A Surrey mother’s story about adopting her two children in India is told in a new book.
First-time author Raj Arneja has self-published a memoir called “Love at First Sight: A Mother’s Journey to Adoption.”
She began writing it about two years ago, after years of telling the story to family members.
“My kids, they’d heard the story before, and they were the ones who kind of prompted me to tell the story to others, to get the book done,” Arneja said.
Now adults, Kabir and Kirti are the children of Arneja and her husband, Gurpreet, who live in the Ocean Park area.
The 230-page book, available on Amazon.com, chronicles the author’s 7,000-kilometre trip from Canada to India to adopt Kabir and Kirti in the 1990s.
It’s not a how-to book about adoption, it is a celebration of motherhood through adoption.
Arneja says she hopes to inspire other couples to adopt.
“The book goes into my history, because I’m born and raised here,” Arneja said. “So going to India, for me, was going to a foreign country, dealing with the bureaucracy there, looking for a child, going from hospital to hospital, all those things.
“While I was there I began to understand where my parents came from, their journey of coming from India to a new country here in Canada with no family,” she continued. “I had those same feelings in India, because the first time I went, I went without my husband because he couldn’t go at the time. This was in 1992, and there was no internet, no cellphones, it was just talking on the phone during calls that cost a lot of money. My husband didn’t even see his son until I came to Canada with him, so the book tells the story about all those experiences.”
Raised in New Westminster, Arneja opens the book with the story of her flight to Japan in 1980, at the age of 16. Scaling Mount Fuji was a life-changing moment for Arneja, who in life has been motivated by the phrase “Never give up.”
Years later, at age 24, her life looked complete.
“I loved my career, working in an office in downtown Vancouver overlooking the harbor,” Arneja writes. “I loved life with my husband, Gurpreet, to whom I had been married for two years already. We had bought a house; we had our loving families and a close group of friends nearby. We enjoyed our ability to freely travel and did so every chance we could. We took a remarkable trip to India together, where we traveled to destinations that were off the beaten path, from north to south and everywhere in between. I was ready for the next chapter of my life. I wanted to become a mom.”
While it seemed like every couple around them was able to conceive easily, for some reason Raj and Gurpreet could not.
As an alternative, they turned to adoption.
“I just wanted people to know about these experiences, to have others do what we did if they can’t conceive, because it is a good alternative,” the author says.
“It’s something new for me, and I feel like I’m exposing myself quite a bit out there, but I think it’s an important story to tell and for people to hear, especially for a young couple looking to adopt,” Arneja continued. “Sometimes people are told no, you shouldn’t, and that happens in South Asian community more often, that the family doesn’t want to adopt outside of bloodlines, but that’s one of the reasons I pushed to get this done, because it can be done. I hope I inspire other couples to do this.”