The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families-one Indian, one American-and the child that indelibly connects them.
I haven’t read any novel based on Child adoption and do not know how it works when it is across countries.
Through Kavita, we see rural India in the 80s. Kavita is happily married to Jasu, who unlike other men loves his wife. But even Jasu’s love for Kavita, doesn’t stop him from taking the Girl child from Kavita and killing it. Sex based child infanticide was prominent in India back then and Kavita’s first kid is buried alive on the day she was born. It is unthinkable, horrible and I cannot even begin to imagine how Kavita and all other women out there felt. When she becomes pregnant for the 2nd time, she vows she will not let this child die. On the night of giving birth, she tells Jasu that she needs a day with the child before he can take it away. She names her Usha, and with the help of her sister walks all the way to the city ( the same day she gave birth). There she gives Usha to a orphanage even if it tears her soul to do so. She just wants her baby to live and have a life and for that she is ready to give her up.
Somer, an American doctor is married to Krishnan, an Indian doctor who is from Mumbai. Somer after making the discovery that she will never give birth to her own baby, gives in to Krishnan’s insistence of adopting a baby form India. Would love be enough to bring the family back together?
Kavita’s story is very heart-breaking. I am a mom and I know how heart-shattering it would be to have your 1st baby killed and then to give up on your 2nd one. God blesses her with a baby boy, but she is not able to forgive her husband and love her child the way she wants to because everyday, every moment she is haunted by what might have happened to Usha. Through her eyes we see rural India and the Mumbai, I hardly have seen. The slums of Mumbai, the mafia and everything. The way these people have to live in this big city is both disgusting and unthinkable. But today also this is happening.
Somer is the woman of today. Educated, career-oriented and independent. Her trip to India gives you a peak into what an American might feel here. This is not a holiday trip, she comes here for the adoption, she is not sure about anything here and has a hard time understanding the culture and the government ways. She is clearly frustrated and vows never to come back. But this same Somer, gives up on so many things for the baby she has adopted. Her struggles with the baby and there family is very touching.
This story is told from point of views of Kavita, Somer, Asha, Krishnan, Jasu and even Krishnan’s mother.
I really felt for both Kavita and Somer and I think I understood Asha’s (adopted daughter of Somer and daughter of Kavita) struggles, even though at first I wanted to beat her into pulp and open her eyes to what she was doing to Somer. This is a beautifully written story of a secret daughter that Kavita never talked about but thought and yearned a lot. This has to be one of the best reads in 2010. I am looking forward to more works from this author and it is very surprising that this one was the authors debut novel.