Adoption: a silver lining in a dark cloud

Guest post by Shamala

My foray as a volunteer into the “sacred” world of adoption started in the year 1996. “Sacred” I say because you do your bit to give a new lease of life to a child who hitherto has been abandoned and pining (literally) to go to a “forever home”.

One day, a young lady in her late twenties elegantly draped in chiffons came to relinquish her adorable 3 year old girl. Widowed at a young age, she was not very welcome in her in-laws’ house. Her brother took her in his care but felt that it will not work out as a long term solution. So, with her consent, he decided to marry her off to a wealthy widower with married daughters. The second husband’s only condition was that she should not get her child into her new home! Torn between maternal love and a secure future, she opted for the latter.

A lovely child, the apple of her mother’s eyes, she was very well behaved and perfectly brought up. All the people at the home doted on her and there was not a moment when she was left alone. But, time and again, she would ask for her mother. The mental trauma of the child eternally waiting for her mother who promised to collect her as soon as possible can well be imagined!!

In a short time, the child was welcomed warmly and legally adopted by a wonderful couple who, we knew, would work magic with her and mould her into a wonderful human being.

Despite this silver lining, I am unsettled by several unanswered questions: I fail to understand the psyche of the second husband who had his own daughters. Was he just not being ‘human’, or was the child not allowed because of a gender bias? Could not the mother have taken up a job and cared for the child as a single parent?

I know I will never have the answers to these and many other questions about what makes a mother abandon her child, but I am happy that many lovely children could get a new lease of life with adopted parents who gave them love and care!

Helping Hands

One morning, based on information received through a couple of anonymous phone calls, Steven, the founder of an NGO called Helping Hands found a newborn baby in a bag inside a dustbin. The baby was gasping for breath and frothing. The umbilical cord of the baby was not tied and there were ants all over its body, feeding on its tender skin.

Steven rushed the baby to a nearby hospital. Two days later, the baby was ready to go back home; home for the baby was Helping Hands, as it was for many other abandoned babies.

Steven named him Robert Steven (all abandoned babies at Helping Hands have the surname Steven, as Steven is ‘Papa’ to all of them).

When he was 10, Robert learnt that Papa Steven had picked him out of a dustbin.

As Robert explained, “I started searching through Papa’s files and found, completely by chance, my file with a photo of me as a baby in a travel bag. It was not sorrow or anger that I felt when I saw the picture. I felt blessed that I had a Papa who gave me shelter and took care of me. He brought me up like his own son. What more can I ask for?

My parents might have abandoned me in a dustbin. But Papa picked me up from there and gave me life. So instead of shattering me, the truth behind my origins made me feel calm and peaceful.”

Not even once did he feel like searching for his own parents. “I don’t even think of my biological parents. Why should I think of those people who never bothered about me? I think of my Papa and nobody else.”

Robert was well behaved, very focused and an extremely good student. That led Steven to send him to a private boarding school in another city. He also wanted to get the boy away from the institutional atmosphere of the orphanage.

True to his potential, Robert was a recipient of a scholarship throughout his school and college days and scored excellent marks. In college, other than topping in academics, he won many inter-collegiate competitions, and also received awards for Perfect Attendance and being the Best Outstanding student.

Having studied Commerce, his initial desire was to be a Chartered Accountant. But he now wishes to prepare for the Civil Service Examination and become an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. Though many children from Helping Hands have become engineers and bankers, it is for the first time that a child from the home is trying to become an IAS officer.

On his birthday, Robert always thanks his Papa first. Only after that does he pray. He says that he has never asked for anything for himself. “I have only asked for Papa’s good health so that he can continue to care for orphans. I also ask God to give me the courage and willpower to help the underprivileged in our society. That is my only prayer! On second thought, I would say, Papa is my God, a God that has taken human form.”

I am sure this story has moved you, maybe to tears. You will be even more moved to know that this is a true story (with the names changed). Please CLICK HERE to read the complete story of Abhilash Vidyaakar and ‘Pappa’ Vidyaakar of Udavum Karangal (Helping Hands), Chennai.

Please also visit Udavum Karangal’s website.

If I were given a chance to be a superhero, what power would I want? Forget it! I know I can’t be a superhero. Nobody can be a superhero. But, inspired by this super human being called Vidyaakar, each one of us should try to be at least a good human being.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: If you were given a chance to be a superhero…what power would you want and why?)

An ‘ordinary’ person can make a difference

The Hindu, Chennai reports that “Forty-five auto drivers and 10 taxi drivers form the core of Agal Foundation, an NGO that has been rescuing and rehabilitating the destitute in the city.”

Since 1995, this group has “rescued hundreds of people from the streets and admitted them at rehabilitation homes. This includes the mentally ill, children from broken homes, and the elderly left uncared for by their children.”

Auto driver Dharman says that “he volunteers for Agal for the satisfaction he gets when he sees that even a little effort on his part can save a life.”

Very often, we get agitated about something that we see, but we don’t try to do something about it because we think we are ordinary people who cannot make a difference.

Isn’t a taxi driver or an auto driver more ‘ordinary’ than us?

If this group of taxi drivers and auto drivers can make a difference, can’t each one of us make a difference, each in her/his way?

Humanism

Many people sincerely try to bring about social change by fighting against discrimination. Some of them are full-time activists, while the rest engage in activism in the course of their daily lives.

I admire all such people, but I have noticed that many, maybe most of them focus only on those forms of discrimination where they are victims themselves. They do not seem to be bothered about those forms of discrimination where they have the upper hand.

For example, men belonging to ‘lower caste’ families may fight against caste discrimination, but may condone or perhaps practise gender discrimination against the women in their families.

Or women belonging to ‘upper caste’ families may fight against gender discrimination, but may condone or perhaps practise caste discrimination against other women and men.

Do we all genuinely try to behave and speak respectfully with people who are economically weaker than us, such as domestic help, watchman, liftman, driver, etc.?

Don’t many of us look down on people whose knowledge of English is not as good as ours, and admire people whose knowledge of English is better than ours?

Why can’t those of us who fight against those forms of discrimination where we are victims, also fight against all those forms of discrimination where we have the upper hand?

Why can’t we practise Humanism?

(Humanism is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

Inspired by the definition of Feminism (The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes), I would like to add my own definition:
Humanism: The advocacy of the rights of all human beings on the ground that they are equal.)

Underdogs should not be underestimated

One day, as they were driving back to their office after a visit to their customer’s factory, a Sales Executive told his General Manager that he had noticed that the GM spoke equally politely with all persons, from the Managing Director down to a janitor whom he happened to speak with. This was extremely unusual, especially in India. He asked the GM if he was equally polite to all persons in personal life as well, or whether his politeness at the customer’s factory was a part of his salesmanship.

The GM replied that it was not salesmanship. As a child, he had been brought up to be polite to all people. As he grew up, he was inspired by the story ‘The Verger’ by W. Somerset Maugham and by the real-life examples of people like industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani and film actor Rajinikanth, both of whom had grown from very modest beginnings to reach the pinnacle of their respective professions. He added, “It is only an accident of birth that we have been born in families that could provide us with a comfortable lifestyle and a good education. So, let’s not underestimate or look down upon a petrol bunk employee, who might well turn out to be another Dhirubhai Ambani, or a bus conductor, who might well turn out to be another Rajinikanth!”