The Many Children Who Died

This is part two of Arun Gandhi’s Swedish adoption post ‘My 132 Grandchildren. Readers are cautioned, this post contains graphic images and content.

babies-abandoned- india

The Many Who Died

By Arun Gandhi

Pain and pleasure are like the two sides of the same coin. If saving 128 children brought us joy, there were many heartaches as well. In order to hide their pregnancies mothers ate very little so that the fetus did not grow. Then during the last weeks of pregnancy they would go to a relative in another town and quietly deliver the baby and within hours abandon it. The mother cannot be allowed to get attached to the baby.

babies-abandoned-india

So, life begins with many handicaps for these children. They are severely malnourished and equally traumatized by abandonment. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could survive so much agony in the first few days of life. It was no wonder that many died. Those who died within hours were better off than those who survived a few months more of disease and starvation. Sunanda and I often wondered how people could be so heartless to inflict such agony on innocent little babes!

The people who were employed to run the orphanages and take care of the babies came from poor backgrounds so their children did not get any more than the “unwanted” children in the orphanages. Consequently there was widespread pilferage of food and clothes meant for the orphans. To some extent this is understandable. No mother or father would want to give someone else’s children things that their own children did not get.

babies-abandoned- india

The most painful and inexplicable was the attitude of doctors who take the oath of preserving lives. The system required that once a baby was allotted to an adoptive parent the baby had to be removed from the orphanage. For Indian parents this was easy. They took the baby home until the legal procedure, shorter than for foreign adoptees, was over. The legal procedure for foreign adoptions took as much as three to six months and naturally the foreigners could not come and live in India for so long. As their representatives this responsibilities fell on our shoulders. It was a nightmare to find a private nursing home that would take good care of the babies.

We had some babies who had been bitten by roaches, some with severe skin conditions and, of course, all of them were severely malnourished. Sometimes doctors would charge us for treatment and medicines that they did not give to the children. When we caught them in the malpractice they would just shrug their shoulders and say: “why do you care? They are unwanted, after all.”

Many of these babies died in our care. In India we don’t have funeral parlors, except for the very rich. Everyone else has to carry their dead on their shoulders to the nearest crematorium. There were many occasions when my son, Tushar, and I have had to carry these babies in our arms through the streets of Mumbai and perform the last rights for them. We often wondered whether we should be happy that they were saved the agony of life or pained that we could not do better for them.

(More next week)

Read Part One Here: My 132 Grandchildren!

 

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