Aditya Tiwari became the first single man to adopt a special-needs child in India at the age of 28. After an exhausting, heart-wrenching battle to become his son’s legal parent, Aditya now uses his experience to advocate on behalf of other adoptable children.
In a telephonic interview with The Epoch Times, Aditya shared his extraordinary journey from single man to a father, and his ongoing endeavors as an adoption and special-needs advocate for children.
“The first time I met Avnish was in an orphanage on my father’s birthday, which was Sept. 13, 2014,” Aditya began. “Everyone goes to the orphanage to celebrate birthdays, so I followed the same tradition. I asked how many children were adopted and they said only one child wasn’t.”
Six-month-old Avnish, staffers told Aditya, was “physically handicapped,” “mentally retarded,” and “had no value to his life.” Aditya later found out that the little boy had Down syndrome and this was the reason his parents had abandoned him.
“I looked at him and he looked at me,” Aditya recalled. “They said nobody would adopt him, as nobody wanted this child. Then I said okay, give him to me. That was my spontaneous thought.”
Aditya, who was working in Pune in the western part of India, visited the little boy regularly after he was moved to another orphanage in Bhopal, a city in the central part of India. Avnish quickly learned to call him “Papa.”
Aditya was 27 when he first met Avnish. The journey that led to the little boy’s eventual adoption was littered with legal obstacles, not to mention the social stigma of a young, single man wishing to adopt a child.
Fighting for Fatherhood
Aditya shared that one of his main challenges was with the law at that time, as a single parent in India was eligible to adopt any child only at the age of 30.
“The second challenge was with the community and society,” Aditya explained, “people would say, ‘You’re a man, you cannot take care of a child.’ My parents would ask me why was I wasting my time and energy. It was physical, mental, financial, and psychological torture for me.”
However, Aditya was determined to bring Avnish home and thus wrote to national leaders, including the prime minister, to consider his case; the journey consumed 18 months of the young man’s life. “It was really difficult,” Aditya recalled. “It’s not easy to describe the journey. Avnish was my only motivation to keep going.”
A Change in the Law
At long last, the Indian government recognized Aditya’s goal and made an alteration to the law, lowering the minimum age required for a single parent to adopt a child to 25. Aditya formally adopted Avnish on Jan. 1, 2016.
While the adoption was cause for great celebration, the father-son duo’s journey was far from over; thorough medical examination revealed that Avnish was suffering from two holes in the heart, persistent constipation, thyroid problems, and squint in his eyes. Aditya took five months’ leave from work to focus on nursing his son to full health.
“I spent time with him doing regular routines and gave him a proper diet,” the father regaled. “Within six months he started walking without support.” Aditya also shared that his son’s holes in the heart have also been repaired.
Since fulfilling his ambition of becoming Avnish’s parent, Aditya, a professional software engineer, is now focused toward the advocacy for orphans and children with special needs, including counseling parents to help diminish the number of special-needs children being abandoned in India.
As part of his advocacy mission, Aditya is working on creating “livelihood options” for people with special needs, better residential facilities, social acceptance, and inclusiveness in schools. Aditya has already secured employment for 100 individuals with special needs and has even been invited to offer talks in Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar on the subject of inclusivity.
He has also represented India in a United Nations conference in 2019.
“I am waiting for a day when there is no child abandoned by the family, by the biological parents,” he said. “I don’t want a child to be abandoned because they don’t meet the expectations of [their] biological parents.”
On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020, Aditya’s incredible journey was recognized by Bengaluru’s WEmpower; the women’s group honored Aditya with the title “World’s Best Mommy.”
Aditya accepted the title graciously, while clarifying that he considers himself a “parent,” rather than a “mother” or a “father,” subtly subverting the traditional gender roles understood by many cultures. “[A]s a female you have to take care of the child and for a male, they have to earn bread and butter for the family,” Aditya observed. “In my case, I do both.”
A Letter of Love
Reflecting on their journey together, Aditya penned a letter to his young son on his birthday to read when he is older. He shared this letter with The Epoch Times.
“How can I even begin to thank you for your happy presence in my life,” the father wrote. “[T]he amount I have learnt is unimaginable. Patience, humility, positivity, the desire to understand another’s pain first, instead of waiting for others to understand my pain.”
“[M]ost importantly,” Aditya continued, “the power of earnest prayer; it has only strengthened with each mountain we have climbed together. You, Avnish, have taught me to feel delight amidst the darkness.”
Looking to the Future
A single person, says Aditya, can make a huge difference. “I want to tell people that parenting is not based on any gender,” the father explained. “A female can only give birth to a child, but it’s the child who gives birth to parenting.”
Aditya referred to his now-6-year-old son as “a real fighter.” As of 2020, Avnish attends kindergarten, adores animals, and loves to play musical instruments.
“What I teach my son is that you don’t belong to any caste or system,” Aditya reflected. “You are a human being [..]. Chase your dreams if you think it’s good for society and don’t live for yourself, live for others, only then you can find the meaning of life.”
Aditya got married in July 2016. Since their family became complete, Aditya has visited 22 states and 50 cities to give talks, run workshops, and hold conferences on adoption, Down syndrome, and special-needs issues.
The father-son due are changing hearts and minds one step at a time.