Young men dream of having a pretty girlfriend, buying a nice apartment, travelling abroad and having a good job, but all Aditya Tiwari dreamed of was to become a father.
If he wanted anything really earnestly that was to adopt a child.
But he was not quite prepared for adoption when he set eyes on five-months-old Binney at a charity home in Indore where he had gone to distribute sweets and gifts on his father’s birthday.
Binney was lying in a cot and the orphanage authorities told him he had a hole in his heart and had Down syndrome so there were chances he would never walk and because of that he would not be adopted by any Indian parents.
“Binney clung to me when I went to his cot and I felt an instant connection to him,” said Aditya.
That was in September 2014.
After a battle of one and a half years with the Indian mindset and adoption authorities in the country, Aditya is a proud single father at 28 to two-year-old Avnish Tiwari, the name that he has given Binney.
Deftly balancing his job as a software engineer at Barclays in Pune and his new-found fatherhood, Aditya said: “Becoming a father to Avi (that’s what he calls him) was the toughest battle. Women go through a pregnancy for nine months. I felt like I was in labor pain for one and a half years when I shot at least 1,000 emails to top leaders of the country including the Prime Minister, made 30 visits from Pune to Indore and Bhopal (where Binney was shifted later), and spent Rs 300,000 ($4,400) to get the process done and papers in place.
“He is such a happy child now, looking after him is a cakewalk. Of course, my parents are helping me when I am at work,” said Aditya.
The Indian mind block
While Aditya’s own parents were against the idea of their 27-year-old son becoming an adoptive parent, the charity home and the facility where Binney was later moved in Bhopal, were strictly against giving a child to a single man.
“While my parents believed that I should get married first before going for adoption, the home authorities even told me that I wasn’t a celebrity or a rich and influential person so there was no special reason for considering my case.”
Also Aditya’s age was not on his side. In India, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines say that to adopt, one has to be 30 years old but only last year it was revised to 25 years.
“Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet Minister for Women and child development, supported my cause. She took my phone call and even came to see Avi at the orphanage he was shifted to in Bhopal, and instructed them to get my paperwork done at the earliest so that I could take Avi home. But despite that, they kept delaying and telling me that a single man should not opt for adoption,” said Aditya.
Aditya’s battle started with the caregivers at the orphanage in Indore whom he tried convincing for months but they were totally against single-parent adoption. They even told him that the child had been shifted to Delhi for a foreign adoption which, Aditya soon found out, was not true. The truth was they had shifted him to another home in Bhopal.
He said: “I even wrote an email to National Human Rights Commission questioning the right of the orphanage to put the child up for foreign adoption when someone wanted him right here in India.
“When I was not sure if I would at all get to adopt Avi, I even got hold of the address of his biological parents, who are well-established in their career, and asked them to take their child back from the orphanage. But they were not willing. It was their final decision that made my resolve to become his father even stronger.”
Emerging the winner
Finally on January 1, 2016, Avi came home to Aditya. In the one-and-a-half-year battle Aditya had waged, he not only managed to change the rules bringing down the CARA guideline age from 30 to 25 but changed the way his parents and his entire family looked at adoption.
While Aditya diligently went down to the duty of changing nappies and feeding cereals to Avi, the infant in turn became a happy child. At two years, he is walking with support, something the orphanage authorities always told Aditya the child would never be able to do.
There is a day care centre in the same building where Aditya works. He intends to keep Avi there sometimes, since the doctor has advised him to ensure that Avi mingles with children.
“When I met Avi first, I had no clue what Down syndrome meant and then I read up and consulted doctors. I am aware he would be a slow learner but that does not bother me as long I can make Avi happy. Right now, the doctors have said there is no need for an operation to fix the hole in his heart.”
Now Aditya is part of a lot of social media groups that comprise single parents and it’s not uncommon for him to get a call from future adoptive parents seeking his help in getting the ball rolling.
But what makes Aditya happiest is he got the child he earnestly wanted.
“Many times orphanage authorities asked me to adopt other children when I was older. But I stuck to Avi. I had to be his father,” said Aditya with conviction.
Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com
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