When we took the twins back to Pondicherry last week, we had every intention of making a short visit to the adoption agency (that is, the orphanage). We had some romantic notion that those people would like to see the twins, see how they’re getting on. We thought it might be nice for the twins too. Not that they’d remember anything of that place now (after six months away, they wouldn’t, would they?) but if we did take them there for occasional visits over the course of the years, they would have something to latch on to when they began to understand about adoption. Everything I had read about adoption spoke of the wisdom of doing this, and some of the personal experiences I found on the Net also spoke of building a sort of relationship with the institution or organization which kept the adopted children prior to their adoption. And our kids, after all, had spent the entire first year of their lives in that place with those people – surely that was something worth building on?
We had had intermittent contact with the agency over the past few months, mainly to do with paperwork concerning the adoption. Since we spoke no Tamil, we had mainly communicated with Sister M – the head honcho there – and Sister P, who was the only other person there fluent in English. On our first visit to the agency six-plus months ago, everyone had been very warm and welcoming. We had been a little apprehensive, but we faced no trouble at all in taking the kids out, getting their medical tests done, and finally driving away with them.
What did strike me as odd then, and left a mildly unpleasant taste in the mouth, was that they – that is, I suppose, primarily Sister M – seemed a little too eager to “get rid of” the twins. “Get rid of” is exactly the feeling I got – though I tried to attribute it to a more charitable emotion of wishing the twins a good home and family. An alternative but still understandable motivation could have been financial: charitable organisations are always in need of money, and getting rid of the twins benefited them significantly monetarily. Still, the eagerness, even anxiousness, to get us to take charge of the kids was vaguely reminiscent of a shopkeeper trying to sell a flawed product at an exorbitant price to over-eager, innocent customers.
Well, these particular customers were happy to take charge of these particular “products” that didn’t appear – medically or otherwise – to be flawed, so I tried to ignore the feeling of being duped… and what with being so busy and happy with the girls, it was quite easy after all.
Till now. When we called the agency to tell them we’d be dropping in during our visit to Pondicherry, the response was surprising: “Oh, there’s no need for that,” said Sister P sweetly, “you’ll be meeting Sister M at the courthouse.”
Sure enough, we did meet Sister M at the courthouse. Now, Sister M, being the head honcho and all, was, I suppose, never the one to actually manage the kids on a day-to-day basis. So she may not have had the pseudo-parent kind of bond with them that the actual care-givers may have had. Still, they had been her charges for one year, right in their infancy… she had even selected their original names herself, or so she had told us earlier… Both of us expected her to show some little interest in the twins – for decency’s sake if nothing else. I expected some comment on how good they were looking, how much they had grown, perhaps how they had put on so much weight, or that they were generally looking healthy and happy. I’m sure any parent would feel happy to hear any of these things, but none so much as an adopted parent, especially if it came from the person in Sister M’s position.
All we got, instead, was a curt question: “Are you happy?” My response was that the more relevant question would have been whether the twins were happy – this was brushed aside almost as though it were completely irrelevant. Sister M made no effort to communicate with the kids, far less hold them or cuddle them, merely made some polite conversation with us for all of two minutes and then turned away from us.
Discussing the matter later, Amit suggested that perhaps since she dealt with adoption all the time, she was inured to such emotional matters as how the kids were faring in their new homes, or whether they were blossoming or not. Perhaps. Who am I to judge or even to presume to understand what her life is like and what her emotions are? Perhaps for those who are in the business, ultimately these children are merely commodities, sold off just like material goods, to make their “owners” happy. But, I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t feel at peace about it. I wish we could have had a warmer reception from the agency on our return visit, I wish we could have felt like it was a place the kids could revisit over the years.
Perhaps, for those women who actually do all the work for the kids there, it would have been a different story, and there would have been some interest or happiness in seeing the twins again. But without any encouragement from Sister M, it looks unlikely that we will ever meet them to see the interest – or, perchance, the indifference – on their faces.
Of course, our kids lost their biological parents. Now it seems like they’ve also lost their first “adopted” (to use the term loosely) parents, and with it, all connection to their lives prior to coming home to us. And that’s sad.