It all started with a simple visit. On September 13, 2014, Aditya Tiwari arrived at the doorstep of Jyoti Niwas, a home for children run by the Missionaries of Charity at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. It was his father’s birthday and he was bringing with him a few gifts for the children.
It was there that he met Binney for the first time. “The other children were all adopted but this little one was placed away from the group and when I asked, I was told that he was from Down’s Syndrome. They told me his legs were weak, eyes were bad and that he had a hole in his heart. But then, little Binney reached out and held my finger. I felt this bond, which I still can’t explain... an instant affection,” says Tiwari, a software engineer currently based out of Pune.
After some thought, he eventually decided to adopt Binney. “I was inspired by Sushmita Sen’s story. She had adopted a child too and I thought, why shouldn’t I?” But when he visited the Missionaries of Charity home for the second time, his request to adopt was met with a denial.
“The centre’s head told me that I was single and that the law wouldn’t allow me to adopt. I persisted and then offered to bear all of the child’s expenses — food, clothes, medicine etc. A sum of over Rs 10,000 a month.”
In December 2014, Binney was moved from the Missionaries of Charity’s Indore centre to its Bhopal centre. Tiwari then found himself travelling every month from Pune to Indore and then, Bhopal. A one-way distance of over 850 kilometres. In March 2015, more challenges came their way.
“During one of my visits, they said that Binney was being moved to New Delhi and that he was up for foreign adoption. They asked me to stop everything and forget about the child. I found it very suspicious and called up their Delhi office. The rep there said no child named Binney was on record at the Delhi branch. This is when I got worried. So, I just Googled everything on adoption law in India and shot off over a dozen emails and faxes to CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) to check in on Binney. Where was he? Nobody knew and I wanted more attention on his case. I even lodged a complaint on the PMO’s portal and finally, after several calls, I got through to Minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. She spoke to me saying she had instructed CARA to look into the matter.”
It soon emerged that Binney was not even on the records of the Child Welfare Committee and his transfer to Delhi was not on CARA’s radar either. Which meant only one thing — a baby was being moved around India without the knowledge of the monitoring agency.
“I raised this issue with the State and National human rights commissions and a probe was soon launched,” he explains. The 28-year-old was able to track down Binney’s biological parents in the meantime.
“I was under the impression Binney belonged to a poor family and that he was rejected because the parents had no money. But when I saw the parents’ home in Bhopal, I was shocked. They were well educated and full of money. They were asking me all kinds of questions... why am I so interested in this quest, why am I so keen on Binney... I requested them to take Binney back, reassuring them that I would continue to support him. But their reaction shocked me. They asked me to do whatever I wanted to, provided I kept their names away from the public. They claimed that their neighbours would mock them.”
Come June 3 2015, and Binney was moved to Bhopal. Then, there was finally some good news. Adoption guidelines in India were revised to enter a new age of eligibility — 25. As an added plus, on August 27, Maneka Gandhi personally met Binney and instructed the home to hand over the child to Tiwari, ‘ASAP’.
But there were more delays. Matruchhaya, where the child was being kept, set off on a deliberate route to delay Binney’s handover, Tiwari feels.
“They were asking me to not go ahead with the adoption, saying that my future would be ruined and that no woman would marry me. But I was adamant. I shot off complaints against Matruchhaya to higher authorities. Later, they buckled and the child was finally handed over to me... a year-long effort was finally over on January 1,” he recalls and adds, “It feels good. I’m a father and now, I have to find a girl willing to marry me. My colleagues and friends are thrilled. I have taken Binney to a pediatrician and many people from other countries have reached out to me to help with the Down’s Syndrome — sending over reading material and other helpful data about the condition. His biological parents might have given up, but I won’t. The office has helped me out with leaves and yeah, we’re now planning to make time for each other. Binnie, now 2, is happy with me and I plan to keep him happy.” And oh yes, little Binney is now called Avnish.