By Sunita Thakur
With her surrogacy payment, Pushpa built a house
The town of Anand in the western Indian state of Gujarat is an unlikely trail-blazer to the cause of surrogacy.
Yet in just three-and-a-half years, this town of 150,000 people has produced more surrogate babies than any other in the country.
Rubina Mandal first heard of surrogacy and rushed to Anand a year and a half ago, not to find a surrogate mother but to become one.
Both her children suffer from a condition known as heart-murmur and more than likely, will need surgery.
Though Rubina and her husband together were bringing in around 15,000 rupees ($375) a month, the costs of surgery are far higher.
Nine months as a surrogate mother and Rubina has been able to bank away a tidy enough sum to bring a smile to her face.
Like Rubina, most surrogate mothers are fulfilling a long-held dream.
Pushpa Pandya, for instance, longed to own a house which, with the first surrogacy payment, she turned into a reality.
Now she is contemplating a second time - to add an additional room and finish paying all the extra loans.
Rubina is thrilled by her totally white baby
Husbands may not have agreed but for the fact that the benefits are obvious.
The moral police in the community too are usually quickly silenced once they know what surrogacy is.
The rates of pay vary - from $6,250 to $15,000 (250,000 to 600,000 rupees) - depending on the client.
And though some may want richer customers, from the US or the UK, most are happy with what they get, having never earned so much money in their lives before.
The Kaival Hospital, also known as the Akanksha Infertility Clinic, had 35 surrogate babies born in 2005 and 2006.
In 2007, that figure jumped to 55.
The success of the clinic has ensured that many other infertility clinics are also hunting out surrogate mothers on a commercial basis.
Dr Nayana Patel, the director of Kaival Hospital, says that each side is helping the other.
It all started with a British-Gujarati woman who, unable to have her own baby, asked her mother to be her surrogate.
That may have caused moral consternation amongst some women but many others began coming to Dr Patel, asking if she would find them a surrogate mother.
By word of mouth the news spread - that if you are healthy, have had at least one child of your own and need a relatively large sum of money, Dr Patel's clinic may well be the place for you.
Dr Patel says each side is helping the other
Mostly though it is poor women who offer themselves, fuelling charges of exploitation - since most customers coming from the West would have to pay double the amount back in their own country for the same procedure.
Dr Patel has clearly been asked this many a time.
"Supposing I am an Indian doctor, if I'm doing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the US, I would be earning $1,800 dollars, for the same treatment in India I am earning a maximum of $600-$700. So am I being exploited? No, because that is how it is in India."
Whatever the rights and wrongs of a competitive market, matters of the heart are the same the world over.
What must it be like to give up a baby you have carried for nine months?
There have been cases of surrogate mothers changing their minds and refusing to give up the baby in other parts of the world but so far, not in India.
Priyanka Sharma, another surrogate mother, has a take many would agree with.
"Of course there'll be sadness, but it's important to suppress that, keep it inside. Besides, we too are getting something. We have need for money and that need is being fulfilled. So really both sides are getting what they need."
Says Rubina, "It's a miracle. I myself was wondering how I managed to deliver such a beautiful American, totally white baby. I couldn't believe it - I am very happy."
But then Rubina is lucky that she and Karen, the baby's biological mother, have become so close that she seems merely to have extended her family to the United States.
The Indian government - often criticised for being slow in accepting change - too has been remarkably free of prudery.
At a time when surrogacy is still illegal in many countries around the world, India has drafted guidelines giving women the right to a fee for surrogacy.
The proposals are expected to be turned into law soon.