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Book Review: From India With Love

Nip Wijewickrema

She’s one of Australia’s leading political journalists who many of us rely on for our news fix from The Hill. How is it though, that writing – something she does every single day, brought her to tears?

I’m not really into memoirs – I feel weird reading about other people’s lives when I’m trying to wrangle my own. But when approached to read Latika Bourke’s book, With Love from India, I didn’t bat an eyelid.

As a journalism student and now a communications professional, I’ve lived and breathed Latika’s work as a journalist. I watched her transition from the ABC to Fairfax and have been one of her thousands of Twitter followers from all around the world. Despite my following, retweeting and watching of Latika, I never knew she was adopted from India at the age of eight months.

Not that it should, or would change anything about her – but I found this interesting. As I always say, everyone has a story and Latika is no different.

In an open and honest way, Latika sets out to share her story on international adoption. She doesn’t want praise, she doesn’t want reviews (the only review that matters is her mum’s) and she certainly doesn’t want sympathy. What she wants, though, is for one person who’s not at peace with their roots, to decide to give them (the roots) a fair go. But most importantly, she wants to share her experience on adoption and show the world that not all adoptions are disasters that will be news headlines for days to come.

Latika was adopted from India into the Bourke family when she was just eight months old. Her parents, Penny and John ended up having eight kids biological and adopted – because really, what’s better than a full house of smiles and love?

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Latika Bourke as a child

 

“I’ve always had this consciousness that what mum and dad have done is really great. While I didn’t ever think we were an unusual family, I did think that my parents had done something unusually great and so I think I had this obligation that one day it might be worth telling my adoption story,” said Latika.

The book outlines Latika’s privileged yet modest upbringing – growing up as part of a large family in country Australia (Bathurst to be exact). Growing up with an innocent, bookworm personality sets her up to be the fiercely passionate journalist she is today. After moving from Bathurst and eventually settling in Canberra for a little while – she now can comfortably be called a Canberra girl with the Kingston Foreshore area being one of her favourite spots of all time.

Growing up as an Australian through and through, From India With Love shares Latika’s journey of self-discovery that led her back to her Indian roots. Latika is the first to admit when younger she didn’t want to acknowledge her Indian roots because as far as she was concerned – she was brought up in Australia by Australian parents and was as Australian as it gets. It wasn’t until watching the movie Slumdog Millionaire (while also trying to impress someone on a date) that the fire in her belly was ignited to discover her Indian heritage.

In every day life, we hear and read about international adoptions on a nearly daily basis, but sadly, not always for the right reasons. It might be that an adoption has gone wrong or about how difficult, costly and expensive the process is. However, the Bourke’s family adoption experience – while turbulent, long and challenging at times –  ensured Penny and John adopted three beautiful, unrelated children from India to ensure their family grew to be the one they had always imagined and dreamed of. It also ensured Latika and her siblings were given the life they deserved to achieve their full potential in a beautiful country like Australia that they probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve living in an orphanage in India.

The author herself

Latika Bourke with her memoir

It’s sad to think of the reality of Latika’s adoption. Still, to this day, she knows next to nothing about her biological family. Her adoption papers stated her birth mother was only 14 when she had Latika – a sure sign that her situation couldn’t have been good given her young age, and that Latika was placed in the orphanage on the day or day after she was born, by an uncle.

In the most genuine and almost vulnerable manner, Latika makes the journey to India with her partner Graham and recounts her nearest and dearest thoughts. A trip that singlehandedly manages to change Latika’s life, and the way she views the country forever, is documented and shared throughout a series of gripping chapters that ensures you won’t be able to put the book down.

“The story eventually became a story about finding myself. It was very difficult but it’s been an extremely fulfilling journey that was never about money.

“I’ll give half the royalties to the orphanages. I think the best thing you can do for people in India is to ask them what they need and say here’s the money to fund it, rather than trying to go in and tell them how to spend it,” said Latika.

Latika’s journey to India doesn’t end here though. One day, she’d love to live in India and discover what else the sacred country has to offer.

“I think the most monumental thing I gained from writing From India With Love  is the sense of giving back – if all these people had never given to me, I would have nothing. To think I am now in a position to giveback the tiniest of things that can make a bigger difference is really quite powerful.

“If one person reads the book, and previously had a negative only definition of what adoption meant and that one person not just changed their mind, but had a different or a fuller understanding of what it means – then it’s worth it.

“This is just my story. At the end of the day, I wanted to put a personal story out there to say this is just one example of adoption. My example. I’m not trying to speak for anyone else or dismissing that some people have terrible experiences with adoptions. It’s just in this case – this is how I feel about adoption and I’m a proud Australian who was adopted … and have fallen in love with the formidable force that is India.”

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Nip Wijewickrema

Nip Wijewickrema is a journalism graduate from the University of Canberra who currently works in Communications. When she's not working, she's wearing one of her many onesies, eating delicious food or delivering flowers with her beautiful sister, Gayana who has Down Syndrome. The more flowers GG's Flowers sell, the more people with disabilities they can hire. More about the Author

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