The Magu Mobile

Sangitha Krishnamurthi

One November afternoon, at a session for pre-adoptive counseling at Viveka, I volunteered my mobile number for a forthcoming Radio program. I would be taking calls from Kannada speaking callers with questions about adoption. It was a thrilling event for me, since I am still learning Kannada and only really started a couple of years ago. Little did I realize that I would learn as much personally as give out information.

November is Adoption Awareness Month. A SuDatta member, while answering calls from prospective adoptive parents, discovers that interest in adoption cuts through social and economic levels.

Mr. Kamath must have just finished giving out the contact number on the radio program when the phone started ringing. The first caller thought I would play her song request for her. When I told her I could answer any questions she had on adoption, the response was “Hmmm....Helli...” meaning, 'go on, shoot!' In retrospect, I should have sung her song to her and cured her once and for all, of her habit of calling in for songs.

“I want to adopt a child”

The serious callers began later in the day – from well-wishers calling for their relatives and friends, prospective fathers trying to figure out what they would need to furnish as requirements to the whispering woman who was obviously calling secretly. There were parents who had a biological child and wanted to adopt their second child. The questions ranged from the little details to the heartbreak stories.

As I went on answering the questions and trying my hand at counseling, I realized that the interest in adopting among parents cuts straight through social and economic levels. Concerns came through in the voices, even when the adoption language was politically incorrect. Reasons for adoption ranged from the desire to be a parent to social service. Whatever my personal beliefs, it was heartening to see the interest in adoption.

A single woman at 48 wanted to adopt an older child. She had raised her siblings and not got married in the process. She had made the rounds of several agencies for over 5 years in fits and starts; she told me and had been sent off without even an application.

One couple, a driver and his domestic helper wife were desperate to bring their child home. The prospective father told me that he made enough money to live comfortably and that they would make sure to give the child a wonderful home. It was very difficult for me to tell them that the income level requirement in Karnataka was more than their current income. I directed them to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, all the while wondering if I was being part of the discouragement in their journey. It was good to know that the CARA guidelines required a modest income level of Rs. 3,000 for parents to be able to adopt. My wise SuDatta warriors gave me the information to help out and I hope the couple made it to Hosur and brought their child home.

One mother had adopted some years ago and was so happy and enthusiastic that she wanted to start up a SuDatta chapter in Tumkur. Another prospective parents had applied to a Bangalore agency and then had had to move. She was waiting and was confused as to whether she should go to CARA in the new city.

Not so nice

I did get some obnoxious calls where it was clear that the person on the other side was out to have some not-so-nice fun of their own. I had been warned that some journalists might try sting operations....with adoption as related to the baby trade being big news stories. The sad calls had whispering women asking for the magic formula to get their families be comfortable with the idea of adoption.

Other parents’ questions gave me my answers

My mental horizons expanded so much with this one opportunity to talk to people at the intersection of adoption issues and different stages in life. Some learnings were that we all tend to judge too quickly – the prospective adoptive parents, adoptive parents, adoption veterans and the laws/authorities in the area.

What does it matter that people called the biological mother as 'real' or 'natural'? Wasn't it up to us to look past the wording into the meaning? I mean, we did go through the process and they are just at the beginning. A better understanding of Positive Adoption Language might even come naturally after these parents bring their children home.

I was annoyed by questions from people who called and asked if they could reject babies, if they could specify the caste/religion/complexion of the child. But I learned to give more benefit of the doubt – who knows what compromises I would have had to make if I had a conservative and closed joint family breathing down my neck!

It seems to me, that as a society, we have evolved quite a bit, just by adoption becoming a viable option for an increasing number of families. Is there space for improvement? Absolutely. What is heartening is that there are these wonderful people out there who have adopted and plan to adopt. For them, adoption is just another choice to build their family.