By Amanda Murthy
Lucky to be alive and well, award-winning chief political reporter Latika Bourke tributes her untold adoption story to the parents who lovingly raised her as their own, in a country she calls home.
Her memoir, From India with Love, is a journey of self-discovery to ignite a sense of belonging to a place Latika once dismissed entirely from her history.
She grabs this opportunity to use her influential platform to spark awareness on significant world issues such as inter-country adoption, sexual abuse, illiteracy, famine, and poverty in India.
Born and abandoned by her biological mother just a day after her birth, Latika was brought into an orphanage run by religious sisters in the slums of India.
Birth records show that an uncle and an elderly lady, assumed to be her birth grandmother, dropped her off, and never looked back.
But it was by fate that after a lengthy and trying battle that Latika’s Australian parents, John and Penny, would be able to adopt the then eight-month-old and bring her to Australia – because as according to a statement read out by an Indian judge: “she was a sickly child that no Indian family would want”.
Together with two other adopted siblings from India and five biological children of the Bourke family, Latika explains the events that took place growing up in a staunch Catholic family home in rural New South Wales, Bathurst, then later on in Canberra.
She lives a pretty sheltered life, and experiences a typical modest childhood.
Latika speaks positively on her adoption, often crediting her close-knit relationship with the family of 10 and strong values instilled by her parents as the reason for her success.
She also admits to having no curiosity or angst about not knowing anything about her birth mother – making peace that nothing could be done about it.
Describing herself as a hardworking nerdy bookworm – who always knew her passion was in politics – Latika’s efforts do not go unnoticed, and her success story is shared as an inspiring step to follow.
Despite Penny’s attempt to expose Latika to her Indian heritage, the latter confidently insists that all her traits – including her thick Aussie slang, her taste in food, music, and dress-sense – are about as Australian as you can get.
Throughout her childhood, Latika goes on to explain that although her peers may have been ignorant at times, when asking her about “where she came from”, she never once took their remarks as racists or offensive.
In fact, any Indian reference made towards her fell on deaf ears.
But it wasn’t until she was in her adulthood, that she stumbled across the movie Slumdog Millionaire and was confronted by a character of her namesake, who portrayed an orphan child living in the slums of Bihar – trafficked and exploited for money.
The movie struck her with deep sadness, marking the first time she ever took a proper look at the harsh conditions of India.
With the help of her parents, she digs up her dusty birth documents and embarks on a trip of a lifetime with her ever-supportive partner, Graham.
Not missing out the slightest details of the sights, smells, tastes and scene of every encounter made in her Indian-adventures, it is almost like you can hear Latika’s voice tell the story.
The various characters are dramatically described, making the chapters an enjoyable read.
The highlight of the book was the time spent with the nuns at the orphanages she was once placed at.
Admiring the charitable and gracious works of the religious sisters, who sacrifice their life to help children like herself, somewhat restored her faith in God.
From India with Love is a fantastic read, exploring the themes of family, religion, travel and work life – written from the horses’ mouth.