Anand, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

A smooth, modern road in the prosperous Indian state of Gujarat leads to 35-year-old Chimanlal’s small, windowless brick hut that he lives in with his wife, young son and two daughters. Earning 2500 rupees ($38) a month as a driver, Chimanial says it is not enough to feed his children. Only his son goes to school. But in a year’s time, their lives are set to change.

Some 50 kilometers (31 miles) away is the small city of Anand, known as India’s “surrogacy capital”. Chimanlai’s wife is carrying a baby for a Japanese couple in which she will be paid 450,000 rupees ($7,200), an unimaginably large amount of money for a family like theirs.

Since 2004, over 500 Indian women have traveled to Anand from neighboring villages and towns to become surrogate mothers for families from nearly 30 countries. Dr Nayana Patel and her husband run Akanksha clinic, the city’s only surrogacy facility.

For nine months, the surrogate mothers live away from their families. They stay at a residency provided by Patel’s clinic. Wearing gowns covering their big bellies, the women pass their time by watching TV, talking on their mobile phones and chatting to each other. Some enjoy the experience and see it as break from their tough daily life, while others miss being away for so long from their husbands and children.

“I’m not ashamed of doing what I’m doing. I don’t care what the neighbors think or what my relatives think because they are not the ones who have to feed my family,” Daksha, 31, Chimanlal’s wife, said. With the money she will earn, she and her husband plan to build a new house and send their daughters to school.