Saturday, 28 July 2007

Our thoughts are in India

It is impossible to tell our story in a few lines. For that reason I have written a book, and will post details when it is published.

But for the sake of an introduction to our story, here goes...

My youngest son and daughter were taken from their first mother Sunama by their father Imam, and sold. When the director of our children’s orphanage was arrested we decided to search to confirm that our children had been legally and willingly relinquished for adoption. Instead, eight years after adopting them we found they had been trafficked.

After losing her older two children Sunama married a man called Babu and had five more children. In March I travelled with my 13 year old son and 12 year old daughter. We lived with the family for four days before returning to Australia. We adored the parents and their five gorgeous children, who welcomed us as part of their family.

Since that time we’ve remained in very close contact through my friend Vidya, who lives in Chennai. We have helped the family so that their lives would be easier. The three older children had been living at a mosque because the parents didn’t have sufficient means to feed them. They have been home with the family since our visit.

Also the four oldest have now started school. Babu was set up with a small business selling plastic goods and Sunama was grinding flour in her home for neighbours. This didn’t bring in sufficient income but it helped, and we made sure any shortfall was covered.

Things were looking promising and the family was happy with the improvements in their lives. I still felt much needed to be done. Their home is a small windowless room measuring 3 metres by 5 metres, hopelessly inadequate for a family of seven. They have no plumbing, so no toilet and water must be fetched from a well and carried to the house. But their housing situation was put down for consideration at a later date while we dealt with more immediate concerns.

Last week we received tragic news. Babu had a severe stroke. He was hospitalised and on oxygen and nasal gastric feeding. He is totally paralysed and cannot speak or swallow. All he is capable of doing is crying. Sunama was distraught but felt some comfort knowing my friend remained in close contact and we promised we would make sure the family did not become destitute.

I thought that was as bad as things could get but then the hospital forced Sunama to take Babu home, only five days after this stroke. She is in a single small room, the size of my daughter’s bedroom, caring for a completely dependent and seriously ill man and five small children.

The situation is so far from the hopeful future we thought we were securing for this family.

Our comfort in all this is that we made contact with the family when we did. Sunama has said this is her only source of strength.

I am also grateful my children and I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Babu. He was a gentle, generous man who impressed me from the start with his compassion. In the first contact we made, via email and a short video shot by my friend Vidya, we saw Babu cry alongside Sunama when she was given photos of our children. He has welcomed them as his own and filled the void left by their own brutal Indian father.

For the past week I find my thoughts are constantly with our family in India.

Our family photo is provided courtesy of Notebook magazine and photographer Sam McAdam.