Kolkata: Ballygunge resident Jeeja Ghosh has broken many ceilings and has had many firsts. The 48-year-old added one more to the list last week, becoming the first person born with cerebral palsy in Kolkata — and possibly India — to become an adoptive mom.
Motherhood was a dream that Ghosh, born with the condition, nursed since she tied the knot in 2013. But little did she know about the hurdles she would have to face before being considered fit for adopting a five-month-old girl. Last Thursday, after an epic struggle, Ghosh welcomed home a girl child — lovingly called Bhujungu and Sonai at home — to her ninth-floor flat at the Saptaparni complex on Ballygunge Circular Road.
Ghosh, a Presidency College graduate and Delhi University postgraduate, and her husband, Bappaditya Nag, a law officer of Syndicate Bank, applied for adoption in 2016. Madhusmita Nayak, programme manager for the specialised adoption agency project at Keonjhar’s Self-Realisation Mission (SRM), from where the child was adopted, said the baby was born in January 2018 and was abandoned at a Keonjhar hospital. “We don’t know about her biological parents,” Nayak said.
It was love at first sight for the couple when they saw the yet-unnamed child at SRM. But it needed multiple trips to Keonjhar to convince the adoption committee that Ghosh could be a responsible care-giver. “We submitted a fit certificate from a gynaecologist but even after that the committee told us this certificate was not acceptable because it had to be issued by a ‘medical practitioner’,” Nag said.
It was an uphill struggle since then and, after numerous mails and reminders, the couple finally escalated the matter to Dr Sadaf Nazneen, consultant (eastern region), Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
On Tuesday, Dr Sadaf Nazneen, of CARA told TOI, “It needs to be checked whether the couple is emotionally, physically and financially suitable to adopt a child. This was the first case where a parent with cerebral palsy was keen on adoption. It will remain as a reference point for other such applications in future. Some questions might have seemed uncomfortable but they were perhaps asked to judge the suitability of the family adopting the baby.”
Jeeja Ghosh and her husband, however, do not buy this argument. “I felt so humiliated with the questions they asked. The district child protection officer described cerebral palsy as a ‘mental disease’ and expressed apprehensions about my communication skills. I fail to understand how someone in that position can have such ideas,” Ghosh alleged.
TOI spoke to the officer, Debangana Barik, who said she “did not want to hurt” Ghosh at all. “My language issue might have created a problem. I am very impressed with her personality and she is completely fit to take care of the baby. Her adoption case is a success story for all of us here,” Barik added. But the new parents’ legal work is still not over. Bhujungu is, legally, in Ghosh’s and Nag’s foster care right now. “We are going to file a court application in Keonjhar soon and, within 60 days of that, we expect to get the order that will make us her legal parents,” Ghosh said.
The Saptaparni flat has undergone a sea change, with nappies, oil cloth and feeding bottles strewn all over the drawing room. Both parents are on leave now. Bhujungu has a twinkle in her eyes when Ghosh rocks the pram. She tilts her head and then lazily rests her little toes on the pram handle. Friends and relatives are dropping by regularly with cartloads of gifts for the little one. Nag, too, is a complete hands-on father, from feeding Bhujungu to cleaning her when she soils herself. Ghosh’s octogenarian mother, a dementia patient, is thrilled. Seated in a wheelchair close to the pram, she intermittently utters the baby’s name aloud. On rare occasions, when memory serves her right, seeing Ghosh and her daughter is a reminder for the old lady of her own motherhood tales of fighting against odds to bring up a daughter.