Monday, December 12, 2011

Insourcing , Outsourcing....

I am just back from visiting an old lady,  J.,  aged 90, who was a family neighbor once.  A very spirited lady, it was shocking to see her lying, so frail now, at half her normal weight, in a Fowler's bed, a tube running through her nose,  eyes closed.  I had run into her daughter and got this news, and it was difficult to believe that someone with so much spirit would see such a day.

J and her husband had no children. Early on, her own married sister, offered her own  second born  child at birth, a daughter,  to J and her husband, to bring up as their own daughter.  When the little girl  was in her teens , J lost her husband, and ended up becoming both father and mother to this girl.  By and by , the little girl grew up, became a teacher, and got married to a wonderful person.  There were mother-in-law problems and the young couple was asked to leave, strangely, the husband's house.  J opened her house and heart to them.  Grandchildren happened, grew up , even got married themselves,  and J continued making a great fuss over everyone.   Today J, tired after a full life, doted upon by every family member, lay oblivious to the world, in her own dreamtime. Her daughter had called and told us, and this is how we saw her.

I wonder how her life would have been if her own sister had not made this most precious gift of a daughter for her.  No announcements, no declarations, just a quiet, thoughtful, determined action.

And then I thought of someone else closer to me in age. Possibly quite younger, but no longer in the flush of, what we call, youth.  After many years of seeing just the couple, one was delighted to see them over the last few years, tending to a baby , enjoying its progress, milestones, and now fussing over the school annual day stuff, and running behind a little kid, trying to ride a bicycle. Much like a similar case like J's, except, here the man's brother helped.  Offered his newborn second child. With his wife's complete co-operation.   And life for this couple, changed.

Such events were fairly common in the old days. 

Solutions to life's questions were found in extended family situations.  This  philosophy had much to do with the ethos of life then.  Today , that ethos is missing. There is a lot of stress on the individual by himself/herself, as opposed to an individual as part of family group.  Consequently, the ability to see some one's success as a bit of your own, and vice-versa does not happen.  The common question that arises is "why should I....?".  and never "What can we do ?"... 

For a long time , I didn't know,  that there was  a word called "outsourcing". And when I learned about it, it took me a while to understand what it meant.  While it follows that one must know about the concept of "sourcing" before  starting to look for "outsourcing",  one didn't do so explicitly, because, it was assumed , that  you would , naturally be doing/involved in /performing your own work. If you were unable to do it, bad luck. And it probably wasn't for you. Or maybe you tried it at some other point in time,  when your capability and the time was different.  Sourcing  as a word really wasn't in my colloquial dictionary. You just got on with whatever you had to do.

Throughout my childhood, in the 50's and early 60's, unless it involved hundreds of folks visiting you at one time (like for weddings etc), I simply don't remember anyone "ordering" out for things.  Aunts, family members, friends pitched in, others dropped in to sample stuff, but stuff got done, whether it was food, flowers or whatever . Clothes stitching  , made to order by tailors was  the only thing becoming popular, and even there I remember some folks who simply did their own stitching , frocks, blouses and all, even shirts, and we kind of looked upon them with awe.When someone was sick, or an elderly sick person came to recuperate or to get medical attention and stayed with you, everyone chipped in to help. Nothing really was readymade as such, and the combined ingenuity of the entire family worked wonders . 

Today, almost everything can be ordered, or as I learnt, outsourced.  On a casual family level, even meals. And I don't mean getting someone to come daily and cook.  These are folks who come with utensils, food, serving chaps, do the dishes, and go back.  There are people who will come and clean your house, without you secretly checking if this or that corner has been bypassed surreptitiously. While in some places  you can traditionally outsource mourning to professionals, you still mourn , leaving the public manifestation to the "experts". The latest was the outsourcing of screaming delirious crowds  to welcome Tom Cruise at the Mumbai airport, here to promote his film. Paid hourly. Handsomely too. 

There are people available now for standing in line for you at various places where you get forms (night queuing extra). Unlike in my childhood, where  appearing for exams was a given, folks kept an eye on you,  those who cheated  were not applauded, examiners caught and exposed them, and word about them got around very fast.  Today, unlike the old days, there are all kinds of id-cards you need to have, but you still hear about someone who outsourced his exam-taking to someone else.  Outsourcing is a very widely held tool for getting drivers licences, and it took an hour once, for my shocked, open, gaping mouth to close, when someone casually mentioned that they had "ordered" one, from some place up north for a price.    

I thought there were fields where this outsourcing wouldn't work.   Because I realise that you cannot outsource the taking of medicine in life .  Pharmaceutical or otherwise. Giving someone else an electric shock, doesn't stop your heart from defibrillating,  and you taking iron doesn't cure someone else's anaemia. Putting a plaster on a friend's ankle doesn't cure your fracture,  someone else taking a deep breath doesn't expand your lungs.

But I was wrong.  Outsourcing had now hit medical science in a way that would have Hippocrates confused. 

I read the news item of actor Amir Khan and his wife announcing the arrival of their son.  Through the services of a surrogate mother. And it hit me, that today, you could outsource birth of your child. Like in all outsourcings, India offered cheap services compared to the rest of the world.  

I don't know what to think. This country has such a huge population, that it seems kind of silly to add to it by manipulated births.  There are so many children in orphanages, looking for a set of loving parents  and the security of a home.

But then one must give folks the right of having a kid that carries their genes.  And so those that feel strongly about this, go in for In vitro fertilization techniques, and hire a womb to see the pregnancy through.   There are issues of ethics, morality , legality, and money involved  and enough has been said about those.

But I just wonder, how a a foetus, implanted in the uterus of a rented womb, that gets its daily living nourishment from a totally unknown mother, can remain aloof from the environment. I mean, does a plant that grows inside, at the bottom of  the river Ganga, remain completely unaffected and unchanged if you transplant it into the Yamuna or Bramhaputra ? 

Nurture ( and not just nature) has been shown to matter majorly in the case of adopted children.  It is mind boggling to wonder , if the foetus absorbs anything unique from its sudden new environment where it gets comfortable over the next 280 days.

And then I ask myself, whether folks like J's sister, and the person's brother,  exist today. Whether that would be acceptable as a solution  to a couple. Whether, parents/parents in law even thought of this as a solution.  I also notice , that  as a technique or solution-of-choice, outsourcing , as such, and the alacrity with which it is embraced, kind of exponentially reduces over the years .

And then I wonder whether there will be a further scientific advance like artificial external uterii.... , or whether we will again look inward . Maybe a Western country will come up with something like what J's sister did. And they will call it by  fancy sociological name. Naturally, we will call it modern, and slavishly follow it, now that the West  has approved of the idea,

I think I am still confused.   Maybe they will call it Insourcing ?     


  1. Outsourcing which was a term generally associated with factories and software industries has now become the buzz word within families..sad. Joint family system in India has broken down and with siblings and offspring's spreading their wings and moving to far of places you can hardly expect huge crowd at home at any given point of time now.

    Both me and my wife did not have a child for over 13 years and my brother in law offered their born daughter to us 16 years back filling the vacuum in our lives.

    A nice post !!!

  2. Very topical and relevent post. Technology is chipping away at humanity and we dont even seem to know it !

    In a world where everything is spoken of interms of 'return' on 'investment' the finely nuanced state of being, where giving is default is rare to find !

    There are all kinds of sourcing these days. Insourcing is one. There is crowdsourcing too ! :)

    1. Me and More are 2 of the most common words one hears . So its difficult to fit in "giving" somewhere...

  3. Nice post.

    My uncle had two sets of parents, everyone lived together. The couple had no children, so a cousin and his wife (who had a single child themselves) decided they could share, and he was adopted.
    I'm yet to come across someone who is more of a 'giver' than my uncle.

  4. I miss so much having family near.
    But I made the decision to return to my much loved country property.
    I would rather be here then in the middle of the city.
    As time goes by though I sometimes
    wonder what will happen. An old woman out in the middle of nowhere.
    After the first of the year I have surgical repair done. Daughter's will take me to the big city and stay a night or two. I will be fine - guess I have grown accustom to being alone a lot.
    Wish they would all come and live with me :)

    1. That's probably how it was in the old days. Today everything is so fast changing, and no one has the time....

  5. Nice Post! one of my uncle and aunty were not able to have baby for 14 years and then decided to adopt a baby (boy) from an orphanage and the child proved lucky for them as they were able to have their own child (girl) after 2 years later! now they have a complete family!

    1. Thank you. And what a wonderful story of your uncle and aunt !

  6. This brought many questions to mind- the baby would be deprived of breat milk, for one, if he is immediately given to Aamir and Kiran. If the surrogate is kept as a wet nurse, it would affect the bond between the baby and Kiran.
    Agreed that they have every right to have their child born to a surrogate mother, it is nonetheless a pity that they didn't adopt.
    Although I do believe that the archaic Indian adoption laws for the minorities and for married women are not very conducive to adoption:(

  7. I agree every bit of what you said.In-sourcing could be the word, you never know! Outsourcing for services related to home, work or anything else one can think of is OK but when it comes to outsourcing for a rented womb, now that sounds just too much! I know of someone who very humbly agreed to give away his third child to his sister who was childless.this mutual decision was taken even before the child came in this world.

    1. I sometimes think this kind of culture has to be there within the family, for someone to do this. Maybe people dont discuss such things with family any more .

  8. Here are my two cents on the topic

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