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The Remarkable Gautam Lewis

INDIA | Friday, 11 July 2008 | Views [2380] | Comments [2]

The Remarkable Gautam Lewis


Note of apology: while I am sure this is mostly true and correct - the dates are going to be a bit wrong and I will give Gautam the right to call me a tosser etc ...


Gautam  contracts polio when he was very young. 18 months.  His "original mother" as he calls  her, took him to the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata because she could not care for him.Gautam is not sure, not particularly interested either, in the reason she relinquished him. It happened. He knows very little else. Just accept that a young baby boy with polio is left with Missionaries of Charity Sisters and they care for him.


He has many operations over the next few years and was at times cared for - during the recovery from the operations at  the hospital - by a young woman volunteer. Only twenty something; she was a nuclear physicist, taking some time out.She struck up a bond - a strong one. She leaves India to take up a lectureship in New Zealand.


She pines for the child. His spirit. She thinks long and hard for nearly two years.Young, single...she could sponsor him. Leave him there in the Missionaries of Charity and sponsor his education.No. It's not enough for her. She writes a beautiful impassioned, logical, well constructed case for a twenty something year old, single woman to adopt this polio surviving, bold, strong, intelligent , quick witted boy.


Who could argue? She knew she was right. She knew she was ready.

After a legal and emotional marathon, Gautam goes to Patricia Lewis in New Zealand. They move to London soon after. There, he is raised. Patricia never marries, but she has a biological daughter who grows up with a brother twelve years older. His mother, just seventeen years older than he.


He walks with the aid of crutches. He should have been dead, let alone been able to walk. He lives his life - really - he does. He has managed rock bands -big ones. He has his pilots license - he takes disabled children flying. He is the Rotary ambassador for polio awareness in India. He has been brought back on this occasion to highlight the need for vigilance and vaccination.He has avoided Kolkata, even though he has been to India before.This is his first time back to the orphanage.


He sits at a table with Shayne and Jo and Neelu and we talk about life. His presence assures me that with a positive, nurturing environment, it is possible to give any child every chance to feel hope, love, affection, family. Because with family you can really let go. Be mad, sad, angry, frustrated curious, happy. When Gautam was about four or five he overheard a conversation - he heard that "no one was coming back for him" - he stopped talking for six months. Imagine? A child of this intelligence and warmth and vigor to survive, closing off . There is only so much we can stand at a time. Thank the gods that Gautam had such pure bravado.Thank the gods Patricia Lewis nurtured hope.


We will treasure meeting Gautam and we will nurture our friendship. We are committed to keeping in contact .He wants to be a touchstone of adoption understanding for Neelu and Ankita. I am grateful for his generosity and mentorship of my beautiful daughters, through what will no doubt be an interesting life's journey.

Tags: adoption, calcutta, gautam lewis, kolkata, missionaries of charity, polio awareness



wow. tears in my eyes, spasm in my heart. thank you. i'm loving your blogs. hope all is well, love to your girls. netty

  Netty Jul 14, 2008 11:07 AM


thank you for your such kind words. likewise, i feel like we have started a great friendship. I will be sending you a cd of the final images i am using for the photo exhibition. i hope your all well. stay happy and smiling.

  mr shoe Jul 23, 2008 11:57 PM

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