India’s youngest bachelor has fought a change in Indian law and become the country’s youngest single father to adopt a toddler with Down’s Syndrome.
Aditya Tiwari, 28, can remember the moment he met his adopted son at an orphanage for the first time like it was yesterday and knew they would become a big part of each other’s lives.
‘We had a connection,’ Aditya said. ‘It was an instant bond. I had always wanted to adopt a child but I was never prepared for the connection I would feel. My love for him was instant. I knew I wanted to be his father.’
At just 18-months-old Avnish is Down Syndrome and was abandoned by his parents because of his condition.
Aditya, a software engineer, from Indore, central India, had always wanted to adopt a child and at 16-years-old remembers a Bollywood actress who adopted before marriage.
He said: ‘My parents have always done charity work and helped in matters of social care so I grew up surrounded by that need to help and make a difference. When I read that Bollywood actress Sushmita Sen adopted a child as a single woman in 2003 I thought that was wonderful. I imagined that when I was ready I would do the same.’
I had always wanted to adopt a child but I was never prepared for the connection I would feel
In 2014 Aditya was visiting a Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity orphanage, in Indore, with his father Kailash Tiwari, 67, for his birthday to distribute sweets and gifts to the seven children there at the time and he spotted a little boy – Avnish – sitting in his cot.
‘I saw many children that day, it’s heartbreaking visiting an orphanage and seeing so many unwanted children,’ Aditya said. ‘My family and I often visited orphanages to play with the children and give them gifts but on this day I met Avnish. He’s such an adorable baby and he looked so alone. My heart was filled with love for him.’
When Aditya went home that evening he couldn’t stop thinking about little Avnish. And the next day he made enquiries into the adoption rules in India. But unfortunately at the time Adityawas too young to legally adopt in India.
However, Aditya felt such a connection with Avnish he decided from that day forward he would take financial care of his every need.
He said: ‘When I spoke to the authorities about adopting Avnish they rejected my offer and said I am not eligible due to my age. But I couldn’t just abandon him, I was connected now, I had to do something so I decided to financially support him by helping with his treatments, medicines and nutrition. I did this for a year and visited him regularly.’
But in March 2015, Aditya was told Avnish was going to be moved to a different orphanage before eventually going to Delhi ready for foreign adoption.
‘I was devastated,’ he said. ‘I became very stressed and I couldn’t imagine life without him. I called the Delhi adoption centre but they couldn’t tell me anything, I felt there was no support from anyone. I was terrified of losing him. That’s when I decided to take serious action.’
Aditya contacted the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and the State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA) for help. He also emailed human rights activists, members of parliament, the Prime Minister, even the President. He spent over two months reaching out to as many people as possible.
But for Aditya, he main issue was that he was not yet married, and in traditional India it is not accepted that a single man would adopt a child.
‘The main issue was that I wasn’t married,’ Aditya explained. ‘Everywhere I turned people couldn’t understand why a single man in his mid 20s would want to adopt a boy with Down Syndrome. They weren’t looking at the positives, just the negatives.’
But it wasn’t only the authorities that Aditya had issues with, his family and friends were also against the idea.
He added: ‘No one had ever heard of a single man adopting a child before marriage in India. People thought I was crazy. Then my parents worried I’d never get married if I adopted him.
‘But I spent time explaining to my parents how good this would be for the boy. I explained how much I loved this boy and we had a connection. It wasn’t just about me, I had a duty to this boy now. What would happen to him if I didn’t take him?’
Eventually Aditya’s parents agreed and in turn became his biggest supporters.
Aditya eventually met with Avnish’s parents at their apartment, in Bhopal, to discuss the adoption.
He said: ‘His biological parents were very much able to take care of him. They’re financially stable and have no issues with giving him a stable life. But they’re embarrassed of him. They gave him up to spare themselves, so they wouldn’t feel ashamed and embarrassed within their society. It’s terribly sad. He is as good as dead to them.’
In June, last year, Avnish’s biological parents legally surrendered him to the government.
But Aditya was still trapped by the laws of adoption in India – his age was still an issue.
However, in August, 2015, the laws of adoption reduced the age limit from 30 to 25, finally allowing Aditya to formally apply for adoption. And on January 1st, this year, Aditya was awarded official custody of Avnish.
‘It was a wonderful moment,’ he remembered. ‘It had been a long fight and there were times I didn’t think it was going to happen but I kept on fighting.
‘Avnish is a special boy. Yes, he has Down Syndrome, he has a hole in his heart, his legs are weak and his vision is weak but he is full of love. He’s a very special child and now he has a family that love him.’
Aditya relies on his mother Santosh Tiwari, 60, and a child minder to look after Avnish while he’s at work but he is now looking to marry.
He’s a very special child and now he has a family that love him
‘Of course I would like to marry one day,’ he added. ‘Actually, there is even more pressure for me to marry now because I have to prove to everyone that a single man with an adopted son is not an unsuitable bachelor. I have to show my community that I am still eligible.
‘And of course I want to find a bride who will help me care for Avnish. I want him to have a mother. I want to give Avnish everything he deserves. He’s had a tough start in life but from now on I will ensure he has a good life. And maybe one day I’ll adopt again.’