We adopted Rashmi when she was just six months old. And she radically changed our lives. Zindagi ulat pulat ho gaee: the entire world, and our living, turned topsy turvy. And I would not exchange that for anything in life!!
Ours was a love marriage with a difficult and long courtship. All the traditional nautanki we are familiar with, through Hindi cinema. So after battling it out for 9 long years, when we got married we both felt getting each other was THE biggest thing: and we should enjoy that as long as possible. That meant consciously deciding not to have a child. Why children? we felt, after all, we have one another! After the proverbial 7 year itch started, we first questioned whether the decision was right. Then began countless efforts. When nature still did not “run its course” then the Dr.s and Clinics started. Both side parents were apprehensive but supportive. We frankly told them : Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda all treatments are ok, but we will not go to Babas and Mandirs. After 2 more years of frustration and pain, one fine day Vinita (who is a professionally trained social worker) broached with me the possibility of adoption. Full credit to her maturity! And Barkis was willing!! Then came convincing our respective parents, as we wanted the baby to have acceptance in the family, and for that grandparents’ blessings were sine qua non. Armed with their support we registered for adoption.
Both of us were very clear from day 1 that we wanted a daughter. Simple logic was that daughters are more loving and giving than sons. Their relations are long term. And parents have a preeminent place in a daughter’s life, throughout her life. Unlike a son whose loyalties are divided. I was a son and so this was personal gyan. Plus we had enough anecdotal evidence all around us. So we applied only for a female child.
Lo and Behold we get a call from Vatsalya ( an adoption agency near Kanjur) that 3 baby girls are available and can we please come and make our choice.
??!!Select?!?! We were aghast.
Both of us felt we have no right to play God. On what basis do we make a choice? Skin color? features? hair? We went at the appointed time and told the authorities that we do not want to select. They were adamant. We have made 3 babies ready wearing new clothes and spruced up etc. so see all 3. All our objections and hesitations were overruled. Reluctantly we sat. Mulling in our minds that the first child shown to us is ours.
Sukhada- one who is joyful- was the first child brought out and put in Vinita’s lap. In a moment of divine intervention the baby looked at Vinita and smiled. Proving her name: being pleasing, agreeable, gratifying. So overwhelmed were we that that small, minuscule bundle outweighed the entire universe for us. We were complete. Fulfilled. Joyous and gratified beyond compare.
Again we requested the authorities that we did not want to see any other child, as our decision was made by Sukhada’s smile!! But we all know how authority behaves. We had to see 2 other children and felt so sad that we could adopt only one. But Sukhada was ours from the first moment she saw us and we saw her. On 18th May 1993 (our 13th wedding anniversary) we brought Rashmi home from the orphanage. Much earlier we had decided on the name “Rashmi” -meaning ray of sunshine. The baby was indeed bringing hope and light into our lives.
Another call we had made was that we would not hide from society and friends that we were adopting Rashmi. Our families were supportive a priori. We were staying in Atul township then – a colony of around 1200 households, near Valsad, in Gujarat. The day we brought Rashmi home we saw a different facet of Atul & Gujarat, and of people in the township. For the first 10 days or more, every day about 70+ people would come to see and welcome Rashmi. Like the Biblical Wise Men, all came bearing gifts. Looking at the amount of gold & silver trinkets, toys and clothes that came into the house, Vinita and I were shell shocked. Our typical Bombaiyya thought was “how are we going to return all these gifts/favours?” But Atul and all Atul-ites showered so much love on tiny Rashmi that it felt as though not us but the entire township had adopted Rashmi!! We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love. Rashmi’s family was no longer the Shirodkars and Pandits but the entire Atul.
She had a magical childhood in Atul. Vasudeva Kutumbakkam ( the world is my family) was true for her. Every evening we had to search for her from house to house by telephoning far and wide to bring her home to sleep. This was best exemplified when we shifted to Mumbai after 6 years, and Rashmi still smitten by the company township culture, went out to play in our Andheri colony. And when she came back at night her first question to her mother was: “Aai sagle asa ka mhantat ata jewaila ghari javuya? Amhi ekatra ka nahi jevu shakat?” ( Mother, why do people say now let us all go to our respective homes for dinner? Why can’t we all eat together?”) In Atul she always was fed wherever she was. Remember vasudeva kutumbakkam. But then Rashmi had to grow up and understand mine and yours in Mumbai.
While it was easy to tell society and friends about Rashmi’s adoption, one looming question which daunted us was when and how do we tell Rashmi? All literature on adoption said the parents should be the ones who share this information with the child. But how do we raise the topic? how would she react? What if she rejects us and says she wants to search out her biological parents? Vinita and I agonized no end. Finally when Rashmi was 8 years old we planned a holiday to Darjeeling. To tell her on that trip was the plan. We stayed in a typical British old school type of hotel. Rooms actually had fireplaces and wooden fire was lit in evening.
One evening we all 3 sat down and Vinita told her she was not born from her womb but from our hearts. How we always wanted a girl child and since it did not happen naturally we went to Vatsalya. We told her about the orphanage and about adoption. And how, by legal process, she was now our daughter. She had 2 questions. “When we go back to Mumbai can we visit Vatsalya? I want to see the place and play with the babies there” Second one just blew us away. “Aai can I tell Ashuti and Urvi (her 2 best school friends) about this?” We told her of course you can. It is yours to share. But please understand everyone will not see it in the same way, blah blah blah. But just think about the attitude of the 8 year old. She was completely cool about it. All our agonizing and concern was of no avail. Hallelujah!!
She grew up as a free and happy child with a mind of her own. I still remember she was all of 10 years in one of the father-daughter moments I was telling her to do something. She refused and told me “Baba it is my life”. A 10 year old. I felt I was slapped on my face. Feeling hurt, I retired to my bedroom. But then sense prevailed and I realized the truth of her sentence. Yes indeed, it was her life and she had to make her own choices herself; and learn & live as she wanted. Another example: her academic performance was never brilliant. In 8th standard, she sat down Vinita and told her : ” Aai I want to be a designer and an artist. So all this History and Geography and Science has no relevance for me. I will not fail . But I will study just enough to get 60% + . Don’t expect me to study hard and score like others”. She went on to Srishti School of Design in Bangalore and specialized in Textile Design and is now working in Raymond’s Design Department!
In Srishti as a part of her Induction programme, all students were told to prepare a manifesto. A personal statement. What they stood for. Rashmi spoke on Adoption!!! Imagine a 17 year old teenager, staying in a hostel first time in life, standing in front of 80 new classmates, publicly telling she is adopted!!! I have always wondered where she got this courage. She read out her manifesto entitled : Adoption, it’s about love…
In that (and we too got to read it later on mail) she spoke about how her parents will always be Vinita and me, who brought her up and gave her love. But at the same time she wrote : “I can never fully understand the circumstances of why my biological mother made her choice, but I have to give her the benefit of the doubt, simply for the fact that I “do not know” the circumstances”. Further she says ” my biological mother has every day of her life to wonder if she did the right thing. There cannot be a day that goes by that any mother doesn’t think about the child she let go. It’s common sense people. But they didn’t hate you, and they darn sure miss you.” And with that Rashmi finds it in her heart to forgive her. Imagine the maturity of a person who is able to say that. Never before had she ever raised the question or spoken about her feelings about her biological parents. And when she does speak, she says she forgives !!!! And still thanks her. And tells us all: “As for the biological mother, be thankful that she gave you the chance at any life, instead of making you an abortion statistic.” When did our little girl grow up and become so mature to think all this? And aver this publicly?
Daily we thank her for being our child.
She is truly our Sukhada: Agreeable, pleasing , gratifying. Our joy giver. Our joy. Sometimes Vinita and I regret having changed her name. She was rightly called Sukhada.
Thank you Sukhada. Thank you Rashmi. Heaven must be missing an angel, for you are here with me: vikibaba
PS: anyone who wanted to read Rashmi’s manifesto, pl send a mail to me on firstname.lastname@example.org