A long way home

When Dr Aloma Lobo, a paediatrician in Bangalore, decided to adopt her first daughter 28 years ago, it took her no time to bring Trishia home. In the next 20 years, she adopted two more daughters, Lee and Nisha.

India’s Silicon Valley runs into a peculiar problem—IT couples, among others, are queuing up for adoption, but there are no kids at agencies.

When Dr Aloma Lobo, a paediatrician in Bangalore, decided to adopt her first daughter 28 years ago, it took her no time to bring Trishia home. In the next 20 years, she adopted two more daughters, Lee and Nisha. Dr Lobo had it fairly easy, with children aplenty and adopters few.

Call it a new phenomenon from the IT capital of India. Wannabe parents, especially IT professionals, are embracing adoption with unmatched zeal. Sample the numbers. While 68 adoptions took place in Bangalore during the last 10 months, about 10 times that number of couples—many in their mid-30s—are waiting patiently at the doors of adoption agencies. The number of aspiring couples is even higher; some of them have failed to register themselves as they do not meet some eligibility criteria or the other.

The largest chunk of these wannabe parents is IT professionals, followed distantly by doctors. That’s hardly surprisingly for a city of 1,000-plus IT and BPO companies with over 300,000 professionals, translating to 5 per cent of the city’s population.

All They Want

So huge is the demand for adopted children that some agencies in Bangalore are not registering any new prospective parents till the waiting list eases. “We are facing tough competition,” says Srinivasan Swaminathan, 35, a software engineer with Samsung Electronics. He is not talking about work: Swaminathan and his wife Shyamala, 33, registered for a baby boy in June this year, and are still waiting for their bundle of joy. “We want a companion in our family to shape our lives,” says the couple.

All smiles
Their second chance:
After adopting Maanasi, M. Dinesh (Reliance Comm.) and Krupalini (Cisco) have decided to adopt their second child as well 

However, not all the requests are from childless couples, though a good number of them are. Many couples desire to limit biological children to one, and adopt the second. The adoption agencies, however, first meet requests from married couples without a child before considering others. The law allows even single parents to adopt, but they barely stand a chance in Bangalore. “Our priority is childless couples for now,” says Sumangala Angadi, Assistant Manager with Mathruchhaya, an adoption agency run by Canara Bank Relief & Welfare Society.

This, however, is not the norm as the aim is to find the best family—childless or otherwise— for a particular child. At Mathruchhaya itself, 30-odd couples are waiting, while Adoption Coordinating Agency-Karnataka (ACA-Karnataka) has a long waitlist of 95. On how these agencies get these children for adoption, Angadi says: “They are either from unwed mothers, or abandoned.” These children are kept in childcare centres till they are legally given for adoption.

The Tie That Binds

The trend, interestingly, is a far cry from the days when childless couples preferred kids from within their family circle—children of siblings or of close relatives. These days even those who already have children or can become biological parents, are increasingly seeking adoption. Dr Lobo, perhaps, is among the first to set off this trend. She is a proud mother of six children— three biological and three adopted. All her adopted children are daughters— the youngest being seven years. Trishia, the eldest among her adopted children, is married to AOL engineer Sandeep Milar and lives in Washington, D.C.

For M. Dinesh, 33, and Krupalini, 34, the experience of adopting Maanasi has been so emotionally rewarding that the couple has altogether abandoned their plans to have a biological child. Says Dinesh, who works for Reliance Communications: “After seeing Maanasi, we have decided to have our second child also through adoption.” Krupalini, who’s with Cisco Systems, concurs as their two-year-old playfully hovers around.

Lobo with her book

Some adoption experiences are laced with happy coincidences as is the case with two tiny girls Pallabi and Rachitha—both two years old. Shankar Debnath, 33, and Sudipta, 32, had named their daughter Pallabi much before she landed in their home in January this year. When they visited an adoption centre in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, they found a three-month-old kid, already named Pallabi. “God had named her for us. If not me, my Pallabi would have got any other mother. But it is a great feeling for me to be her mother,” says Sudipta in a voice tinged with emotion. Pallabi spends most of her time with her grandparents as both the parents are busy software engineers— Shankar works for Texas Instruments and Sudipta for Aricent Technologies.

Rachitha is the reason for double celebration for Ranjini, 34, and Ravi Shankar, 39, who is employed with Aztec Software. She shares her birthday, October 20, with her parents’ wedding anniversary.

So what explains the sudden rush for adoption, especially among the IT professionals? “Increased awareness primarily and rising income levels,” explains Dr Lobo, who is the immediate past chairperson of Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA), a Government of India entity. At present, she heads ACA—the umbrella organisation for all adoptions in Karnataka. The most important ingredient, according to her, is relationship. “Adopting a child is worth the experience. It is not biology that makes a family, but relationship,” says the lady, whose Penguin Guide to Adoption in India is a ready reckoner on the subject.

Though Dr Lobo does not single out IT couples (in fact, adoption agencies don’t profile parents by profession), she says they account for the highest number of adoptions in view of their rising family incomes.

Happy Endings?

As heartening a trend it may be, adoption is not without its oddities in India. Despite the rush, there are few takers for children with special needs, though foreigners readily adopt such children from India. Figures provided by CARA Secretary Yashpal Dabas reveal that between one-third to half of all legal adoptions in India are inter-country.

Says Dr Lobo: “There are hardly any families keen to take older children or sibling groups or children with special needs.” She wants prospective parents to be open to taking children with special needs. “These children are as deserving of a family as any other child. They are, in fact, in greater need of a family,” she says, adding that families in the US and Europe adopt them the most.

A long process: Shankar Debnath, (Texas Instruments) and Sudipta, (Aricent Tech.) with Pallabi. The couple had to wait for 16 months for Pallabi’s birth certificate 

The concerns do not end here. The adoption volunteers anxiously talk about couples walking away with children from private nursing homes or government hospitals, where unwed mothers have delivered. Dr Lobo warns against such methods: “It is not adoption at all. It is taking a child illegally. Such children will have no legal safeguards and will face problems in future.” The adoption laws, for instance, confer as much rights, including inheritance in family property, on adopted children as on biological children.

Those working for adoption urge some changes in procedure. Canara Bank Relief & Welfare Society Secretary P. Aravinda Rao suggests that the practice of unwed mothers having to appear before the Child Welfare Committee to formally relinquish her child should end. Instead, a committee member can visit her and take care of the formalities. The courts, too, can do their bit to speed up adoption procedures.

Ravi Shankar and Ranjini recount the tiring court procedures they went through just to get Rachitha’s birth certificate. After a civil court cleared the adoption, they had to approach a magistrate’s court to get the birth certificate. “I had to apply for leave each time I attended the court and stood in the midst of criminals. Believe me, I got her birth certificate only this May, eight months after adoption,” he says. Shankar, too, got Pallabi’s birth certificate only in August, 16 months after adoption. Most such parents are in favour of a civil court clearing all procedures.

Till that happens, the wannabe parents are all too willing to bear the ‘birth pangs’ of having a soul child.