Date of Departure

As an adoptee, there are some privileges that I don’t have. One of them is truth. As I become more involved with my history, my story, my narrative, there is still a little part of me that doubts what I have been told or what I have discovered. There has, and I am sure there will always be gaps and holes in my personal story. I am hoping these gaps are not created intentionally by those that have determined my destiny and path up until now. Although, even as a 30 something adult, I have had to accept the fact there will be truths to my story that I will never be able to uncover due to secrets and reputations held by key players in my adoption. I am not alone here.

Since the release of my film, YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past, I have connected with other trans-racial adoptees via Facebook. Aspects of their adoptions come up every now and then on my feed. Over the last couple of years, there have been a common trend of other adoptees celebrating the date of arrival into their family. This date is the day that their adoption became final, when they got picked up from the airport, when they met their adoptive parents for the first, etc. However their first meeting played out, that is the day that is usually acknowledged and sometimes publicly celebrated.

For me, my date of arrival was never really important to me. I always knew that it was sometime in December. Within my family, there was no acknowledgment or celebration. I never felt the need or desire to mark that date as an anniversary or a special day. At least not until recently.

It was the acknowledgment by my fellow adoptees that got me curious one afternoon in mid December of last year. I got the intense urge to find out because I did want to honor that day of the year.

The first thing I did was call my mother. No answer. Then I called my father. No answer, so I left a message. He took a couple of days to call me back. He stated that he looked through all the paperwork that he had but my day of arrival was not mentioned anywhere. He casually suggested that I look at my Indian passport.

At that moment, a loud DUH! went through my thoughts. I happened to be sitting at my desk and my handy plastic container with all my important documents was conveniently placed next to my chair by surprise. With my dad still on the phone, I lifted the lid off and my Indian passport was on top of everything else. I opened up the pages and found the stamp from the Bombay Airport Immigration dated December 29, 1983. I flipped the page and the same date appeared on the US Immigration stamp. There it was, the date that I left my first home and arrived to my next one.

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I told my dad that today is my anniversary of when I first arrived to the US. He sounded pleased and happy of course, but I on the other hand felt the opposite. I felt sad, very sad. For me to find out my original date of arrival exactly 32 years later on the very same date was already unreal. These feelings of grief came over me. I acted like I was okay and said my goodbyes.

I sat and rode the waves of emotions for awhile. I stopped what I was currently working on at the time. I didn’t answer calls. I just sat with myself.

I cried.

I missed my first home. I missed India. I missed by birth mother. I missed a life that I could of easily had. I missed not having a choice.

Its odd, but I felt I was taken away. Almost against my will.

To think that my life could of unfolded any other way because of someone else’s decision. This someone that I will never meet and who refuses to answer any of my emails. This someone that holds so many secrets to my life so she can protect her own reputation.

Since there are so many uncertain pieces and secrets to the first six months of my life, I must hold on to the pieces that I know to be true. I can now add my date of arrival to my story.

 

 

That Was Something New

I was walking through town and I got this sudden flow of energy run through my chest. I immediately identified it as missing someone. That someone was my birth mother. Never have I ever felt that desire in that specific way. What I mean is that I missed her as if I could just call her up and set up a time to meet. Her presence at that moment was different, and like no other time. She felt closer. She was real in a sense, like I had a relationship with her.

Has this ever happened to you?

The truth settled in quick, and a relationship is probably not possible. Even though I was faced with her and sat next to her for 30 minutes, a simple conversation between us privately was not possible. To get the chance to have a quiet, intimate, and open conversation with her again is limited because of my lack for knowing and understanding her language, konkoni. Or her lack of knowing my language. Either way, how is that I cant even talk to my own mother in private?

Well, that fucking sucks. There seems to be something very unnatural about that.

I mean, it is what it is. I could run out and learn konkoni and return to my mothers doorstep, but the way that I see it and with consideration of her life now, that is definitely not an interest of mine.

Why do I care so much, you ask?

I care because it just goes to show how disconnected natural families can get from one another due to adoption. Its a mere realization that hopefully brings awareness to the serious affects of adoption on some of the adoptees and their biological needs to return.

The Value In My Name

I am not one to put a lot of weight on labels when trying to describe myself to others. In fact, I make an effort to detach myself from labels as much as possible. After much thought, there is one label that I value and am proud to have and that is my name.

My name was given to me by my birth mother, and although my parents had the right to change it during my adoption process, I am so happy that they chose not to. To be honest, it seems very unnatural to change a child’s name if they already have one. Having the same name my birth mother gave me remains to prove that I had a family prior to the family that I am a part of today.

Why did my parents keep my original name (first and last)? To find out, I reached out to them and got their answers. My dad simply stated that they liked my first name. The reason they moved my last name to become my middle name was because they wanted to keep me connected to my family linage in case I wanted to search later on in life. 🙂

The way that I see it, my name is a gift from my birth mother. She is the one that sacrificed her life, her family, and her safety to give me life and a name that may have meant something special to her. There is no reason in the world why that should not be honored. To be honest, I feel that my name is really the only thing that I have of hers, which is probably why I value it so much.

My name does not only connect me to her, but it also connects me to India and my past. It almost proves that I am still part of my birth family even though I am living on the other side of the world. Through adoption, I was uplifted from Goa. My name keeps me grounded and tied to India in a way that reminds me that I was never uprooted from Goa. I can see the difference now.

To keep honoring my birth mother and family, I plan on passing down my middle name to all my future children and I hope that they choose to do the same. I feel compelled to keep them connected to their natural family lineage and by passing down my middle name is the least I can do for them.

To hear that some adoptive parents do in fact change their children’s name through the adoption process, breaks my heart. I’m sure that they have their reasons, but hopefully their reasons are for what’s best for their children, and not for creating a false reality around their own needs and insecurities.

Although it does break my heart, at the same time, I love to hear that adult adoptees are taking back their birth names. To some of us, connecting to our authentic identity begins with a name or it may end with a name. Either way, adoptees are exercising their freedom of choice, which can be taken away as an adolescent.

I am able to honor and carry my identity, my India, my past, and my birth mother and family with me everyday because my name has remained the same since birth. Thank you, mom and dad!

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Adoptees Connect

Please Don’t Tell Me I Was Lucky to Be Adopted 

Shareen Pine took the words right out my mouth. Her article that I included above is an article that spoke to me on so many different levels…

“Adoption loss is truly multi-generational”- Shareen starts off with a conversation that her daughter had with her friend about how she also feels like an adoptee because she lost her birth grandmother. I have always thought about my future children and how I wanted to create as much truth about their past as I could prior to me having them. I mean, the thought of my children was a major influence as to why I wanted to begin and complete my search for my birth mother and family. I wanted to be able to give to my children what my adoptive parents were not able to give or didn’t know how to give. I wanted to provide names, pictures, answers, a story for them to pass on to their children.

What I didn’t realize, was that is goes much farther than what I want and how I feel. Shareen acknowledged how her daughter felt and that is something that I never considered before. There is not much I can do now since I do not have any children yet, but I realized that no matter how many pictures or stories I tell them about my search and what I was able to find out, they are still going to experience the same loss as me… no relationships and no contact with birth family prior me. I think that Shareen’s daughter is very wise to see herself as an adoptee in her own special way because besides me and my children’s father, they will have no connections or ties; they too may feel a loss as I do.

“Adoptees are often so busy trying to prove that we’re fine…” -This is how I would self soothed myself when I felt broken and lost not only as a child, but also as a young adult. My response to family’s concerns up until recently has always been, I’m fine or Ill be okay. I didn’t have the strength or the comfort to really express myself until I started counseling in college. A big part of not expressing myself was that I didn’t have the language to do it. I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings. I didn’t know how to not feel guilty. I didn’t know how not to worry about what people thought or how I would make them feel if I yell out, I hate being adopted. I didn’t know that it was okay and that it was absolutely normal to have these feelings because I was constantly being reminded to feel lucky and grateful. I would speak the words of feeling lucky and grateful to others without them having any meaning behind them. I could feel myself forcing these words out because that is what people wanted to hear and expected me to feel. I allowed others’ expectations to override and bury my truth.

“Can you imagine being the only person in the world you know you’re related to?”- Right!?! This is really an odd and confusing feeling, especially being around family and friends who are all biologically connected and related to one another except to me. I didn’t really get this feeling until my little brother was born. All I could hear was how much he looked like my father. Looking back on that now, it was really a weird experience and odd to be around those conversations. I felt left out. I would always wonder if my parents attention would spark at that moment and think about how I may feel. I was hopeful that they would turn to me and ask me how I felt or even acknowledged that that is a conversation I wouldn’t be a part of.  We all remained quiet.

“…Or why they told me that my adoptive parents saved me.”- I have heard it all. My adoptive parents saved me, my birth mother loved me so much that she had to surrender her rights to raise me, your life is so much better now, you probably would have been a prostitute or better yet, dead in the gutter because that’s what Indians do to the female babies. Talk about a lot of shit to hear and try to make sense of as a young child. For some reason, it did always amaze me how these possible truths came from people who have never been to India, never lived in India, and don’t  know shit about my birth mother and her truth at the time of my birth. It took me all the way up until just a few years ago to accept that these people wanted to feel like saviors and that they wanted to feed their ego. Their words were so inaccurate after I found out what my truth was that it now makes me laugh at how stupid they all look now.

Even till this day, I think about what my life could have been like if I were to stay with my biological family in Goa. Never once do I think or feel that it would be worse or better than my life now.

To close this post, I would like to say thank you to Shareen Pine and her daughter for speaking out and sharing their truth. Validation is so important in adoption and I cannot begin to express how much I have learned from their words.

Torn Between Homes

I was sitting at my kitchen table, eating dinner and watching Long Way Down with Ewan McGregor, and as he is traveling south through Africa, I get so emotional all of a sudden. As that very moment, I began to miss India…

I feel so torn; torn between two homes, two lives, two families. This last month or so, I have become hungry to travel back home to India. I want to be around my people and to just see them everyday. I want to just live a simple life for a while without all the struggles and chaos of trying to keep up with being successful and creating a life within the American culture. I am in this life at this moment and all I want to do is just live it, but I don’t know how to when I want to be on two opposite side of the world at the same time.

At times like this, I truly feel like I am so far from home. Almost like I am just visiting here and I will soon go back home or as if I am in the wrong environment. It really is challenging to try to create this connection with India, when it’s not close enough where I can just get up and leave for a weekend or a few weeks. If I could have it my way, I would relocated my whole family and make them come with me. I don’t think it is too much to ask, right? I mean, they expected me to just fly across the world and become a part of their family without helping me stay connected to Goa, so why can’t they? I know it’s not that easy, but I was expected to just fit into their family, their culture, their lifestyle like I am this little being with absolutely no roots. All my connections and ties were severed; not once mended until I became old enough to begin stitching my past with my present.

I remember talking to my mother years ago when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I was telling her that I  wish they (her and my family) had taught me about India, about Goa, about the culture, the language, something. I remember her reply because I never felt as alone as I did when I heard her speak her truth. She said something along the lines of “you are now old enough where it is your responsibility to learn what you want to know about India.” Yes, it did become my responsibility because I was entering adulthood and that’s how the American culture treats 18 year olds, but at the same time, I felt like I don’t want to do it alone. I don’t want to feel like I am alone anymore. I wanted my family to embrace and bring in some parts of the Goan culture, not just for me, but for themselves. It’s almost like, India is good enough to give them their babies, but not good enough to bring into their home. It just seems so bizarre to me.

Anyways, I am pushing the blame on my family and I need to forgive and accept. I just hate this feeling of lonesome and having to choose to be in either America with my family, or in India alone.

Nisha in Sari

I Am All Grown Up Now… Well, Kind Of.

I am 31 years old and I seriously thought that I had my shit together. I mean, I graduated college, I traveled back to India twice, I searched for my birth mother, I am financially independent, emotionally stable, and I’m in graduate school. Seems like I have my shit together, right?! Well, surprise! I don’t. It was just about a month ago, I thought I was doing well until I got an email from a woman who happened to find me while searching for the woman who owned my orphanage years ago in Goa. She is responsible for turning my life upside down, in a good way of course. She explained to me that she used to intern at my orphanage in 1993 (10 years after I was there). As we began to exchange emails, she further told me about the life she lived inside those walls during her four month stay. To be honest, it is truly a miracle that she found me by chance. She shared stories about the other women working with her, the routine she had with the children, and the food that she ate. The best part is that she had pictures!!! She sent me a few pictures of the children and women she worked with and in the background were the white cribs all lined up. At that moment, I broke down. For an adoptee who knew absolutely nothing about her first home during the first six months of her life, the shock of receiving pictures of the orphanage during the time it was in “business” was life changing, not to mention the crib where I would rock myself to sleep every night and lay my head to dream. Yes, she was there 10 years after I was, but things in India rarely change, and if there are changes, it’s not over night. Her stories and her photos filled in the first six months of my life and she is proving, in a way that I existed before my family picked me up from the airport.

You may be asking yourself why is it that I trust her or could she may be lying to me. I briefly doubted her for a moment as well, but she explained the house exactly how I remembered it when I visited (it was empty at the time) and explained the woman who owned my orphanage exactly the way that others have explained her. The front yard and backyard in the photos resemble the images in my memory from when I visited years ago. At times like this, trust and faith slip in and remove all doubt. A sudden ease settles in and pure joy sets off. My tears shortly started flowing down my cheeks. Unlike many adoptees I know, I am able to rewrite my history and my life before coming to the US. These stories are not just for me, but for my future children and their children and their children.

Although pure joy settled in, a much deeper emptiness arose that I had never felt before. Yes, I have gained a new page in my personal history book, but I have also began to grieve the loss of my birth family. As soon as I returned back to the States after meeting and getting denied by my birth mother, I accepted it, and quickly moved right back into work and school mode like I was “suppose to”. Regardless of the situation, I never took time to grieve the loss of my mother, my siblings, my life in India; instead I did what I thought I was suppose to, which was accept and move on. This is the emptiness that I am struggling with at the moment. This is the loss that I am working through. This is the “what ifs” that I am fantasizing about. This is the painful side of adoption. I can no longer bury it and act like the bigger person. I need to grieve and continue to cry everyday about being and feeling absolutely alone here. This is my time to not be a grown up.

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