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Orphaned at 17 months and sent on adoption, Tamil toddler returns home from US after aunt's relentless fight for two years

His parents, both techies from Tamil Nadu, had died by suicide in Mississippi over domestic quarrel, leaving the boy in Child Protection Services' custody

Orphaned at 17 months and sent on adoption, Tamil toddler returns home from US after aunts relentless fight for two years

Abinaya Murugan carrying her nephew Visrith being received by their relatives at Chennai airport on Monday night

CHENNAI: Orphaned after his techie parents killed themselves while working for a company in Mississippi, United States, nearly two years ago, a toddler, all of 3.5 years, is finally back at his ancestral home in Tiruchy, thanks to the relentless efforts by his maternal aunt, State and central government officials, the Tamils settled in the US, and the Good Samaritans.

The boy, Visrtith, was only 17 months old when his parents, Praveen from Madurai and Tamilselvi from Tiruchy, died by suicide in May, 2022 over domestic dispute. While their bodies were sent back to India, Visrith - a US citizen by birth - was sent to the custody of Child Protection Services (CPS), the State agency in the US that handles such cases, because there were no other blood relative in that country.

Even as they were drowning in grief, Tamilselvi's family in Tiruchy began efforts to bring Visrith back to India, a task that proved to be arduous due to legal and technical difficulties that entailed it.

For one, none in the immediate family had a passport, much less a visa to go to the US. On the very same day that Tamilselvi and Praveen died, her sister Abinaya Murugan applied and obtained a passport. She then went to the US consulate seeking a visa to go there. The officials there got in touch with the CPS officials in the US and granted her the travel document.

As difficult as the whole effort was, it, however, was only the beginning of the challenges that awaited Abinaya and the family in the foreign land that has different - and stringent - laws and rules governing such cases.

By the time she reached there, the child was given on adoption to a family there. "Initially, they didn't even let us see him," said Abinaya fighting back tears while recalling the ordeal. But she was not alone in the fight. "I didn't have a place to stay when I reached there. But Dr Swami and his wife Kala hailing from Coimbatore took me in, took care of me as their daughter and helped me," she said.

Meanwhile, back in Tamil Nadu, the matter came to the attention of the State government. Chief Minister MK Stalin directed Non-Resident Tamils Welfare Board chairman Karthikeya Sivasenapathy to head to Mississippi and meet Abinaya, and extend all possible help to bring back the child.

Though the Indian embassy in the US and the consulate in Atlanta, the Tamil Nadu government and others were involved, the legal tangles delayed the efforts. Finally, the lawyers with roots in Tamil Nadu, the office-bearers of the Federation of Tamil Sangams in North America (FeTNA), and others reached out to the Governor (equivalent to Chief Ministers in Indian system) and the Attorney General of Mississippi to impress upon them about the matter.

After nearly 23 months, their efforts paid off when the court there allowed Abinaya to take legal custody of Visrith and take the child to his maternal grandparents' home in Tiruchy.

On Monday evening, Abinaya and her mother Savithri Murugan reached Chennai with the boy, where they were received by relatives, Sivasenapathy and officials from the Commissionerate of Rehabilitation and Welfare of Non-Resident Tamils.

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