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.