On 3rd June, actor and author Meera Syal, celebrated the release of her third book, The House of Hidden Mothers with a star studded launch party at Soho’s exclusive Union Club. Amongst the guests were Syal’s husband and longtime collaborator Sanjeev Bhaskar, actors Richard E Grant, Maureen Lipman, Adrian Lester, Kabir Bedi and Nitin Ganatra, author Anthony Horowitz, the High Commissioner of India His Excellency Ranjan Mathai, comedians Jo Brand and Lenny Henry as well as Melvyn Bragg, Matthew Wright, Anita Rani, Nikki Bedi and Twiggy & Leigh Lawson.
Syal wrote The House of Hidden Mothers after sixteen years since the critically acclaimed Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee. Never one to shy away from difficult topics, in an exclusive interview with Asian Voice discussing surrogacy as a subject, she said, “With many ‘late-mothers’ or infertile couples returning to India in search of surrogates, there are now roughly 3,000 clinics that provide in vitro fertilisation in India. Every year, the country sees anywhere from 100 to 300 surrogate pregnancies, making it the surrogacy capital of the world.”
Taking on such a delicate topic is no easy feat, but Syal’s powerful novel is underpinned by female friendship, motherhood and love. Armed with the unique ability to connect with her audience through compelling, honest storytelling, Syal’s novel draws the reader in with Shyama’s familiar perception of Modern India and identity, taking the reader on an emotional journey alongside the novel’s protagonist.
Surrogacy remains quite a touchy and tabooed subject amongst Asians. Not many know how India is the surrogacy capital of the world- providing couples a hope to complete their family. It is apparent that Syal has put in a lot of research behind this topic, but it was surprising to find out that most of it was gathered through internet “I did not travel to India. Most of the people who research for surrogacy do it online. You can get a lot of factual stuff online. Big part of my research was depending on a couple who had 2 children by Indian surrogacy and that was really invaluable,” she added.
Women who aspire to be mothers, those who are unable to bear a child or people who do it for the money or those who don't want to be mothers at all- this book is not about surrogacy alone- it is all about women's bodies and choices they make. It is a story of two journeys, blending into one, that of gains and losses, sacrifices and successes, also touching upon issues of Nirbhaya, the fights of both genders for equal honour for women and the continuous struggle against sexual harassments.
Though Meera emphasised that she had no particularly fond character in this book, Dhruv incidentally seemed to be a personal favourite, and Shyama- a reflection of the author herself.
What's next for The House of Hidden Mothers? Will there be a film, a play or a television series? A jubilant Meera added, “There definitely will be a television series. The right have already been bought...” But when asked if she will play any of the roles in that series, she added, “Who knows, I may be too old to play any of the roles, by the time it is made.”
While Syal is on a break till she starts writing her next book in 2016, we wish the author all the best for The House of Hidden Mothers- a captivating journey of relationships, love, motherhood and of sacrifices in a cross cultural scenario- a book worth reading by all.