Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I was sixteen when it was found out and now – after twenty five years of protests, soul-searching, investigation and reasoning – it has been accepted.
Its discovery involved serendipity or, since that has a pleasant connotation, is it better to say that it was a result of the macabre haphazard?
In a town, mid-State and near the Western Ghats, a couple had a minor tiff about their son’s poor performance in school. The husband (a man named Raj) joked, ‘Yedi, he is definitely your child. Are you sure he is mine?’ Under normal circumstances, that would have got a sharp but amused retort. The wife (Sabina) had been suffering from excessive menstrual bleeding for more than a week. That week, she had also found her ten year old son secretly salvaging the last puff of his father’s discarded cigarette. It was probably that distress rather than the jibe which made Sabina leave the house with her son. She could not go to her parents’ place knowing that they would chase her back to her husband. She went to the nearby city, to stay with her cousin. She told the cousin and the cousin’s husband that Raj had accused her of infidelity. She left out the context. The cousin’s husband, out of chivalry or attachment, told Sabina that he would handle the matter. He informed Raj that Sabina would return to him only after a paternity test. Raj responded with, ‘Tell her to go to hell.’ But, after a week, he went to the city. The paternity test was done and that revealed that Raj was not the father of their son. You can imagine the scenes thereafter – the shock, the accusations and the breakdown. If that was depressing, what came two weeks later when the case hit the papers made the situation a lot worse, though intriguing.
The laboratory that conducted the test also discovered that Sabina was not the biological mother of their son. She tried to protest, ‘Who carried him for nine months?’ but she had to accept the fact that she had been, at best, a surrogate mother.
If only we were the religious sort and could accept some type of divine intervention. For a week or two, there was excitement about this mysterious situation, or freak show as the media called it. Then there was a lull that stretched for a month or so, and with that came a liberal dose of doubt and unhealthy curiosity. All over the state, there was a rush for such tests. Imagine the pandemonium that resulted when the tests revealed the same each time!
We dominated the airwaves, researchers came to our state and we entertained all, as celebrities or guinea pigs. There was a heated discussion about the future, if the sacrosanct family would die, whether this was the beginning of the end. We were called mutants or freaks. They expected us to have sex like rabbits, free of all constraints. Outsiders wanted us placed in quarantine. We were confused, angry, defiant and defeated. It is not as if dark parents were producing babies with blond hair and blue eyes. We were just our bloody brown selves, various shades of course, with kinky or straight hair, light or dark eyes, sharp or blunt features, tall or short, just average Joe and Jane, and we always had someone in the ‘family’ to connect such traits, and if push came to shove, we could still recognize old familial resemblances.
One of the first group of researchers discovered that even erstwhile siblings had nothing in common. Another group studied DNA across the state and came to a startling but troubling conclusion. Mind you, it took time, more than ten years. They found that we do share a history in a weird way, even though we had little in common with siblings or parents.
My friend Rajappan, the tall fair chap from the coastal area, was described as a direct Aryan descendant, possibly of one of those Hindu groups from the north that conquered and changed our Buddhist ways. My wife is supposed to be an unadulterated Indus Valley type, chased southwards and settled here. My sister is out of Africa, a Bedouin with a nomadic inclination who landed on these shores for trade, or just by mistake. My son is some guy from the East, and going by his behavior I would say he belonged to Chenghis Khan’s marauding hordes, a discard that drifted to warmer clime. I cannot boast of being anything special, always been a thoroughly screwed up blend, it seems.  The weird part is that we seem to have been born straight from some historical age of our land into the current times, skipping centuries of raping, breeding and mixing genes. It is as if that life of some yesterday, after death, decided to wander no more and chose to park its soul or DNA or whatever, here, in us. Inconvenient perhaps but not an unreasonable decision, one has to admit.
You must be wondering how we carried on after this finding. Men and women still got married. Those who remained single chose to be so uninfluenced by recent developments. Parents, if one could call them that, still looked at ‘their’ babies with wonder, or disgust, depending on the mood and that was nothing new. They took care of the kids. Those who knew how to love still loved, and those who wanted to hate or abuse did so.
What changed? Minor stuff like surnames, of course, and some grand-daddy’s tales of ancestral glory and heritage lost meaning. God survived, after all someone had to take credit or blame for the sublime or the cruel moments of chance. Religion is being reinvented around the basics, but castes and sects had to go. We are attached to our land and we would still defend it. But the boundaries are vague. The laws that sound sensible to us still apply.
We might be freaks. That’s a matter of perspective. Who is within or without the cage?


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for reading this, Sudha. Best wishes.

  2. Quite confused, are you sure the laboratories were ethically and otherwise fully competent to conduct the paternity and maternity tests? hahhahah. Seriously, liked the chain of thoughts and the possibilities IF blood lineage indeed could be of no censequence and every person could indeed be a "self-made" person growing to potential of individual capacity and aptitude without baggage of living up to / despite family legacy.

    1. :-))) Great to see you here, Aditi! I knew I was tying myself in knots when it came to tests and DNA. Hahaha...

      Just wanted to do this thought experiment... what is the afterlife of a society free of such bonds? Most of our beliefs, convictions and groups would just vanish, I guess... hopefully, at least, those barbaric khap guys! How much of our personal lives seem to depend on those connections, good or bad? As you say, the growth of "self-made" people... hmmm... come to think of it, Ayn Rand's novels are full of those, right? Brrrr...

      There must be a happy mean somewhere in between... :-)))

      Thanks once again...

  3. Hello Arjun,

    Quite a profound thought and a nicer way you had woven a story around it... There were few very nice funny moments that i liked very much especially the way each of the relatives were mentioned... And the hint on God..

    Should we really go back to the beginning to correct the current situation?? Might help at least for few generations.. But would fall back to the current situation right?? And also was that situation of pure (breed) really the best solution..?
    Wasn't there feudalism even then?

    The more I read the more I think... Isn't that an excellent read when one thinks a lot..


    1. Thanks a lot for reading this one, KP.

      Hmmm... well, we have never had an era when DNA did not matter, right? Most of our thoughts (survival, love, property, saving) and group activities (religion, law, morals) revolve around the idea of preserving our genes and propagating it! Right?

      How can one throw away stuff like castes or sects or organized religion or the barbaric kangaroo courts? If we live in a society where each one is "different", will these outdated stuff go?

      But then we will still have class-based distinctions, I guess...

      Anyway, just thinking... :-))))

      Thx once again