Miracles do happen, and Intuit’s Sushma Padmanabhan has a story that proves it. It’s a story that connects several Intuit employees, spans continents and centers on a special orphanage—and a special little girl called Nikita.
It all started with a chance conversation between Sushma, a product manager in Bangalore, and her project manager. It emerged that the project manager had visited a local school for underprivileged children called Shishu Mandir as part of Intuit’s We Care and Give Back (WCGB) volunteer program. The establishment includes an orphanage called Shishu Home.
The timing of Sushma’s conversation with her project manager could not have been better. Unbeknownst to the project manager, Sushma, and her husband had embarked on the long and arduous quest to adopt a baby girl and were feeling beaten down by the process.
The Intuit connections don’t end there. Sushma would learn later that the orphanage is sponsored by a private donation from Cindy Barker, an identity architect in San Diego and Shishu Mandir is run by one of Sushma’s colleagues, Phani Challa, a Mint product development leader in Bangalore.
“Adoption is still a lonely process in India, as not many people speak about it much, and sharing of success stories is not very common,” Sushma shared. “As a result, one does feel a little lost and isolated. At the end of three years, my husband and I were still struggling to get our registration in place.”
The news about Shishu Mandir, with its wealth of Intuit connections, was music to Sushma’s ears. Her project manager introduced her to Challa, who held several leadership positions at Shishu Mandir and Shishu Home over the last decade—including fundraiser, school board member, and chief financial officer. Adding to the tapestry of coincidences, Challa had his own story of parental anguish.
“My wife and I lost a child in 2005,” he shared. “The child stayed with us only for a day, which left both of us devastated.”
And so began Challa’s association with the school and orphanage. “We felt the best way to find solace at a difficult time was to help other children,” he recalls. “Later, my wife and I were blessed with our own children, but we felt we should continue the service.”
In short order, Sushma began regular visits to the school and orphanage. She liked what she saw. “I love the way the kids are cared for over there,” she says. “The home is safe and secure, and the kids are happy. I think Shishu Mandir is investing in all the right areas—be it primary education via the school, health care or the adoption home for kids.”
After speaking with the director of Shishu Mandir, Sushma, and her husband came away feeling they’d been heard and understood for the first time since deciding to adopt. And by now, their adoption registration and other necessary paperwork were finally in order.
With Challa helping to smooth the process, Sushma and her husband met the baby girl they’d been dreaming of—a “little angel” called Nikita. They adopted Nikita and took her home at the age of three months. That was about a year and a half ago.
Since then, Sushma says, the experience of parenthood has been profoundly fulfilling and heartening. “Of course, we get nervous when Nikita falls ill, and we worry about doing the right things for her, but I’m sure all parents feel the same,” she says. “And when she called out ‘amma’ (mother) for the first time, I felt euphoric and my heart just melted!”
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Sushma says she and her husband got lucky in adopting Nikita so young, as it helped them bond with their child—something biological parents typically have a full nine months to do. She also got help with the bonding from Intuit India, which gave her 12 weeks of maternity leave. (She narrowly missed out on a new Intuit India benefit that increases maternity leave from 12 calendar weeks to 26 calendar weeks. It also increases paternity leave from five working days to 15 working business days. The same benefits apply to adoptive parents.)
Sushma says her manager was incredibly supportive, allowing her to prepare for Nikita’s arrival, staggering her workload over the next few days, and granting her leave—which Sushma extended using her accumulated personal leave. And monetary benefits helped with registration fees, home study reports and so on.
“Intuit has been fantastic,” she says.
Today, Sushma and her husband keep up their visits to Shishu Home with Nikita, and she says the wonderful people who work at the orphanage have become part of an extended circle of love for Nikita. “I’m happy for the orphanage to be a part of Nikita’s life,” she added.
For Challa, Sushma’s story contains a universal truth. “It demonstrates that if you help others, it will come around and help you,” he says. “So the best way to help oneself is by helping the community.”
Sushma intends to keep paying it forward. She says she’s more than willing to talk to other employees who are thinking of embarking on the adoption journey, but feel unsure about it. “I know how lonely it can be,” she says.
And there’s one myth she wants to dispel: “Everybody talks about how we adopted Nikita and how we are enriching her life,” Sushma says. “But the reality is that she has adopted us as her parents, and every moment is enriching our lives.”
Note: This is not a sponsored post.