On October 3, 1978, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay’s and his team in Calcutta successfully delivered happiness in the lives of a childless couple with the birth of their little bundle of joy. The girl who was nicknamed Durga after the Hindu goddess was born through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) thanks to Dr Mukhopadhyay’s pioneering effort that was the second such successful attempt for IVF across the world. It was a repeat of what his English counterparts Robert G Edwards and Patrick Steptoe had achieved barely days ago, on July 25 with the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first such baby. The news bode well for thousands of infertile couples who yearned to become parents, but unlike the much celebrated IVF birth in England, there was no noise around his pioneering achievement, the first of its kind in India. Perhaps because the couple chose to remain mum and didn’t want themselves or the child’s public image to be shaped by the manner of conception, and the other stakeholders too remained indifferent to his remarkable achievement. Battling ignominy and failure to be recognised for his monumental work led him to take his life on June 19, 1981.
Meanwhile, Dr Indira Hinduja and Dr Kusum Zaveri helped deliver a baby girl named Harsha on August 6, 1986, who went on to earn the pride of being India’s first test-tube baby. But recognition did come Dr Mukhopadhyay’s way, posthumously, and 25 years after the birth of Durga, the Indian physician was “officially” regarded as the first doctor to perform in-vitro fertilization in India.
The case in point explains the burden of having a progeny, often weighed down by the shame and embarrassment of not having one without any medical intervention, and sets the tone for the problem called infertility, a condition that needs attention and like any other ailment, can be cured with proper treatment. To fulfil parenthood dream, one needs to get past the maze of ignorance to access medical care that often comes at a price, endure all the pain that is borne by the patient, and doctor in equal measure, and get assurance in abundance that one day it would be all worth it with a baby around to wipe off all the weariness of undertaking the arduous journey called IVF.