Adoption is an act of altruism

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readMay 28, 2017


Source: Google photo

I knew a couple who had a daughter. She was born with a birth defect that caused her terrible headache as fluid built up in her brain that exerted pressure. She had surgery and a tube was inserted in her skull to drain the fluid but she still suffered. The doctors said that further surgery to correct the problem was not feasible so her parents were very disappointed and tried to live with the sick daughter as best as they could.

She was a vivacious child who would laugh at my jokes and listened to my stories with curious eyes of a child so I felt sad when I learned that at the tender age of ten, she passed away. Her grandparents and her parents were devastated and longingly looked at her photo on the wall all but choking up with emotion because she was such a lovely child who had won everyone’s heart.

When I happened to visit them, I found the parents still very distraught. The doctors had warned them that any future child they may produce will also be born with some birth defect because the father has a genetic disorder that he will pass on to the next child.

So I told them that they should seriously consider adopting a child, boy or a girl who will bring them immense joy like only a child can. This will also act like a balm on their wounded soul and they will learn to love this child as their very own and give him or her all the love and attention the child deserves. The grandparents were also listening as I explained that any woman can give birth but to raise an adopted child as her own, give him all the love and care and raise him well with proper education requires special skill and a benevolent attitude.

They must never let the child feel that he or she is adopted because the child will know no other parents and will love them as real parents even if later he is told that he was adopted.

I said that there are thousands of children who are looking for love and a home because their biological parents can’t take care of them for various reasons. Illegitimate children are especially vulnerable due to no fault of their own but there is a social stigma to being illegitimate in India where adoption is very rare.

They listened attentively but said nothing. I had planted the seed of an idea in their mind but had no way of knowing if it would amount to anything so I left.

May be one year passed when I received a letter from them in which they said that they had found a healthy baby girl in a hospital where her mother had abandoned her and fled so the doctors who knew about their desire to adopt a girl or a boy called them and said that a baby needs a home right away. So very excitedly they went to get the baby and did something very smart. They got a birth certificate with their names as parents so now she was their legal child.

During my next visit to India, I went to see them and was delighted to see a one year old baby who was the apple of their eyes and her doting grandparents. The child was so active that they tied a soft tether to her legs lest she get into trouble crawling all over the house including the kitchen.

The news that they had adopted a child spread like wildfire because adoption is so rare in India but everyone agreed that the child had brought joy to their lives and congratulated them for taking a wise decision. The grand parents had in the meantime totally forgotten that it was my idea to begin with but it did not matter to me. People who listen to me usually benefit from my advice so I was happy that it turned out so well.

Many years later one day I received an e mail in which the sender introduced herself as the child who was now over ten years old and in school learning computers. Believe me, I could not be happier.

When I saw a photo today of an Ethiopian starving baby like a skeleton being lovingly bottle fed by a white woman who took pity on her and adopted her and the photo of the same child now who is beautiful and healthy and smiling, it triggered my memory so I started writing about adoption.

I have lived in the United States where many people adopt children who are unfortunate like that child in Ethiopia but you do not have to go to Ethiopia to find a child. There are so many right in your own community who are abandoned at birth and the hospitals give them over to some adoption agency that keeps a long list of would be parents and calls them to interview them and let them see the child.

Madonna comes to my mind who has shown the world her loving nature when she adopted children from Malawi but there are many others in other countries who have opened their heart to the unfortunates and adopted them to raise them as their own.

What is remarkable among the Christians is that such parents are not racially biased and adopt black or Asian children to raise them along with their own white children so all live happily together.

In India women are loathe to even consider adoption because in their culture a woman must have her own so she cannot share her love and home with a child not her own. There are horror stories about how a step child is treated by a woman or man. In the olden days, a man often took a second wife if the first one died so the issue of step children meaning children from his first wife became an issue that bedeviled them. Others who could not have children due to medical reasons remained childless because the wife could not accept an adopted child although I have seen just one exception so far.

Now with the advance in the in vitro insemination technology, many women can conceive but it is still not the practice in India because of the cost and lack of awareness. It is country where women still believe that “a child must cook for ten months and 10 days” before birth and they have never heard of ultra sound.

We knew long before our daughter was born that she was coming on a precise date because our Filipino doctor showed us the ultrasound but in India they could not believe that we knew. They said no one can know the sex of the child until he or she is born so I kept quiet. You could not argue with someone as stupid as an Indian woman about such things. I think a door knob is smarter.

This brings me to write about the cultural bias against a girl child that is widespread in India so the doctors do not tell the sex of the child even if they know because of this bias. The women often terminate their pregnancy if they know that a girl is to be born because they all want male children.

Once my sister played on this bias when a neighbor woman would not cut down the Neem tree that was growing on our mutual fence until she was told that a Neem tree is not good for the future of her son. She only had one son after many daughters so the very next day she cut down the tree.

Thus hundreds of thousands of female children are aborted which is a very shameful thing to do in a country that claims to be civilized and modern. Illegitimate children are loathed and mocked so women do not like adoption of any child legitimate or not.

I therefore praise the courage of the couple who adopted the baby girl who is now ten years old and learning computer.

Surrogacy is another topic never discussed in India but in other countries surrogate mothers often produce children for others for a fee so the womb for rent type of commercialization is now discredited. When I see hundreds of kids who appear out of wood work like termites in the slums of big cities, I often wonder what they will grow up into whose parents can’t feed themselves but keep on producing children. This is a big social issue in poor countries.

In the United States, Australia and in European countries they set up boy’s homes and girl’s homes for abandoned kids often run by the religious nuns but there are many horror stories there as well about how these children were treated. They have found hundreds of graves of children in one Irish home run by the religious sisters but no one knows how and when they died but most of all why.

Then there are abominable stories of how Native Australian children were forcibly taken from their parents by the Australian government and forced them to learn English and Western ways in strictly controlled homes for such kids. It is only now that the government has apologized to the Native Australians for such tragedies committed in the past.

There is a movie called The education of Little tree where a Native American child called Little tree is forcibly taken from the loving care of his grandparents living in the hills and put in a boy’s home. He was lonely and was often punished for being honest in answering his teacher who was culturally and racially biased. Finally his grandfather came to his rescue and took him back to the mountains. They were white and had adopted the Native American child. It was a beautiful movie.

I have seen white French women marrying black Africans men and white French men marrying black African women but France has always been a liberal country where such marriages are acceptable and their beautiful mulatto children integrate seamlessly but such is not the case elsewhere. It is the hall mark of a multicultural society where adoption is acceptable so many people adopt children.

But elsewhere such is not the case especially in countries that are not multi-cultural and where inter marriage is not the norm like in India so such people have a harder time accepting an adopted kid.

The religion plays a part as well. The Christians are taught to be charitable toward the less fortunate so they accepted thousands of refugees after the Vietnam War and adopted thousands of children. The churches open shelters for them, feed them and even get used furniture for them so the newly arrived people can settle down somewhere.

So I commend all those people who open their hearts and give a child a new home, new hope and new life. This is an act of pure altruism that is found in many good people including in India.