Zara idhar haath lao. Need a big hi-five from you today. Kyunki ek bada kaam ho gya hai yaar mujhse. I’ll be honest, when the thought entered my mind, I didn’t realise it would become such a big-deal reality so soon. But now, between changing nappies and tapping away at the keyboard, I’m happy to tell you all that I’m a brand new mom, all over again.
Typically, a personal development like this wouldn’t make the subject of the column, but Chaddha ji’s reaction to my bundle of joy, who incidentally has come into my life from the beautiful hills of faraway Mizoram, forced me to tell you this story.
To me, it’s also very important that we touch upon the topic of adoption from the perspective of someone who has just been through the grind, and discovered in the process that the simple act of bringing a baby home comes with having to deal with a multitude of not-so-simple reactions and questions, from even the most educated and intelligent of the lot around you. But let’s leave the intelligent ones for later, because in my humble universe, Chaddha ji comes first.
After ringing the bell one morning, in a manner permitted only to a certified lunatic on humanitarian grounds, Chaddha ji and his wife barged into my home. “Aap baby laye ho?” he asked. I swear he could have replaced ‘baby’ with TV or fridge. “Yesss,” I beamed, and Mrs Chaddha proceeded to pick her up.
“Congratulations ji, it is such a good news,” she said with a genuine smile. “Aise mil jaata hai baby, easily?” he meanwhile asked. Before I could enlighten him about the legalities involved in the process of adoption, I figured that he wasn’t waiting for an answer. Looking closely at my little girl’s face, he asked “Itni pyari chinki baby de di aapko?” Controlling a surge of emotions that could have culminated in one tight slap, I told him that he has just used a racist term for north-eastern features that is derogatory.
“But I said it with love,” he said, seeming genuinely bewildered at my objection to his ‘compliment’. Meanwhile, Mrs Chaddha was holding the baby with a lot of love, and said, “It is a big decision. Hope you thought properly about it. I also wanted to adopt after Bansuri turned five, but her papa says own blood is thicker than water.” I had no strength or inclination to correct either the mindset or the English of Chaddha ji, and therefore, just smiled.
And then he said, “Nahi vaise aapne toh badiya kaam kiya hai. PM Modi says beti bachao. Bechaari itni pyari bachchi hai. You just saved a life.” He, of course, went on non-stop even after that, but this sentence of his got stuck in my mind. Had I really saved a life? All that I think I did was work towards my own happiness, and fulfill a long-cherished dream. What right did he, me or anyone else have, to call such a blessing of God ‘bechaari’?
But you know what, his words may have hurt me at that point, but as I got around to talking with him and then several other friends and relatives about my decision later, I realised that a lot of our reactions to something like adoption come more from the usage of cliché terms, and not from any malicious disapproval of the act. In fact, here are a few really heart-warming things I realised since I took the ‘big step’.
*Everyone, and everyone without exception, who exists in my universe, seemed genuinely happy knowing that I have adopted a baby. From the 90-year-old grandma in the neighbourhood to the 17-year-old gen-Y nephew. From the super well-informed, progressive boss to the barely educated security guard outside the office. From unknown people on Facebook to childhood friends on Whatsapp groups. Their smiles have been genuine, their wishes straight from the heart. Apart from reminding me that I’m amazingly lucky to be surrounded by warm people, it also tells me how we, as a society, are so positive about the concept of adoption. Yayyy.
*Also interestingly, a lot of people also told me how they’ve always wanted to adopt a baby but somehow didn’t do it. Maybe, the process seemed too daunting to them. Maybe they were not sure of their support system. Maybe they are unsure if they’ll have the same feelings for the adopted baby as they would for a biological child. Shall I tell you something, and now proudly saying this from first-hand experience – you’d be as irritated and tired spending sleepless nights and changing nappies for an adopted angel, as you would be for someone who popped out of your own body. Oops, that was a bad one. What I meant to say is that the moment you hold a little baby in your arms and he or she clings on to you with all their love, it matters not even one-hundredth of a nano-iota whether the baby was born to you or someone unknown. A baby that’s yours is yours for life. Period. And based on how much love you have inside of you to give to him or her, it’s quite a guarantee for lifetime happiness.
*Another thing that pleasantly surprised me was that despite Bollywood films dramatising it to no end, there’s been practically no one who advised me to ever hide it from the baby that she has been adopted. The moment you hide something, to me it signifies a hidden guilt or a feeling that an adopted baby is any different or lesser than a biological one. It is no big, dark secret. It’s an act of utmost love, and love is all that a baby deserves to get.
I have an opinion on the compliments I got from a lot of people, which included phrases like ‘courageous decision, proud act or inspirational step’. While I bow my head in gratitude to all those who have been saying such nice things, I need to always remind myself that adopting a baby is not a favour done to her. If anything, the baby does us a favour by filling our lives with unconditional love. At the risk of sounding boringly philosophical, Sonal Maata says (ha ha) that each one of us comes in this world with our own destiny. Who are we to do favours to each other? Whatever that meant.
*Finally, three words for those of you who are fence-sitters because you think that it’s a tedious process to adopt – IT IS NOT. I realised that right from people helming the central and state adoption resource agencies, to the affable social workers aiding the process — it remains a pleasant and happy experience. Time consuming, maybe, but then who cares for the time spent when the outcome is so, so lovely. Go for it.
(Sonal Kalra has registered the trademark ‘Sonal Maata’ for giving exclusive, patented gyaan on everything. Would you like some free aashirwaad? Adopt her. Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.)
Read: Here's how to deal with people who just don't listen