Dr Roshini Shetty is an MDS (Master of Dental Surgery), Forensic Odontologist, Certified Laser dentist and Facial cosmetologist.
She has contributed extensively towards research work and medical innovations. She has a total of three patented medical innovations to her credit. Articles written by her, has been published in various journals. As a medical writer, she has written Undergraduate reference books for Dental students which have been published by CBS publishers.
Due to her passion for creative writing, she has also written various fiction and Non-fiction books, short stories, flash fiction and articles which have been published by different publishers. She was featured in various columns and radio shows regarding the unique concept of one of her fiction novel. She is also an editor and books reviewer.
Cousin Marriage Saga
She knew that too much of science was inimical and as it advances, the degree of collision between people and science would have a greater impact. She was the person who gave the relationship of ultimate affinity and chastity between the two armed forces, that is, the very existence of people and science.
Her name was Thea. She was a perfect example of beauty with intelligence. She was scintillating brilliant and her eyes sparkled showing her beauty and intelligence. She firmly believed in a concept, which she considered as the essential of life, that is, ‘make it or fake it’!
Thea at the age of twenty-five years had stepped into wedlock with her cousin, Tarun. Three years prior to her marriage, her father had passed away due to a massive heart attack; within a year her mother too had died of a car accident. Bad luck had struck her in a very harsh way. She felt utterly lonely, she craved for love and true relationships, but her feelings and emotions were hit hard every time in different instances when she realized that this self-centred society had an eye only for the sumptuous property that her father had left in her name.
She was a voracious reader and thinker. She planned every moment in her life and executed it extremely well with her hard work and wit. Her parents had always been her inspiration and they had given her enough impetus to become self-sufficient and a confident person. Though they were not with her now but the lessons they had taught her were well imbibed to make her a responsible and sensible person.
Her life would have been home for depression and darkness if it wasn’t Tarun who had brought in the moments of joy, laughter, encouragement and fulfilment into her being. She did things methodically and systematically. Her books and clothes were neatly arranged and her room was well kept. She was a perfectionist and a nifty person.
Thea thought of the circumstances that had led to her union with Tarun. Tarun was her first cousin. Tarun’s parents had divorced each other when Tarun was roughly four years old. Tarun resided with his mother while his father had re-married and had totally abandoned him and his mother. May be Tarun was ill-starred, for, when he was around six years old, his mother committed suicide for unknown reasons; the previous day she had walked into her brother’s [Thea’s father] house and had beseeched him to take care of Tarun and had left the house with swift gait not responding to the queries of her brother. It was only the next day everyone came to know about the suicide. Thea could still remember that day when she had seen her dad in a quiescence state sitting on a couch with his head bent down and trying to screen his face from his young innocent daughter probably to hide his tears. There was mixed emotions of both anger and grief. As Thea grew up and understood the intricacies of life, she often wondered as to whether committing suicide really needs guts or is it an act of cowardice.
Tarun was only one year older than Thea. He was made to join a residential school after his mother’s sad demise. Monetary benefits were given entirely by his uncle [Thea’s father]. They visited him twice in a month and he used to spend those two days completely with his uncle’s family.
Now, many years had passed and a lot of things had changed, and our inquisitiveness reaches its highest peak when we come down to reality considering Tarun and Thea’s marriage. Their marriage was on a simple logic, both of them needed someone for companionship, someone they could trust and share their feelings, someone who could be very close to their heart and could acclimatize with their flaws, someone to fall back on in times of hardship and both of them being orphans felt that their match would be the best. Love meant ‘trust’ for Tarun and trust grows slowly and steadily with time after knowing and understanding each other well. A vague feeling from somewhere harped on the fact that he truly trusted only Thea.
Tarun was an aeronautical engineer. He had completed his engineering from Chennai & had also done his Masters from BIT-Ranchi. His smile was the best that made other guys envy him and female-clan totally desirous of him. People considered him savvy with good brain-stuff. Tarun had a great sense of humour and was capable of wrapping anyone to admire him.
Tarun was an extrovert who enjoyed parties and socializing. Thea was more of a reserved kind with her best companions being her books. Tarun considered Thea a nerd and Thea thought of Tarun as an eccentric; initially their speculation on each other’s character made their conversation limited and they were more ignorant towards each other but when destiny played in a different way by bonding them in a relationship of marriage, they put in considerable efforts to be more considerate towards each other’s feelings and drove to respect each other’s ideologies.
Thea had succeeded in completing MBBS course, after which she had done a certified course in genetics. She experienced a wave of satisfaction as she had hit the bull’s eye in her career. She slogged for the attainment of complete knowledge in her interested field of genetics. Tarun supported her, galvanized and motivated her beyond her fondest dreams. She had totally involved herself in research work on genetics.
One day Thea returned home early from work. She could see her cooks obediently arranging things in the kitchen and she was ready to negotiate with the fact that Tarun had already arrived. Her eyeball made rapid movements to locate Tarun when she finally spotted him leisurely sitting on the sofa casually turning the pages of a magazine.
He spoke absurdly, “How… how was the work today?”
Realizing his absurd speech, she calmly enquired, ‘Work was good. Is everything fine?”
Within a bat of an eye, Tarun reciprocated, “Don’t you think we need a child? I met my childhood friend Ashok at the medical stores today. I was overwhelmed to see my friend after such a long period. Currently he stays in New York City with his wife and two children. He along with his family has come down to India for a month. I have invited him for dinner tomorrow. He is married to Priya who is his first cousin and their children are perfectly normal. I’m sure that even in our case nothing is going to happen. We will undergo genetic testing and genetic screening later in the child”.
A feeling of perpetual pain ran over Thea as she felt uneasy talking about children in their case. She grinned, “A lot of research work shows that the risk of genetic disorder in couples who are cousins is not very high when compared to non-related couples but I unnecessarily don’t want to take any chances by having children”.
Tarun retaliated, “Consanguineous marriages are not something new but have been happening since centuries and if their role was true in producing abnormal offspring’s, all the countries would have abandoned them long ago but it hasn’t happened like that, so we can be sure that the minimum scientific data we have is not enough to support their ban. The main research is based only on genetic studies and it is not sufficient enough to prove a problem with consanguineous marriages. It could be the environment in which a person resided which actually caused the problem, may be it is the chemicals sprayed on certain crops which when digested may have led to some kind of disease”.
Both Thea and Tarun were not any great adorers of kids. When a couple don’t wish to have children, it is the society, which gives names to childless parents, which makes them feel very insecure and challenging to live without a child. It is the society that gossips and considers either of the parents to be having some defects for not producing a child. Tarun had fallen prey to the thinking of this very society, considering his decision to have a child but Thea’s views were different, she neither cared for what people had to say nor to the comments and advices given by others, she only credited self-consultation and moved in the direction she felt was correct.
Thea hurried back home as there would be guests dropping in. When she returned, she saw that Ashok and Priya had already arrived. From a distance she heard Tarun and Priya immersed in a discussion again on children, genetics etc. when she came closer, Tarun introduced Ashok and Priya to her and they welcomed her to join the conversation.
Ashok spoke candidly, “Research without proper controls had previously exaggerated the defects resulting from these cousin marriages”.
Priya argued, “In our country we are more conservative with regard to dating and sex prior to marriage, hence marriage choice is limited to whom we know well due to a higher comfort zone with this person. I’m not propagating cousin marriages but I’m not against it too. Our parents were very reluctant when we had decided to get married and obviously they were scared of these health issues which could result in their grandchild but then they gave in. We got genetic testing done and our doctor told us that there would be minimal chances of having an abnormal child but we just gave it a try like any other non-related couple”.
Thea promptly replied, “Tanuja was my senior when I was doing my course in genetics. She also married one of her close relatives and no one bothered much about any genetic disorders occurring in their child for she was a doctor. As far as I know she took all the precautions and after being quite sure that their child would not be susceptible to any deformities, they had opted for a child but the child had a rare kind of genetic disease. Doctors are not still capable of replacing God. Prevention is always better than cure; we don’t have any rights to play with life. I know that every parent who is yearning for a child is taking some risk but being cousins, the risk we are taking would surely be more. I may be against cousins having children but not against cousins marrying. The main motive of marriage is not children. Marriage is a relationship of character”.
All the four of them present there felt that they should switch on to some other topic of discussion and they did change the topic at that instant but it gambled in Tarun and Thea’s life again and again when this society desperately wanted an answer from them.
Tarun was only a bystander now, he had great regards for Thea’s perspective and her words constantly resonated in his ears and he undeniably could perceive the naked truth in her saying. Both Thea and Tarun had settled with a combined acquiescence that they would never have a child; they fancied in living their lives for themselves.
Thea had advised many couples who were infertile and also some couples who were cousins to go for adoption of a child if they frenziedly wanted one.
Thea brought in a new concept of solving distress among couples who were cousins. IUI (Intra uterine insemination; in this method, the sperm, which has a major role in producing a child is collected from a donor and introduced into the uterine cavity of the female) using donor sperm is nothing new to us but she set forth this concept among fertile people who were cousins.
When Thea was doing her course in genetics, they were taught that beyond a thorough medical family history with significant findings, no additional preconception screening was recommended for consanguineous couples. She had also learnt that consanguineous couples should be offered similar genetic screening as suggested for any couple of their ethnic group. During pregnancy, consanguineous couples should be offered maternal-foetal serum marker screening and high-resolution foetal ultrasonography. New-borns should be screened for impaired hearing and detection of treatable inborn errors of metabolism but she had involved herself in so much of research work that she did not agree that these genetic testing or scanning would be sufficient for complete prevention of a disorder.
Rosy was Thea’s next-door neighbour. Rosy had completed her Bachelor of Science in biology and now her parents wanted her to get married. The boy they had in mind was again her third degree relative whom she too liked; moreover even her cousin was deeply in love with her.
You marry only the special someone that you are destined to marry. Whatever may be the barriers placed in your path to prevent you from having any kind of affair with a particular person, if fate prefers your propinquity then no one can stop it from happening.
She visited Thea to get Thea’s opinion regarding her marriage. Rosy asked, “Thea, do you really think marrying a cousin can cause serious problems in kids? In our country a lot of cousins get married and have perfectly normal children. Famous personalities like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein married their cousins. British royal histories talk about these marriages”.
Thea acceptingly replied, “List of people who have married their first cousins and have perfectly normal children is endless. It is not that everyone gets an abnormal child but chances are more compared to non-related couples”.
Rosy argued, “But I can’t stay without a descendent. I’m very fond of kids, I love my cousin Johnsy deeply but I even love kids”.
Thea initially advised her to adopt a child but Rosy said that she wanted to experience the joy of pregnancy. She was literally pleading Thea to find a solution for her. Thea analysed the situation and hesitatingly unearthed her idea after few days. Thea advised her that she could have a child through an IUI but Rosy had a quizzical look on her face.
Thea said, “It depends on how much you and Johnsy can sacrifice for each other to have an offspring. It also depends on the strength of your love. In 1950’s, technology to test a man’s sperm and to collect and preserve donor sperm became available. The first commercial sperm bank opened in 1970’s. It is basically done as an alternative to infertility but if you permit, it can be tried in your case”.
Rosy interrupted, “What?! What do you mean? Do you think all this is accepted in our society? Johnsy will never agree for this”.
Thea calmed her down, “There is one more method in which the ovum is introduced from another person. This is an effectual method where the child is genetically related to the father and the mother has the satisfaction of carrying it in her womb for seven months. You can opt for this through IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). I personally prefer IUI in comparison to IVF but I can give you more insights into IVF if you are interested in this procedure. I did not undergo this on myself because neither do I believe that there is joy in pregnancy nor am I any great admirer of children”.
Rosy asked whether she could do it without telling Johnsy, but Thea was against this idea. Thea unequivocally said that both their agreement was very much necessary for their future to be happy and secure. Thea also said that the physician and partners sign an informed consent that clearly states the rights and obligations of the parties involved and those of the child. A legal consent includes a paragraph indicating that the child is a legitimate offspring of the father and not the donor. Rosy said she would think about it and would inform Thea about her decision later.
Thea heard the bell ring and she unlocked the latch of her room while the servant opened the main door, she came near the stairs and gazed at Tarun. Her mind pondered with high velocity for she was excited to tell about her conversation with Rosy to Tarun. Tarun was consumed with meddlesomeness when he realized that his wife was eagerly waiting to tell him something. She briefly unshielded her conversation with Rosy to him.
Thea said, “The percentage of abnormality resulting increases in the following order, non-related couples, then babies through IUI, then blood related couples. So the percentage of abnormality can be reduced, not eliminated. What do you think about this?”
Tarun rebounded, “The sober truth is that you are just experimenting with people, it is not safe. It’s better not to be involved in such things”.
She propelled her move by answering, “There are always minimal chances of having an abnormal child whatsoever may be the precautions taken. Rosy and Johnsy love each other very much, so Johnsy may give his consent for this but I know that in future there can be problems cropping up if Johnsy starts developing a debase feeling that their baby is not biologically related to him. Though this is a kind of faking, your esteem in having a child is equal to that of non-related couples”.
The elapse of time was one year now. One fine day, Rosy & Johnsy came to meet Thea and told her that they were prepared for an IUI. Thea could gauge it without doubt that it was Rosy’s persuasion, which had made Johnsy agree. Thea explained the procedure in detail and the weak points related with it and requested them to think well before plunging into any decision. Rosy said that it should not be disclosed even to their parents for their parents were very orthodox and wouldn’t permit for this IUI. Thea promised them to keep it as a secret.
Thea clearly went through the family history of any known diseases of the sperm donor. She took extra solicitude for she knew if something went wrong, not only them, she also wouldn’t spare herself and would remain as a centre to blame till her endurance ends.
They tried twice, the first time they tried was two months ago and it had failed. The second time, it was a success; Rosy was pregnant. It was the most awaited result for Thea and she prayed for everything to be fine.
After an interval of five years from the day Rosy had undergone an IUI, their only son Karan as they had named him was both physically and mentally stable. The trio was leading a very joyous and a contended life and they respected Thea the most as if she had brought in an evolution in them.
It’s all based on individuality; there is no religion, communities or relations that play a role here. Every human being is different and thinks and reacts to a particular situation in his own way. There may be many people who like the idea of IUI and consider it as a boon to mankind while there are others who vehemently disapprove this concept. Advantages and disadvantages have an equal stand here. Though it was a huge success for Thea, her intuitive mind never let her propagate or experiment with this concept for fertile couples again.
Rosy and Johnsy had recommended that she should help other cousin couples through this method but she had taken a vow that she would not do it again, putting a complete full-stop to carry out this IUI on fertile couples.
She always believed that, may be if Rosy and Johnsy had their own biological child, there would still have been a great possibility of having a ‘normal child’ and may be the IUI technique, which they depended upon, could have also produced a child with deformity but fortunately nothing bad had happened. It was just good luck which played its part. Everyone lives in a transience state forgetting that bad luck may strike him or her in any moment of his or her life.
You may be a related or a non-related couple, we ought to remember only ‘one’ thing which governs and assures us that the child we yearn for is normal without any kind of disease or physical or mental abnormalities. This ‘one’ thing is none other than “GOOD LUCK”. The journey from life to death must have impregnated this ‘good luck’ firmly and unconquered between itself for a happy living.