Birthday Dinner

Every year on my birthday I think more about my first mother. Over the years, I have honored her presence in my heart with either a thought, a prayer, or a birthday wish as I blew out the candles. This year I did something a little different.

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It was just a few years ago that I met a woman via Facebook. She shared her stories of when she was a young Brigham Young University student volunteering at my orphanage in the 1990’s. The one detail that I kept dear to me was the food the women, mothers, and children ate; “dal and rice almost every day.” The budget was tight, but if they had extra money, they added vegetables.

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So this year, I decided to spend the evening of my birthday alone, honoring her by making dal, rice (not pictured here) chapatis, and coconut chutney. I said a prayer and sent a lot of love around the world.

 

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Khoya (Lost) at the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival

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I am honored to be collaborating with The Adoption Museum Project on November 12th when they co-present the beautiful film, Khoya at the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival. I will help create a larger conversation about adoption following the screening with writer/director, Sami Khan and the audience.

ABOUT THE FILM
Khoya (Lost) is the story of an Indian, transracial adoptee who grows up in Canada and returns to search for his birth family in India. The story is told from the adopted person’s perspective, and it points to some of the complexities and challenges of international adoption. This is a fictional story inspired by the filmmaker’s personal experience as the son of a first/birth parent. It’s a highly evocative film featuring stunning cinematography.

“A few years ago I learned that I had a long-lost brother, living somewhere in the world. He was put up for adoption ten years before I was born. When I began the process of looking for my brother, I was struggling to reconcile the conflicting emotions I was experiencing. Khoya came out of that process. It was a way for me to sort out those complex feelings of loss and longing and to make sense of them.” – Sami Khan, Writer/Director

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/142876771
Website: http://www.khoyathefilm.com

Buy DISCOUNTED tickets and join us:

http://www.adoptionmuseumproject.org/projects/co-presenting-film-khoya-lost/

 

 

I Am Ready for Another Chance at Love

I am going through a separation; the final separation.

It was about two weeks ago that I called my ex-boyfriend who just moved back home to Indiana. We had talked about me visiting him and possibly meeting in Chicago. I made some arrangements and gave him a call. He gave me the worst news. He was in a new relationship. I dug deep and expressed some genuine feelings of happiness for him, but my feelings on the surface were quite different.

First girlfriends have always been very difficult for me. I tend to analyze myself and how I was in the relationship. Was this another relationship where I always left first in fear that he would leave me again? Yes. Did we trust each other? No; trust was broken very early on in our relationship and trust continued to be broken throughout the four years. Did I love him? Yes. Was I selfish? Yes. I have noticed that being in grad school had a big part in my choices; my choices to choose me instead of us. Did my adoption journey have something to do with my push back? Yes. I don’t think I understood how to love anybody else because I lacked love for myself.

I will admit, these last few years as I tried to make sense of my loss and really accept that I have no access to my family lineage hasn’t created the best opportunity to love myself. I looked to my college and career success as a way to love myself, which is why I chose to be selfish while I was in school. But there’s so much more than degrees and finding a job.

He was right in many ways when we reflected on our four year on and off again relationship during our last phone call and text messages. I didn’t want to be with him in a real way. I have thought about his words and what that means to me. I agree, but didn’t stop there. I asked myself why, why did I not commit to him the way that he deserved? The way that we both deserved.

I cannot change what happened, but I do know how I want to change today. My feelings about a relationship and commitment has shifted and I am now ready to admit out loud what it is that I want, what I am ready for, what I deserve and hope for.

I want a real relationship too. I want to build on trust, transparency, respect, and love. I want to commit. I want to stay and not run when arguments arise. I want to give and receive love. I want to feel like I deserve love. I want to make sacrifices. I want to compromise. I want to take risks. I want to feel, and not think so much. I want to admit that I need help. I want to balance my independence and a partnership. I want to build a home and a family together. I want to open myself up and allow love in.

He was caring, loving and very patient. He is greatly missed. Now, I just need to snap out of it and stop hoping that he will text me. :/

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Travel Visa: Granted

As mentioned in my blog posted on October 4, 2016, I was ready to apply for my travel visa for India. I had waited to complete my Renunciation of Indian Citizenship and there were a couple of bumps along the way, but quite minor. Once I received my paperwork of completion, I was ready for Part II.

Now that the scary part was over, I was ready to review my travel visa application again. I went down the checklist that CKGS provided and made sure that I had all the required copies and my documents were in order.

I made an appointment and headed back to San Francisco.

After unexpected traffic, searching for parking for what seemed like hours, walking in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes, I managed to arrive on time. I checked in at the front desk and waited for my number to be called.

After removing layers of winter clothes and 20 minutes of fanning myself in attempt to cool down from the unexpected high temperatures, I was called up to the counter. The CKGS staff member looked over all my paperwork, checked my IDs and then casually asked for my marriage license.

Not again!

I remained calm and explained how my name changed due to my adoption and that she could find my father’s name on my Indian passport. Luckily I had it with me again. She copied it and added it to the stack of papers to be submitted. As I began to pack up my belongings she stopped me again.

Oh, now what!

She stated that my application number does not match up with my appointment number. Yes, I created two applications because I was confused and tried to get by without submitting my Renunciation certificate. I think she could tell that I was a bit stressed, so the lovely woman printed out my other application and assured me that everything is now completed.

I wait.

I added each layer of clothing back onto my body, swung my backpack over my shoulders, strapped the safety belt across my chest, took a deep breath and walked out to attend Adoptee Night at the San Francisco Giants baseball game.

Three days later, I received my passport back and there it was, my travel visa for India. That included a small picture of me sporting my untamed eyebrows. I was officially allowed to enter India, as many times as I wanted, for the next 10 years. I was ready to go back home.

Indian Citizenship: Cancelled

Prior to graduating, I made a promise to myself to travel back to Goa, India. After many trips abroad, I have decided that the most meaningful and most useful education comes from leaving the comforts of our everyday surroundings and exploring new languages, foods, conversations, social norms, friendships and even transportiation. I have set aside some of my student loans to make this trip possible. I mean, I am putting it towards my education, right?! More than that, I want to make Goa a place where I am comfortable traveling to, a place where I can call home not only for myself, but for my future children.

First step, acquire a travel passport visa. Yes, everyone who plans to enter India needs a visa. There are many different types of visas so depending on the purpose of your visit and the duration of your stay, choose wisely. Also, make sure that your current US passport is valid for at least six months. Since I am traveling for leisure, I am applying for a “Travel Visa.”

I started to search the Internet for the Embassy and how to obtain a travel visa. The links that I came across all directed me to the Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS). “CKGS is the only authorized Services Provider for the embassy of India and its Consulates across the USA for Visa, OCI Renunciation of Indian Citizenship services as follows with effect from May 21, 2014.”

As much as I tried to find a simple way around it, there was none to find and I had to begin the process. The site is a bit tricky to navigate and move around so please take notes of your “Temporary ID/ Web Reference Number” You are allowed to log in and out at different times which is important to keep your Web Reference Number handy in order to log in and continue where you left off. There are lots of documents to print so having access to a printer is necessary.

I begin to answer the questions with ease until I get to where I am asked if I hold an Indian passport. Well, yes I do. The next question asked if I still had my Indian Passport and well, yes I do. So now I am required to submit my Renunciation of Indian Citizenship form of proof. What!?! I began to stress out. Another application, another few weeks, another fee, and another hoop to jump through. I love surprises, but not this kind of surprise.

Confused like me, well here is the breakdown from their website. Renunciation is defined as “Surrender and Renunciation of Indian Citizenship applies only to applications of Indian Origin. Under The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, Persons of Indian Origin is NOT allowed DUAL Citizenship. If a person has ever held an Indian Passport and has obtained the passport of another country, they will be required to surrender their Indian Passport immediately after gaining another Country’s nationality.”

Why I was able to obtain two other travel visas without going through this process, I am not sure so don’t ask. 🙂

Luckily, CKGS directed me to the appropriate link to begin the Renunciation process. There is a way to submit for your Renunciation of Indian Citizenship and a travel visa at the same time, but I didn’t want to take the chance. I decided to submit one at a time.

I began the Renunciation application online and to my surprise they ask for my Permanent Indian address. For real? Well, in my case my last address was my orphanage that no longer exist today. I copied the address that is in my Indian passport. The address is not complete so I had to google the zip code (known as the pin code) and typed in what I found and prayed that it would work.

I completed the application, printed out the documents, signed where I needed to, made copies of my passport and naturalization certificat scheduled my appointment (drop off app. in person), and reviewed the checklist over and over.

I had everything. I was ready. I traveled to San Francisco and showed up on time to my appointment. Everything went smoothly, until the CKGS employee asked me for my marriage license. Huh? I’m not married. But, my name changed from what is printed on my Indian passport to what is printed on my current proof of ID. When I was adopted, I never went through a formal name change process. My parents just added my father’s last name to my name given at birth.

A rush of anxiety traveled through my body quickly. I didn’t know what other way to explain it to the CKGS employee. Then I remembered! My adoptive father’s full name is on my Indian passport so that is how I got his last name on my current proof of ID. The CKGS employee highlighted it and again, I prayed that I didn’t get any emails stating that I was denied. He wasn’t sure it was going to be enough but it was the best we could do.

He accepted all my paperwork on his end, but it still needed to get approved. Then it was time to start the waiting game. I left the appointment and jumped on a bus back to Sacramento.

I checked my email on a regular basis and there were no red flags. About two weeks later I received an email stating that my certificate and Indian passport was in transit back to me! Thank you, Universe! Let me tell you, I was not excited about sending off my Indian passport in the mail. As an adoptee I value that passport soooooo much. It’s a very special piece of my story and the beginning of my life in the US.

I opened my envelops and there it was, a red printed “PASSPORT CANCELLED AS ACQUIRED U.S NATIONALITY” stamp. As of September 1, 2016, I was legally no longer an Indian Citizen. Not that I really was one, but now it’s official I guess.

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I sat with my passport for a few minutes. In all honesty, it didn’t really bother me too much that my Indian passport was cancelled. It does suck that adoptees cannot hold dual citizenship. The closest I can get is to apply for an Overseas Citizen of India. Nonetheless, I am glad that the process was approved without an issues and now I can move on to get my India Travel Visa. Stay tuned.

American Adoption Congress Conference

Like I previously mentioned, I was asked to attend the AAC conference and share the film, YOU FOLLOW. I was ecstatic because I had heard nothing but great things about the conference and not so great things about the conference. Attending has been something that I have been wanting to do for the last few years, but due to finances and the dates, I never really made it possible.

To be asked to attend to screen my film was something truly special. I felt that I was really making an impact on the adoption community and given the space to not only make my mark on adoption reform through my experiences and film, but to also connect and be seen. I am so thankful for the experience and to connect with so many other adoptees and professionals that were not only supportive, but also role models. I came out with a sense of pride to be among so many talented writers, creators, performers, filmmakers, poets, actors, screenwriters, and activists that share the same common threads, Adoption Reform and solidarity.

So now the real experiences come forth. What I knew going in was that the conference was challenging, emotional, and educational. Some of my friends couldn’t attend the whole conference and had to leave the second day due to intense triggers. Some respondents mentioned that the conference was predominately older white folks, although that is currently changing.

Along with their opinions, I was going  in knowing how I felt from the last adoption conference that I attended, PACT An Adoption Alliance. Talk about emotionally triggered at every moment you are in contact with the other attendees, and adoptive parents.

I packed my bags, the DVD’s, my oil diffuser and I was off. I arrived only a few mins after my dear friend Reshma, began her presentation on grief in adoption. She is a fellow Indian adoptee and is currently editing and producing her documentary, Calcutta is My Mother. She gave her audience a shout out about my film screening the next evening as I was trying to walk in discretely with a huge travel backpack and side bags. So sweet and embarrassing. I loved it!

I finally got to hear her story and actually get to know her since we first “met” on Facebook. Gotta love FB. The one thing that I appreciated about her story is that she proved the “your mother was probably poor and a child prostitute ”  dialogue that some Indian adoptees hear. Well, believe it or not, that is not always the case for female Indian adoptees!

Anyways, the next morning I said hello to all the familiar faces I could find and met new adoptees, birth/ first mothers, professionals, search angels,  and adoptive parents. I jumped in as presentations as possible. All the topics that were presented interest me. I learned about how we, adoptees are four more times likely to commit suicide and/or be admitted for mental health/addiction issues. I learned more birth/first mother’s stories and how to identify micro/ macroaggressions.

The evening arrived and it was time for me to meet my dad, stepmother, and brother. I invited them to attend the screening and by my surprise, they were able to attend. It was important for me to have my father see me share the film to an audience and listen in on the Q and A. They enjoyed the final cut of the film, my brother handled the merchandise table, and my stepmother shared what she has learned about adoptee’s perspective. They were proud of me. There was so much that I learned at the conference, so I highly recommended that they attend another adoption conference because as my parents, they would learn so much! There didn’t seem to be much interest when I mentioned it so I can only hope at this point.

I was relaxed and calm the whole time. My essential oils helped but I did notice that as I was sitting in the presentations, I would find myself rocking back and forth. I seemed to have slipped back to the moments when I rocked and soothed myself. I think my surroundings also contributed. To my surprise, I was not all tense and on edge like I was when attending PACT. The reason was that most of the attendees were adoptees and open professionals. I was surprised because most of them could be prejudged as adoptive parents. Ha, I got fooled. The demographics were different and it made a difference. Not a huge difference, but a difference.

Going back to how I mentioned that the presenters are becoming more diverse, I could actually see it. In the previous year at the conference, some writers from The Lost Daughters presented as well as a few other POC. More POC presenters was an intentional choice and the board member’s level of awareness made it possible. I felt very welcomed and emotionally safe. I was proud to be part of other adult adoptees of color contributing to the adoption movement, not only via #flipthescript, but also in the educational realm of adoption.

Although I did enjoy myself, I left with suggestions of course. I mentioned in the survey I was asked to fill out that POV’s from adult adoptees that are experiencing an open adoption would greatly be appreciated. For me, there is a lot of support and advocacy for open adoptions, but I personally don’t know of a group of adoptees in an open adoption advocating that it worked. Also POV’s from non-adoptive siblings would also be beneficial because within the research and blogs, there seems to lack a space for them to share how adoptions has affected their life. They are an equal part of the family where adoption influences their family role and relationships. I would like to know what my sister may be feeling before I ask. Seems weird, but I think it would help.

Reflections and suggestions aside, would I attend again? Yes, I would love to attend again!