“Apna Khoon” (trnsl: Own Blood) has been a popular term in Bollywood movies of yesteryears, where it signifies the intrinsic bonding within the family, whether it is between parents and children, between grandparents and children, between siblings, etc. sharing the family lineage. The usual notion prevails in societies and cultures across the world that families essentially mean a group of people living together who are connected by blood relations. The presumption that blood relations are a prerequisite for constituting a family still dominates the popular discourse. No wonder, when the time comes for people to think of expanding their families, they think of having biological children as the innate thing to be done.

So does it mean that the feelings of love and care within a family would naturally come to people mainly because they are related by blood? What about the existence of love and care among families that are not connected by blood relations? The number of adoptive families in India have been growing over the decades, even though they still constitute a small minority. The bond among these families provides a different paradigm to ponder – whether absence of blood relations diminishes the affection of parents towards their children if they are adopted.

Do our human instincts guide us internally to naturally shower more love towards those who share the same genetics with us? The society in which we live conditions us to think that only the biological connections can spark deepest feelings of love and warmth between the parents and their children and the siblings, which percolates down further to our extended families.

However, while it is fervently underscored by one and all that families essentially need to carry the lineage from one generation to other, a fact that is often overlooked at the same time even within this framework is that we still uphold relationships between individuals who are not related by blood; for example, this is often the case when people get married. Typically, a husband and a wife do not share blood relations between them, but their relationship is not construed to be of lesser significance than, say, a relationship between the parents and their children. The bonding between two married people living together comes from the love, affection and care between them and the kind of companionship they share with each other.

Similarly, many of the adoptive parents would vouch that the attachment with their children is in no way weaker than the feelings which any biological parents have towards their children. The presence or absence of blood relations as a parameter for love and bonding are more of social constructs, which inherently govern our thinking that a child coming out of a mother’s womb would mean the world to her and a child being raised by her adoptive mother would be loved to a lesser degree because of the absence of the biological connection.

This demarcation is carried further to the extended families, where in several instances the question comes up as to how an adoptive child would be treated by her extended family, because the child may be considered an “outsider” by some in the extended family. Would the child face a differentiated behavior from others because of her adoptive identity compared to other children in the larger family? For any child, only the love and affection of parents is not simply enough. The relations and interactions within the extended family is an essential part of growing up.

The love and support of grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins makes a compelling difference to a child, whether biological or adopted. This cannot be substituted only by the parents. But would the people within the extended family be willing to assimilate the belief that the affinity towards a child should not be a matter of cultivating the bond because of the “shared blood” but because of the “shared love” with each other? That would largely depend on how we value relationships between individuals who are not connected by any DNA. If we believe in the notion that relations governed by love can transcend relations governed by blood, then may be the world would become a different place.

Nishank currently works as a researcher with a Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) and has worked with various rights-based groups over past few years. Nishank has been the founder of voluntary support group “People’s Group of Child Adoption in India (PGCAI)”, which has been functioning since  2007. Nishank has recently become a Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) himself.


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