One afternoon, as I was seeing patients in my consulting room, the door flew open and my head nurse, Vancy, strode in with an unfolded newspaper. She seemed upset. “Madam, please read the interview you gave yesterday,” she said and then spread out the newspaper on the table before me. I began reading it.

The words “Eggs for Sale” in bold letters stood out on the front page of a popular afternoon tabloid. I scanned through the article and sighed. The reporter had distorted my interview on egg donation completely. Instead of highlighting the need for egg donation, the article warned women against donating eggs. It discouraged young girls and women from resorting to such practices as it would turn them menopausal at a much earlier age. It also claimed that the practice of egg donation in return for money was akin to selling one’s body organs. The reality is that the female foetus is born with a million eggs. Once a girl attains puberty, the body starts recruiting thirty follicles every month out of which only one matures and releases the ovum or egg. These extra follicles – that otherwise go to waste – are used for egg collection. Therefore, there was no question about attaining menopause early with egg donation.

Most of the time, such baseless reports and articles do more harm than good because the masses blindly believe such rumours. But in some cases, a few curious people, both patients and donors, would come to hear of the clinic through such articles and approach us.

I folded up the newspaper and handed it back to the nurse. It was both annoying and revolting to see the ignorant state of reporters in the country. “What does it say?” the nurse asked me. Troubled as I was, I merely shook my head and asked her to leave. I continued seeing my patients through the afternoon and late evening when nurse Vancy once again strode in and announced that a young girl had read the very same article in the tabloid and had come to donate her eggs. I looked up in surprise. It was just too quick! I asked Vancy to send her in.

A scrawny, pale young girl with a noticeably pretty face walked into the consulting room. “I have read your article in today’s newspaper madam, and I would like to donate my eggs,” she said softly.

I glanced at her. She looked very thin, pale, and undernourished. “Your name?” I asked her.


“Are you married?”

She nodded.


“Two sons; one five-year-old and the other one is three years old.”

I was happy as we always preferred to take egg donors who had proven their fertility by having children. “Education?” I continued with my preliminary questions.


“Good,” I said and then asked my nurse to take her detailed medical and obstetric history. Shivani seemed like she would make a good egg donor. I called her back to the consulting room and said, “Shivani, you look a little pale. I think your haemoglobin is low. I will give you tablets to build it up. In the meanwhile, you can also put on some weight and we will see you after three months. We will then do some blood tests to check your haemoglobin and your hormones and to rule out infectious diseases. We will also do an ultrasound to assess your ovaries and uterus.”

Shivani looked very upset after hearing this and begged that I take her the same month. But I remained firm and informed her that we would need to follow the proper protocol and that there was no getting around it. I again politely asked her to come back in a few months. Shivani nodded but refused to leave the clinic. She sat in the waiting area, as I continued seeing other patients and performing sonographies. She did not budge even when the nurses at the clinic asked her to leave.

Soon, I got busy with my hectic schedule, and she completely slipped out of my mind. Later in the evening, as I was completing the last sonography and about to call it a day, the nurse came to me again. “Ma’am, she is still waiting for you.”

“Who?” I asked.

“That thin, young girl who had come to see you.”

Exasperated, I allowed her to come in again. She entered and fell straight at my feet and started sobbing. “Madam, please hear me out,” she said. “I desperately need the money this month.”

I got her up back on her feet, made her sit down, and poured her a glass of water. I then explained to her in detail the consequences of donating eggs in a hurry, especially when she looked so pale and unfit. But when she didn’t stop weeping, I asked her what the matter was. She told me that her mother-in-law was a strong-minded woman who was bent on throwing her out of the house with her husband and her children. “She keeps fighting with me all the time. She hits me every day. She doesn’t let me rest or eat properly. I have suffered a lot silently over the last few years, madam, but I just can’t take it anymore! I have even thought of committing suicide many times but then when I think of my two little boys, I stop myself. Please madam, I need to leave. I need to find another house soon. My husband also doesn’t have a well-paying job,” she lamented. “We desperately need the money urgently to pay a deposit for a new house.”

I looked at her tear-stained face and eyes filled with sadness and my heart went out to her. What a strange world we live in, I thought. Here was this pretty, educated woman in the prime of her youth, who couldn’t even lead a normal family life, forget aspiring for more. “Why does your mother-in-law want you to leave the house?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t like me because I’m educated and do not give in to all her whims and fancies. She always wanted a daughter-in-law who would do all the house chores while she slept and went out. Perhaps she wants to keep the house for herself and her younger son and future daughter-in-law who would do everything as she desired.”

“So, she wants the older son and his family to leave . . .” It was painful to hear the ordeal that this woman was going through.

“We have already seen another small apartment in an upcoming building in the suburbs,” she continued. “We need to pay them 15,000 rupees to book the house. The last day of payment is in two days. Please help me. Only you can help me, madam.”

Shivani’s plea instantly tugged at my heartstrings and filled me with compassion. I realised that life had put me in a position to uplift this poor, little girl from her suffering and help her to lead a normal family life which many of us take for granted! I also wondered how many such young, abused girls cried themselves to sleep each night in this country that we so respectfully call Bharat Mata (Mother India)? And how can we call ourselves a developing nation when a young mother can’t live respectfully even in her own house?

As tired as I was from the long, busy day, I still felt it was necessary to be there for Shivani. She was in a very difficult situation and I had to make an important decision . . . a decision that could mean life or death, happiness or pain for this innocent young lady. I could stick to my principles and send the girl away as she was too weak to qualify as a donor.

But then would I be able to sleep peacefully, knowing that this young lady was being ill-treated and crying herself to sleep every night? Would I be able to live the rest of my life, knowing that I could have changed that situation for her in a split second? But the other option was also not easy. What if I agreed to take her and something went wrong? Would I ever be able to forgive myself? Also, that could further fuel the rumours around egg donation that were already doing the rounds. I was in a difficult dilemma.

Clinical decision-making is a balancing act of art and science, intuition and analysis, gut instinct and evidence, experience and knowledge. Though my head said that the right thing to do was to reject this girl as an egg donor, my heart said that I needed to accept her. Was there any way I could do both?

Excerpted with permission from Tries, Sighs, and Lullabies: The Untold Stories of Infertility, Anjali Malpani, The Hay House Press India.