Raising a nation: Adopting India's hidden generation

She blows bubbles into her glass of water, her little forehead furrowed in concentration. Each time a bubble bursts, Misha's tiny voice reverberates and she laughs.

“Don’t do that, Mishuma,” her mother admonishes gently.

Glancing indulgently at his daughter, Misha’s father explains: “She is just learning to swim. She thinks she must breathe like that always.”

Two-year old Misha puts her glass down and flashes her adoring parents a smile. Their faces mirror pride as they gaze at her - a child born not of their blood, but of their love and compassion.

Given up for adoption by her biological mother soon after she was born, Misha was adopted by Pavani and K. Ramesh when she was two months old.

“It's not that we couldn't conceive,” Pavani says. “But we chose to adopt.”

She holds Misha close and continues: “I was never particular that my child should come out of my body. Or that it should have his genes.”
Ramesh nods: ”A child is a child. Plus, we earn well, and we are able, thankfully, to provide a baby with a good life. ”

The couple have a habit of completing each other’s sentences. They say that even before they got married they had decided to adopt their children.

“One is always a little idealistic at a younger age, I suppose,” says Pavani, watching her daughter relish a bowl of biscuits. “But we were very sure of it. In fact, if we choose to have another child now, it will also be adopted.”

In the past five years, it is documented that 175 babies have been abandoned in Bangalore, with 80 percent of them being girls. Most abandoned babies end up at Makkala Sahaya Vani (MSV), a conduit between the police and 10 orphanages that have been chosen as “fit person institutes” by the government. MSV’s hotline 1098 is ever buzzing, with calls about mentally and physically challenged children, as well as premature babies that have been abandoned.

Sometimes as old as two, the children are picked from dustbins, gutters, hospitals and sometimes even from the doorsteps of temples and churches. "In most cases it is impossible to track down the parents," says Rowena Bastian, an MSV volunteer.
“Once we are contacted, we make sure that the child is in an orphanage within 24 hours,” she says.

After their marriage, Pavani and Ramesh became busy pursuing their careers. Pavani is a creative consultant, while Ramesh is the vice-president of Indiamarkets, a city business-consulting firm. Starting a family took a back seat. It was not until Adoption Week in November 2000 that the pre-marital promise they made to themselves resurfaced.