My Heart is Open Again

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“She loved you so much”

“She married your father”

“She has long hair down the back of her legs”

“She cooked”

“She bathed the babies”

“She didn’t want to give you away”

My search continues…

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Pact Fall Fundraising Gala Speech

Pact Has Changed My Life Forever

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In my mid twenties, I embarked on an adventure back to my first home in search for my family in India, in search for what is rightfully mine. With my future children in mind, my dear friends and I documented my travels that ended up eventually becoming a feature length film. Unexpectedly, knowledge of my film began to travel through the adoption community. And that’s how I was introduced to Beth and PACT. Beth was so kind to invite me to the Pact Family Camp to present my film to adoptive parents. She was the first person to call me a transracial adoptee. I had never heard of that label before but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Something so small as two words helped me settle years of confusion about my experiences and my place in my family, with white parents.

With no expectations about what camp was going to be like, I packed my bags and drove up to Lake Tahoe. As I drove up the driveway, I saw a little brown child running across the street towards the pool and their white parents following not too far behind. My heart sank and tears began to flow. That was really the first time I saw myself from the outside. 

Opening ceremony welcomed all families into the conference room. I will never forget when Beth asked all adoptees, foster care youth and alumni to raise their hand. I saw at least a hundred hands in the air! This rush of validation, acceptance, and unconditional love went through my body. Coming from a family that didn’t speak about my adoption, India, my first family, adoption language, or the possibility of searching and reuniting, I was absolutely overwhelmed to see so many other families built like mine, all in the same room. I immediately knew that I was where I was suppose to be.

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Since my first Pact Family Camp in 2014, I have met, listened to and became close friends with other TRA’s, Foster Care Alumni, natural mothers, and adoptive parents. In fact, they are the reason I moved to Oakland earlier this year. Together they all have honored my voice, my experience, and gave me credit for being an expert in adoption. Through the authors, bloggers, filmmakers, theatrical performers, and poets that PACT has exposed me to, my perspective have expanded around race, gender, sex, identity, parenting, and language. The most precious gift that I have received from PACT is my support group for TRA’s of Color. I’ve been allowed to cry, mourn, express anger, laugh, and roll my eyes without having to defend myself. I am not alone in this and my self esteem and self love have heightened to a level I have never experienced. I consider everyone that I have met through PACT an extension of my family. A family that understands me as a whole person, without having to say one word.

So tonight, I am here to celebrate and highlight the work of the dedicated, strong, insightful, gracious and compassionate staff members, including all the counselors, volunteers, panelist, and board members of PACT. Transracial Adoption is complex with so many unexpected challenges. But with the all trainings, webinars, annual family camps, consultations, education, support groups, placement services and more, PACT truly is a leader in providing the best opportunities to learn how to move through the challenges with the adoptee’s best interests at the core.

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Myself, along with so many other adoptees and foster care alumni have been given the open space to share our experiences, joys and challenges. We hope to create a better experience for those that walk this path beside us and behind us, and sometimes before us. I want to personally thank you all for coming tonight and supporting the much needed services for those that are the most vulnerable. I am proof that PACT can change lives and support a healthy and open narrative around adoption. Thank you Beth and my dear PACT family for making me a better person. I love you all dearly.

 

Nothing Has Changed

A ride through my mother’s village.

The purpose of my last visit to Goa was simply to live everyday in the present moment. I planned nothing except my flights and AirBnB rooms. The rest I left up to my natural instinct… I chose to travel alone, for the opportunity to practice my natural instinct, my internal navigation system.

I tasted new beers and food, shared my dinner table with strangers, made new friends, talked politics, meditated, made love, took risks, explored, all while getting acquainted with new feelings. I was genuinely happy being home in those moments.

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 It was during the latter part of my time in northern Goa that made me quickly think of my mother’s village. Again, not having any desire to search or look for clues; the brief images of driving through her village came and went.

I arrived to Agonda Beach and settled into my little bamboo framed beach hut. The days passed with sights of the Arabian Sea, sounds of traveling musicians, and the taste of fresh sweet coconut water.

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The bare beach was a place to feel alone, yet still have just the right amount of people to watch from afar. Thats when I notice him, perched up on a rock in the middle of the seashore. I was to later find out thats when he noticed me.

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Time passed and he approached me with a gift, sweet coconut water. New experiences and new feelings with him for the next few days.

One afternoon, we changed our plans and he offered a trip to a neighboring beach town up north to pick up his clothes from the cleaners. With no hesitation, I accepted and jumped on his bike. The thought of my mother’s village came back to me. I noticed that we would be passing through, so I asked if we could drive through on our way back to Agonda. Without hesitation, he replied yes.

With the sun setting and his phone battery dying, we found our way back to the place I left a piece of my heart, just a few years ago.

He drove slowly, taking sharp turns with ease so I could observe the streets she used to walk, the people she probably knew, and the shop that she probably visited. We followed the flags that lined the roads from a festival that had just passed.

I was still.

He reached his hand back around and touched me.

How are you feeling?

I am angry.

I didn’t resist and I began to cry. He pulled over and wrapped his arms around me. The anger grows, and the tears flow.

At that moment, I realized my anger was towards the village, the people, the customs, the traditions, the detachment to the human experience of motherhood. It is their fault that my mother had to choose to…

 We hear a voice from down the road.

“You can’t do that here. You need to leave. There are children out here.”

Our explanation of our relations and my tears did not convince him that I was simply crying while being gently hugged by a man.

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If we were not welcomed to hug on the public street corner, I am sure single, pregnant women are still not welcomed back home.

Nothing has changed.

 

Allow Me to Clarify

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Since my latest blog was shared on Dear Adoption, some confusion and rumors have been present among my family and friends.

I received emails and phone calls asking if I was moving to India forever. I was a bit surprised because not once did I mention the word moving or forever. After talking to my sister about it and reading my words again, I realized that there may have been a couple things that set the tone and created an image of me moving back to India forever. Allow me to clarify.

Mentioning that I have a one-way ticket to India I’m sure didn’t make sense to a lot of people. When I was originally planning my trip through Southeast Asia, I knew that I wanted to start in India, finish in another country and then head back to the US. The first ticket I purchased was from San Francisco to Mumbai. My heart sank and I wrote my last blog. At that point, I didn’t know where else I wanted to go and when I was coming back.

Another contributing factor is the meaning of the word home. For most people living in the same country that they were born in may see themselves as having one home. For me, I was born in India and grew up in the US, so I call both India and the US my home. For me to state, “I am going back home,” simply means that I am going back to my first home, whereas for someone that claims they only have one home may see my use of the word home as meaning forever.

This is a dilemma that some adoptees battle with. Where is home? Which one is home? Which one is my family? Do I have to choose one?  Why cant I have/claim both families? Do I have two birth certificates? Do I have two birthdays? Do I have two names? Can I have two homes?

Now that I am out on my own, it is my responsibility to build a bridge between my two selves and between my two homes.

My Support

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My dear friend, Reshma wrote the following letter to me after I expressed some anxiety about my trip back to India…

So much to take on but I know you will RISE. YOU WILL RISE! And if your instincts don’t kick in as quickly as you would like or in the way you hope, you’ll be resourceful. And then they WILL kick in. If anybody has got this YOU have got this. You already made the decision and that’s a pretty tough, bad ass part of this whole thing. My girl, you will RISE. It’s where you’re supposed to be. In this time. In this body. In this emotional, physical, and spiritual place. This is the time for YOU in INDIA!