Delhi’s winter sun was bright and warm the day I called Lorraine Campos, the administrator of Palna, a state-run adoption home in the university precinct. Lorraine had visited our crowded home, which my wife Susan and I share with our two mutts, Mischa and Fidel, three weeks earlier, as part of a final round of checks on whether we were “suitable” parents for a benign state to place a child under adoptive care.
“Come tomorrow morning and take your baby. She’s ready,” said Lorraine, a warm, lion-hearted woman in her mid-forties. Tomorrow?? Susan and I were both taken aback at the suddenness of it. We were also in a quandary. It was Susan’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebrations that weekend in Mumbai. Lorraine resolved our dilemma. “Go and shop for your baby in Bombay,” she said with a hearty laugh. “Come in on Monday.”
In the three years we have been married, one decision that Susan and I have completely agreed upon is that we did not want a biological child. We had begun the paperwork for adoption in Bangalore in October 2005 but that effort got scuttled when I moved jobs to Delhi in March last year.
A first sortie in Delhi with an adoption home run by the Missionaries of Charity was very discouraging. “This is the problem with young people,” a nun who runs the home told a stunned Susan and me at a counselling session. “They don’t want to have their own children.” Her colleague advised us to have a biological child first and then adopt. Hurt, but not discouraged, we had approached Palna.
Monday, 11 December 2006, began nervously. We were silent for most part of the nearly hour-long drive to north Delhi. I was preoccupied with a couple of unfinished tasks at work and Susan was a little anxious about the baby. “What do we call her,” she asked. “Ruth’s a good name?” I said absent-mindedly, picking on one of the several we had tossed up in the past few days. Our Christian upbringing perhaps played a role, but we both liked the name for its contemporary meaning: contented.
It was our third visit to Palna, a neatly-kept foster home. A gaggle of children, led by an energetic six-year-old, was bounding around four visiting Italians. An overdressed toddler eyed one of the visitors warily as she clicked pictures.
Palna was still coping with the death of long-time secretary Aruna Kumar and Lorraine was busy holding things together. She asked us to wait in the visitor’s area before hurrying off to the children’s section. We paced up and down on the veranda, the cheery sun doing nothing to abate our tension. An attendant walked up with a bundle in her arms swathed in layers of clothes, a heavy sweater, a woollen cap and a flannel blanket.
Ruth, all of four and a half months, looked at us and smiled. She was the cutest thing I had seen (friends tell me that is exactly the feeling they had when they saw their newborns first). She came into Susan’s arms readily and later into mine. It wasn’t long before she peed in my arms, leaving a large wet spot on my shirt. She was ours and a new phase in our life had begun.
We discovered that Susan’s employer, the government of India, has a very progressive leave policy for adoptive mothers. She is entitled to the four- and-a-half-month leave like biological moms and can ask for more leave until Ruth is a year old. All on full salary.
Excited friends sent over clothes and toys that their children had outgrown. “Hand-me-downs are the best for her; they are softened by use and will be gentle on her skin,” one boomed. Sara Aparajita, the five-year-old daughter of another set of friends, decided to take Ruth under her wing. “Didi tumhari dekhbhal karegi, theek hai? (I will take care of you, okay?),” she told Ruth. The dogs were excited by this new wiggly thing that had come home. Mischa, who’s seven, would come running each time Ruth woke up crying. Fidel, a frisky two-year-old, attended—and still does—almost every feeding of the baby in the hope he’d get some leftover cereal.
When we moved to Delhi last year, we had not shipped our car over and preferred autorickshaws, cabs and public buses. But now, there was no way that could continue. So, I went and bought a car, a prominent task on my to-do list that had kept getting postponed in the past months. Ruth today loves car drives.
The extended family—both Susan and I have two siblings each who between them have eight offspring—was delighted at the first adopted child in our midst. My mother, who had reservations initially on our decision to adopt, was completely won over when she visited us at Christmas. One evening, a bawling Ruth, troubled by wind in her belly, snuggled comfortably into her experienced bosom and drifted into the night’s sleep.
She was home; we felt the same way too.
Josey Puliyenthuruthel is a member of Mint’s editorial leadership team. Write to us at