Today, Anjina's first child, 17-year-old Rajat, has 24 siblings and 46-year-old Anjina, still single, is "mummy" to 25 children. The interim years saw her struggling to bring up her younger brother after her father's untimely demise, opt out of her clerical job and choose to be a full-time mother besotted with her brood at her home in Uttar Pradesh's Noida that she calls Sai Kripa. And as she sits amidst her toddlers and teenagers being hugged, tugged, kissed and pulled in various directions, she enjoys every moment of it. To those who've grown up with her she speaks in her mother-tongue Malayalam, with others who came more grown up to her she converses in Hindi, but it's all the language of love.
"Your stubble hurts," she rebukes Rajat in mock anger as his bear-hugs get impossible to cope with. This only to get on with fussing over her youngest. "This is two-year-old Akshay," she says, pointing at the wriggling bundle in her lap. "He was born here. A mentally unsound woman in her last stages of pregnancy was brought to us by some ladies. She wandered off soon after giving birth. The children love filmstar Akshay Kumar, so they named him after the hero by a majority decision. That's the way we name all new members of our family...the ones who come to us without a name." Yes, Anjina's is a unique family. A family she has gathered and nurtured over these past years. Some of her children Anjina has picked up off the roads, others from slums, some the police has brought in, yet others were found by neighbours and left with her.
"Every child is special to me and I won't part with even one of them for the world," she declares.
A resolve that has seen Anjina turn away many requests for adoptions. "I've nothing against adoption. But the fact that people ask me questions about the parentage of the child, that they mostly want a fair-skinned male child—all this has put me off the idea. Dark or fair, girl or boy, they're all my children and I'm not going to give them away to people with biases," says she.
But won't adoptions enable her to help more children? Such questions pose no dilemma to Anjina. She's quite clear that she can't alleviate the miseries of all the children in the world. "I'll do whatever little I can and do it well. The idea isn't to feel happy by rescuing 100 children annually and then dumping them in weird places. My commitment is to see them grow up into healthy individuals. To love them. Let others also do their little bit. I'll do my bit till my last breath," says she.
And to her credit, till NGO Child Relief and You (CRY) started funding some of Sai Kripa's activities about five years ago, she'd been managing the finances alone. "My salary supported the first three children. With more additions in the family, I couldn't work because I had to take care of my children. I asked very close friends to help me with contributions," Anjina recalls. Even today, the needs of her huge family could do with support from good samaritans. The willingness to make a child smile, she says is a mere phone call away at 91531146.
Then, a thoughtful observation: "Despite the fact that the past lives of my children should have convinced me by now that the world is a sick place, every other day I'm reassured that there's inherent goodness in people. So many poor families make it a point to donate a kilo of rice every month, without fail. There is so much goodwill around." Goodwill that abounds in Anjina's home. That grows with the family. And the children.