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Sweet child of mine

The Story of our Family. Author: Anamika Mukherjee

The Story of our Family. Author: Anamika Mukherjee   | Photo Credit: Scanned in Chennai R.K.Sridharan

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A candid account of the trials and tribulations of creating a family without biological links.

In a country where most adoptive parents do not disclose the fact of adoption even to their child, Anamika Mukherjee’s candid and tell-it-like-it-is memoir provides an honest portrayal of the trials and tribulations of creating a family without biological links. Adopted Miracles chronicles Mukherjee’s personal voyage through many trying phases — from deciding to start a family to trying to conceive to negotiating the ups and downs of fertility treatments to finally opting for adoption. It also outlines the nitty-gritty of the adoption process in India and provides a rather unflattering social commentary of urban Indian sensibilities.

It recounts numerous incidents in which people from different walks of life, either knowingly or unknowingly, exhibit crude insensitivity. For example, when the Mukherjees see a fertility specialist with much trepidation, the doctor, who is meeting them for the first time, chastises the couple for waiting so long to conceive. A doctor who deals with such cases ought to know that every couple probably has different reasons for not conceiving and her role is not to judge but support clients through this difficult period. And, needless to say, Mukherjee is offered reams of unsolicited advice from friends and relatives along the lines of, “You should play with other people’s babies, it gets the hormones going.”

When the couple decide not to pursue fertility treatments, the “idea of adoption” gradually begins to take hold. Of course, she is filled with doubt but slowly begins to conquer her fears. In our conservative society, where genetic links are considered almost sacred, She reveals how she overcame her initial angst of adopting a kid whose genetic background would always remain in the shadows. She rightly argues that the biological offspring of two healthy adults need not necessarily be healthy. As she battles her doubts and steers herself through her inner journey of deciding to adopt, she writes, “A child who is genetically ours is starting out with as clean or as murky a slate as a child who isn’t — this is what I have come to believe.”

Yet, when she first sees her prospective twin daughters, Mukherjee admits with her characteristic forthrightness, “There may be people who hold their adopted babies for the very first time and know right away that this is their baby. I am not one of them. I looked at the twins and I knew that they were somebody else’s babies.” However, though she is not sure of exactly how or when, her feelings for her children morph from otherness to oneness. Mukherjee beams with pride when strangers look at the twins as she pushes them in their stroller. “Yes, this stroller and the two lovely little girls in it were mine!” she asserts. The author confesses that the maternal bond “happened quite soon enough and it was effortless and completely unnoticeable.”

The arrival of a child is marked by some uncertainty for all parents. But apart from the gender and health of the baby, biological parents pretty much know that they have to deal with a newborn that will drink nothing but milk for the first few months, will be fairly immobile and typically sleep for a large part of the day. However, for adoptive parents, planning for the child is triply hard as they may not know the exact age of the kid and hence may not de duly prepared to meet the needs of that particular development stage. In Mukherjee’s case, she had just a week to get ready and child-proof her house for two 13-month-olds who were not only likely to be awake for much of the day but also mobile and with more complex dietary and emotional needs. Thus, while biological parents have more time to adjust and grow into their parenting roles, adoptive parents of slightly older children have to plunge right in. But after the initial period of unsettlement, Mukherjee’s family is just like any other.

However, in our overtly curious and colour-conscious society, Mukherjee had deal with coarse comments by onlookers who are puzzled by the fairer-complexioned parents and the darker-toned kids. And, as the difference in skin colour advertises the kids’ adoption, she also had to deal with callous comments. A friend, talking about marital conflict and complaining how she couldn’t walk out on her partner because of the kids, brazenly tells Mukherjee, “You can just give them back, I can’t do that.” Such appalling statements are a reflection of the narrow and constrained mindsets prevalent even among the so-called ‘educated’ class.

The book also details the harrowing process of completing the legalities of out-of-state adoptions in India. With two infants in tow, Mukherjee and her husband have to make umpteen trips to Puducherry at short notice, endure long waits in child-unfriendly courts, and deal with multiple uncertainties before they can finally call their kids their own.

While the book serves as a useful guide to the process of adoption in India, including the emotional rollercoasters that one may have to ride, it does not explore their family life after the adoption as it ends when the kids are about five-years-old. A sequel that examines the inner lives of every family member as the kids grow into teens and adults would be a welcome addition to the literature on adoption in India.

Adopted Miracles; Anamika Mukherjee,

HarperCollins, Rs.299.

The writer is Director, PRAYATNA.

arunasankara@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:40:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/sweet-child-of-mine/article6228238.ece

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