental stress that she fainted and the secret of her pregnancy was out. What followed was tired of blasphemy and profanity from her Madam. She called her everything, from characterless to prostitute and threw her out of her house.
And once again Meera found herself on the road. Helpless, penniless and hopeless.
(Note: In December 2018, after almost two years of debate, an Indian surrogacy law was passed that:
- Made commercial surrogacy illegal
- Only allows altruistic surrogacy for needy, infertile Indian couples
- Requires intended parents to be married for five years and have a doctor’s certificate of their infertility
- Restricts women to being surrogates only once, and only if they are a close relative of the intended parents, are married and have a biological child
- Bans single parents, homosexuals and live-in couples from surrogacy)