New Delhi, India
Swarupa Katuka was born and raised in India, joined the Church in 1988, and currently lives in New Delhi. In 1995, as the mother of two children, Swarupa decided to give her third child to family friends who couldn’t have any children of her own. In this interview, she shares an intimate look into her daily life, the state of the Church in India, and the relationship she has with her adopted daughter.
Tell me about yourself and your family.
I was born on May 10, 1964 in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India, to my parents, Appa Rao and Siromani Kommu. I completed a double bachelor’s degree in Science and Education at the Womens College in Rajahmunry, and a Master’s degree in Science from Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
I currently teach Science to 11- through 15-year-olds in a government school. I have been teaching for 16 years. For fun, my hobbies include reading, cooking and stitching.
My husband, Suvarna Kumar Katuka, is an immigration specialist and provides legal services to multinational corporations. We have one son, Joshua Kumar, age 19, who is currently serving a mission; and one daughter, Timnah, age 17.
What is an average day like for you?
Mornings start with prayers and then I make breakfast and prepare to go to school at 7:50 a.m. The school I teach at is very close to our house, within walking distance. I get home from school at 2:15 p.m., make lunch and usually rest for a while. Sometimes I accompany my daughter to her afternoon seminary class; otherwise I stay home and clean or wash clothes.
In the evenings, our family of three has Family Home Evening and then we have dinner together. Then I prepare for the next day; I don’t usually go to bed until 11 p.m. or midnight. Before going to bed, I read my scriptures and write in my journal. Then I go to sleep. That’s my basic routine; some days we visit other members, and some days I teach seminary too.
How did you prepare your son to serve a mission?
Joshua is serving in Chennai, India, more than 2,000 kilometers away. He writes us wonderful letters and he loves the mission. He is happy; he wanted to serve a mission from the beginning. I think the teachings at Church, and meeting missionaries who served in our area, influenced him. To prepare him to serve a mission, we usually had Family Home Evening and family scripture study when these kids were young. We attend church meetings 100% in our life time.
My husband joined the Church in 1984, and served a mission in India from 1985-1987. In fact, he and his companions were the first Indian missionaries to serve in India.
How did you first learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
I had been searching for a church to be baptized into; I knew that baptism was necessary for salvation. My husband’s family is LDS, and his sister was my friend long before I married him. She introduced me to the Church. I went to the Church a few times and felt good about it. I liked the Church organization and its systems. The LDS Church in our hometown was very small with few members, but I felt something and I joined right away without even telling my father.
I read the Book of Mormon after a year; the first time I read it, I didn’t understand–I came to understand it slowly. Now I understand it fully with no doubts. The teachings and examples and stories are wonderful and good. We read as a family and my children love the gospel because of the Book of Mormon. It truly affects our lives.
What is the Church like in India?
We have two missions in India: India Bangalore and India New Delhi. There are three districts in the New Delhi mission. We belong to New Delhi India District; there are seven branches in our district with about 1,050 members in the district total. I belong to New Delhi 1st Branch. We have about 80 members attending regularly.
We have regular activities outside of Sunday meetings, like a recent School of the Prophets conducted by our mission president, President Jackson. It was a wonderful meeting for all auxiliary leaders. I was really impressed and came to know better my responsibility as a member and as a leader.
As a Young Women President I accompanied Sister Dalton [current General Young Women President] to visit some families in New Delhi, India. I was also asked to give the opening prayer when President Hinckley visited India in 2005; 600 saints from all over India attended the meeting. For security reasons we were not able to shake his hand, but I sat on the dais where he was sitting. We felt that he was a chosen leader and God’s prophet.
What has been your favorite calling?
I have served in several auxiliaries like Primary, Relief Society and Young Women. I’ve liked all the callings, but I like Primary most, because I learned more in Primary. When I was baptized 20 years ago, the Church was very small in New Delhi and there were very few Indian members. We weren’t able to learn as much because there was no one to teach us. Now, serving in Primary helps me learn a lot with their songs and short stories; because of my limited English language skills, teaching in Primary is easier for me. Our branch conducts Sunday services in English; I use English and Hindi while teaching my lessons.
In 1995, you gave your third child up for adoption. What led you to do this?
My husband and I had had our second child in 1994 and felt that we were done having children. A short time later, we found out we were pregnant with our third child.
A man named Brother Luther was a childhood friend of my husband’s; he is also a member of the Church and had been married for 13 years but he and his wife were unable to have children. I knew they had been trying to conceive but they were unsuccessful; when I found out I was pregnant, I felt in my heart that our baby should go to them but I didn’t tell anyone. I thought it was God’s will that I had become pregnant again and that maybe this child would be for them. I didn’t even tell my husband; it is not easy to give a child away.
Meanwhile, the Luthers were called to serve a couple’s mission in the India Bangalore mission. Our third child was born while they were serving. The Luthers called and asked us about the child; they said they had a dream that they were raising her.
One day, after they returned home from their mission, the Luthers called my husband and brought up the subject of adoption–they wanted to adopt our baby.
My husband told me not to give them our baby, but I prayed to Heavenly Father in my heart and together with my husband. After much prayer, we decided to give our child to them. They took her when she was eight months old.
We don’t know why the Luthers approached us to adopt our baby, above all other families, but God knows. Maybe it was His will; I don’t know. We have never had any tension in our relationship with the Luthers since the adoption. We have good relations with them to this day. I’m happy we could provide them with such joy.
How did you cope with giving her up?
It isn’t common in India to give babies up for adoption, but I felt like this was what I was supposed to do. The decision to let them adopt her was a great pain to me, but I felt that our friends were happy and blessed because of our choice.
When we gave the Luthers our daughter, I could see they felt much happiness as they had never before felt in their life. I knew she would be in good hands. Today, she is very pretty and a smart young woman. We call and talk to her often. She is a very good girl. She knows she is our biological daughter, but I have told her she is on a mission. Her mission is to be part of the Luthers’ family, not ours, and provide them with happiness and joy. They are so happy with her in their lives.
Knowing this is her mission, and that it is God’s will, comforts me. She is always in my thoughts and in my prayers. This was God’s intervention; I know the Luthers’ lives were blessed because of our daughter.
At A Glance
Location: New Delhi, India
Marital status: Married on 19th Jan 1991
Children: One son, 19 years old & serving a mission; one daughter, 17 years old in high
Convert: 1st Jan 1988
Schools Attended: Govt .schools in our hometown .
Languages Spoken at Home: Telugu
Favorite Hymn: “I Believe In Christ”
Interview by Lyndsey Payzant Wells. Photos used with permission.