I am Mina Khakkar, a 41-year-old finance company executive. I am unmarried and I live alone. I have a younger brother, who is married and has two children. He lives nearby and is a helping hand. I was recently transferred to another city for 2 years. I decided to adopt a young girl from an orphanage. I searched for some time and finally found a 13-year-old girl Vineeta Solanki. I thought that she would be ideal for me. Due to my age, I would not be able to bring up someone quite young. My brother and his family voiced no objection to this fact, on the contrary, they volunteered to support me on my decision. The adoption process is itself very tedious and after one year Vineeta came on a transition period of 3 months. It was the official rule and by the end of that period, having stayed together for 3 months, both of us would have a fair idea of our interactions and we could decide whether to proceed ahead or not. I brought her to my house in the Diwali vacation. Before leaving the orphanage, I had a talk with her teachers at the municipal school near the orphanage. They assured me that she was always at the top of the class, her mark sheet of 6th standard showed her scoring almost 75% marks in her final exams. She was currently studying in 7th standard. I had to get her into a regular school, because when I would leave this place for my hometown, she would not get admission in a good school if she had studied in a municipal school. I wanted to adopt her for 2 main purposes – the first that she was 13 years old and soon she would be facing the world. After 5 years, the responsibility of the orphanage would be over and she would have no support. I wanted to provide her that support. The second reason was that I wanted to provide her with education so that she could live a better life than what she was living. I did not have any selfish reasons of creating a support of my own in my old age. My family was sufficient for that. What happened over the next 10 days was shocking for me. I found that Vineeta was very poor in her studies. She did not know even 2 digit multiplication tables. Even her languages as in academics were not good. I would put her as knowing as much as a 3rd standard girl. I went to a psychiatrist and got an IQ test done and she came out to be a borderline intellectual functioning. That probably could be attributed partially to lack of environmental stimulation. The second shock that I received was when I asked her to study. She would be very interested in watching television, watching movies, shopping at the supermarket. She would be adept at domestic tasks like cooking and cleaning but whenever asked to study, she would lose interest. I admonished her sternly one day for not studying and she voiced that she liked it better at the orphanage than at my home and she was missing her friends. The last shock came when I asked her future plans. I explained her the importance of studies and of hard work. She replied that at the orphanage it did not matter as when they came of age, irrespective of their academic performance, they were married off to “wealthy husbands”. I was aghast at this statement and decided to send her back to the orphanage. I did not want to face a situation, wherein after 10 years, she would blame me for bringing her to my home and depriving her of a chance of getting a “wealthy husband” through a easy route. I have not understood what has happened in the past few days. Please explain all this bizarre events if you can.
Let me congratulate you, Mina on taking this brave and noble responsibility on your shoulders. Perhaps you miscalculated on some accounts. The first thing that you have to realize is that most of personality characteristics get consolidated by the age of 13 years. Vineeta had lived all of her life in a place, which gave her values that helped her at that time. She was taught all the domestic tasks that would enable her to work and support the orphanage more than education. She would not have placed as much emphasis on education as you would primarily because those thoughts would not help her. She learnt to cope with her traumas of life by curtailing her expectations and involving herself in a less stimulating life. The second factor is the difference in academic performance as in the mark sheet and actual level. Municipal schools more often than not tend to exaggerate the academic levels of students, as they have to deal with a broader spectrum and volume of students. Most of the students are promoted till 4th standard without a stringent check because otherwise they fill up the classrooms and the municipal schools cannot afford that. There is always going to be a vast difference between a 7th grade student in a private school and one in a municipal school. The third problem would be her IQ. Having gotten it measured, you probably realized that it would require a lot of work to take her to a satisfactory level. Due to these 3 reasons, she would not be much interested in academics but more in domestic tasks, where she has a lot of control and feels good. The last statement of being married to “wealthy husbands” or whatever that means is shocking. One can take jest at the fact that nowadays most girls find it anyway difficult to find “wealthy husbands”, so where is Vineeta going to find one. I assume this is the hope instilled in her by her mentors and peers. It is probably the only hope that will motivate her when she leaves the orphanage. (to be continued)