November 25, 2004

Why she's here

Seminar for journalism students on adoption, I was asked to speak as an "adoptive parent". Here's what I said.

The first thing I should do, I think, is make a confession. I've been an "adoptive parent" for less than two months. So I'm hardly speaking to you from great experience. But what I'd like to do here is give you some idea of why we adopted our little Surabhi, and what it has meant to us.

I've always wanted to adopt a child, as long I've thought about having children. I think the reason, in the end, has to do with the kind of country we live in.

It has to do with seeing tiny kids with no clothes on at every signal, begging for a coin. With kids who clean the floor of the train compartment, often with the shirt off their backs. With kids who work in a million little industries, from sewing in Dharavi to fireworks in Sivakasi, when they should instead be in school. It has to do with watching my son Sahir watching a little boy his age come to our rickshaw and ask for food with that sad pecking gesture, knowing helplessly that Sahir will learn to live with it as I have learned, as all us Indians have learned, so much so that it is so profoundly part of being Indian.

And it has to do, I think every Independence Day, with the flags we buy from a barebodied kid shivering in the monsoon rains. Something about that urchin, that forgotten child of India, selling me my token of being Indian.

At some level, these are thoughts I think every day, and have been thinking for years. Decades. I'm not trying to prove anything, make any statement, by saying this. I'm just stating a fact about myself. And with these thoughts comes the always agonizing question, what can I do? What can I do about these kids, about the poverty that seems to me our greatest national shame? It's a question that leaves me helpless, because I really don't know what I can do.

Except, possibly, adopt a child. If there's one abandoned child whom we can raise as our own, offering her the love and care we would to any child we had, that's one less child to roam our streets, doing that pecking motion at the signals. And I think, this one thing, I can do. This is how I've always felt about adoption: that it is the minimum I can do.

Of course there are other factors in the equation. If we offer a child a home, we have to feel confident and secure about our home. What kind of relationships do we have in our family, are they strong and nurturing enough that a new child will feel safe and secure too? At a very deep level, I knew I had to have the right answer to that question before bringing a child into our home. And I think that applies doubly to an adopted child.

In answering that question, adopting has taught us something about ourselves too.

So it is with all this on our minds that we adopted Surabhi two months ago. I occasionally find myself wondering, do I feel differently about her than I do about Sahir? Not in the least, not one little bit. She is our child as he is, that's it. And in an odd way, that answers again some of those questions about the relationships in our home.

What of the future? I can't say I know how this will turn out, I can't say I'm unaware of or unworried about the likely emotional turmoil that lies ahead. I know of adopted kids who eventually begin asking questions and searching for their own answers. If it happens to Surabhi, I hope she will know that adoption is just another, perfectly normal, way to have a child, and it is with that knowledge that she goes on her search. I hope we will have given her the love and security that she will need to count on then.

And with all that said, I should also say that now that Surabhi is home with us, adoption seems less and less like an unusual thing to do. I mean this in the best possible way: to us, it now seems every bit as normal as having Sahir, yet at the same time every bit as special. If you know what I mean.

I'm glad it has turned out like that. Because we've had people ask us why we adopted; whereas "why did you give birth to your child?" is rarely asked. I'd like both questions to be equally rarely asked. But if asked, I'd like to have the same answer either way: "Because we wanted a child."

We wanted Sahir. We wanted Surabhi. Now we have them.


Anonymous said...

As adoptive parent, you stand as a Wonderful example. Thanks for that. Wish you all the best !

Anirudh Karnick said...

One of your best posts, D-Mama. Very touching and beautifully written.

Anonymous said...

One of the best posts I have read. I wish you and your wife the very best in this journey you have started with little Surabhi :)

Miss J said...

Wonderful post. Came here through a myriad of other blogs. Can I link to this in my blog? SVS and I have been planning to adopt a child once we get married and your post has been very encouraging.


Anonymous said...

About feeling different - during the process of adopting my daughter I was worried whether I would feel differently than my son - but once my daughter came home, it was the same feeling of postpartum emotions. It was truly amazing. And now my daughter has been with us for 4 years and I never think that she came in different circumstances.

Anonymous said...

"Because we wanted a child."

Probably the best reason I ever heard regards adoption. Way to go, Dilip.

Anonymous said...

"Because we wanted a child."

Probably the best reason I ever heard regards adoption. Way to go, Dilip.


Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you, Jahnvi, Patrix and you others. She is a little delight as I may have commented here before, and when she smiles up at us we are left sort of speechless...

Anonymous said...

Great Dilip. I've always admired ur articles in Rediff. Now after reading this blog of urs, truly my respect for u has gone up a hundred notches. Like you say "one adopted less kid on the road". Wish you and your family all happiness. :-)


Santanu Chari said...

We corresponded a few months (years?) back. Nice article on adoption in rediff. Wife and I are discussing the same thing. Nice to see a writer riding on hope (this is for the article on 'erasing lines")

Bhim said...

Dilip, Your post has been really inspirational.

Apart from the philanthropic reasons, I had certain misgivings about the thoughts of an adopted child. But reading your first hand view has given me more confidence.

Although I am still quite far away from that decision, I feel one step closer. I am saving this post of yours, for me and all others I know, to read.

I am also posting this on my blog, verbatim, if you don't mind.


Anonymous said...


It is heartening to know that someone is as passionate in real life as one speaks/writes.

Like Vardan, I am gonna save this post of yours for posterity.


Dilip D'Souza said...

The thank yous go out again: Philip, Santanu, Vardan, Kannan. Santanu, I do remember our conversation: about patriotism, wasn't it? Did I ever send you some articles of mine you said you wanted?

Vardan, good luck to you as you continue thinking about adopting a child. You're in Bombay, I see -- stop in at an orphanage sometime, just to meet the kids. You'll want to take them home. We adopted Surabhi from Bal Anand in Chembur. And I have no problem with you posting my stuff on your blog, not at all!

Kannan, I appreciate the kind words. Well, Sahir and Surabhi certainly inspire passion...!

You all may want to read my previous entry on adoption, The Nose and the Toes.

Bhim said...

Will Definitely meet you whemever I come to bandra. I haven't been going out these days, workload :(. But will definitely inform you when possible.

shub said...

wow! really touching post....may your tribe increse Mr.D :)

Tanuj said...

I apologise if I am hurting feelings here, especially Philip's, but all this happiness over one less kid on the streets makes me squirm. There are other, potentially less dangerous, ways of helping kids on the street. To adopt a child out of sympathy or charity is being unfair to the child.

In my opinion, the only sensible reason for adopting should be personal, and I daresay, selfish - in that sense, I couldn't agree more with Dilip's closing line.

asuph said...


Nice post. Even today, there is a visible lack of social acceptance of adoption -- which I find strange for a country like India. If any question needs to be asked here, it's "why do you want to give birth to a child"?

Hopefully more examples like you would change trends -- at least in terms of acceptance of the child by the family.


livinghigh said...

hmmm... not sure wat to say, but definitely wanted to say something. i think 'beautiful' will suffice.

Optimistix said...

Very nice post, and wish your family years of happiness and togetherness.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a law that allowed only Hindus to adopt kids in India. U r only allowed to b a guardian. Can you explain how u managed ?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Tanuj, I see your point about the danger of adopting out of sympathy or charity. By no means is it the only/primary reason for me (us). But I'd be lying if I said to you I have never, in all these years I've thought about adopting, also thought of the number of kids who could do with a home, and my desire to give one such a home.

Having said that, the parallel feeling to that was this: I knew I could not adopt a child until 1) my wife felt as strongly about doing it; 2) we both wanted a child in the family. That's the personal, or selfish if you like, angle to this.

Today, I'm happy we have Surabhi. Why? Not because she's in our home instead of in an orphanage or on the street; but because we wanted her as part of our family.

Anonymous, you're right, only Hindus can adopt, meaning only they will be immdly declared parents of the adopted child, non-Hindus are guardians till the child turns 18. This is a sore point with us. I tried to tell them, I don't have any religion. Didn't work. Then I said, for the purposes of this adoption, I'm willing to sign a document saying I'm Hindu. Didn't work -- my name and father's name define me. Then I said, what about my wife, she's Hindu. Didn't work, it's the father who determines the status of the adoption.

But the good news is, there is apparently some court decision from Kerala (a Christian adoptive couple challenged this legal guardian status) that allows Christian couples to petition the court two years after the adoption. Then, as a formality, they will be declared the child's parents. So that's what we will do.

You want to stay away from religion, sometimes you can't!

I thought there was a law that allowed only Hindus to adopt kids in India. U r only allowed to b a guardian. Can you explain how u managed ?

Anonymous said...

Hey dilip
Was just going through your archives at work and came across this.I will not take away this personal decision of yours by drowning it into a plethora of "wahwahs" but I will say that by this you have made a few other people think about it VERY SERIOUSLY and I am happy to count myself among those "few".Dilip its been a pleasure and a privilege knowing you.


Marie Ellen said...

hi, congratulations, is beautiful listen histories like yours, I hope all of us could do things like this. a quastion, tanuj studied at Rice University in Houston?. thank and luck

Emma said...

Hey Dilip,
I am not sure if you will read this comment; yet, I hope you do. I came here through your comment on Sourin Rao's blog. And found someone who empathises with what I feel. I have always wanted to adopt a child, and in recent times have been thinking a lot about it. I would appreciate any information you can give me on how to go about it in India.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Emma, thanks. Send me a note at ddd AT rediff DOT co DOT in?

Arunima said...

India needs more people like you.

anita said...

I am simply mesmerised by this post of yours. Kamaal ki soch hai!!

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