It was a sultry day and there were no visitors. Some days there used to be even four or five couples and a few days there would be none. It used to be boring then with nothing but the novels to keep me busy. I do voluntary work in this child adoption centre out of affection for my mom who was heading this institution till she passed away a couple of years back. She was insistent that I give back to the society at least a portion of what I have taken from it. This adoption centre is a part of the institution that ran a shelter for orphans and destitute women, school, vocational training institute comprising of tailoring, laundry, carpentry, printing press and a small machine shop. It is a home for hundreds of children and women where they are cared for until they are rehabilitated into the society. There are many social workers who give their time and money for this institution. I chose adoption centre when I was asked to choose by the head of the organization as I loved children and playing with them. It was only later that I realized one needs to have an abiding interest in children and plenty of patience. I had to minimize my social life and even skip minor family functions. But I always felt happy with this work when I see my mother’s photo and remember her total dedication and immense satisfaction she derived when she found safe and secure homes for the children of the centre. Choice of foster parents required utmost care and gathering of information. One cannot afford to make mistakes as the future of the babies is dependent on the right homes.
A young couple, Vanita and Varun, one day dropped in. Both of them were working in a well known IT company drawing hefty salaries. She was in her late twenties and was exceptionally beautiful and very fair. Varun who was tall and handsome made a good partner. When she expressed her desire to adopt a child I asked her why she was doing it while still so young. When she explained that she is not medically fit to bear a child, I kept quiet for some time wondering how even the advanced medical knowledge is unable to cure some maladies.
“You are working and that too for long hours. Who will look after your baby?”
The man said “My mother is staying with us and we intend to engage an ayah to look after the baby during the day”
I asked him” Are you also as much keen in this adoption as your wife?”
“Yes, keener than her and we are in total agreement on this. We have discussed this endlessly and have come to choose a baby. We want a baby girl in particular.” he said.
I was surprised as normally couples preferred boys even in these days when gender discrimination is frowned upon. They usually seek fair complexioned boys with good features. They even try to ferret out information if any on the biological parents and back ground of the child. As a rule we never disclose such information.
I asked them to come on a particular day the next week filling up meanwhile the application form with all details.
As there is a general tendency to pick fair complexioned and good looking babies with the dusky and ordinary looking ones never getting chosen, we show the latter first. Only when the couples are not happy with them we show them some more. Our objective is that all babies should get willing ‘parents’ and that those not endowed with looks or color should not be left out. On the appointed day I had chosen four baby girls between 2 and 4 who have not been lucky to be adopted so far. One of them Sumi (3) was very dark but endowed with very sharp features. She was a quiet girl not given to much interaction with other children. There was a forlorn and lost look in her face.Lavanya (4) was fairer but was not attractive with a wide nose and puckering mouth. She was a pleasant and outgoing girl.Sweety (2) dusky in colour had a squint and always cried uncontrollably on such occasions putting off even those who contemplated to consider her. Shanthi (2) who was a new entrant was the darkest of the lot. She was skinny with the ribs showing, protruding teeth and limped a little looking awkward when she walked. But she had a smiling twinkle in her eyes. She was never in the zone of selection thus far. I had all of them dressed in good frocks and made them sit in the adjacent room playing with toys.
When Vanita and Varun came I was not very sanguine of their liking any of these four. They have been rejected time and again. She had brought plenty of chocolates. The children looked at me for my approval to accept the toffees. They have been trained that way. I left the couple with the children and came to my room. It took more than an hour and they had not come out. Curious to know what is happening I peeped in thro the door. All the children wreathed in smile were playing with total abandon as if the two strangers were known to them for long. I thought they were a compassionate twosome and played with the kids just to give these tiny tots some happiness and warmth denied to them. I had seen so many come out mechanically and express their unhappiness as we do in selecting saris.
They came out at last, though reluctantly. She said” I have taken the snaps of the kids in my mobile without your permission. I hope you will not mind. Will come back tomorrow”
I surmised they are being gentle and may not come the next day. I proffered to say”Incase you are not satisfied with this lot, I can show some more.”
Pat came the reply” No need, we will choose one amongst this four”
Next day they came early in the morning and said in unison “Shanthi”when I asked whom they have selected. Vanita said “We discussed whole of last night. I could have taken all of them but we had to choose one. I was drawn to Shanthi by her eyes. We will make her a healthy child and after some three years I will have her teeth aligned and do something about the limp if possible. Don’t worry. We like her dusky colour that God has given her. She is such a cute little darling.”
Varun said” My mom was not fair complexioned after all. Beauty and colour are skin deep. What mattered is that Shanthi caught our fancy and both of us zoomed on her.”
He added “May be, God willing, we may come again next year and adopt one more of the other three. Thanks a lot. What wonderful people you are!”
Thoughts of my mom raced in my mind at the successful conclusion.