Author Raj Arneja is a Canadian businesswoman whose Sikh parents emigrated to British Columbia before she was born. She skillfully weaves past and present throughout her memoir, which documents her difficult quest for parenthood that resulted in two trips to India in the 1990s. Arneja’s hope of becoming a mother never wavered even after painful fertility treatment failed and she faced a nightmare adoption process abroad.
Arneja grew up surrounded by loving network of Punjabi family and friends as her parents gradually helped others emigrate to metro Vancouver. This effort to build community in their new homeland was one of Arneja’s first lessons in persistence. Other childhood experiences that strengthened her resolve in difficult situations included working summers picking berries on farms from dawn to dusk, enduring cruelty from elementary classmates unfamiliar with her culture, and losing her older teenage brother following a racist attack. Arneja writes that dealing with her grief and anger over Ranjit’s death “made me better equipped to stand up to adversity.” Arneja’s story opens when she is 16, a year after Ranjit’s death at 19. Without proper preparation, she had embarked on a long, chilly climb up Japan’s Mt. Fuji while on student exchange. The trek resulted in a “never give up” mantra that helped Arneja in adulthood as she sought adoption. Instead of going through an agency — a process that likely would have added many years to the wait for parenthood — Arneja visited doctor’s offices and hospitals in India to find adoptable children (a method that is no longer available). Although ultimately successful, the search was a needle-in-a-haystack process followed by a bewildering journey through Indian bureaucracy.
To further complicate matters, Arneja knew that Indian culture was biased against adoption of unrelated children. One reason, Arneja states, for writing her book is her “hope that it will inspire more people to adopt, or perhaps just change their perspective on adoption.” She notes that poverty causes many unwed mothers in India to desert babies — particularly girls — in ways that often lead to death. Fortunately for two abandoned, malnourished, underweight babies, Raj Arneja and her husband, Gurpreet, persevered. Today, their son, Kabir, is a lawyer. His younger sister, Kirti, is a professional vocalist who records with some of India’s top musicians.
Raj Arneja’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT: A Mother’s Journey to Adoption is a well-written heart wrenching and captivating memoir about the journey to finding and nurturing family.
~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader