We are a country still too obsessed to have our own children and willing to go to any extent for becoming biological parents. Well, we are not opinionated about it because that is a gift of life we are blessed with. However, where adoption by women is laden with prejudice, a single man choosing to adopt a child and that too with special needs was never going to be easy.
On January 1, 2016, Aditya Tiwari, a software engineer from Pune, created history by fulfilling his long awaited desire and bringing his son Avnish home. Tiwari was showered with instant attention from the media since at the age of 27, he had become the youngest single male to have adopted a child.
As a special child, Avnish faced rejection since the time he was born, including from his biological parents as well. Avnish, who has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, was left by his parents in an orphanage.
This year, on the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8, Aditya, a resident of Pune, will be felicitated as the ‘World’s Best Mommy’, along with women from across the country, at Wempower, an event in Bengaluru. He will also take part in a panel discussion at the event. Speaking to The Indian Express, Tiwari said,
I am delighted to be honoured as one of ‘world’s best mommies’ and I am looking forward to sharing my experience of bringing up a child with special needs…
Aditya adopted Avnish, when the toddler was just 22-months-old. Once Avnish was in his life, Tiwari’s life took a completely new turn. He quit his job as a software engineer and started counselling, guiding and motivating parents with special children across the country.
And guess what….Avnish, now aged 6, couples up with his father wherever he goes for his workshops. Aditya says,
Avnish is right at the front, motivating parents who have children with special needs. He may not speak but his presence plays a major motivating factor for parents.
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The father-son duo has toured 22 states and have held meetings, workshops, conferences and talks at nearly 400 locations. Aditya was also invited for a session by the World Economic Forum at Geneva. Adding further Tiwari says,
We are connected to 10,000 parents around the world. We were also invited by the United Nations to participate in a conference and throw light on ways to bring up children with intellectual disabilities.
Tiwari insists how Avnish’s presence in his life helped him realise there should not be any “separate category” for intellectually disabled children in India. He also wants the government to stop giving disability certificates for them. Aditya quotes,
We took up the issue with the Centre and sent an online petition. As a result, the government was forced to create a separate category for such children. And now they get disability certificates as well.
Avnish was earlier also diagnosed to have two holes in his heart. However, fortunately, without any medical intervention, the holes have disappeared. The child, however, is facing some medical issues and has to undergo two surgeries. The father states,
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Both surgeries are important for his life… he will soon have to be operated upon.
Currently, the family lives in Wakad area of Pune (Maharashtra) and Avnish goes to a school in Balewadi. The boy enjoys dancing, music, photography and playing instruments. He also avoids junk food and milk, and has a proper diet.
Adoption By Men – Battle With Law & Society
From wanting to adopt Avnish to finally getting custody, Tiwari has gone through quite an arduous journey. His desire to adopt the boy child made him learn about several adoption laws in the country, which seemed to be highly unfavourable. Aditya exclaimed,
I wasn’t eligible for adopting any child in India because the minimum age required for a single parent to adopt a child legally at that time was 30 years. I was 27.
The minimum age for a potential parent, however, was later reduced to 25.
Men in India are eligible for marriage at the age of 21, however, they cannot adopt a child till the age of 30! Aditya says,
I learnt about the adoption laws in India. I started writing mails to all national leaders including the Prime Minister, requesting them to consider my case to be exceptional. The government departments initially rejected my plea, while pointing out that I was only a common man and not any celebrity.
I also highlighted my concerns to the government. I informed them about child trafficking and illegal custody. It took me nearly five months to convince the authorities.
It wasn’t just about the legalities. It was also about the social acceptance problems that Aditya had to face. He recalls,
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Legal issues aside, I wasn’t considered eligible for adopting any child, thanks to societal prejudices where people thrive on what others will think of you. Secondly, nobody had heard about a single male parent adopting a child and that too one who is differently-abled.
I was bombarded with questions, such as why I wanted to adopt a child, and if I was unable to produce one biologically. I was told only a woman could take care of a child. So, it was obviously a difficult and different journey for me.
Life As A Single Dad In India
Tiwari knew that talking about raising a differently-abled child single-handedly would be very different than actually going through the challenges each day. He says,
Being a single father is a fight with the mindset of people, which is why playing the role wasn’t that easy. Adopting a child with special needs was even more challenging; you do not get the disability certificate easily; admitting your child to a school becomes difficult as other parents do not want their children to study with those who are differently-abled.
People are still not fully aware about children with special needs. Besides, one does not get much support from the government either, from securing the disability card to government insurance policies.
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Aditya later also tied the knot with Arpita, a lecturer. Aditya’s family had then sent out cards addressed from Avnish to invite people to his father’s wedding. The couple also planted 100 saplings and distributed kits with medicines and other supplies for their special needs guests.
Aditya credits his family for showing immense support.
Aditya has started working on a project that aims at providing employment to people with special needs, which was deemed the Model Employment Project for Self Employment, in Chennai. Father-son duo have started their own bakery in Kolkata where they generate employment for the disabled. Aditya signs off by saying,
For now, I am trying my best to help change people’s attitude towards children with special needs while raising awareness about the same.
Aditya’s story is nothing less than some Bollywood heroism turning into reality. His humble success achievements also project how Men can be some of the best parents, only if they are allowed an ‘Equal Opportunity’. Avnish, surely is a lucky child to have found a loving and inspiring father in Aditya.
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