The title song of a popular Bengali TV serial based on the travails of a mother is playing on a laptop. Two children,a boy and a girl,are glued to it. As their mother reaches forward to play something else,they grab the mouse,stopping her from doing so.
As she smiles at them indulgently,Sagarika Chakraborty admits to having heard of the Devyani Khobragade case,where an Indian diplomat based in New York has found herself in conflict with the law of a foreign country. It was under similar circumstances that her two children were taken away from her husband and her by the Norway Child Welfare Services,which accused them of ill-treating the kids.
Abhigyan,5,and Aishwarya,3,were kept in foster care for about a year,with the parents accused of ill-treating the children. The CWS objected to,among other things,Abhigyan and Aishwarya sleeping with their parents and the way they were fed. Sagarika,officials said,was not equipped to look after her children. Following protests by the Indian government,the children were sent to India on April 24,2012,and given into the care of her husbands brother Arunabhash. What followed was a custody battle between Sagarika and husband Anurup.
On January 10,2013,it will be a year that Sagarika has had custody of Abhigyan and Aishwarya,following an interim order of the Calcutta High Court verdict. Anurup lives and works in Norway. Arunabhash refused to speak about the case.
At their maternal grandparents house in Birati a suburb to the north of Kolkata the children have settled in,says Sagarika. An MBA,she now stays at home,looking after the children,dropping them to school,taking them for their drawing classes and to play at the local park,and helping them with their homework. A tutor gives extra lessons to Aishwarya.
Since May 11,2011,the day my children were taken from me by the CWS at Stavanger in Norway,till January 10,2013,I had to go through an ordeal. At times I thought I would never be able to see the faces of my children again. You can imagine how a mother whose children are taken away feels. But by the grace of God and with the help,advice and guidance of my parents and friends,my two children and I are back to a normal life, says Sagarika,31.
Looking back,she believes that while Khobragade clearly broke the law regarding the salary of her maid,her own case was the result of racism. She asks why she and her husband were not even informed about their children being taken away,and says it was a witness who told them the two had been picked up from school.
According to her,the children are adored in their new neighbourhood and have made several friends. A recent highlight in their lives were their birthdays Abhigyans on October 12 and Aisharyas on December 6. Grandmother Shikha says they celebrated at home,with lots of children from nearby homes.
Abhigyan,who is called Ritam at home,is learning singing,including Rabindrasangeet. We will get Aisharya admitted to a dance class soon, Shikha says.
Grandfather Manatosh is particularly happy about their improved appetite and the fact that they have given up the habit of having tea. Now they are fond of typical Bengali food.
Abhigyan loves chicken,fish,fruits and sweets. They do not go to sleep before I sing to them, Sagarika says,playing with the children.