India’s Controversial Baby Farms and the Poor Women Renting Their Wombs to Wealthy Foreigners

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Paying a woman to carry a child is illegal in Australia, the UK, and several other countries. Even where it is allowed, it costs and arm and a leg. And that’s why commercial surrogacy is a thriving business in India. Infertile couples all over the world are now looking to Indian women to help them have their babies. Indian surrogacy clinics provide an economical alternative for childless couples and in return, the money that these surrogate mothers from poor backgrounds receive is helping them build their life. It’s a win-win situation really, if you choose to look at it that way.

Akanksha Infertility Clinic, located in the small town of Anand in Gujarat State, is one of the top places for commercial surrogacy in India. A surrogacy package here costs about $30,000, from which about $8,000 is given to the surrogate. Given that over one-third of the Indian population is extremely poor, there are plenty of women more than willing to bear children for others. The clinic has been in operation for the past 10 years, and over 700 surrogate babies have been delivered there so far. All the money earned from these treatments has hugely impacted the economic situation of the town and its surrounding areas.

30-year-old Neeta Makwara, who lives in the nearby village of Nadiad, has gone through surrogacy twice. In 2008, she gave birth to a baby boy for a foreign couple. And she had twins again in 2011. The first time around, her husband squandered all the money from the treatment. But Neeta was wiser the second time – she used the money to build a three-storey house. She’s even rented out the ground floor, so that earns her a bit of cash every month.

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Woman Who Has Never Eaten Solid Food Lives off Milk, Tea and Water

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Manju Dharra, a 25-year-old Indian woman, hasn’t had a bite to eat since she was born. For the past two-and-a-half decades she has been surviving on a liquid diet consisting of milk, tea, buttermilk and water.

Manju is from a small town called Sonipat, located near India’s capital, New Delhi. She suffers from a rare condition called achalasia – a failure of smooth muscle fibers to relax. Because of this, the cardiac sphincter muscle (that closes the opening from the gullet to the stomach to prevent acid reflux) does not open at all. So food cannot pass into the stomach and the gullet is blocked. The result – violent vomiting if she ever tries to eat anything solid.

“If I eat something then I throw up and I feel very, very bad. Now I feel fear when I look at solid food,” said Manju. Her mother, Bhagwati Dharra, added: “She only takes fluids like milk, tea, water, and sometimes juice. Mostly she takes milk, tea, buttermilk, water. If she eats solid food, she faces the problem of vomiting suddenly.”

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Narayanan Krishnan – The Selfless Hero Helping India’s Helpless

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Hero is a very strong word, but it fits 34-year-old Narayanan Krishnan perfectly. During the last 12 years, he has served over 1.5 million meals to India’s homeless, mostly people abandoned by their families, either suffering from mental conditions or too old to care for themselves.

Back in 2002, young  Narayanan Krishnan was already an award-winning chef working in a high-class restaurant for the prestigious Taj Hotels, and close to securing a job with another 5-star hotel, in Switzerland. Just before heading off to Europe, he traveled to his home town of Madurai, to visit his parents, where witnessed a scene that changed the course of his life forever. ”I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food,” Krishnan told CNN. “It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime.”

Although he was a Brahmin – an upper class Hindu – destined for a successful career as a chef, Narayanan decided to give it all up and dedicate his life to helping those who couldn’t help themselves. Shaken by the scene he has witnessed in Madurai, he quit his job within a week, convinced his destiny wasn’t to cook elaborate dishes for the rich and famous, but provide sustenance to those who needed it most. “That night I thought, what am I doing? I am selling a plate of fried rice for ten dollars in my hotel where people come and have food for fantasy, fun, joy and recreation. Not for hunger. They eat only half portion of it and leave half of in the plate. It was a spark, a very powerful spark that I had,” the young chef said about the event that made him what he is today.

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The Mind-Boggling Bird Suicide Phenomenon of Jatinga

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Jatinga is a small village located in Assam, a state in northeastern India. The village is lush green and scenic, surrounded by serene mountains. But that’s not what it’s famous for. In fact, Jatinga is well-known for an entirely different reason – its Bird Mystery.

The Bird Mystery is a unique phenomenon that occurs at Jatinga between September and November each year. During these late monsoon months, several migratory and local birds commit mass suicide at the village. Just after sunset, between 7 and 10 pm, hundreds of birds descend from the sky, plummeting to their deaths by crashing into buildings and trees. Since birds aren’t known to be suicidal, the phenomenon has baffled villagers, visitors and scientists alike. For many years, locals believed that evil spirits living in the skies were responsible for bringing down the birds .

Of course, this isn’t true. After several scientific studies and experiments, it has been concluded that the birds are generally disoriented by the monsoon fog. So they are attracted by the village lights and fly towards them, sometimes hitting walls and trees during the descent. Some of the birds die, while others are grievously injured, becoming easy prey for the villagers to capture. These birds are often dazed and disheveled, and do not put up any resistance when villagers attack them with catapults or bamboo sticks.

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Indian “Lady Tarzan” Talks to Elephants and They Listen

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14-year-old Nirmala Toppo is the heroine of Rourkela, an industrial city located in the Indian state of Odisha, after she talked the elephants that had invaded the settlement into returning to the forest.

The Catholic girl from Jharkland claims she began talking to elephants after her mother was killed by some pachyderms. “I then decided to learn the techniques to drive them away”. The technique Nirmala refers to involves praying and literally talking to the elephants. “First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say”. By using these simple “tricks”, the girl helped the authorities of Rourkela deal with a herd of elephants that had settled in a residential area of the city. “When the herd entered the city, we tried our best to contain its movement. We managed to make the herd go into the local football stadium, but we were not sure how we could drive them back to the forest. It was a difficult task,” forest official P. K. Dhola said. Out of options and pressed for time, they remembered that there was someone who could help them. “We knew of a tribal girl who lived in Jharkhand, who talked to elephants and was able to drive them back. We called up her father and she arrived along with some other tribal people from her village”.

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The World’s Biggest Albino Family

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All eight members of the Pullan family from Delhi suffer from a rare genetic disorder called albinism which, as its name suggests, is characterized by the complete or partial absence of melanin pigment in the skin and hair. Because of this condition, Rosetauri Pullan, his wife Mani along with their three daughters Renu, Deepa and Pooja and three sons Shankar, Ramkishan and Vijay all have fair skin, white hair and light colored eyes despite being Indian.

Their ghostliness is not just an aesthetic problem. It actually comes with certain undesirable medical problems. Their pale white skin makes it impossible for them to stay in the sun for too long. The lack of pigment in their eyes have left them short-sighted and Shankar was even forced to attended a school for the blind. “All we know is that we can’t see properly, and we can’t sit under the sun for long, but we live the best we can,” the family explains. Unfortunately sunburns and short-slightness are not their only concerns. There are only 17,000 people in the world who suffer from albinism and those who are unfortunate to live in less developed countries, like the Pullans, are harshly discriminated against.

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Indian Baby Suffers from Rare Spontaneous Combustion Condition

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Rahul, a three-month-old baby from Villupuram, India, is believed to suffer from a rare condition known as Spontaneous Human Combustion, which causes his body to burn without any external source of ignition. Only 200 similar cases have been reported around the world in the last 300 years.

Just nine days after he was born, Rahul was found burning by his mother, Rajeswari, who scampered to douse the flames. “People thought I set him on fire deliberately,” she told reporters, but since then her baby to suffer three more similar accidents. Instead of supporting the family, the community ostracized them, and Rahul’s father says they have lost everything as a result. Luckily, the district collector called the Kilpauk Medical College Hospital after hearing their story, and the baby was admitted last Thursday, and is being treated for severe burn injuries. His parents said they visited other hospitals before, but no one could tell them what causes his body to burst into flames for no apparent reason. Dr. R. Narayana Babu, head of pediatrics at KMC says “It has been scientifically documented that concentrated combustion air excreted from the body could result in such episodes. In elderly persons, heavy drinking could lead to the body excreting alcohol-like substance which could get ignited.” Due to an unknown mechanism, these substances are escaping the body without breaking down to non-combustible forms.

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Grieving Widower Builds Taj Mahal Replica in Memory of His Late Wife

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Faizul Hasan Kadari, a retired post-master from India, has put his entire life savings into building a replica of the world famous Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife who died in 2011.

The original Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his wife Mumtaz in 1631, and is regarded as one of the world’s greatest monuments to love and grief. But who would have thought Shah Jahan’s gesture would ever be replicated, and by a retired postal worker, of all people? Faizul Hasan Kadari might not have had the riches of the old emperor, but the promise made to his dying wife Tajammuli Begum was enough to fuel his ambition and build his own version of the Taj Mahal. He took a team of local workers to the walled city of Agra to see the original masterpiece and asked them to build a smaller replica, without all the intricate carvings and decorations, which would have been impossible to imitate anyway. To fund his project, Kadari sold his land, his wife’s jewels and used up all the savings from his pension.

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World’s Longest Mustache Measures over Four Meters

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Ram Singh Chauhan started growing his mustache in 1970, and hasn’t cut it since. Today it measures over 4.30 meters, and the proud Indian man from Rajasthan holds the Guinness record for World’s Longest Mustache.

The 58-year old says one of the secrets to impressive facial hair growth is starting early. ”As you grow old your hormones grow weak, so the speed slows down,” Ram says, but even now he still adds a few centimeters to his mustache every year. He stopped shaving his mustache back in 1970, after being inspired by a fellow mustache enthusiast from Rajasthan, resuming to trimming the split ends every once in a while. In the early years Chauhan and his wife Asha used to fight over his abnormally long facial hair, because he used to take a long time to wash and groom it, and people stared at them every time they went out. But as soon as her husband started getting recognition for his efforts, she began to respect his commitment, and says she now considers the mustache part of the family and shares his pride in it. Thanks to his long mustache, Ram Singh Chauhan appeared in big movies like 1983′s ”Octopussy”, starring Roger Moore, as well as numerous Bollywood productions. He has also traveled around the world, to show off his amazing whiskers.

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Meet Raj Mohan Nair – The Super-Human Immune to Electrecution

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A tenth of an amp is enough to kill an ordinary human being, but Raj Mohan Nair is anything but ordinary. This human conductor is able to withstand several amps of electricity passing through his body without suffering any bodily harm.

Electricity Mohan or Electro-Man, as Raj has come to be known all around the world has an amazing super-power. Just a small a mount of electricity can be fatal to most humans, but this man can conduct several amps and survive unscathed. There’s nothing super-human about his looks, but connected to an electrical power source, Raj Mohan Nair can do extraordinary things. He doesn’t shoot lightning bolts from his hands or anything, but he can power up a light bulb or an electric blender by grabbing two live wires and allowing massive amounts of current to pass through his body. He might not seem like a superhero worthy of his own comic book, but it’s a lot more than the rest of us mortals can withstand. If these wires touched any other human’s body, the electricity would cause their organs to fail and stop their heart, but not Mohan’s. With one wire in his mouth for better conductivity and the other anywhere else on his body, Mohan lets the electrical current run through him and into whatever other device he’s trying to power on.

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On the Wings of a Prayer – India’s Unique Airplane Temple Fuels Devotees’ Traveling Dreams

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It’s not unusual at Indian temples for devotees to make huge offerings of money and food, in exchange for their prayers to answered. But the case of this particular Sikh temple in Punjab is quite strange, even for Indian standards. The narrow, dusty alleyway leading up to the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara in Punjab’s Doaba region, near the city of Jalandhar, is lined with a host of shops selling toy aircrafts of various sizes and colors. Although they sell like hot cakes, they are not meant to be travel souvenirs, but offerings to the temple. At the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara, devotees make toy plane offerings in the hopes that their dreams of traveling abroad and starting a new life will come true.

It’s hard to say how the trend started. But the offering of the toy plane is quite befitting, since the thing most people pray for at this temple is to settle down in another country. According to one local shopkeeper, “Surely it must have been someone’s wish to go abroad coming true that must have started it all. It’s now become a tradition. For us it’s business.” So the sight of scores of devotees flocking at the century-old gurudwara gates, holding colorful toy planes might be a strange one to you but quite normal to the locals. They line up patiently, waiting for their turn to access the inner sanctum on the first floor, where several decorative model planes are placed in neat rows. The devotees place their rainbow-colored offerings in the demarcated enclosure, paying their obeisance to the Gurus of the Sikh tradition and to Baba Nihal Singh, a simple farmer of the nearby Doaba region after whom the gurudwara was named. After the offering is made, they then proceed to ask for their wish to be granted – to be sent abroad as soon as possible.

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India’s Dangerous Human-Powered Ferris Wheels

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How do you keep the fun going at fairs in a country affected by frequent power cuts and blackouts? Simple, just hire a bunch of workers to dangle from the bars of manual ferris wheels to keep it in motion.

India’s human-powered ferris wheels recently made headlines in Western media after a video of one such contraption at a fun fair in New Delhi went viral on YouTube and various news sharing sites, but the truth is the phenomenon is very common in Asian countries where electricity is unreliable. Some fairs use generators or even car batteries to power ferris wheels, but the simplest and most cost-effective way to keep people entertained is to hire a couple of daredevils to climb a manual ferris wheel and dangle from its metal bars to keep it spinning. The simple installations are made up of a simple metal frame and a few open-air cages, and without a power source they look like non-functional decorations when not in use. But as soon as people climb in the cages and the fearless wallahs start working their magic, you get pretty much the same feeling as you would from a modern ferris wheel.

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Indian City Introduces Cardboard Traffic Policemen

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They work seven days a week regardless of weather condition, never go on breaks, don’t take bribes and best of all, they require no pay. They are – wait for it – Bangalore’s new lifelike cardboard traffic policemen, and they’re watching you!

India’s tech-city of Bangalore has been facing serious difficulties dealing with traffic violations. Despite low car ownership, the rate of row fatalities has risen sharply in this city of 8.5 million people to at least two road-related deaths per day, in 2012. Some sources say Bangalore needs at least 6,000 traffic policemen to keep things under control, but it currently has a personnel of 3,000. Instead of supplementing their ranks, local authorities have come up with an ingenious idea to make drivers behave at the wheel that doesn’t require significant expenditures - life-size cardboard cutouts of traffic policemen strategically placed on the city’s busiest roads. Only three of them have been deployed so far, but results have been so encouraging that 10 more khaki-wearing fake cops will soon be rolled out to improve Bangalore’s chaotic traffic.

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The Indian Coin Divers of Yamuna River

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It sometimes amazes me how humans are able to find a source of livelihood in almost any type of environment, in accordance with their surroundings. Case-in-point, the coin divers of the Yamuna River, in Delhi, India’s capital city. This unique group of men works around the year, braving the bone-chilling cold waters even during winters, to dive into the river and retrieve coins from the bottom. The same coins that are thrown into the waters by passengers of boats crossing the river, as an offering to the River Goddess. Wondering what such an offbeat job pays? Well, sometimes as little as 100-200 rupees (US $ 2 to 3) a day, and sometimes as much as a diamond ring.

22-year-old Sartaj Ahmed has been in the profession of coin-diving for the past 6 years. The brave young man says he started diving when he was just a boy, but it was only when he turned 18 that he began hunting for coins. “Some days I get 100-200 rupees but on lucky days, I can find small trinkets. I have even found a gold ring once.” 34-year-old Sajad Ahmed has been at it for 20 long years. He says it gets harder and harder each other, but they really do not have any other choice. 21-year-old Amit Kumar, who’s been doing this for 10 years, says, “We dive into the river and collect coins, brass, copper, sometimes even silver and gold.” Diving for coins is the only source of his daily income. “What can be done, I have to do something for my living. We live here so we keep diving here.”  Vicky, another young diver, says, “I dive and normally take home money for my daily expenses.” Raju says that he prefers coin diving because he doesn’t like working for a boss.

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Indian Sculptor Makes Creepy Bust of Favorite Politician from His Own Blood

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An Indian man known only as Hussaini has recently unveiled a shocking work of art – a bust of J. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of the Tamil Nadu state, made from 11 litres of frozen human blood, donated by him and 32 of his students.

Apparently, nothing shows admiration for a person like making a creepy sculpture of them from human blood. At least that’s what Hussaini, a sculptor and archery teacher from Chennai, must have thought when he got the idea to create a bust of Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha out of his own frozen blood, for her 65th birthday. The noted artist wanted to thank the politician for being the “most sports loving CM of India” and for her support to his archery association, and since he had a few liters of his own blood stored for special occasions, he decided to put it to good use. You see, Hussaini has had his blood drawn at three-month intervals, over the last eight years, waiting for an opportunity to use it as a medium for his sculpture. But he only had 6.5 liters of blood, and this special project required 11. Luckily, his 32 archery students were more than willing to donate the extra 4.5 liters needed to complete the project.

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