A young woman has been helping me at home for the last four years. A three-year-old toddler used to accompany her sometimes. “My son,” she introduced the baby. After a few months, when he stopped coming, she told me that she was facing some problem with her elder sister, who was the biological mother of the child, as a result of which her sister had taken “her son” back. She wasn’t allowing her to meet the baby and bringing him back was out of question. The trauma the woman experienced over the next few months was compounded by the phone calls she would receive from her elder sister, who made her listen to the boy crying for her, but not with the intention of uniting them.
The cause of friction between the two women was a loss of Rs 5000 (equivalent to $70) from the house along with a piece of silver jewellery that my house help believed her sister’s husband had taken. The couple had been residing in her house for a few days because it was near the government hospital where they were getting some treatment done for the elder sister.
In exchange for the baby, her elder sister, brother-in-law, their father and other siblings expected complete surrender and subjugation from her, so the confrontation did not go down well with them. In the opinion of her family, her sister had the right to take away her son because she was the real mother.
I was so frantic to help her and enquired about the adoption documents so I could help her challenge that legally. “In our village communities, we do not get papers made as the fees is unaffordable. So, I just paid Rs 5000 to my sister at the time of adoption. My sister already had three children and did not want more.”
Legally, the child was not her son and nothing could be done to pursue that possibility. The young woman, after living in horror spread over one year or more, decided at the end to give up trying to get her son back and start afresh. I was impressed and touched by her resilience and maturity.
Amidst all of this, the husband had been of little consequence, both in raising the son and supporting in household expenses and chores. Instead, he had been a source of stress and desperation with his demand for tasty food, getting the television repaired, money for drinking and going to cinema. His mother, who lives nearby but in a different house with his brothers and their wives, also renders no support in child care or any other help.
One morning, much before the usual time, she was at my door with a new born infant in her arms and grinning at me. She introduced the baby as “my son.” This time, she had adopted after following all legal procedures and made it clear she did not want the biological parents to be involved in the child’s life. “No one can take my son away, again.”
She was relieved her family members were not involved this time around and it was less complicated dealing with people not related to her because the agreed terms and conditions can be discussed and negotiated.
I have been extremely cautious of not mentioning her first son to her, but one day, she blurted out on her own. “My first son visits me sometimes; my elder sister brings him over and he still calls me amma. Even though my heart aches at the sight of him, I am a mother and cannot push him away no matter what happened between us sisters. The relationship between a mother and her child is beyond documents.”
The young woman took a sabbatical for nearly one year and re-joined work last week. Now, her second son accompanies her daily. As he litters, scrapes my furniture, runs havoc over the contents of my daughter’s dressing table, wails and throws tantrums, we are reminded, yet again, of how it is to have babies and raise them. For a mother with her biological or adopted children, the effort she puts in and her emotional investment remain unchanged.
About the author: The author is recipient of Youth Ki Awaaz Awards 2019 held in New Delhi and won the Best Article in Environment.